Interview with Derek Kamal | Heavy Metal Thunder Mouse
Imagine grabbing your bros and ladybros, hopping on that sweet cruiser, and hitting the streets in your very own biker gang. What can you do? Whatever you want, of course! Wreak havoc, race other gangs, or, if you’re boring, maybe do something nice and give a ride to that neighborly elder. The open roads are endless. Amazing, right? But hold on. Something is missing. I just feel like there’s something lacking. What could it be…? Hmm, what if, now work with me here, but what if you and your motorcycling gang were…mice!
Hello everyone. My name is Matt Tozzi, and a new contributor to Foolish Panda Games.By day you can find me counseling clients (well really during the evening...work the late shift), but during my other hours of the day, you can find me engaged in my other passion of gaming. Today this is in the form of blogging!
I got the chance to take a look into a new tabletop roleplaying game that has a unique twist, Heavy Metal Thunder Mouse (HMTM)! That’s right, a game where you and your friends are mice in a biker gang. Including a gamemaster, HMTM gives 2-5 players (ideally) an opportunity to tell dramatic stories about city mice and their motorcycle gangs in Thunder City. However, being small won’t hold you back from big adventures. The possibilities are endless from rummaging through the huge Thunder City avoiding the deadly and giant humans, tricking the neighborhood cat in order to steal the last piece of cheese for your girl, or fighting off your rival rat gang who prefer crotch rockets (but then again, so do I). Designer Derek Kamal has made these stories possible for you to decide. I was given the opportunity to interview Derek and hear his thoughts on his new RPG.
Matt Tozzi: Thanks for agreeing to speak with me Derek, so how long have you been designing games and how did you start up?
Derek Kamal: Relatively speaking, I'm fairly new to tabletop gaming, but I suppose I began dabbling with game design in 2014 when I started making hacks and rules for my home game of The One Ring by Cubicle 7. The year after that, I designed my first original game, The Dig, which was inspired by Fate and Powered By The Apocalypse RPGs. After attending a few con panels on game design and self-publishing, I felt super inspired and the idea came to me to use a setting I had created for a fantasy novel. So The Dig and my novel Homes are basically companion pieces. At about the same time, I did some freelance writing, creating settings, and adventures for a few different systems. That money helped fund the art for The Dig.
MT: I really like the theme and idea behind HMTM, but what was it that made you decide to actually design a game about mice? More importantly, why a game about mice in gangs riding motorcycles?
DK: If you've read or listened to any of my other interviews on the subject, you'll notice that I start to sound like a broken record on this score; it all goes back to The Mouse & The Motorcycle. That book showed the potential that scale has for storytelling and story games. Suddenly terriers and ignorant cleaning ladies and the gap between a floorboard and an elevator become significant points of drama. Couple that with the outright coolness of a motorcycle club and you have a very cute and funny combination that lends itself well to lighthearted storytelling, which, for me, is the goal for these games.
MT: What would you say was your inspiration behind Thunder City and the different gangs?
DK: My home city of Atlanta was a notable inspiration, what with the importance of rail and the general sprawl of it (though we aren't coastal). Really I wanted to keep it generic and American. Generic because setting a game about mice on motorcycles in New York or Detroit would detract from the fantasy and suspension of disbelief; American because, while there is significant motorcycle culture in the rest of the world, motorcycles, and motorcycle gangs are an essential organ in the American anatomy. It's not unlike the myths of the old west in its significance, so making sure that the city was plainly (if not specifically) American was important to me.
The gangs are all focused on a particular trait. Narrowing a group identity down to a singular idea is important in this type of fiction, I think, to help the reader/player get on board. The gangs don't need a lot of nuances, they need banners, and the focus of each gang provides that. So, the Spanners are all about fixing stuff; the Avengers are the speed freaks; the Bardlings are the musical hippies; and so on. These core ideas are then pasted on the archetype of real-life motorcycle clubs, those being groups of people riding and living together and trying to make it in a world that's definitely opposed to who they are and what they want to do.
MT: Considering there are a large number of RPGs already on the market, why did you feel there was a need for another RPG? What about your RPG sets yours apart from others?
DK: There's certainly no “need” for another RPG, but I hadn't seen anything quite like Heavy Metal Thunder Mouse, and I thought people would enjoy it. The more I shared the idea, and of course Jacob's art, the more it seemed people were into it. So while there's no immediate need for new RPGs (in the same way that there's no need for new heavy metal records or culinary technique or luxury car models) it's that cycle of inspiration that keeps hobbies and art important to life on this planet. Mechanically, HMTM isn't too different from other Fate games and that's really the point. I wanted as few hurdles between the players and tiny motorcycle action as possible. It falls to that core theme -- mice on bikes -- to set HMTM apart, and based on the reactions we're getting so far it seems like a fresh idea.
MT: Well considering the likeness of HMTM to Fate games, what would you say to readers who are interested in trying out HMTM but may have some reservations due to not being familiar to Fate or even RPGs and having a GM?
DK: Fate is a great system to jump into. It's light on the rules and even if you miss out on details the basic mechanics can resolve just about anything. I've also given a fairly condensed version of the rules in HMTM, so that makes it even easier to get into. I also like that a lot of Fate can be done on the fly, so you don't even have to have characters completely finished. Finally, there is so much available online these days to help you get started; podcasts, YouTube videos, blogs, tons of stuff to SHOW you how to play.
MT: Well thank you for speaking with me. Best of luck in the rest of the HMTM universe development. I look forward to hearing what crazy campaigns people come up with as well as me to experience too.
I would also like to mention that Derek has included a rulebook that provides several tips and advice to help the GM as well as a map, illustrations, setting information, and other useful tips to help spark imagination and bring your mice stories to life! So even if you are new to the exciting and limitless world of RPGs, or even gaming, this is a great place to start. If you’re interested in looking further into HMTM, you can check it out HERE.
What do you think about this type of setting readers? Did you happen to read the classic “The Mouse and the Motorcycle”? Can you think of anything cooler than mice in a biker gang? Let me know in the comments!