Luke Johnson Q&A - World of Warcraft RPG Books

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in BlizzPlanet Articles, Interviews

Firence: Thanks again to Luke and everyone here in attendance. Great to have you all aboard

Luke: Thanks to you. Good to be here

Medievaldragon: Welcome to the Public Q&A with Luke Johnson—author and developer of Warcraft RPG books from White Wolf Publishing, inc. Great to have you here tonight Luke.

Luke: Thanks, man

Medievaldragon: Could you introduce yourself and tell us what your duties in White Wolf are? And some details of your career and personal life?

Luke: Sure. Hi, everyone! I’m Luke Johnson. As you know, I am a full-time freelance game designer and developer. It’s my sole source of income. I am the developer for the World of Warcraft RPG line. I am also an author on the line. Being the Warcraft RPG developer means that I’m pretty much in charge of the line: I hold the vision for the line’s future; I conceptualize the books; I hire the authors; I design the books’ overall structure and follow them through to completion; I look at proofs of the books to make sure everything is cool; I write indexes and advertising copy; I liaise with Blizzard Entertainment; I edit the authors’ text and make sure—

As for my career, I’ve been doing this stuff part-time for about 3 years, and full time for about 6 months. It’s an awesome way to make a living. In addition to White Wolf, my clients include Wizards of the Coast, Goodman Games, and numerous others. (For you D&D players, look for my name on Player’s Guide to Eberron, due out in January.) Personal life wise, I’m 25, single, and I live in Sharon (a suburb of Boston, MA, USA), at the moment. For more Luke trivia, you can check out my website, http://www.lukejohnson.com

Medievaldragon: What motivated you to enter the world of Fantasy and Roleplaying Genre as a writer? Are there influences or favorite books or writers that helped you fall in love of this genre?

Luke: As to the first question: Looking back on it, I’ve been playing RPGs since 5th grade, and I’ve been writing since I was old enough to dictate stories to my mom. My current career seems like a natural evolution of those interests. I got my professional start when Dungeon magazine published a D&D adventure I wrote (“Bloodlines” in issue #94). The timing was also right: the d20 boom was just kicking off.

Second question: Oh yes. I read loads of books. Back in the early days, it was Redwall and Dragonlance. Then I progressed. The Death Gate Cycle. Shannara. The Wheel of Time. Song of Ice and Fire. And so forth. I really dig Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville.

Firence: You mentioned playing RPGs since the 5th grade. Any ones that had a more profound influence on your over the years?

Luke: Well, Dungeons & Dragons, for sure. I played a lot of Palladium games back in the day as well

Medievaldragon: That is a long experience on the field. So can we assume it was your childhood dream to work as a fantasy writer?

Luke: You could assume that, but I don’t know if you’d be right. I don’t know that I had a childhood career dream. I never really thought I’d be able to make money doing this. Crazy. And firggin’ awesome …and I still make typos

Medievaldragon: How did Blizzard Entertainment and White Wolf come to partner with a license to create Warcraft RPG books?

Luke: Beats me. I just work here. I think that WotC (Wizards of the Coast) had the rights originally. I seem to recall some old files from Wizards for the very first book. How it passed to White Wolf involves arcane legalities of which I am unaware

Medievaldragon: I have read in the credits of each Warcraft book the names of Chris Metzen and Bob Fitch from Blizzard and I have seen Samwise—popular Artwork artist of Blizzard. How involved are they in each Warcraft RPG book? How often are they in contact with White Wolf and with you during the development of the book?

Luke: They are very involved, Chris Metzen especially. They (and some other fine folks at Blizzard) are always available to answer our questions. Totally random ones; I’m sure some of them they haven’t even really thought of before. (For example, what do murlocs speak? How long do satyrs live? What do you call that crazy weapon that shadow hunters wield?) They’re very nice and patient about it. I (or one of the other writers) emails someone at Blizzard a few times a week, probably. One of these days they’re going to go crazy and tell us to stop. Bob Fitch (a programmer at Blizzard) has done a good deal of writing for us as well, when his schedule permits. You can see some of his work next week, in More Magic & Mayhem. As for Samwise, we’re fortunate to have his artwork grace many of our books, but I don’t deal with him directly—the art director does. I think Samwise is in charge of signing off on the artwork for Blizzard. For example, recently he asked for some revisions on the sketches for the Monster Guide cover. (Which ended up being totally kickass, I’ll have you know.)

Medievaldragon: Any fun anecdotes during the development of previous and current RPG books with Chris Metzen, or Bob Fitch?

Luke: Hmm. Well, when Metzen found a typo in the latest book, he asked, “Where’s my +5 vorpal sword of editor slaying?” I think this was in reference to the Thrall-Grom killing that has at least one of our fans all riled up.

Medievaldragon: Yea many fans get trollish about that one

Luke: Well, we all know what really happened

Medievaldragon: mistakes happen sometimes

Luke: Especially when we used to hire wombats

MagusRogue: or still do

Luke: – I told you not to talk about Bob Fitch like that!

Medievaldragon: Hope Bob isnt among the audience

Luke: If he is, he’s using a stealthy nickname

Medievaldragon: This is a question many fans make themselves. Is each entry in the Warcraft RPG books to be considered canon to the Warcraft Lore?

Luke: Oh, there was a question. I don’t think I have the power to make that declaration, since I’m not a Blizzard employee. What I can tell you is that Blizzard signs off (approves) every book before we publish it. So, they look it over, ask us to make any changes (i.e., “tauren don’t know about the Green Dream; can you remove this paragraph?”), then say, “Okay, publish this.” I also think that these days we (and by “we” I mean “I”) put more effort into making sure Metzen is cool with everything before the material makes it into the final manuscript. Also, sometimes when I ask Blizzard for reference material (i.e., “What can you tell me about Sandfury trolls?”), they quote my own books back at me.

Medievaldragon: We want to find out if you live what you preach plastering the essence of Warcraft like a painter giving shape to a masterpiece through the Warcraft RPG books. Have you played previous Warcraft RTS games and/or World of Warcraft MMORPG? What is your perception of those games lorewise?

Luke: I played through Warcrafts II and III. I played some WoW, but my schedule doesn’t permit it anymore. Warcraft III is, however, the only video game I still play at all. (Primarily a mod called dota; check it out at dota-allstars.com). The lore is awesome. The Warcraft world is ultra cool, and I am thrilled to get to work on it. I dig all the history; if I played WoW, the biggest thing I’d be looking forward to is all that business in the Caverns of Time, visiting earlier epochs. Awesome stuff.

Medievaldragon: There is a question outside of the Q&A session that Idriel asked me to ask you. He was supposed to be working tonight but he got lucky and is here with us. I know Illidan will be in the World of Warcraft: Monster Guide. I just mainly want to know about the Lich King and whether or not his stats will be done right now, like they were supposed to?

Luke: Good question, but I don’t want to reveal specifics about the Monster Guide yet. Sorry!

Medievaldragon: How are the new World of Warcraft line of RPG Books up to date, compared with the current World of Warcraft status and The Burning Crusade’s period? Especially if Illidan will represent his current form, etc.?

Luke: Well, since we’re in contact with Blizzard fairly often, I *hope* they’re up to date! Lands of Mystery, for example, includes loads of info on the South Seas and Northrend that hasn’t appeared in the game (yet). It was very cool of Blizzard to get us this information.

Medievaldragon: That is an exclusive then. This content might not be released before the RPG book comes out

Luke: True dat

MagusRogue: the Burning Crusade stuff, really, is up in the air too

Medievaldragon: Its great to know. I have Lands of Mystery tagged as one of the books I plan to get =]

Luke: Should be a good read, too. Narrated by famed dwarven explorer Brann Bronzebeard!

Medievaldragon: OHHH Thats what i wanted to know. I had a hunch it was the continuation of Lands of Conflict also narrated by Brann Bronzebeard, brother of King Magni of Ironforge

Luke: Yes indeed. And of the (late) Muradin Bronzebeard

Medievaldragon: Well thats definitely will be my most treasured book to have when it comes out

Luke: Chapter 4 is especially good. Heh

Medievaldragon: To the fans, World of Warcraft: Lands of Mystery is scheduled for release on January 2006

Luke: Yep. And has cool cover art.

Medievaldragon: as just said by Luke, it will have Brann Bronzebeard narrating most of it. Actually Twincruiser revealed the new cover on his personal website on November 1

Luke: Yeah, it’s my desktop

Medievaldragon: This is the Lands of Mystery artwork. or part of it http://www.sonsofthestorm.com/warcraft_samwise076c.html#gallery To the left of that artwork is supposed to be a Centaur. Will we get some details of the Centaur history based on what we found out in Maraudon(Desolace)?

Luke: Yes, some

Medievaldragon: or any updates after Pariah left? The centaur Pariah said he would try to unite all the clans.

Luke: Well, I can’t go into details…

Medievaldragon: ok we understand. The Alliance and Horde guides will be interesting. current history, leaders and such. What can be revealed about both Guides content-wise?

Luke: Lots of crunch, too. New races, classes, spells, gadgets, and the like. We’re also introducing some new rules concepts that might be familiar to players of other RPGs but are new to this line, like variant classes. I’m pretty proud of them.

Medievaldragon: Will there be new lore on the Blood Elves, Pandaren and the Mok’nathal?

Luke: Can’t reveal that yet. Mwa ha ha!

Medievaldragon: ohhh evil grin. good stuff then

Medievaldragon: Mok’Nathal is the race of Rexxar half orc half ogre

Luke: Doubtlessly

Medievaldragon: I initially purchased a few of your previous Warcraft RPG books in search of new lore, but as I continued to read the books I wanted to dive into the Pen and Paper and d20 game. I personally know squat of d20 and many fans share the same misfortune. After all many of us are after the Warcraft RPG books in search of more lore. I’m not sure where I should begin. What would you suggest I do since I’m completely new to the Pen and Paper and d20 world?

Luke: Well, Mr. Dragon, I’m glad you feel that way! World of Warcraft: The Roleplaying Game has all the information you need to play the game, including a small introduction about pen-and-paper RPGs in general. You can get loads of supplementary, compatible information for free from the SRD (System Reference Document), which is available online. I urge you to check out our forums (http://www.white-wolf.com/wow/) for additional tips; the fans there are really helpful. If you can do it, your best bet is to hook up with an experienced gamer who can GM for you; you’ll learn a lot that way. You can check out the “What is the Warcraft RPG?” section on our website for a general introduction to pen-and-paper RPGs.

Medievaldragon: With Lands of Conflict on the shelves, and Lands of Mystery coming out in the near future, I’m curious to know whether another geographical edition of the World of Warcraft RPG books will be released detailing Draenor/Outland?

Luke: Well, I can’t comment on that directly, since we haven’t announced any books along those lines. But if we didn’t address Outland in some way, we’d be morons.

Medievaldragon: Is World of Warcraft: More Magic and Mayhem a remake of the Warcraft: Magic and Mayhem book or is it an addition with supplementary content? What would be of interest to fans of d20 on this new book?

Luke: It is a sequel to the original M&M; not a replacement. It does update a few things from M&M (like the runemaster), but it includes mostly new stuff.

Medievaldragon: Im sure many guys wanted to know that

Luke: Fans of other RPGs would get huge amounts of use from this supplement, as it’s crunch-based. New base and prestige classes, magic items, and tech devices. It also includes new rules (compatible with many other games) for things like alchemy and steam armor. (Think of a Warcraft mech. Yeeeeah!)

Medievaldragon: Will Lands of Mystery talk about the Nerubians of Northrend and the Aqiri of Ahn’Qiraj in Silithus?

Luke: Big yes on the nerubians, big no on aqiri. Well, maybe tangentially

Medievaldragon: Well, hopefully in a future RPG book?

Luke: I hope so!

Medievaldragon: As soon as I saw the World of Warcraft: Monster Guide in your Wow RPG line, I automatically tagged it as a Must-have in my list of priority. I enjoyed the earlier version of Warcraft: Manual of Monsters. Your description of the new book suggests there will be 200 monsters. Are these updated with the current status of World of Warcraft the MMORPG and/or Burning Crusade Expansion? Which Monsters you feel you can talk about outside the NDA that for sure we should expect?

Luke: Ohhh, this book is going to rock. You should expect most of the monsters you can currently see in the computer game to appear in the book, as well as monsters from Warcraft III. It also includes about a dozen famous villains from the Warcraft world.

Medievaldragon: Can we expect some lore about Rend and Maim? Many fans are having a headache with both characters. Rend apparently died during the Second War. Then we fought Rend and Maim as Chaos Orcs in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, killing them. Now we see Rend again in Blackrock Spire as Warchief of the Blackrock Clan, working for Lord Nefarious aka Nefarian the Black Dragon. If you have Rend in the Monsters Guide, please tell us if that plot-hole will be cleared up?—Since the book is not in printing yet, maybe you could call Chris Metzen and think of something for Rend’s storyline to fix any mistakes?

Luke: Ha ha! Am I becoming a liaison between the fans and Metzen? I can’t comment about Rend and Maim. Sorry!

Medievaldragon: Can we expect more lore about the origin of the Obsidian Statues? Will there be lore about the Oozes, Faceless Ones, Loa Gods, Old gods? If not could you promise to develop a book entirely focused on them and other shadow and divine characters of Warcraft? So far, Blizzard revealed the name of one of the Old gods. C’Thun—creator of the Aqiri race. We really want some Old gods lore and their names in an RPG book.

Luke: I afraid I can’t say much about these issues yet, save that at least some of the monsters you mentioned will appear in the Monster Guide.

Medievaldragon: Warcraft: Shadow & Light mentions that it is possible there are other sub-species of Titans besides the Aesir and the Vanir. Any hope we could get to read about the sub-species in a future RPG book? Or was Brann Bronzebeard just speculating?

Luke: There’s always hope, my friend. I don’t think Brann narrated that book.

Medievaldragon: Actually sorry Brann isnt in shadow and light

Luke: Aha, I said it first!

Medievaldragon: ok, i think we can now start taking questions from the fans. Please, whisper Firence to get an answer from Luke Johnson

Firence: First question: Luke, Tamir Nadav from Full Sail here. Given that you spent a lot of time at Full Sail, how do you think the General Design Fundamentals classes prepare people to be writers and designers?

Luke: Whoa. That totally wasn’t a question I was expecting

Firence: Or more generally speaking, what would you recommend for people looking to get into the field

Luke: Full Sail, by the way, is a college in Florida. That’s where I used to teach, and where the students here are from. They’re in the Game Design and Development degree program. Full Sail teaches electronic game design, but many of the skills can be applied to other media. For people, looking to become game designers: If you want to make electronic games, school is not a bad idea. I can recommend Full Sail; it’s hard, but you get out of there knowing your stuff. I’m sure there are other schools as well. If you want to write for RPGs, like I do, you should check out open call forums on sites like EN World and RPG.net. I’ve got work through them, and I check them daily. It’s also a good idea to think of the exact companies you want to work for, then email them cover letters, resumes, and writing samples. It worked for me. I think my website has some more advice

Firence: Since you’ve interacted with so many facets of the Warcraft world, what races and creatures have appealed to you most (what are your favorites)?

Luke: I really like satyrs. I don’t really know why; I like their demented mindset and their crazy voices and their cool carved swords. The fact that they have cool lore backing them up is also a plus

Luke: And they’re so different from standard fantasy satyrs

Medievaldragon: World of Warcraft: Lands of Mystery will have some details of Satyrs?—- January 2006 release

Luke: Some. They also show up in the Monster Guide. There, you made me leak something; happy?

Medievaldragon: double-goodie

Luke: I designed them. And I think I did a good job

MagusRogue: Hey, I loved them so much I’m already playing a satyr, luke

Luke: Sweet

Firence: We have some troll fanatics in the audience. Any chance you could divulge some information such as the whereabouts of Zul’jin? Dead, totally missing or in Outlands? any info on that guy in any of the upcoming books? For being such a big hero for the forest trolls, all trolls, he seem to be ignored or simply killed off by Blizzard.

Medievaldragon: Or what book we should aim if its revealed anywhere

Luke: I don’t think Blizzard ignores or kills off anyone. Anyone that the fans like so much. Okay, nevermind; that’s totally not true. Uther’s dead. Um… You might see his name in the Horde Player’s Guide

Firence: This may be covered in a previous title, but with the reformation of the new Silver Hand by Tirion Fordring—well supposed reformation since there has been no news since, Simply put what is going on with the new Silver Hand?

Luke: I’m afraid I can’t comment on that.

Firence: Despite your closed nature, I’d like to let you know that during the course of this interview, a couple of members in our audience have already gone out to purchase some of your books. There is some invaluable information for all of us out there

Luke: I have a closed nature? Well, that’s awesome! Lots of cool stuff in the books. And cool artwork, especially on the new one. That is a beautiful, beautiful book

Firence: Great to hear, we have another question from a full sailor if you don’t mind

Firence: What methods do you use to upkeep your writting skills and keep your creativity flowing?

Luke: Well, I work every day (7 days a week), so that tends to upkeep my writing skills. I don’t seem to have a problem with creativity flowing, either. On days when it doesn’t seem to be flowing, I just put words on paper anyway and they end up being pretty good. One of the coolest pieces of advice I ever got from a creative writing teacher: “You are free to write the worst crap in the world.” Really simple, but really freeing

Firence: Do you find yourself being a traditionalist or do you do everything through computer now?

Luke: Oh, it’s totally all computer. Sometimes I worry that I’m losing out on some valuable skill set by not writing stuff by hand. But, meh.

Firence: With so much emphasis being put on the digital side of things, several players have chosen to start reading via PDFs which are not only accessible but also great for referencing knowledge. Will the eletronic version (PDF) of MM&M be released at the same time of the actual book or earlier?

Luke: Probably around the same time, but I don’t actually have any say in the matter, so I can’t be sure

Firence: Are all previous titles currently available via PDF?

Luke: I believe so, yes. On drivethrurpg.com

Medievaldragon: I think it is very handy to download PDFs specially countries that do not get access to the hardcover book outside USA. Or simply for the Search ability of PDFs. I can find things quickly doing a search.

Luke: It’s true

MagusRogue: they are. I’ve checked. only place you can get Alliance/horde now

Luke: I use them as reference when I’m writing/developing

MagusRogue: i always got a PDF as well as the paper versions. easier to reference, as luke said.

Firence: I think I can guess the comment to this, but What can you tell us about what areas will appear in Lands of Mystery, besides Northrend and Kalimdor? More specifically (Pandaria)

Luke: Can’t comment on Pandaria. It covers Kalimdor, the South Seas, and Northrend

Medievaldragon: Will any of these World of Warcraft RPG books line be translated to other languages? Which?

Luke: I have not idea. I hope so. Not a very good answer, I know. Sorry!

Medievaldragon: Teron Sals told me some books are translated to Portuguese up to the Alliance and Horde compendium

MagusRogue: thought so

Firence: Well, on behalf of Blizzplanet and RP-PvP.com, I’d like to thank you for taking time out today to chat with us.

Luke: Thanks, man! Good to be here

Firence: It was great having you.

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