Designer Tim Hitchcock recounts the tale of his writing and influences on his work in Wastes of Chaos! On sale now!
Reflections from the Wastes
January 13, 2022. I get one of my favorite kinds of email. The kind where an editor asks me if I’d be interested in working on a project . . . a big project, a campaign expansion all about the chaos wastes that needs to be completed by July. I respond with a professional, “Hell yes!”
Anyone who knows me fairly well can warn you that I am chaos incarnate. After all, my day job is teaching middle school science in Coney Island. All the research I need to write about chaos is to watch my students and take notes (bless their little hearts).
Almost a year later, in anticipation of the release of Wastes of Chaos, Thomas asked me if I’d take a look back on the process and blog about it. Hell yes! If I haven’t been clear enough, I love chaos.
The Wasted West
The Wasted West might be my favorite part of Midgard. Walking hunks of sleeping god-like monstrosities with goblin villages on their backs, metal space junk falling from the sky, mystic stygian cults, and chaos magic. These topics drew me into the hobby when I was a kid, scouring bookstores for weird fiction paperbacks until I stumbled across a pamphlet cryptically entitled “Blackmoor.”
My editor, Thomas, sent a project outline, and I tore through it, highlighting everything I wanted to work on, which, in true chaos fashion, was everything. While I waited, Thomas asked me to make some location maps. I was so excited that I drafted and sent four briefs back that day. He then asked for two more, which I sent him the following afternoon. After that, I got my project assignments and disappeared for a few months.
Weird and Horrific
I gravitate towards weird fantasy, cosmic horror, and psychological elements that challenge the player characters’ ethics. I love making players struggle to comprehend pathologies alien to those typically expressed in an RPG. There is a big difference between random and chaos. Chaos has nuance, lots of it… it’s just incomprehensible to sane mortals.
One of the things I love most about Kobold Press remains their constant dedication to upholding the tradition of participant-driven game design. My favorite aspect of RPGs is how GMs and players create their own games from various components, encouraging anyone in the RPG community to add to the collective.
I stumbled into the community as a fan sharing ideas. I had no idea that decades later, I’d continue contributing as a game designer. Thankfully Kobold Press continually pushes this concept, allowing fans (such as me) to write stuff that excites them with no holds barred.
Strength through Diversity
The remarkable thing about Wastes of Chaos is the diversity of content within a limited context. Campaign-based projects offer players and GMs incredibly useful content because they provide content that’s simple for game participants to contextualize. When rules, resources, adventures, and player materials align, it encourages more nuance in the design.
A player seeking more interaction with the powers of chaos gets excited about class options for tapping chaos (instead of Ki) for their monk character. A character channeling the unknown horror of cosmic whispers will be interested in chaos goblins eating slabs of flesh hacked off a Dread Colossus to glean insight into the primordial chaos.
People often ask me what my favorite thing to design is, like monsters, adventures, classes, rules, or whatever. I always say “all of it,” or “I don’t have a favorite.” Because it’s all the same stuff. When it all works together, when all the parts interact, it’s fire.
An End to Horrors
July 17, 2022. I send the last Wastes documents off and try to cleanse my brain of the horrors I’ve been toying with for most of the summer. Who am I kidding? Everything’s still in there. I and anyone else still reading this blog grew up on this stuff. We love old, weird fiction and everything it influenced.
What sticks with me most is that so many of us still find this subject matter inspiring. Which is lucky for me because every RPG I’ve ever played has had at least one moment where everything broke down into a waste of chaos.