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Interview with Joe Wetzel of Inkwell Ideas


Jonathan: Today we’re talking with Joe Wetzel, the owner of Inkwell Ideas.  Inkwell Ideas is a RPG company which has produced Hexographer and Dungeonographer (two leading game map software programs), DungeonMorph Dice, the Coat of Arms Design Studio and other useful articles and tools for games.

Joe, can you tell us about your company and your recent ENnie nomination?

Joe: I think the ENnies is something where it really is great just to be nominated, especially for a small niche-within-a-niche company like us.  Few people probably buy/play more than 2 game products in each category so really the judges are best suited to screen everything.  (They get a copy of each product entered.)


Jonathan: What originally got you into role-playing games?  How long have you been playing?

Joe: I’ve been playing since I was a kid 1982 or 1983 with some friends from my street.  RPGs just struck all the right nerves for me.  And even then I was making tools for RPGs and related games.  Around 1990 I created an awesome Mech design program for the Commodore Amiga. 🙂


Jonathan: Do you still find time to game?

Joe:  Yep, but I wish it was more.  With two young children and a bunch of other things going on for myself and most of my group it gets difficult sometimes.


Jonathan: What game does your group play most often?  What kind of adventure are you running right now?  Anything funny or unique you would like to share?

Joe:  We’re playing Pathfinder at the moment, but I’d love to find a Dungeon World or Labyrinth Lord or ACKS game to try on-line. (Using Google Hangout or some other conferencing option.)  In our current Pathfinder campaign we’ve taken the approach of purposely trying to get enough done to level up every session.  I think there has only been one session we didn’t, but in our last session we leveled up twice.  A PC did die in the last battle with a dire tiger, but he was reincarnated.




Jonathan: Your Tabletop RPG Overview poster shows a dungeon populated by various role-playing game systems.  It comes with stickers that you can adhere to show which systems one has played.  I think this is a really cool idea and something I shared with my fellow RPG fanatics on Facebook before you and I even met. 

After staring at this poster for a good 30 minutes, I’m curious, what are your top 3 RPGs of all time?

Joe: It is very hard to narrow it down to a top few.  I think you’d have to go with D&D 0E because it was essentially the first, Star Wars d6 because it brought in a new audience and probably Call of Cthulhu because of the mechanics and genre.  But you could make good cases for many others: Ars Magica for the magic system; Pathfinder for keeping core fantasy open and supported; Icons for a fun, who cares about min/maxing system; Champions for getting point-buy mostly right; GURPS for the rich resource books; and I’m sure there are other good points for other games.


Jonathan: Let’s  talk about your latest and greatest product by Inkwell Ideas!  You’re running an incredible Kickstarter for Creature & Encounter RPG Card Decks.  There’s more than just the cards to claim in this Kickstarter though, you’ve also got some beautiful monster art available for publishers to use in their products.  Can you tell us more about your Kickstarter?

creature-enc-cardsJoe:  I’ve really been wanting to do this for a long while even as I was doing the first project that included Stock Art of monsters.  I was looking at the first Marvel Masterpieces card set and thinking how cool it would be to have cards like those (high-quality art) with game stats on the back.  To make the project more cost effective, I decided to offer the art to other publishers.

And while the monster cards were a cool idea, some people thought it was missing something.  After all, why not just use a bestiary book?  Then I considered pairing the creature cards with something to make random encounters more interesting.  Eventually I thought of mashing up Mad Libs with the Book of Lairs to create another deck of cards which are the encounter deck.  Each card will have an encounter outline on one side and a map on the other side as well as a few other things.  So when you want to need a random encounter, just draw a card to use the outline side and draw another for a map and a couple more for some other possible encounter aspects (a twist, special treasure, trap, etc.)  These encounters generally can lead to little side-treks. Plus, some of the encounter maps will have a side or two that connect to the DungeonMorph Cards.


Jonathan: Tell us why we should pledge and support your Kickstarter Joe.  (As if I needed more reasons!)

Joe:  Because these will be awesome products?!  Seriously, what makes these cards  possible are:

-Print on demand cards:  I’ve gotten the printer’s card samples and the quality is almost indistinguishable from a Magic the Gathering card.  If I hold one of each I can feel that the Print on Demand cards are a touch heavier, but otherwise I see and feel no difference.  Print on demand means we don’t need 500 pre-orders for each version of each card deck.

-Custom technology to layout the cards: The project will do 4 creature card decks and 2 encounter card decks.  Each of the creature card decks will have at least 4 versions and likely 6 or even 8.  This would take much too long without a way to automate the process, which I’ve done. 🙂


In addition, consider that:

-Many of the creatures will be new for many of the game systems supported.

-The creature cards are a great way to organize just the monsters you need for a session.  (Stick them in a baseball card page and clip it to your GM screen.)

-You get a free PDF version of each card deck you pick up.

-I don’t know of anything quite like the encounter cards and I think they will be incredibly useful.

-While we are tracking to meet our goal a little before the deadline, if we can make it early we do still have some stretch goals in mind.


And the stock art is obscenely cheap, yet very high quality.  Even if you only use 3 pieces, you come out ahead compared to contracting an artist for a custom piece.




Jonathan: Thanks for speaking with NERD TREK today Joe!

Joe:  Thank you so much for your interest!  Great to talk with you.

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