Patrick Kapera Interview

By on February 23, 2008
Go Play Espionage!

Patrick Kapera’s introduction to role-playing is a rather surprising tale. While most of us, at the tender age of 8 years, were probably playing with Action Man or Barbie, Patrick (who is now 30) was being taught how to DM AD&D 1st Edition. Seven weeks of training, which Patrick describes as akin to attending college, led to his first game.

This anecdote is told whilst he and I are sat in a coffee shop in Kensington during Patrick’s visit to Gen Con UK. He is here to meet the European gamers and promote Spycraft, Alderac Entertainment Group, Inc’s (AEG) d20 espionage role-playing game, which he co-wrote with Kevin Wilson.

Laid back and garrulous, Patrick is pleased to be here, complete with Spycraft shirt – and a very nice shirt it is too. Although, officially, an interview, Patrick’s forthcoming demeanour quickly makes it a sociable conversation.

Interned to AEG after college, Patrick made use of his Liberal Arts training and, influenced by the likes of John Tynes, Nigel Finlay, Tracey Hickman, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, Peter David and J. Michael Straczynski, impressed with his work. So much so that, once his internship was completed he found himself with full-time employment in the company.

In late 1999, Patrick pitched the idea for a game called Series Archer to the AEG hierarchy. Inspired by the Danger Girl comic and including some TORG influence (in fact, although Patrick was never involved with TORG, he would have loved to build upon “the great work that the original people did” and write the material that was released after Year Three), it was something that had been contained inside his mind for many years.

It was during the initial writing period that Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, and the subsequent d20 System, were launched. Patrick pauses when asked for his views on the impact of the d20 System. Overall, he thinks the d20 System is good, for sales and for players, although he does mention the lack of experimentation among some publishing companies as a bad thing.

When asked as to which is stronger, the d20 System or the Generic Universal Role Playing System (GURPS), Patrick is quickly forthcoming. GURPS is an excellent library of resources, but there is nothing really holding it all together. As if to help explain that statement, he further compares both d20 and GURPS with RIFTS, stating that RIFTS has “glue”, and that d20 would do well to emulate that “glue”.

Of course, Patrick has more reason that most to be concerned about the d20 System. Originally, Series Archer was to be a stand-alone game, using a variant of AEG’s house rules system. However, following the release of the d20 System, the plan changed. Rather than release the game as stand-alone, it would be released as a campaign world, with a core rulebook, based upon the d20 System, released as the rules system.

Although the core mechanics of Spycraft were based on the standard d20 System, there were one or two areas that received changes. Chief among these was the use of vitality and wound points, from the Star Wars role-playing game, rather than hit points. Patrick explains the needs for this in two words, “movie magic”. For the same reasons that they were included in Star Wars, they were required for Spycraft. Unfortunately, vitality and wound points weren’t part of the d20 System so help was required from Anthony Valterra who, in Patrick’s own words, “went out on a limb and helped” in getting the approval for Spycraft to use these rules. In fact, Patrick makes a point of stating that not enough credit is directed towards Anthony Valterra and that the Spycraft team owe him a “great debt of thanks” for his efforts.

By now his dream was being given form, to paraphrase one of Patrick’s influences (J. Michael Straczynski for those not aware, “it was a dream given form” from the Babylon 5 television series), and Patrick and his team were hard at work researching the character classes. However, it was the sort of research most, if not all, of us would love to undertake – the watching of various, and many, movies. In fact, Patrick is keen to point out that at least half of the classes are based solely on members of the iconic 1980s television series, The A-Team: the Faceman class is based on Lieutenant Templeton ‘Faceman’ Peck, the Pointman class (which was originally going to be called ‘the Leader’) is based on Colonel John ‘Hannibal’ Smith, and the Wheelman class is based on Captain ‘Howling Mad’ Murdock). Likewise, the Snoop class is based on the character ‘Whistler’ from the film Sneakers, while the Fixer class is based on a mixture of the Shadowrun fixer and the D&D thief. The hardest class to create, but the most necessary, was the Soldier class. Patrick explains that this was due to the diversity of the modern-day soldier when compared to the medieval version.

Towards the end of 2001, a slight problem arose. The core rulebook for the Series Archer world was to be called Cloak & Dagger, but this name was found, following a routine trademark check, to be owned by Marvel Comics. Therefore another name was needed. Following much thought, and another trademark check, the new name was found – Spycraft. At the same time Series Archer received a name change, to Shadowforce Archer.

Released to the general public in March 2002, Patrick is not surprised by its success, “we knew it would do well”. Such is his nature, that this statement isn’t egotistical arrogance, more quiet confidence. His plans for the future of Spycraft and Shadowforce Archer are rather guarded, but he is looking forward to the Shadowforce Archer supplement for The Shop as it will be the “first fully fan-based supplement in gaming history”, and Year Four of the Interactive Campaign, we are currently in Year One, which will hold “the biggest thing yet”. Additionally, Patrick would love to incorporate more multi-media aspects to his projects. After all, as he himself states, Shadowforce Archer feels and runs like a comic book, so it would make sense to have one in the future.

Likewise, he is looking into the various licensing options available to him. Although he wouldn’t be drawn into speculation as to which would be best for the Spycraft game, it isn’t too difficult to imagine a James Bond or Mission: Impossible officially licensed campaign setting for Spycraft in the future. In fact, as Brand Manager for Spycraft and Shadowforce Archer, he is looking to ensure Spycraft’s position as the “foremost d20 game on the market”. So much so that he would like a situation whereby whenever a gamer thinks of espionage, they think of Spycraft.

The longest running aspect of Spycraft though was finalised during his visit to the UK. Living Spycraft was approved by the RPGA on 29 August 2002, and is hoped to go live by the end of September/beginning of October 2002.

So what does the future hold for Patrick Kapera outside of Spycraft? Well, aside from not having the time to play role-playing games as much as he would like (he is in three campaigns at the moment, Dungeons & Dragons, Spycraft and Call of Cthulu (the original version) and plays more board games and non-collectable card games than role-playing games), he is working, with Todd and Karry Breitenstein, on twelve GM stories over four supplements, for Twilight Creations’ tile-based, horror board game When Darkness Comes.

All in all, the future looks pretty secure for Patrick Kapera and Spycraft and, as we are about to leave the coffee shop, he makes sure I write down the names of those who have helped make Spycraft happen, the AEG support staff, the Spycraft Design Team (Scott Gearin, Clayton Oliver, Alexander Flagg and Sean Michael Fish) and the Shadowforce Archer Story Team (Les Simpson, B.D. Flory, Steve Crow, Joe Unger and Robert Defendi).

I, personally, would like to thank them, and those who preceded them, as well. But my biggest thanks go to Patrick Kapera, for having the original idea, and agreeing to be interviewed by me on a Saturday night, leaving his friends in the bar awaiting his return.

(This interview took place at Gen Con UK 2002 and originally appeared in Issue 1 of Raven’s Eye).

About Dave McAlister

Dave has been roleplaying for over 30 years, having played and/or run most mainstream systems with the espionage genre being an early favourite. So much so that, in 1999, he started Modus Operandi. That same year he joined the Sarbreenar "Living" campaign team as their plotline controller before moving across to the Living Spycraft campaign team (as UK Regional Branch Director) in 2003. 2003 also saw the birth of UK Role Players as well as Dave's first (and, so far, only) freelance appointment (co-writing World Militaries and consulting on both US Militaries and Battlegrounds, all for Spycraft). Since then, Dave has concentrated on supporting the UK gaming scene. He has organised and run several small, one-day, events and was the RPG Area Manager for Gen Con UK in 2004. He is currently the webmaster for Conception as well as, of course, UK Role Players. His current favourite systems are Savage Worlds and Cinematic Unisystem. He blogs at dave.mcalister.org.uk.

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