Book of the Righteous Interview: Aaron Loeb

On Monday I interviewed Robert J. Schwalb (you can read that here, or here, if you missed it). Today I’ve got an interview with the man himself, The Book of the Righteous author Aaron Loeb! He is in China on a business trip but still found time to answer my questions. Thanks, Aaron!
Aaron Loeb

Aaron Loeb

Q: About six months ago you texted me one day and asked, “Why isn’t there a 5E version of The Book of the Righteous yet?” What made you feel like the time was ripe for a new edition of the book?

A: When 3E came out, there was a lot of excitement about it. It was like the D&D we grew up loving was having a re-birth. I got that same feeling from 5E. And it’s been over a decade since we released the original, so I thought now might be the right time to bring it back as new players are coming into the game — or others are returning — due to 5E.

Q: When you were writing The Book of the Righteous, was there a particular type of gamer you had in mind? Or did you try put in something for everyone?

A: Yeah, it was definitely for the hard core roleplayer. There was a lot of “crunch” in it — a lot — a whole new class, prestige classes, tons of spells and artifacts and monsters. But at its heart, the book is for people who want to have their character’s or their campaign’s mythology have depth to it. It’s so rewarding when you’re playing a character whose powers come from a religion to have a deep mythology to draw on.

Q: You’ve run several campaigns using The Book of the Righteous cosmology. Any tips you want to pass on to GMs planning to do the same?

A: Once you have a meaningful religion in your campaign, it opens up whole new plotlines and conflicts — and not just for the characters with religious powers. Every character in the campaign can, if their players are interested, have a meaningful relationship with their god and it can lead to compelling storylines for them as well. Sometimes it leads to conflicts within the party. It opens up a whole new area of mentors and trainers for all the characters, and new justifications for quests.

In campaigns most of my life (I’m not sure about others), the religious characters have some basic idea of what their religion is. Sometimes they even developed pretty deep background on their churches. But the other players didn’t necessarily have any connections to their religion or church. They didn’t have any reason to develop what their character thinks about the other character’s religion. And of course, there were those campaigns where one player worships Thor and another one worships Zeus or something, and it always felt like the less said about religion the better — because the very topic would break the bubble of the fantasy.

Q: Before he moved into the game industry and went to work at Wizards of the Coast, Jeremy Crawford was in your game group. Was there one of the gods he particularly favored? 

A: Yes, indeed! We had a great long campaign where he played a scholar of Tinel, a 60 year old wizard. It was a great example of religion playing an important role for a character without religious powers as he was a scholar in a Tinelite lyceum. I still remember his character’s regular cries of “Outrageous!”

Q: Your day job is in video games. Can you tell folks what you do, and how it relates to your roots as a tabletop gamer?

A: Sure! I’m the President of Worldwide Studios & Live Services at Kabam. We make mobile games, with a focus on games that are massively multiplayer — meaning games with deeply-embedded competitive and cooperative gameplay. Our games include Marvel: Contest of Champions, which is one of the most popular mobile games in the world.

Core tabletop roleplaying systems are at the core of nearly all of our work, because our games are services that last for years. Tabletop roleplaying games pioneered the game design concepts around continued character development over years and years. When you look at RPG design, you can think of good design as a series of connected gears — some large, some small. Just as you advance one gear, it advances another, but now creates a new challenge or set of choices to advance a different gear. For instance, every time you play, you gain experience points, constantly advancing one gear that eventually triggers a level. Every time you turn the level gear, you advance other gears — powers, spells, etc. And each of those has embedded within them their own systems that involve interesting choices and challenges.

This all comes from D&D and other tabletop games and it is at the heart of nearly all game system design for massively multiplayer games in the modern era.

Thank you, Aaron! We are closing in on $14,000. Hopefully, we will have The Book of the Righteous funded by the time you get back from China.