Written by Jeremy Morgan, tabletop games editor, gamer, and software developer.
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A Cool Minute with Olivia Hill

26 March 2013

Yesterday I mentioned that I might interview Olivia Hill about #ADX. I emailed her some questions, and she was kind enough to respond.

Olivia Hill is one-half of the amazing Machine Age Productions. She’s also a freelance game writer and editor. She’s worked on projects for Onyx Path and Margaret Weis Productions. Olivia’s a real joy to talk to, and her games reveal a social consciousness and awareness that is rare in tabletop game design.

On to the questions!

1. For those who aren’t in the know, give us the elevator pitch for ADX.

Apotheosis Drive X explores what it means to be human, and the points where humanity and technology intersect. The factions of ADX believe that sufficient technological warfare will end war forever. They believe that nationalism, expanded to the superlative, will end human struggle. They place their faith in weapons. You’re playing the pilots of those weapons. You’re playing the target of that misguided patriotism. You’re telling stories about humanity. Will they learn the necessary lessons before it’s too late? Will you stop humankind from destroying itself?

“Through the auspices of the gun, man is relieved of responsibilities-placing his faith in sister machine gun, brother bomb.” - Jim Marcus

“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” - Albert Einstein

2. Okay, let’s say I know very little about mecha. Can you give me links for a crash course via Netflix, Hulu, or YouTube?

That’s rough. Netflix has some anime, but no good mecha stuff. You can watch Xenosaga on Hulu. I’ve never seen the series, but the games are a huge inspiration for #ADX. Youtube doesn’t have much in full form. I believe is legal, it’s really difficult to tell with international releases. They have tons of stuff available.

I’d recommend watching Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. It’s really what brought the genre to the United States popularly, since it was on Cartoon Network. It’s a great representation of the genre, and touches on a lot of the themes we’re going for in ADX. I’d recommend classic Mobile Suit Gundam or Robotech, but they’re really kind of dated, and you have to be really into 1980s animation to enjoy them. They get cheesy. Neon Genesis Evangelion’s another great starting point, they just rebooted the series as a serial of films. If you want the more fantastical side of things, Magical Knight Rayearth is a good one, so is Escaflowne. My personal favorite mecha series is Mobile Suit Gundam: 00. I can’t recommend it enough.

3. What made you decide to base this on Fate Core instead of creating your own system?

There’s a few major reasons:

  • I’m a huge proponent of open licensing. When Evil Hat announced that they were taking Fate Core to Creative Commons”, I wanted to do something to show my support of that awesome decision.
  • It saves me a lot of time. #ADX is a setting-heavy game”, so if I don’t have to do the majority of the rules design, I can spend more time and energy honing the setting to a razor point. Besides, why reinvent the wheel? Fate does the type of stories that we want to tell with only minor modification.
  • We’re all about reaching out of our little garage indie market. Fate’s pretty popular”, while not sacrificing what we want out of a game. This way, new people might be interested in #ADX that wouldn’t otherwise.

4. Most of the games Machine Age puts out have a social conscience, a punk aspect of railing against the status quo. Does ADX keep up this tradition and if it does, how?

Well, first of all, we don’t believe in good and evil. We’re not going to harp on fascism. There will be no space orcs. There will be no space Nazis. Our game is all about personal motivations, and how everyone has a reason to be in the fight. We really focus on the trees, less than the forest. If you’re familiar with Farewell to Fear: A Progressive Post-Fantasy RPG, you’ll know what I mean by that. (Editor’s note: I’m familiar. It’s an amazing game that everyone should play. Full disclosure? I’m working on the Pathfinder conversion for Machine Age.) We want our universe to be populated with people that live and breath and work and play and love and fight and aren’t defined by stereotype. That’s really what punk is, to me. I don’t come from the “classic uniform, consisting of leather, boots, spikes, et cetera” school of punk. I come from the Bad Religion, “your weapon against oppression is your brain” school.

5. What are you most excited to see with this project?

Right now? Topher Gerkey’s Princess Drive hack. I love the idea of playing a giant robot game with my six year old daughter. (Editorial note: Perhaps I can get my 4-yr-old daughter hooked with this. She’s already intrigued by daddy’s weird-shaped dice.) But this will change as the campaign progresses. I’m excited about the reaction we’re getting so far. I really want to hear the ways people interpret our words and setting.

Huge thanks to Olivia for agreeing to answer my questions!


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