Michael Brewer is the owner Mad Brew Labs, a blog dedicated to RPG theory and Design, and founder of Nevermet Press, a small RPG publisher.
Starting off with a more personal question, you are currently the owner of Mad Brew Labs, a blog that has been around since July of 2008 and are a Herald level RPGA GM. What keeps you going? What keeps you enthusiastic about working in the RPG industry?
Sometimes it doesn’t seem like I’ve been running Mad Brew Labs for more than two years, but then sometimes it seems like ages. Finding fuel to keep the fires burning can often be a difficult task when the creative juices are running low. I constantly read books, other bloggers, and play other types of games to find sparks of inspiration. Most important of all, I find taking breaks and focusing on my wife and daughter is a necessity to prevent that burn out.
These days I’m not even sure that the RPGA issues a Herald level GM status… I haven’t had an opportunity to keep up with D&D these days. I find my groups have chosen the Pathfinder RPG as their game of choice these days, and I’m happy playing and running the PFRPG. That statement shouldn’t be confused as some slight to D&D; 4th edition is a solid system and I love the things Wizards is doing with it.
I think what keeps me enthusiastic about working in the industry (though I would say I’m far from being what I consider a professional in that arena) is that I have the freedom to create whatever I feel like tackling since it’s not what pays my bills. I have a software development career to take care of that, so everything I do in regards to game development is purely for the love of the hobby.
You mention your “groups” have chosen Pathfinder. Do you game with multiple groups? How often do you get to do so?
I do game with two groups. On good months, I game up to 4 times a month, but sometimes busy schedules limits me to only 1-2 sessions a month. We’re all adults with families and careers, so it can be rough keeping a regular gaming schedule.
In 2009, Mad Brew Labs was nominated for Best Website. What did you think of the ENnies when you found out that you were nominated?
Yeah. When Mad Brew Labs was nominated for Best Website in 2009, I was stunned. I mean I was on a list with sites that had a ton more traffic than I… Monte Cook’s and Wolfgang Baur’s sites were nominees in the same category as me. Crazy!
I was just happy the ENnies judges had recognized the work and passion that I had poured into the site and it sort of validated everything I was doing. I still display that ENnies nominee badge with no small amount of pride.
Did your nomination affect traffic to your site? Has it brought you new opportunities in the industry?
The nomination did drive a significant amount of traffic to my site during the voting period and while I didn’t keep the entire surge of traffic, I collected a few more fans. I wouldn’t say it brought a lot of new opportunities, but it did happen during a time when a lot of things were beginning to sync. I had just formed Nevermet Press with Jonathan Jacobs of the Core Mechanic and I had an article accepted to be published in Kobold Quarterly.
How is Nevermet Press working for you? You’ve already produced a book, Portrait of a Villain: The Desire. Was it easier or more difficult to do than you expected? How have sales been? What are you currently working on?
Nevermet Press is actually pretty busy, despite not having released anything since The Desire. I had to dial back my involvement due to extra responsibilities at home, but I’m currently working on a Pathfinder RPG conversion of The Desire and a brand new villain is in heavy production.
I think the difficulty of putting together a product was about what I expected. Sales could be better, but I have been happy about the reviews that have been published.
Now that we’ve been around for almost a decade, what do the ENnies mean to you both personally and professionally?
Personally, I feel the ENnies is probably the most prestigious awards program for the industry. The gamers and fans are giving feedback to the publishers about what they like. Nothing is more gratifying to know that your stuff has impressed the people you made it for.
Professionally, I think it’s an important milestone. Even getting nominated is a pretty big deal in my eyes. That a core group of judges have measured your stuff and found it deserving of an award is pretty good feedback that you’re doing things right.
If someone who had never heard of the ENnie Awards walked up to you today and asked, “So what are these ‘ENnies’ you keep talking about,” how would you answer them?
Hahahaha. Well, considering I had to do that with family members and co-workers a lot after I was nominated, I don’t have to think about this one. I tell them “The ENnies is the premier award ceremony for the tabletop roleplaying games industry that occurs during biggest gaming convention, Gen Con. Sort of like the Oscars or the Grammies, but for RPGs.”
Of course, there is usually some conversation after that concerning what the tabletop gaming industry and roleplaying games are… but I think they grasp the importance.