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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