Reading the text: David Farland interview
Posted by Randolph Carter on November 16, 2009
David Farland is the pseudonym of fantasy and science fiction author Dave Wolverton. In this interview Dave discusses the premise of his epic fantasy series The Runelords, his own gaming background as well as his experience working in the game industry including his involvement with the StarCraft expansion Brood War.
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Could you take a minute and explain, for those who are unfamiliar with your epic Runelords series, what the basic premise happens to be?
Part of the basic premise has to do with the magic system. In the world of the Runelords, the lords are able to draw attributes from their vassals. Thus, a lord might take the strength from a strong man, the grace from a dancer, the wit from a wise man, or the glamour from someone who is beautiful.
Of course when you do this, the lord gains tremendous powers, but a man who gives up his wit becomes an idiot, a man who grants strength becomes a weakling and might die if his heart becomes too weak to beat.
The attributes are drawn out using magical branding irons called “forcibles,” which are destroyed in the process, and the attribute “flows” to the lord so long as both people remain alive. If the lord should happen to die, the attribute would flow back to the person who granted it. If the vassal dies, then the lord loses that attribute, and thus is weakened.
So in the world of the Runelords, the lords must take great care to protect and maintain those who have granted attributes. The lords can exhibit almost godlike powers–and in this world, the easiest way to overthrow a god is to kill those have given themselves to him.
The people sustain this system because there are great dangers in their world. The biggest of them are creatures called “reavers,” subterranean carnivores whose exoskeletons serve as natural armor. Reavers can grow to be larger than elephants, and a single reaver can wipe out an entire village. Thus, the people NEED to have lords with super powers to protect them.
Are you or have you ever been a gamer?
Yes. I used to do it quite a bit.
What has your gaming experience been like (board games, pen & paper RPGs, console & computer games, etc.)?
Years ago, I started playing board strategy games with my little brother, along with D&D. In the early eighties, my brother and I developed our own variant, which included simplified magic rules, a 20D system for figuring hits and criticals, and advanced archery rules.
For a few years, I ran a game as a DM. I did it three nights a week on a slow week, just about every night if not. We had about a dozen friends that met.
So I thought about becoming a game developer quite a bit.
Just after I wrote the first Runelords novel, in fact, I began working for a small videogame company called Saffire in Utah. My first job was to land a contract for StarCraft’s Brood War, which I did. I was then asked to be the co-leader of the design team, and I came up with a lot of fun things for the game. I even threw my “Reavers” into the game. (If you’ve played, the Zerg Lurkers were based on my reavers.)
After that I worked on a few other games, usually just scripting them. Most were little things, like Xena: the Talisman of Fate. That was a simple fight game. I worked on another that was much more fun, called Barbarians. It was a fantasy role-playing game, but the company that made it went bankrupt before the game was ever released. I helped write and design a few other things.
Have you ever ventured into online worlds? If so, please explain what that experience has been like.
Not too much. I play a few online games from time to time, but I have to admit that I’ve learned to avoid them, since they interfere with my writing.
Would you say your gaming experience has had any effect on you as a writer?
Sure. I tend to think a lot about achieving interesting balances in my story–balance between a character’s powers and those of his or her enemies. But to be honest, I’ve been that way since I was a kid drawing monsters on the kitchen floor. My mother used to worry that I was insane as a child–always drawing epic battles with knights and monsters. So I suspect that my writing actually has had more of an effect on my game design, rather than the other way around.
When do you find time to write?
One never finds time; one has to “make” time to write.
How do you tend to escape these days?
I still let off steam playing simple games like Diablo. I keep thinking that I’d like to play some World of Warcraft, but it has sucked the life out of so many of my friends. Still, I’m thinking I might get a MMUOG for Christmas.
Would you have any words of advice for the would-be-writers out there?
Sure, lots of them. In fact, for the past two years I’ve been giving it away for free. Check out my site and sign up for my daily kick in the pants. I also teach writing workshops, for those who are interested. Some of my past students who have gone on to do well include Stephenie Meyer, Brandon Sanderson, Brandon Mull, and dozens of others.
You wake up to a world where your Runelords series has been made into an MMORPG. What class would you play and why? A lord or perhaps even a vassal?
Ah, I’ve actually had a couple of companies ask about making Runelords videogames, but we couldn’t do it until recently. The rights were tied up with movies.
So what class would I be? I’d actually want to play a benevolent wolf lord, just hanging out, protecting my people, fighting reavers and big government.
Are there any current writing projects you wouldn’t mind discussing here?
I’m finishing up the final book in the Runelords series right now. I also have a bunch of other projects in the wind, all of which, unfortunately, must remain a secret for a few weeks. Not all of them are locked down. I do have some more interest in a Runelords videogame, and I’m going to start looking for a company that might be interested in doing a Runelords paper-based RPG. Beyond that, I’ve recently been asked to work on a large movie project, and though the producer has said they want to hire me, I don’t want to jinx it yet. There are lots of other things, too, but I’d prefer not to talk about them at the moment. Let’s see what the next few weeks bring. . . .
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