Name: Shane Lacy Hensley
Other Important Info: Executive Producer on End of Nations, President of Pinnacle Entertainment Group
Short Blurb About You: Shane has created novels, computer games, card games, board games, miniature games, and even children. He’s best known for creating the Savage Worlds and Deadlands roleplaying games.
Sand & Steam is all about roleplaying games and game design. Tell us a story about a game you were in. Player, GM, doesn’t matter.
My wife and I were guests at a convention in Australia and I actually got to *play* Deadlands where we were all a band of agents. My character was the young, troubled hucksters and my wife was essentially Scully from X-Files, who I was in love with. Our boss, the ”Mulder,” type, was a stern and very veteran US Agent.
We stumbled on a town of pit wasps–which infect people and burst out like chest-bursters from Aliens. “Mulder” decided we had to exterminate everyone in the town before the pit wasps spread. My young idealistic character couldn’t tolerate that, so I begged him to lock everyone into the church while we sent for a priest who could “bless” them out. The priest would be delivered via ornithopter from the Smith & Robards Delivery team. I talked him into it.
An hour or so later, one of the ladies popped and the townsfolk went wild. I decided to use my mnemonizer (kinda like the thing from Men in Black that makes people forget) to make them forget what they saw, but being young and over-eager I forgot to tell my teammates. I rolled a catastrophic malfunction, and every unfortunate soul who happened to be looking at my hero had their eyes melted out of their sockets.
Including the love of my life, “Scully.”
My boss, “Mulder,” shook his head, unholstered his twin Gatling pistols, and went through the crowd putting the poor, blind, screaming, pit-wasp-infested townsfolk out of their misery…the finished by putting the last round in Scully’s head.
It was gruesome, hilarious, and memorable all at the same time. If you could see me imitate the look “Mulder” gave me…
What first got you into gaming?
The back of a Spider-Man comic book had an ad for Dungeons & Dragons–the famous “Greetings, mortal worm,” cartoon. I was hooked, and ordered my first D&D Basic Set through the Sears Catalog.
If you only had one game system to use for the rest of your life, rules-as-written, what would it be? Why?
It might be obvious, but Savage Worlds. Whenever I play any other game now–even if I like it overall–I miss Aces and Bennies really, really badly.
If it had to be a game system besides one I wrote, it would be TORG. :)
What’s TORG? Tell us about it.
TORG was a multi-dimensional, multigenre game from West End Games. I did a fair amount of writing for it in the early ’90s and it’s still one of my favorites!
What got you into game design?
I wrote a Halloween adventure for my friends in college (for TORG). They seemed to really like it and encouraged me to send it in. I did, made the revisions West End Games asked me to, and it took off from there.
What other hobbies do you have, and how do they affect you as a gamer?
I play a lot of flag football, hike, and read voraciously. I also play a lot of military wargames and minis games. I guess all those things show up in my writing one way or another–the outdoors, the fantastic worlds I read about from other authors, tactics, strategy, and heroism under extreme circumstances.
What’s the most recent non-gaming book you’ve read? What spoke to you about it?
I read a lot of political books from both sides of the aisle. I also read a ton of history and fiction–though the fiction I read tends to be Warhammer (I’m a huge fanboy). The last Warhammer book I read was Huss, about the warrior priest Luthor Huss. I love “willpower” heroes–Spider-Man, Solomon Kane–guys whose *real* power come from their willpower and willingness to never quit. Non-fiction, I just started “My Life on the Plains” by Custer. He’s a far more complex figure than most think. Very interesting.
What’s one thing you wish you could tell other gamers, and have them really listen?
What a great question. Thanks for asking that! Give your players a mechanism to control their fate–even if it’s just a chance to control their fate. As I mentioned above, playing in another company’s game recently I was agonizing over the fact that I couldn’t spend a Benny / Fate Point / whatever to try and reroll a failure. And it was a roleplaying failure that meant nothing to the plot–only to me and my character. Having no player agency in those circumstances can really take the wind out of your sails.
In terms of players being able to control their own fate, do you prefer having a chance to re-roll or mitigate failure using a bennie/FATE point/ whatever, or to have failure always be interesting? Why?
I like rerolling. I *always* want a chance of failure. Those tend to make the most interesting memories!
What projects are you working on right now?
Hmm. Of the things I can talk about, the End of Nations MMO RTS from Petroglyph / Trion, and the Hell on Earth Companion and SciFi Companion for Savage Worlds. Pinnacle also has a few other announced projects in production–Weird Wars Rome and Weird War One.
What’s your favorite thing to eat while you game?
Oh, I have really bad habits there. Most any kind of junk food will do. Chips and dip, cookies…you name it.
Recommend a non-RPG-type game to the readers.
I’m fond of all the Days of Wonder games. Cargo Noir is a particular favorite right now.
Which gaming die is your favorite? Why?
The humble d6. You can do so much with it, and it tends to treat me well. ;)