Interview with Jim Trent, Part 3

Welcome back to the conclusion of our chat with Jim Trent, creator of steampunk card game, Twisted Skies, from Mad Raven Productions

Read Part One here

Read Part Two here


Airship Ambassador: How is Texas for this kind of work? Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc

Jim Trent: I’m originally from a small college community in Oklahoma and moved to Dallas, Texas two years ago but the difference has been noticeable. You really need to be within access of one or more large urban areas for maximum productivity when getting a product like this out. Overall Texas is a surprisingly great place to be an artist. There are a lot of friendly creative people down here and it’s fairly easy to conduct business. While someplace on the coast may have more folks in this business, the cooperative nature of southerners makes them good collaborators on projects.


AA: Most of the people I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that their steampunk work is their other job. What has that situation been for you and how has it helped/hindered working on the game?

JT: This really is my day job (outside of being a dad). I do some freelance writing, designing, and editing for other publications but mostly I focus on my little game company (Mad Raven Productions) and getting it to where I’d like it to be. The freedom to do this after years of retail work has really allowed my creativity to express itself and the time to develop games folks will enjoy without worrying about a 9 to 5 grind has been really helpful. My last business was a start up as well so I’m no stranger to entrepreneurship.


AA: Do people outside the regular gaming, steampunk, and convention communities recognize you for Twisted Skies? What kind of reactions have you received?

JT: As the game is still very new I don’t always get recognized for it but when I do I’m always very humbled. Usually people are more familiar with the game than me as the designer. If thousands of gamers had their game in their homes and never knew my name I would still be flattered. People actually recognized my character (Capt. James Fisk) more then they do me; the game designer. I’ve had people run up and ask to take a picture with me or to sign a card with my character’s picture on it and that’s always nice.


AA: Looking beyond steampunk and gaming, what other interests fill your time?

JT: My biggest past time is Historical Reenactment and it requires me to travel and leave the office behind which means I get regular chances to clear my mind. I love not only participating in large battle reenactments but I also just talking to tourist about the history of wherever I am volunteering, especially school kids, they have the best questions! I also really love to draw maps and do a small amount of fantasy cartography when I can for friend’s games and popular settings.


AA: How do those interests influence your work?

JT: History gives me constant ideas for cool alternate time lines. Traveling a lot exposes me to other cultures and ideas on art. I enjoy meeting gamers in other parts of the country and hearing about their world settings. Drawing maps for other games always introduces me to new perspectives on settings. I really believe that an active mind that is constant seeing and hearing new things stimulates greater creativity for my own projects.


AA: Who or what do you count as your influences, motivators, or role models?

JCV: In game design I’ve always been influenced by the work of Steve Jackson (Munchkin,Illuminati), his ability to design games that play simply but have great depth of storyline is impressive. I’m also a big fan of John Wick (7th Sea, Legend of the 5 Rings) who has great story and worlds in everything he does. As a businessman I admire the work of independent minded innovators like Walt Disney and Henry Ford for their self confidence in the face of tough odds. In Steampunk I’m impressed by the work of people who encourage an open and accepting Steampunk community such as Eric Larson of Teslacon and my good friend Cedric Whittaker of the Airship Isabella.


AA: Three quick fire, random questions – what is your favorite vehicle, dinner food, and historical event?

JT: Vehicle- I love tall ships from the age of sail, Dinner food- Cajun seafood, so spicy so good, Historical event- The battle of Honey Springs 1863, on a frontier plain the American Civil War experienced it’s most diverse battle with combatants who were black, white, and from multiple native tribes battling over one of the most important questions in our nation’s history.


AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers

JT: A big thank you to all who have supported Twisted Skies so far. It’s been a labor of love for a community I cherish. To support small press games is to take a leap away form the big publishing house sources and that’s a leap of faith. I really appreciate it.

I’d also like to invite all Steampunks to consider joining the Twisted Skies experience by talking with me about a card expansion based on your local Steampunk community. There’s nothing I’d like better than to produce a card for every Steampunk out there over the next ten years. There’s no limit to how many expansions we can produce with time and great people willing to work with the product.

Keep enjoying Steampunk, whatever it is you do it’s awesome!


Thanks, Jim, for joining us and sharing your experiences with game creation and steampunk.

Thanks to all of you, readers, too. Get your copy of , Twisted Skies today!

Published in: on April 6, 2014 at 7:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with Jim Trent, part 2

Welcome back to our chat with Jim Trent, creator of steampunk card game, Twisted Skies, from Mad Raven Productions

Read Part One here


Airship Ambassador: After all these teasing questions, what is the actual game play?

Jim Trent: The game is played with two decks that all players draw cards from. Each player has a card which represents their airship, tells them how many crew members they can have in play and how many upgrades they add to their airship. In a turn each player gets to put Steampunks into play to man their ship and these cards are used to complete Mission cards which award Victory points. When a player has accumulated the victory total determined by their airship card they win the game. Along the way players may play cards known as Interrupts to assist or hinder the progress of other players with things like changing play order, skipping turns, shuffling discard piles back in the decks, and of course assaulting the other players Steampunks with all manner of adversaries including zombies, ninjas, pirates, and genetically altered ape men in battle armor. Player each turn receive an opportunity to trade cards with each other or barter for assistance with Missions. This bartering and trading part of the game is very popular and creates a very fun and social experience.

Game play


AA: What kind of attention has Twisted Skies generated overall??

JT: It’s been well received regionally (around Texas) and we have big plans to get it shown in other parts of the country in 2014. Every time we sit down and just play to pass the time we always attract questions and interest even from non Steampunks. Once familiar with the game just about everyone wants to know how they can get their Steampunk characters included in an upcoming expansion.


AA: Every author, artist, and creative person I’ve talked with has a different journey to seeing their work come to fruition. What was your experience like?

JT: There were certainly some surprises. I was shocked at the highly competitive nature other Steampunk game creators had with each other given how few of us there were when I started. I also was disappointed to see the poor attitude the greater Steampunk community had towards game design as an art form and craft. Even to this day game design and gaming is very much shoved to the side or ignored in Steampunk by traditional makers. This has been something I’ve had to work very hard to overcome as there are many in Steampunk who treat gaming as an afterthought and don’t recognize the immense amount of effort that game design or even just game planning for a convention takes. At times it really got me down but mostly it inspired me to work even harder to develop a game that celebrated Steampunk and hopefully turned people to seeing game design as a fellow and equal craft in Steampunk.


AA: The kind of treatment can be very disheartening. For the aspiring game creator, what lessons did you learn along the way?

JT: The most important lesson is “Stick with it”. There is no shortage of people who will tell you what you are doing is frivolous and will amount to nothing. There will be times when your art schedule is behind, your printer isn’t answering your phone calls, and your play test group has quit on you. There will be times when the only person who believes in what you are doing is you. There will be a lot of people who say what you do isn’t art, or writing, or a craft; when in fact it’s all of these. Ignore these difficulties, draw strength from them, and carry on. If even one person plays and enjoys your game, you’re successful. Game Designers harness the imagination of strangers to give them a couple hours of interactive enjoyment, that is a amazing gift. Stick with it.


AA: If you weren’t creating steampunk games, what else would you be doing now?

JT: Most likely I’d be simply enjoying Steampunk and helping my wife with her vending. I’m very active as a convention volunteer and have served on committees for the same. I’ve always been flattered to be asked to serve as a community organizer with the local Steampunk community and have helped with the foundation of city, state, and multi-state Steampunk associations. In that vein I try to help encourage the growth of Steampunk and settle differences when they arise in the community. I always love talking to new Steampunks and giving the “what is Steampunk” speech.


AA: What do you do to keep a balance between game creation and the rest of your life?

JT: I work from home and mostly late in the evenings when it’s nice and quiet. My daughters are home schooled so I get to spend a lot of time with them. My dog is very insistent when he wants to play and that usually gets me to look up from my work and take a break. Plus all the cool people we get to feature in the game are very much my friends and family. As such it’s hard to see this as work. It’s hard work and somewhat detail intensive but when you’re working with people you love and respect it seems like just a great time. My beautiful wife is also a gamer and very supportive of my work even consulting on themes and artwork.


AA: Having a supportive and encouraging family, and friends, can make all the difference in what we do. Do you get to talk much with other creators to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?

JT: Well, game designers like most artists tend to be very self assured (chuckle). We all seem to think our own work is the best in the craft. However I’ve been able to sit around with some of them and share ideas and notes over drinks. It’s not terribly common as we’re all very busy promoting our games and traveling a lot. The best critiques and feedback I get is always is form the players who have my games. In fact some of the new additions and themes for Twisted Skies came from players themselves.


This is a fast moving interview, but we’ll stop for the moment in chatting with Jim.

Check in next time for the conclusion when he talks about life in Texas, influences, and other interests.

Until then, get your copy of , Twisted Skies today!


Published in: on April 3, 2014 at 8:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with Jim Trent

This week we are talking with Jim Trent, creator of steampunk card game, Twisted Skies, from Mad Raven Productions.


Airship Ambassador: Hi Jim, it’s great to catch up with you again after Teslacon IV.

Jim Trent: Great to catch up with you! Teslacon was great and I enjoyed meeting so many diverse Steampunks! It really inspired me for my games.


AA: What is the premise of Twisted Skies?

JT: Twisted Skies is a tabletop card game in which players each have a magnificent Airship that they staff with a Steampunk crew and arm with fantastic Steampunk gadgets in order to complete exciting Missions in the Steampunk Mutliverse! The initial set is based around the adventures of the Airship Isabella but the game has been designed in such a way that any and all Steampunks can be included in future card set expansions.


AA: What was the motivation for creating Twisted Skies? How did it all come about?

JT: I’m already very involved in Steampunk gaming and work on a variety of Role-playing projects with other Steampunks. My friends at Airship Isabella had queried me about possible gaming merchandise that wouldn’t cost a lot and would be popular so I recommended a card game. Before I knew it I was designing the thing and it just kinda took off from there.


AA: Why a card game?

JT: Card games are fluid, they progress and adapt to accommodate new concepts and new influences. They are inherently collectible and fun to trade. As such a card game is something that folks easily gravitate to in gaming and enjoy not only as an activity but as a collectible. Plus who wouldn’t like to see their Steampunk character featured on a card?


AA: Why steampunk?

JT: Steampunk is the genre of gadgets and fantastic characters. Both lend themselves to card games very well. Most existing and successful card games on the market today feature cool characters and fantasy items. In addition the Steampunk genre is an active genre. Steampunks are adventurers, scientists, makers, explorers, and dreamers. As such they are always DOING things, and card games are all about simulating action and adventure in a card play so Steampunk is a great genre for a card game!


AA: That’s a great way to bring in the players interests and creativity. Creators often talk about how elements of their own lives influence their projects. How did this play into Twisted Skies?

JT: Before I decided to try my hand at professional game design I was a game store operator for over 15 years. I saw a lot of card games come and go in that time. Some good, some not so good. When I sat down to design Twisted Skies I wanted to incorporate some of the more successful, fun, and unique aspects of other card games I had seen in my career.


AA: What kind of back story is there for Twisted Skies which didn’t make it into any of the current sets?

JT: At first there was discussion of giving a great deal of background material and storyline information about the Multiverse with the game. It was later decided to hold a lot of this back and instead release it slowly over several expansions allowing not only interest to build up but for players to write in and influence storyline elements something I really love. When fans get to take part in story development they are invested and feel a bit of ownership for the product.


AA: So it’s a game and a story which can expand. Are there any plans for expansions?

JT: We’re very excited to have a lot of expansions in planning. The two categories of expansions are Storyline Expansions and Community Based Expansions. Storyline Expansions expand on the basic world and themes of the game and are mostly designed by our staff. Community based Expansions are developed in cooperation with local Steampunk communities usually on a state wide or multi-state basis, featuring the local Steampunks and the cool gadgets, vessels and adventures they’ve come up with. This allows just about any Steampunk to get their own card in the game and to be recognized and encouraged by players all around the globe. We also offer special promotional sets featuring makers, performers, conventions, and vendors in the Steampunk community. These small sets include website information and promote the products and services of those featured so they make great giveaways and some even use them as their business cards!


AA: Oh, and look at the special cards in the Teslacon expansion set :) When I get my nieces and nephews to play Twisted Skies, what do they need to know?

JT: Twisted Skies is a game where interaction is expected and required for victory. The mechanics encourage players to help each other at the start of the game and then thwart each other towards the end as they near victory. Those who decide to “go it alone” and not cooperate with the other players early in the game will find it hard to move towards a win. In fact in play testing and demonstrations players that try going solo always lose.


AA: Cooperative and competitive play at the same time. What kind of research went into creating the Twisted Skies world?

JT: Twisted Skies is based on the Steampunk Multiverse concept which is very popular and a community cooperative idea in the south central US. The idea that there are multiple universe, worlds, and dimensions in Steampunk that are all connected by the mysterious energy source known as Aether. Brave Steampunk vessels and crews travel between these worlds chasing adventure. The Mutliverse is under threat from The Order, a powerful faction seeking to conquer all universes in the name of ending chaos. Against them stands the Grand Alliance of Free Worlds a beleaguered cooperative of universes that squabble with each other as much as they fight the order. Also in the mix in the Renegade Armada, equally opposed to the Order they are not necessarily nice people as they are made up of pirates, smugglers, and mercenaries.


This whole setting was first developed by Airship Isabella and then allowed to grow with the input of hundreds of Steampunks and is the primary storyline used by most Steampunks in the south central US. In fact all of the characters and most of the airships featured in the game so far are real Steampunks from the area Steampunk community. We’ve never had to invent a character for Twisted Skies and I hope we never will.


AA: What elements did you specifically include to create the world of Twisted Skies? What got left out (so far)?

JT: At the start, centering the game around the concept of Steampunk airships seemed a good idea as it is so popular in the greater Steampunk community, so that was a big part of the initial design. During development the idea of other vehicles was addressed such as sea ships, trains, tanks, etc. and adaptations for those were discussed but left out of the initial release, however they will be included and in fact will be the focus of future expansions.


AA: You’ve run several game sessions at conventions and other events. What are some memorable fan reactions to Twisted Skies which you’ve heard?

JT: The best one was running a demo at a large anime con in Texas. We had 8 guys locked in a pretty close game and they came to the realization that one of their friends was about to win after a pretty epic struggle. They came to the barter stage of the game and the player who’s turn it was announced “I can’t win the game but I can stop him from winning, I’m dying of thirst, I’ll block this guy from winning with my cards if someone will get me a coke.” The player two seats over jumped from his seat an sprinted out of the game room and down two flights of stairs to the concession stand and back with a cold soda in hand. It worked and he ended up winning. Probably the only time a gamer sprinted to win a card game.


It’s a terrible thing to do to you, readers, but we’ll stop for the moment in Chatting with Jim.

Check in next time when he talks about games play and reactions.

Until then, get your copy of , Twisted Skies today!


Published in: on March 31, 2014 at 6:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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