Meet the Ulisses North America Staff: Kevin MacGregor
Ulisses North America is seeing a bit of a growth spurt right now. We’ll be adding more names and bios to our About page soon. But in the meantime, let’s take a moment to hear from someone who has been here almost since the beginning.
Ulisses Spiele’s first goal with its North American division was to oversee the release of Das Schwarze Auge in a fully-supported English edition. This was (and is!) an ambitious goal, considering how much material is produced in German. This effort demands an experienced and skilled managing editor. Kevin MacGregor has been working in the gaming industry for decades and has written for companies like West End Games, and more. He oversees a team of translators and editors on two continents and works closely with our graphics and layout team to make the English edition of The Dark Eye as good as it can be.
I sent Kevin some questions asking him about some of his first interactions with Das Schwarze Auge:
Had you heard about Das Schwarze Auge before being asked to edit the new English edition? What did you know about it beforehand?
KM: I first heard about the game while stationed in West Germany in the Army, before the Wall came down. I learned about the game’s first appearance in English in 2003 from a friend who owned a hobby store. I think that was the game’s 3rd edition, which was produced by a different company.
Since Ulisses Spiele’s first English version is based on the new, 5th German edition of the game, I chose not to read the existing English material before we started working on the English edition in earnest. My intent was to approach the material with an unbiased perspective.
You’ve seen a lot of different game systems over the years. Did anything strike you as particularly unusual about The Dark Eye, especially to an American gaming audience?
KM: I saw several things. First, I was especially pleased that the setting seemed to be free of gender bias. With few exceptions, characters of either sex can fight in wars, become priests, lead armies, or rule kingdoms. This was a welcome departure from settings that always seem to fall back on the cliché of women as wives or servants, or even worse, as helpless objects in eternal need of rescue. When given a chance in the real world, men and women alike can perform wonders. I prefer games that reflect this.
I liked the Dark Eye’s stat-dependent, 3-dice mechanic for skill resolution. Some games place surprisingly little emphasis on stats after character creation, but stats play a fundamental role in skill resolution in The Dark Eye (note: the related, single-die mechanic for combat pares this down a bit, to help keep battles exciting).
I also liked the unique property of the planet’s air, which accelerates everyone’s healing rate. This healing factor has many interesting implications, from both a biological and a tactical point of view.
Another thing that stood out was the game’s power level, which benefits from, and reinforces, the setting. Gods and magic are real, but spells and miracles act on a personal scale (to use a modern term, mages in the Dark Eye do not wield spells of mass destruction, and in fact, most spells affect only one target). Adventures follow suit. The Dark Eye draws its inspiration from many sources, but overall it combines real-world history with the individual quest theme from Arthurian legend and the tales of the Brothers Grimm. Players shouldn’t expect every adventure to feature town-eating monsters and world-ending plots. The setting does offer some truly dangerous monsters (the basilisk, for starters), but the mightiest foes usually work their mischief and intrigue in the shadows, preferring to damage society as a whole rather than glorify in the mutilation of individual victims. I found this premise much more interesting and satisfying.
As you were starting out, did you have anyone sit down with you and explain the politics and history of Aventuria, or did you have to piece it together from the materials coming in?
KM: I learned everything from the material. Keeping up with the politics is an ongoing challenge, since the world of Dere continues to grow and evolve. Also, by the time a product appears in English, the German setting has advanced by a year or more. When possible, I try to salt the English products with hints of major upcoming developments. As with real life, the seeds of future events are all around, if you know where to look.
What are some things you know now that you wish you had known when you started this process – things that might have made it easier? This can be rules or setting or both.
KM: I would have translated certain terms and concepts differently, but I think we are producing a solid game. I always like to see fan feedback. According to these reports, players like the rules and the setting, and GMs and bricks-and-mortar game store owners appreciate the English editing. As the Managing Editor for the Dark Eye, that’s music to my ears.
Thanks to Kevin for his thoughtful answers! We’ll try to bring you more interviews in the coming weeks.