People Who Inspire Me: Team Hivemind

Nightshade_AcademyAs we all head off into the holiday week, I’m pleased to present an interview with Team Hivemind: brainchildren behind the new RPG (role-playing game) Nightshade Academy, a dice-free, rules-light adventure now available from Drive Thru RPG.

I first met Hivemind members Hillary Fotino and Amanda Sieracki through my project AURELIA: Edge of Darkness and was impressed immediately with their thoughtful characterization and boundless plot ideas. When I found out they were working on their own RPG … I knew I had to feature them in this new occasional series, “People Who Inspire Me.”

Please introduce yourselves and share your background in the creative fields.

Collectively, we’re Team Hivemind.

Hillary Fotino: I actually studied Interactive Media and Game Development in college, focusing on the technical aspects like programming and game mechanics. While I was there, I started playing table top roleplaying games and took classes on storytelling for interactive media. I’ve been writing stories since middle school and the jump to telling stories other people could take part in was a natural one.

Rikki Sparks: I’ve been playing and making games since I was little, in both tabletop, and digital mediums. (Non-released, of course!) I wrote games for BYOND’s Dream Maker while I was in highschool, as well as a few random little things in flash. I wrote a few different settings and tabletop systems since middle school. I’ve been writing as far back as I can remember.

Amanda Sieracki: I’m the general artist, resources manager, public relations, editor, advertising…anything that isn’t just straight content, I tend to do. I’ve been writing and drawing as long as I can remember, only really started doing digital art for the last few years. My mom and uncle used to play D&D, sparked part of my interest in playing tabletops when she talked about it. I’ve only been playing tabletops and LARPing for about 7 years.

NightshadeAcademy2How did you meet and decide to collaborate on business?

Amanda: I’ve known Rikki since high school. We met Hillary via LARPing, because of a couple of big plots going on in game. We just started talking more and more, and in the end, Rikki and I joined the tabletop game she was running. It was the first campaign length run of Nightshade.

As for collaborating on business…we started discussing setting up Nightshade as its own game and selling it. Hillary, being a game designer by schooling, Rikki having his experience with gaming communities and tabletops, and I with what I’ve learned about running small businesses from helping my aunt with hers, all ended up working together. It just kind of happened, and worked well.

What do you love most about working together?

Being on the same wavelength. That’s where our name comes from: Hivemind! If one of us can’t find the words we want to use, someone else will. Even with how different our ideas are, we can always make them fit together.

Describe Nightshade Academy — what it is, how it’s played, etc?

Hillary: Nightshade Academy is a storytelling roleplaying game based on the open-source Fudge system. The Core Curriculum is the first book in a series we plan to write based around a school for magic users in the middle ages. Using the archetypes and races provided in the main book, players create a student from the academy to go on epic adventures. The rules are easily adapted to play with or without dice, and encourage the use of developing stories of the world and the individual characters.

What was the inspiration for Nightshade Academy?

Hillary: Nightshade Academy started out as a series of one-shot games that came out of a group of players that didn’t want a combat game, wanted high magic and wanted to play a rules-light storytelling game. From there, I threw in the idea of a very Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Boxcar Children sort of adventure where the players are kids who go out and solve problems. I’ve always loved that sort of story where kids can go out and influence the world without adults telling them what to do, so a lot of that idea went into the world.

What was the inspiration for Nightshade Academy?

Hillary: Nightshade Academy started out as a series of one-shot games that came out of a group of players that didn’t want a combat game, wanted high magic and wanted to play a rules-light storytelling game. From there, I threw in the idea of a very Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Boxcar Children sort of adventure where the players are kids who go out and solve problems. I’ve always loved that sort of story where kids can go out and influence the world without adults telling them what to do, so a lot of that idea went into the world.

NightshadeAcademy3Can you describe your creative process? 

Nightshade originated as a really loose and general idea. After Hillary ran the same adventure three times in a weekend, she realized people really were interested in a full game. After the initial campaign, and refining things, it came to be.

Amanda: In general, that seems to be how our entire process goes. We take this loose idea inspired by something, and then work it down into something we want to show off and go “look what I made!” Very few things make it all the way through without a few revisions.

What unique challenges did you face with getting this project as far as completion? 

Our main artist working with a bad wrist, a collective lack of attention spans, and playtesters. A lot of our playtesting players are people who had never done a tabletop before, or were too used to other systems. Most of them had been used to playing Dungeons and Dragons, and thus didn’t know what to do in a combat-light, dice-free game.

What advice would you have for other independent creators who are thinking of/working on a project?

The tired repeated advice of plan and stick to your deadlines! Even if you overestimate your time, you’ll still find something left undone or forgotten about. Don’t leave out the idea of getting together a team. Other people’s strengths can really help a project to grow. And, most importantly; just do it! Don’t let naysayers get you down. If you really want to do it, go for it!

What’s a fun “little known fact” or tidbit no one really knows about this project?

In the core book is a teaser for a later release. It’s mentioned twice on a single page, and nowhere else.

What has been the audience reception so far?

For the only advertising we’ve done so far, it’s been word of mouth, and that’s been pretty good. We’d like to see more, though. Every person who has played in a campaign since we released is very excited, and wants to see more. It’s really exciting to see people love something we put a lot of time and love into.

What’s next on your creative docket?

Our next main project is the next in the Nightshade Academy splatbooks. (Companion books) Nightshade Academy: Age of Steam is exploring new races, new archetypes, and a later magical world in Victorian Britain.

We have a good number of more Nightshade books planned for additional settings, time periods, adventure ideas, archetypes and races.

Get Nightshade Academy now from Drive-Thru RPG! Visit them on Facebook and sign up for email updates from Team Hivemind.

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2 thoughts on “People Who Inspire Me: Team Hivemind

    • No doubt! I’m sure Amanda and Hillary would be happy to chat with you about it. The “rules-light” and “dice-free” aspect (more emphasis on storytelling) definitely has me excited to try it out too!

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