Dominic McDowall-Thomas of Cubicle 7 Interview

By on 11 December 2013

I’m very honoured to welcome to UK Role Players the CEO of Cubicle 7, Dominic McDowall-Thomas. Dominic very kindly took a little time out from his schedule to answer a few questions about gaming and, more importantly, his newest project ‘Cthulhu Britannica: London’, a lavish boxset that will enable Call of Cthulhu players to have plenty of adventures in the capital city in the 1920’s. It’s a Kickstart project, and as of the publication of this blog post it only has a couple of days left so get on over there and pledge!

Perhaps you’d like to tell us a little bit about yourself?

I run Cubicle 7 Entertainment, a games company based in the UK but with staff from around the world. We’re best known for our Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space RPG, The Doctor Who Card Game and The One Ring: Adventures Over the Edge of the Wild RPG set in Middle-earth. As well as running the company, I like to get hands-on with our games, writing a chunk of The One Ring and line developing Doctor Who, The One Ring and World War Cthulhu. We’ve won ten ENnie Awards and two Origins Awards so far, which I’m really proud of. I grew up in Wales, in a place with one of the highest castle-per-square-mile densities in the world, and I currently live in Swindon, a place big on railways but not so much on castles. I like to travel, but saw its downside when I was almost shelled by the Philippine Navy. Apparently a bunch of astronomers with telescopes looks like a mortar emplacement from a distance…

Tell us about your RPG history – what got you into the wonderful world of tabletop roleplaying?

Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf game books really captured my imagination, both in terms of becoming part of the story and the fantastic world he had developed. I loved fantasy novels and boardgames as well, so that certainly helped nudge me in the right direction. I remember visiting my cousin Simon Lucas (who later worked with Shane Hensley at Pinnacle, and is now at Cryptic Studios) when I was 9 or 10, and he was painting some miniatures when we arrived – that was it, my fate was sealed! I went from Talisman to Blood Bowl to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and then pretty much any RPG I could get my hands on, and have never looked back!

What is it about the tabletop RPG hobby that attracts you? What do you enjoy most when playing a game?

A roleplaying game is such a unique experience, there’s nothing quite like it. I love the freedom to really open up my imagination and explore where it can take me. I love puzzling out scenarios, working out what’s going on and how to resolve it. I love that a good game immerses you in the story being told, and makes you care about how it turns out. And the fact that it’s a shared experience, with everyone else’s imaginations joining in too, means that it always has the potential to surprise you.
On top of all that, there are some great books to read, and as a gamemaster you can channel a lot of creativity into creating worlds and adventures – something I find enormously satisfying.

Tell us more about Cthulhu Britannica: London; what’s it all about, and what was the attraction in making such a game?

Everyone at Cubicle 7 loves Call of Cthulhu, and so we really wanted to make a prestige product for our Cthulhu Britannica line. London seemed the obvious choice. We love boxed sets at C7 too – they give us the chance to pack in a lot of cool stuff that is hard to do in a book. The aim is to make a deluxe boxed set for Cthulhu Britannica: London – the definitive setting for 1920s Mythos London.

It looks to be an excellent addition to the Call of Cthulhu lineup, so what will it bring to the gaming table?

The Cthulhu Britannica: London Boxed Set gives you a guide to London in the 1920s, a Keeper’s Book detailing the hidden stuff – Mythos activities and occult London, a scenario book, and loads of cool maps and handouts, including some gorgeous period pieces.

On top of that, the Kickstarter has unlocked lots of cool additional products:

– A boxed set of adventure seed postcards written by a huge number of gaming superstars including Sandy Petersen, Ken Hite, Robin Laws, Graeme Davis, Matt Forbeck and many many more.
– A Campaign Book, currently six scenarios long, but getting longer, written by even more gaming luminaries including Mike Mason, Paul Fricker, Scott Dorward and New York Times best-selling author Graham McNeill.
– A boxed set of large-format cards detailing NPCs, locations, threats etc, packed with game information and beautiful illustrations.
– A cross-over book with World War Cthulhu: The Darkest Hour, detailing Mythos London during the Second World War.

And there’s more to come! Take a look!

One of the really cool parts of the Kickstarter is that backers can get their adventure idea in print, as part of the Postcard Boxed Set. But don’t delay, the Kickstarter ends on Thursday 12 December!

What’s your favourite game? What games that are out there at the moment float your boat?

Too many to choose! Call of Cthulhu is a perennial favourite, I love its power to genuinely scare me.

Do you still get time to play? What are you playing at the moment?

Yes, I still make time to play. I tend to play Cubicle 7 RPGs, as we make quite a few and are always playtesting something! Most recently I played World War Cthulhu, and loved it – it’s great experiencing someone else’s take on something that you have designed.

The tabletop roleplaying hobby has been through a lot changes over the years and it seems that its death-knell is always sounded when newer hobbies come along, such as collectible card games and online computer games. It still seems to be able to hold it’s own, though – what do you see happening to the hobby in the future? What changes, if any, do you think will have to be made to ensure its survival?

I think that the hobby is in great health. There’s so much choice for people, so many different games. Of course, that fragmentation can mean that some publishers will struggle, or see their slice of the pie decrease. All entertainment forms are having to fight quite hard – there are so many options for how people spend their time and cash.

Out of all your projects, what are you most proud of?

I’m genuinely proud of them all. I’m very committed to making the best games we can, and everyone at Cubicle 7 feels the same – we only want to do something if we can do it right.

The Tenth Doctor Edition of the Doctor Who RPG was a particularly big one for me, however. Over May-June in 2009 I did everything on that game except the writing – editing, layout, production etc. It was a very intense period, but I was so pleased when the boxed set came back from the printer – it was my first ever boxed set and I was really worried that I’d mess some part of it up, but it all came back great. A huge relief, and a huge sense of accomplishment!

What else are you working on at the moment?

The Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space 50th Anniversary Limited Edition hardcover rulebook is looking great – it’s the first all-in-one hardcover rulebook that we’ve done for Doctor Who, and when it’s gone it’s gone.

About Jonathan Hicks

Jonathan Hicks has been gaming for thirty years and has covered almost every type of genre, system and setting. He also runs the RPG website Farsight Blogger and created the SKETCH system for Farsight Games.

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