For this interview, I had the supreme pleasure of talking with the Legendary Southern Son of DCC, David Baity -the author of the Lovecraftian Weird West RPG, Dark Trails!
In addition to the being the author of Dark Trails, David has been a firefighter since 1989 and an avid gamer since 1978.
David’s also been a co-host on Sanctum Secorum from 2015-2016, contributed to that podcast’s zine, written the cult DCC tournament classic Carnival of the Damned for Purple Sorcerer games, penned a DCC RPG Christmas adventure featuring his spirit guide Krampus called Escape From Yule Mountain, contributed to the Gong Farmer’s Almanac and been involved in a host of other Goodman Games related RPG projects like the Umerican Survival Guide and Mutant Crawl Classics.
When not in public service or gaming, David can be found attending to his “lap lion”.
It has been an honor and a hoot to get to know David better and while the Kickstarter for Dark Trails may be over, the adventures are just beginning!
Author’s Note: You can still get in a late pledge for Dark Trails – the Quick Start Rules will be released soon! - Mike
1.Tell us a little bit about your background and how you found your way in to playing RPGs and eventually writing for them.
Ive been a gamer for more years than I’d like to count these days. When you tell someone “I was throwing dice in ’78!” you suddenly realize you’re ancient. I was introduced to D&D one Summer by an older kid on the neighborhood and that was it. I spent my visits at the mall with my Mom huddled in the corner of the toy store with whatever books I could find.
I can’t tell you what I ate for dinner yesterday, but I sure as hell can pull stats for a stirge going all the way back to the Monster Manual hardback. I fell into writing by accident after discovering Dungeon Crawl Classics. What started as a home-brew funnel turned into the Carnival of the Damned. Once it hit the shelves folks seemed to like what I’d created, so I’ve continued plugging away ever since!
2.Do you listen to any music or have any specific rituals you do when writing to get you in the mood or inspire you?
I rarely write without music going in the background. I’ve several hours of Dark Country burned into my brain since writing began on Dark Trails back in 2015. You can find my go to tracks on Spotify
I also like to slather my naked body with bacon grease while burning incense in a small shrine I keep in a spare bedroom. I keep statuary there to represent the patron saints of DCC (Curtis, Stroh, LaSalle, Goodman). It seems to get the creative juices dribbling.
3.You done other interviews where you talk about how you weren’t quite into Westerns and the seeds of what has become Dark Trails were born in your gaming group when you were looking for a different type of campaign. What drew you to the genre as opposed to another like Post Apocalyptic? Going further, when did the muse tell you to add Lovecraftian horror to the mix?
I did fall in love with Western movies later in life. I’m not sure why they never grabbed at me as a kid, but playing a game like Boot Hill just never appealed to me, and I’m guessing because of the lack of fantasy/horror that you found in abundance with other RPGs that were popular at the time.
In all honesty, Post-Apocalyptic games have always been my #1 passion. This is the first time I’ve ever mentioned this, but I’d planned on doing a PA game that would be compatible with DCC, but then learned of MCC (still in playtesting at the time) and figured I’d try something else just in case it was worthy of developing into something as a follow up to Carnival of the Damned.
The Lovecraft influence also came at me during my later years and I’ve always found the Mythos fascinating. At the time, I wasn’t aware of any Weird West games that were incorporating any of HP’s work, so it seemed like a great way to throw some impending doom into the stewpot of what I was cooking up.
I definitely wanted to push away from Deadlands so that folks wouldn’t see Dark Trails as a knock off of the iconic RPG. A fan of Deadlands may find some similarities, but my hopes are that they’ll see it take a hard right on the trail once it gets out of the gate.
3.What inspires you the most about Table Top Role Playing Games?
It’s the ultimate escape from, what can often be a very mundane life. I have a gaggle of inner demons that need “release” from time to time, and there’s no better way than to share my twisted visions with a group of unsuspecting players at whatever Con I’m attending at the time. It’s like I’m baking a cake for a group of strangers, and the ingredients are whatever twisted machinations I have currently floating around in my head.
When you see mouths drop during a particularly horrific encounter description, or have someone drop you a message telling you they had nightmares after the game, well, that’s all the inspiration I need to keep plugging away on material.
4.Carnival of the Damned was your first published RPG adventure - what’s with the demonic clowns man?
I don’t have a thing for clowns like a lot of people do. At the time I was trying to come up with a tournament style funnel that would offer a ton of random encounters that were loosely tied together. A carnival theme seemed easy enough and I wrote what would become the Carnival in the backseat of the car on the way to Dragon Con several years ago.
I do find it funny that we had all of the weird clown sightings here in South Carolina a few years ago. I hope someday to write a sequel for that adventure. I’m still flattered/surprised when people tell me they’re running it at a Con.
5.The Kickstarter for Dark Trails was incredibly successful. What did you learn about the experience that you would want to pass onto other aspiring RPG writers?
Ohhh, Michael! I seriously laughed out loud when I read this one!
I instantly flashed back to Michael Curtis giving Jim Wampler one piece of advice “It’s not to late to get out!”. I understand what he meant by that now, lol. If I had someone approach me wanting to try something similar I’d tell them to approach cautiously. You’ll need a lot of friends in the business that are willing to listen and give advice.
I didn’t join the DCC community with ANY intention of writing-my relationships with authors and folks working in the industry began as friendships, so I’m very lucky to have folks as friends gracious enough to help (without them Carnival, or Dark Trails wouldn’t be around) with all avenues of writing and publishing.
I’d also tell you to assume you won’t make a living at writing or publishing. The Dark Trails KS made over 50K and that sounds great, but when you look at Uncle Sam taking a 3rd, printing costs, and all of the art, and freelance writing there isn’t much left at the end of the day. If I took that meager profit and divided it by the number of hours, I’ve spent writing I’d be taking a loss (I try not to do this, lol).
So, be sure you really want to do this and that you can follow through. My goal with anything I create is just to make something people will appreciate. It’s not about the money.
6.Last years Gong Farmer’s Almanac had a number of Dark Trails entries, before the game was already released. There are a number of people already writing for Dark Trails and sure to be more. How does it make you feel to see people already creating content around your creation?
I honestly don’t get it, lol. Both the Brinkmans have scolded me on so many occasions, for deflecting any sort of praise I’ve received. People in the community have been so kind to me over the years, and it still feels weird/awkward when I’m asked to sign something or attend a Con as a guest. Add to that fact folks take an idea like Dark Trails and add their own imagination to it, and I can only describe it as a very humbling experience.
Joseph Goodman has always been so kind and encouraging to folks wishing to create material for DCC, and as a result the game has only grown in popularity. My hopes are that the gaming community will use the Dark Trails RPG in the same fashion, and I can’t express my gratitude enough to those who have already taken the game and ran with it.
I don’t think you could ask for a better compliment.
7.What can we expect in the future from David Baity after Dark Trails hits the shelves (other than a long nap)? What have you thought about for the future of DT?
Man, it really depends on the day of the week and the stress load I’m shouldering, lol. Ultimately, I want to continue writing and publishing adventures for Dark Trails.
I think you have to continue producing material to keep the game from gathering dust on the shelf, and adventures seem to be what folks like the most. My hopes are that the game will stand out as a good alternative to the existing weird west RPGs for those that prefer a class-based system using the DCC rules set.
At the end of the day if people like it I can promise them that they’ll have a game that receives continued support. I also have some ideas for adapting the rules to different genres, but for now I’m focused on the project at hand.
8.What’s it been like to work with Joseph Goodman and the amazing writers and artists in the DCC community?
It’s still something I have to scratch my head at. Joseph has been on board with Dark Trails since the get-go. He’s been a bastion of wisdom and support, and he’s always had my back.
I think he has a rare reputation in the gaming industry, and I try very hard to treat folks how he’s treated me. When you look at the fact that Stroh, Curtis, LaSalle and Brinkman are all writing for a game that is unproven it tells you what amazing guys they are in that they’re taking a chance on a scrub like me! And if it weren’t for the artists I’ve been so lucky to meet and work with I don’t think I’d be doing this interview!
Art is such an important aspect to an RPG book, so having the folks I’ve had on board with Dark Trails is crucial! They’ve breathed life into my version of a weird west!
10.You have in the past run a raffle for a charity that benefits animals? Can you tell us a little bit about that?
I try and do a give away each year to help raise money for no-kill feline shelters in the area. I was one of those guys that used to walk the other way when I saw the cats/kittens in cages, not wishing to get pulled into the sadness.
Well, I was picking up aquarium supplies, and tucked away in the back was a pet carrier with a sick kitten inside of it (the charity was having an adoption event). It broke my heart and that was what got the raffles started.
Unfortunately, the kitten passed weeks later, but it was enough to spark me into helping out financially. It’s the least I, or anyone can do considering we all love animals, and these folks give so much by way of fostering and providing medical attention to animals people often throw away.
Next time you’re in a Petco or related store and see these folks spending their weekend trying to find homes for pets, stop and buy them a bag of food, or litter. You’d be blown away by the appreciation you’ll get, and you’ll feel really good about helping out!
12.What are your favorite RPGS and RPG writers?
DCC, Warhammer Fantasy RPG (2nd and 3rd), Old World of Darkness (Wraith, Werewolf), AD&D (Planescape and Ravenloft), Savage Worlds (RIFTS). I have to say I’ve never run adventures that weren’t penned by DCC authors, so I’d have to say Curtis, Stroh, LaSalle, Newton, and Goodman are my fav writers (maybe I’m biased?)
13.What’s your favorite Whisky? Neat or on the rocks?
Ugh, I call it a success when I drink a shot and don’t hiss like a cat. I have a seriously weird reaction when I drink strong spirits!
My favorites, after trying SEVERAL bottles over the years are Angels Envy, Yellow Rose “Outlaw edition”, Old Forrester 1920, and Benchmark for mixing when I’m feeling like a sissy, otherwise I drink it neat.