I noticed Nathan Panke on G+ as a friend of a few friends so I circled him. It was a low key introduction, but his posts can grow on you pretty quickly.I enjoy following his posts. I like his sense of humor, I like the food pictures he posts, he seems like a warm, funny and friendly, loving family guy, who just happens to have notoriety as "The Spiciest DM". Have you seen his selfies? His kooky, crazy selfies from...everywhere, like his most recent post gallbladder operation selfies. Even though he's laid up in a hospital right after going under a knife, he still looks like he's having a ball! Seriously, who couldn't love "The Spiciest DM"? He seems like the kind of guy you wish was your neighbor because life would be just barbecues, fun times, and games, lots and lots of games.
What I didn't originally know about Nathan, was how involved he is in game design and writing. At least not until Rogue Comet Games launched their Kickstarter for Dungeonesque: World of Redmark, 5th Ed. Adventures and Maps. Nathan, along with Stan Shinn, Paul Oaklesh, and Damien Goldwarg, created a series of volumes containing a number of tight 2 page adventures each designed to typically play out in about a 4 hour session with very low prep work. Old school in feel but written for adult gamers juggling limited table time with family and careers. Rogue Comet has just recently shipped it's products to backers. Since the Rogue Comet Games Kickstarter I've discovered Nathan regularly contributes work to zines and websites. I look forward to someday sitting at a table with him consuming wings and beer and rolling dice.
Without further ado, I present to you, The Spiciest DM (I love saying that), NATHAN PANKE!
What were your favorite toys during child hood? Like, the TOP 3 TOYS of all time and pick your favorite of these toys. What is it about any of these toys you most identified with? What made this so special? How did you play/enjoy this toy? (shared or solo play).
Nathan: Easy peasy. Lego and G.i. Joe. Lego is to this day the “perfect toy” in my opinion. I love that sets come with instructions and give some general guidance on what to build but beyond that your are only limited by the individual pieces and your own imagination. I remember my parents went to Germany in really early 80’s and brought back a few sets and my young brain was blown. I had a town building, a spaceship, and a castle. It wasn't long until I tore them apart and made my own wild and weird creations and amalgams of flying castles and post apocalyptic mutant Knights or pirates.
My brother (who is 2 years younger than me) and I used to “play” for hours at a time. At one time we lived a few blocks from our 3 cousins, who also loved Lego and we decided to consolidate our Lego collections. We had a ping pong table with an entire town and several other tables holding different worlds. Like space, medieval, etc… We probably had over 100 gallons of Lego.
Favorite Films and TV
What were your favorite films or TV during childhood and what age were you for each favorite? What did you identify with about these shows? Do you think these shows had an influence on the adult you?
Nathan: I had a few shows but I think films influenced me much more.
Labyrinth, Big Trouble in Little China, Beastmaster (8 or 9 yrs old).
All of these to this day are in my top 10 films. They are all fantastic in theme and each unique. I loved the dark fairytale-ness of Labyrinth. Jennifer Connelly was my first crush, like many geeks my age.
The cowboy cavalier and wise-cracking Jack Burton was my hero! He was who I wanted to be when I grew up, mullet and all! “It's all in the reflexes...”
Beastmaster, man oh man. I had no idea what I had. Critics may moan and groan that it's no Citizen Kane or even Conan the Barbarian, but it's my 'Citizen Conan'. I love every part of this film. My dad would put a blanket or sheet around his body and pretended to be those bat-like body devourers. I do that to my kids now.
Think about playtime, did you create games or imaginary worlds as a child? If so, please describe an important original game or play world you enjoyed.Nathan: I remember creating a post apocalyptic world for Lego that was ruled by an evil wizard who commanded an army of sand zombies and it was our quest to find magic and super science relics that would bring him down. We had a caravan of Mad Max-style vehicles lead by a giant pirate ship on wheels with mini guns, cannons, and missiles. We would scavenge dungeons and spaceships to find the relics. We used everything from wooden blocks to Star Wars play sets for props.
As a child how did you feel about how you fit in with the rest of the world or community or friends? Like, were you very social or did you prefer spending time alone? Your environment, was it rural or urban? Were siblings a big part of your playtime? Did adults interact with you in game play, and if so was it structured play (sports, scouting, clubs, etc.) or free form?
Nathan: I grew up in a suburb of St. Louis, MO. I would describe myself as an outgoing weirdo, this was doubly so as a child. I remember the first day at school drawing dragons and spaceship on a Thriller cover of a trapper keeper (a kind of notebook - ed.) and thinking, “this is the best Thriller cover ever!” And some other kids making fun of my wild Imagination. I would always draw a crowd, those usually without one. I like Journey and Michael Jackson so the punk thrasher skaters thought I'm a poser even though I also love Bad Brains and Black Flag. The hard core ‘name the group’ thought I was a sell out to one thing or another. Like I said earlier, my brother and cousin were really close and we played most days. We all joined Boy Scouts and that's where I was introduced to RPGs and I've been hooked since.
Playtime Impact on Adult Games
Do you have any thoughts about any aspects of your childhood playtime that might have influenced your passion for RPGs? Have you ever intentionally incorporated memories of childhood playtime into game work you have created as an adult?
Nathan: My wife jokingly, but in all seriousness, says I'm the oldest kid she knows. I think freedom to make mistakes and fail with little lasting impact is one of the best parts about play or pretend. I can make decisions that have little to no consequence. I love to have my players make choices, hard choices that will not affect them or any other part of their life. It may have lasting memories that could help them solve a problem in “real life” though.
I've said it before, but Lego has definitely shaped how I think of games and how I love to hack systems, adding to and subtracting from them.
I have incorporated a metric ton of ideas that I've had as a prepubescent adolescent into almost all of my games. I've used the sand zombies I talked about earlier in several lots of games.
Desert Island Media
Nathan: This Is gonna be hard....
Big trouble in Little China
Star Wars trilogy
R.E Howard - Conan Anthology
Jack Vance - Dying Earth Anthology
Stephen King - Dark Tower series
Herbie Hancock - Maiden Voyage or Blue Note Anthology
Thundar the Barbarian
Rogue Comet Games: http://roguecomet.com/
Wanton Witness by Nathan: http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/158269/Planetary-Transmission-Issue-2
100 Occupations for Black Powder, Black Magic: