Interview with Alina Pete, writer of Ohunkakan: The Living Myth
When I found out Alina Pete was at Gen Con, I headed right over and introduced myself. I knew her as the creator of Weregeek, but I was most familiar with her from the wonderful writing she did for Monte Cook Games. We chatted about conventions, ConTessa and various geeky things. She couldn’t have been friendlier or more down to earth. I was delighted when she said she’d love to be interviewed, so last week I sat down with Alina for a conversation about comics, gaming and art.
Wow. You are a busy woman! You have a foot (or a pen or a brush or something) in comics, gaming, fiction. What are some of the things you are working on?
Well, aside from Weregeek, I've got a card game that we're currently Kickstarting, a submission to the Bones of the Coast horror anthology, another secret comics proposal I'm working on, and potentially, another comics project that I hope to launch before the new year. Plus I'm already working on Weregeek: Book 6, which will wrap up the first "chronicle" of the comic's plot.
For anyone who has been under a rock, Weregeek, is a webcomic. I love the premise of a guy who resists gaming, but is drawn to it like a moth to a flame. I think many of us who love the hobby can totally relate to that! How did the concept come about?
The term "Weregeek" came from my friend and I joking around during our D&D nights. During the day, we'd be dressed up for our office jobs and look totally "normal", but at night we'd meet for the game and be wearing our geekiest tee shirts - so we were Geeks By Night! I really liked that idea and played around with it for a while before I refined the idea for the comic.
Do you see yourself as any one of the characters, in particular? I am pretty sure I see a least a few of my friends in the archetypes in the cast.
Most people would say that I'm 100% Abbie, but I think I see a little of myself in all of the characters. Each member of the main cast is also based off of 2-3 of my gaming friends, so they're all a bit of an amalgamation of geek 'types'. You know - the guy who gets really excited about things, the girl who REALLY loves romance fiction, etc. I think every LARP group has at least one Abbie!
If you aren’t familiar with Weregeek, Abbie is the “total fangirl” character. Her signature quote is:“SQUEEE!!!” *jumps around spastically and knocks something over*”
Yes! I feel like I'm a little bit of Joel, the sardonic guy, trying to suppress my inner Abbie.
You talked about D&D. Is that your RPG of preference?
It isn't, actually. I tend to prefer cyberpunk and modern horror to high fantasy. Some of my favorite RPGs are Don't Rest Your Head, Unknown Armies, and my favorite, Shadowrun. I also have played more White Wolf games than any other system - I got my start as a gamer at a Vampire: The Masquerade LARP, and have LARPed in WoD and nWoD games continuously for the past 11 years.
(Wow, I hadn't realized it had been that long until just now...)
That's impressive! Have you done any writing or game design for tabletop?
I have. I was recently approached by Monte Cook Games to help co-write a new Native-themed recursion for The Strange. I had never done any game writing before that and was really honored to be given a chance to tackle a topic so close to my heart. The PDF for Ohunkakan: The Living Myth was released recently and I hear it's been really well received. I'm looking forward to running it for my own tabletop group.
I haven't played it yet, but I have to say it is beautifully written. And I love the world, particularly the mutable, dreamlike quality of it. Things can change and turn inside out. So different than the static worlds we are often used to in RPGs.
Thank you! My mom taught me a lot about being a traditional storyteller (of Native legends, not of tabletop games), and I've always loved the way people and places changed and transformed in the legends. I'm Cree, from Saskatchewan. Growing up, I would accompany my Mom during her work as a storyteller, and I learned both the legends and how to tell them. So, when I was asked to help develop this new Recursion, I knew I wanted to focus on traditional stories, since a) The Recursions are all based on myths and legends already and b) I think there's a wealth of really interesting things in Native legends for players to explore - like trying to talk Coyote out of his latest bad idea!
Changing gears a little, let's talk about the Kickstarter. First off, tell me a little about the game, Twilight Arcana.
It's a card game based off of the look and feel of the Tarot, with a hearty dose of Grimm fairy tales thrown in. In the game, you must free the Queens of the 12 Realms (or the Kings, in the gender-flipped version of the game) from an enchanted slumber. The players then use a variety of cards ranging from Knights, Dragons, Wizards, and Spells to vie for influence over the Twelve Realms. I think it's a really fun, fast-paced game, and it's going to have some AMAZING art from a group of mostly-female fantasy artists.
That sounds entertaining. I understand you're the art director. I think for most of us who've never done it, art direction seems like a fun job. You get to pick the pretty pictures! I’m sure there’s more to it than that.
Hah! At the end of the day,yes, but there's also a lot of technical stuff involved, like making sure the art and the card border are compatible, and checking that the art matches the game rules. For example, our Alchemist (drawn by the amazing Pascalle Lepas of the comic Wilde Life) doubles as Coin cards, so the art needed to reflect that. Thankfully, we made that rule change before we'd approved the initial sketch, so she was able to make the change before she colored it.
Communicating the vision of the project and the technical and rule-based requirements sounds challenging, especially when you are sourcing from so many diverse artists.
Yeah. Thankfully, the three of us make a really good team. Rob Kendzie, Layne Myhre and I are hoping to deliver a game that’s both fun to play and a beautiful art piece in and of itself. (I personally want to bring the deck with me to a LARP sometime. It would be a great prop.)
Speaking of diversity, did you set out to include mostly women as artists, or did it just happen organically?
We've always wanted the art itself to be diverse, but the fact that most of the artists are women happened organically. Some of them, like Pascalle, I knew from conventions and online. Others, however, we found at our local comics festival, VanCAF. It's a free show that brings in some amazing artists from all over Canada and the Pacific Northwest, and we got the chance to talk to the artists and look at their portfolios in person.
I know we need to wrap up soon. Before we end, is there any advice you'd give to women wanting to make comics or lead creative projects?
To women wanting to make comics: DO IT. Start drawing, right now. Don't let doubt stop you from drawing comics - your art and your writing is going to evolve over time, so it doesn't have to be perfect right now. You'll only get better as you go, and we need more of your voices out here. So get drawing!!
To women wanting to lead creative projects: Gosh, I don't know. I'm so new at it myself. I guess that if the project feels right to you and makes you geek out a little whenever you think about it, then just throw all of that enthusiasm into the project and see where it goes!
Thanks so much, Alina. We hope to see you again on the ConTessa blog.