Interview with Mike Bullen, GM of Wizards Inc PBEM
Many many role playing games are set in a fantasy world, each with their differences in how you use magic. Fantasy is a staple of Play-by-post games too, and it allows the member’s characters to live their lives in a rich and exciting world where the only limits are our own imaginations.
Mike Bullen has created his own play-by-post game where the characters are Wizards. What is most unusual is that instead of being set in a typical Dungeons and Dragons type world, this one is set in our own world. Wizards Inc is a game about some Wizards who work in an office block in England. They solve problems for clients using their magic, but try to keep their wizardry secret from normal people.
Hi Mike, could you explain briefly what Wizards Inc is all about?
It’s a company made up of wizards, sorcerers and various other people disguised as a severely overpriced solicitors. Being so overpriced means they never get much business from people who have court cases to settle. Instead they have an existing client base that know what they do and hire their services as needed. The game is about the staff and the jobs they do within the business.
Could you explain how your game is played? Just in case they’re not familiar with PBEM games.
Whenever anyone asks what it is and how it’s done, I generally just tell them it’s like a story constantly being written by different people. When one person has written their bit, someone else adds to it, and so on.
What inspired you to create a game about Wizards?
I shamelessly ripped the idea straight out of a book called ‘The Portable Door’ by Tom Holt. The basic setting is very similar to the one in the game.
The inspiration for starting a game was probably boredom more than anything, though. It’s more than likely just coincidence that I was reading a book about magic at the time!
How much control over the story do your players have?
Being a very new game, I’ve left it pretty open to the players to create the world around them and situations they end up in. I tell everyone that if they want to have a blue horse the size of a Sherman tank stomping through corridors, then do it! I don’t see myself as a GM, more of a player with the ability to approve or deny membership.
How do you go about recruiting new members? And do you have a quality control process to make sure those new members don’t ruin the story?
Word of mouth more than anything. Half of the members at the moment found the game off their own backs though. The main quality control factor for me is they need to have an imagination. It doesn’t have to be wild and out of control, but it definitely helps!
What kind of plots will we expect to see in the future?
Future plots haven’t been given much thought. Being wizards and witches anything could happen. I’ve thought about time travel, wacky situations, various jobs that could be issued by clients.
Building on the characters is something I’d like to see a lot of, though. Why they got into magic to start with, and going more in depth with the jobs they do in the company.
God-modding can spoil the fun of any game, as one player can have far too much power that they can overcome obstacles and complete storylines in the click of their fingers. Your characters are magic-users and therefore have the potential to magic themselves out of any situation, how does this affect your game?
As far as I’ve seen so far, the members of the game like a challenge. It would be really easy to jump in and just magic all the bad things away, but that takes no imagination to do. The members all have great imaginations and have taken the game in a really good direction because of it. I can’t see anyone wanting to change that just for an easy fix.
How useful is the OngoingWorlds website to your game?
OngoingWorlds is both easy to use and effective at what it does. Creating the game couldn’t be simpler. Just enter the information you want and the site does the rest!
Approving members and characters is straight forward, with a big green button to approve and a red one to deny. Almost entirely idiot proof, I feel this site was designed just for me!
How did you get involved with PBEM games?
It’s actually a very boring story. I was looking for Red Dwarf flash games on the internet when I came across one called Blue Midget Walker. At the end of the game in the credits was a reference to something called Blue Dwarf, which I had to check out seeing as I was unemployed and had nothing better to do. I had a look around the website bluedwarf.co.uk and read some of the recent game posts and enjoyed what I read. Loving Red Dwarf and being a bit of a writer I decided to try my hand.
The rest, as they say, is history.
What do you think a good PBEM game needs to have to succeed?
1) A good initial idea.
2) Fun. Without a doubt. If a game doesn’t catch your imagination with a good idea, you won’t look any further into it. If people didn’t enjoy what they did, it wouldn’t happen. You are relying entirely on other people WANTING to play.
If it wasn’t fun, you wouldn’t want to do it. Obviously, good storylines, interesting characters and decent people to work with are all bonuses, but none of that would come if it wasn’t fun in the first place.
Do you have any tips for other GM’s who are starting up a new play-by-post game?
Be patient and have fun. And try to avoid anything based on Love Actually. Don’t do drugs. Stay in school. Honesty is the best policy. (Were the tips meant to be solely about pbems?)