This is the 4th in a series of 4 interviews with the writers of the scenarios for the new Perils of the Surface World book, which is currently up on Kickstarter. Today we welcome Mike Demchak, writer of the acclaimed Legacy of Evil scenario set in Venice. Mike is the only one of our writers who tackled not only the scenario itself, but also the appendix which includes new vehicles and Atlantean sorcery rituals.
Who is Mike when he isn’t writing tomb-raiding pulp adventures?
I am an engineer who’s worked on testing, failure analysis, and new product development on cars, trucks, construction equipment, and now motorcycles. I also spent a few years working on various industrial processes using microwaves to generate high-energy plasma, which I think qualifies me as a former mad scientist!
What were your inspirations for writing a scenario set in Venice?
Venice is such a fascinating city with a rich culture and history. The thought of setting an adventure there and the unique challenges the city would pose for the adventurers was really intriguing to me. Movies like The Tourist helped with the atmosphere, and a coffee table collection of rare city maps I found provided some historical orientation that was very useful. Several scenes owe a debt to the classic film noir of the 30s and 40s, and there’s a bit of Hitchcock in there too.
Plus – well, the boat chase in Moonraker through the canals of Venice was certainly a strong influence!!
What is your favorite part of Legacy of Evil?
The boat chase – as much as for how the chase starts in the train station as the actual dodging and weaving through the canals. I like to try to set scenes like that up that give the players a number of options and challenge them in several different ways. The final confrontation was fun too, but more for the twists and turns. And the dinosaur!
There was a little scene that I really liked that we had to cut due to space limitations – a riff on the classic “papers please” scenes that show up so often in noir films. It helped set the paranoid tone I was going for in the middle of the adventure. It was a fun little scene to write and would have been fun to run, but there simply wasn’t enough room. Although it may be available online as a bonus scene – we were discussing that at one point.
What is your favorite dinosaur?
Tough call! There are so many to choose from! But I’ve got to go with the T. Rex. After all, what other dinosaur was the name of a rock band??
What, in your opinion, is the critical element to making an adventure fun?
To me, it’s all about giving the players new and interesting things to do. Unusual settings, unique challenges, a variety of situations that allow everyone a chance to contribute or even shine. Most importantly, a great adventure allows the players choices! Not just “go left or right?” but “do we break down the door? Do we try to sneak in the back? Do we try to talk our way in from the front?” That gives the players more opportunities to control the story themselves, and ultimately that’s a lot more fun for everyone!!