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GenCon 2012 Interview: Pinnacle Entertainment Group

Pinnacle Entertainment Group Logo

Shane Lacy Hensley with Wil Wheaton at GenCon

Shane Lacy Hensley with Wil Wheaton at GenCon
Image courtesy of Shane Lacy Hensley.

This is probably, without a doubt, the biggest interview that was on my list for the con. If you have ever listened to even a single episode of Happy Jacks RPG Podcast then you know how much they love Savage Worlds. Its honestly because of how much they love Savage Worlds and how much they talked about it that I originally picked up the game myself. I have now run several games in Savage Worlds including Ghostbusters, Deadlands, and Space 1889. I don’t intend to stop anytime soon as I love the fast and loose system that has such easy mechanics to learn. Its ideal for one shot con style gaming. Couldn’t be better. So, when I found out I was going to be covering GenCon for DoucheyDM.com I quickly realized that no matter what I just had to interview someone from Pinnacle. When I walked up to their booth and saw Mr. Shane Hensley behind the counter I got giddy inside and had to calm myself to give a good interview.

Of course I had to start off talking about Stu and the other hosts, so I mentioned to Shane how the podcast had always been a fan of Savage Worlds and how they always talk about it on the show. That they were even thanked in the newest Savage Worlds Deluxe book. I went on to ask him how he thought their support had helped Pinnacle out as a company. He said that about the time that the podcast started they noticed a bump in sales and he feels that there were quite a few people who had heard the podcast and wanted to try something new. Having never heard of Savage Worlds before the podcast, many of these people probably decided to pick up the game since it was talked about so much. So yes, he definitely feels that they contributed to sales.

In my preparation for GenCon, I asked in several places what kinds of things people wanted to know about. One of the biggest things I heard was Kickstarter. People wanted very much to know about how the different companies had considered this new way of raising funds, why they ended up doing it, and how they handled their success. So I asked Shane that questions. What made you decide to go to Kickstarter? He said that he first decided to do so because he very much wanted to do Deadlands Noir but had no idea how popular it would be. As he puts it “…if you think about it, its a niche of a niche of a niche…” Not only is it a roleplaying game, but its already in a different setting, and now they want to do a different take on that strange setting. So Kickstarter was a way to sort of put the idea out there to test the waters and see just how many people were actually interested in the game.

To take that a step further I asked how it had changed the company, or if it in actually had changed the company at all. “It lets us take more risks, and find out ahead time if people are going to be interested in it or not.” And for them that’s really valuable as they don’t have a huge market in place.

Seeing as how they use Kickstarter as a test, I was curious how they handled the success of Deadlands Noir. They posted Deadlands Noir with a goal of eight thousand dollars and ended up with over one hundred and seventeen thousand dollars. Over fifteen times what they set out to get. So I asked if the success of Deadlands Noir was something they were honestly prepared for, if they already had stretch goals mapped out, or if they found themselves adding things on to satisfy the demand. He said that he is pessimistic in nature so his hope was that they might double their original goal, but that they were prepared to a point. The last twenty thousand or so did have them scrambling a bit.

Because its Happy Jacks and I was talking to Shane Hensley about Deadlands Noir I couldn’t leave the interview without asking one question. Since Stu wasn’t able to get in on the Kickstarter fast enough to have his famous character “Windy Drawers” become the mayor of New Orleans, what were the chances that Windy Drawers might be seen in a future Deadlands Noir publication? “Well, I think it would be doing a disservice to the guys who paid and did get in if we did anyway, but you know… friends of mine can get special arrangements some day, we’ll see.” So there you have it folks. We might just get to see Windy Drawers in a future Deadlands Noir supplement!

Savage Worlds LogoThere were lots of brand new releases on the shelves of the Pinnacle booth, including the shiny new Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorer’s Edition. I asked Mr. Hensley what was next for Pinnacle? They’ve got Return to Manitou Bluff coming out, as well as Weird Wars I and Weird Wars Rome currently in development. Hell on Earth companion is also close to print.

To cover my bases in case I forgot anything, I asked if there was anything more that he would like the people of DoucheyDM.com to know about. He basically just said that he thinks its very cool how people are taking his generic system and using it to run so many things. Savage Saturdays have become huge events with people running thirty or more different tables of Savaged properties. Things like Savage My Little Pony, he thinks that is very cool and loves to see it.

Lastly, just like in my Paizo interview, I had to ask what made Shane a DoucheyDM. His answer was one that I got a lot of, but was also unique. Without missing a beat and with quite the sparkle in his eye he said “Oh, I kill everybody.” If you remember one of the levels of the Deadlands Noir Kickstarter was to play in a game with the designers themselves. In Shane’s game he killed two of his players and in his words “.. they were not clean deaths, they were nasty.” So, I guess you should look out if you ever get to play in one of Shane’s games.

I want to thank Mr. Hensley for taking time out of his busy GenCon to do an interview with me. He was a very nice guy , and great fun to talk with. If you are interested in Savage Worlds, and you should be, please check them out at www.peginc.com. It truly is a great game with loads of applications.

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SirGuido has been a Happy Jack's RPG fan since the first moment he heard Stu on Kicked in the Dicebags. He hopes one day that he will get to meet all of these great people and play lots of games with them.

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