Interview Time: A Peek Into The Life Of A Fantasy Author and Game Creator Laying His Foundation In The World.
Author and Game Designer
Enjoy a fantasy world, where magic and science meet to tease your imagination. Delve into the world of...The Branded!
An interview by Andreas Gross
Pictures provided by Zach Rishling
Date of Interview: 3/25/2021
Last Updated: 5/6/2021
Hi Zach, thank you very much for availing yourself of this interview. We’re excited to get to know you a little more and take a peek inside the life and mind of a creative author and game creator laying his foundation in the world. Let’s go ahead and start off with some general background, shall we? I know you and I have at least one thing in common – we are both from the Inland Northwest (that’s the Northwestern U.S. I’m talking about, for our international readers) but spent a significant amount of our childhoods overseas. Tell us some more, please, Zach.
Ah yes, the Inland Northwest, or at least that’s where I am living now. And yes, like you have mentioned, Andreas, I grew up around the world. My parents both worked for the government, so I was exposed to dozens of different cultures as I matured. Eventually, I realized that I really liked fantasy games and novels. I had friends in Finland who were of like mind, so I decided to be a Game Master for them. For the past 12 years I have been constructing a tabletop role playing game from the ground up. Everything from story, rules, and world design have come from months of writing and developing. The novel I have recently published is a small part of
this game world. My players wanted more info about the characters, so I gave them a novel! As I was writing this novel, I began creating various rule books and other supplementary written materials for my game as well, making sure to pack all the books full of plenty of art and visuals; although I am currently having trouble figuring out how to publish and sell the rule books. It has been difficult to make defining decisions along the way, as I am the only one working on all these projects.
As the sole proprietor of Andreas Philip Gross Enterprises, I hear you loud and clear on the challenges of running a one-man-show, Zach! When it’s just you laying out the plans and calling the shots, it can really push your own inner limits some times. But, you’ve come this far, and that’s definitely reason to celebrate! We’re excited to hear about the specifics of your novel and game – so don’t be shy, tell us more about them!
Sure thing! Both the novel – book one of The Branded series: The Uprising – and my game are set in the world of The Branded. It's a primitive world of fantasy, magic, and factions that have super advanced technology, too. The struggle for power is ever present, as the bad actors seek to manipulate everything to their favor. The novel is set 400 years before the players can begin their games. So, when the players begin, they are thrust into a world with thousands of years of history, dungeons, gods, exotic cities, and puzzles to explore.
The game is designed for adults who enjoy letting their imaginations take control. The game itself has sandbox-style play. This means that I have enough content for players to do absolutely anything they could want to do. From dangerous exploration, to idly chatting with the people of The Branded world, there is a whole wide world to explore. The novel mostly takes place in the city of Unity, where the players of the game would also spend most of their time before venturing into the dangerous world around them.
This is all very awesome to hear, Zach. Wow! What a creative mind! You have, essentially, created your own world and are offering people a chance to jump in and experience it! You’ve alluded to some of the challenges of decision making, and I’m sure there are other challenges that come with your creative writing and design endeavors. Other than the decision making, what aspect of writing and design present the greatest challenge to you?
Finding the right mood to sit down and focus. When I get into the zone, I can write and create for hours. But if I can't get into the ‘zone,’ it's just impossible to write anything worth reading. As such, my biggest challenge has always been self-discipline and manipulation of my own psyche.
And what about the most rewarding aspect?
Without a doubt, seeing the eagerness of my fans. The way they light up and discuss their adventures or the way they focus intently on a subject that I rarely speak or write about. I definitely believe my world to be intriguing, and I really am grateful that many people I know think so as well.
Let’s see, Zach, just to make sure the readers and I have got everything straight: you’ve been developing the magical and mysterious fantasy world of The Branded for 12 years now, and now you have a tabletop role playing game (RPG) that allows players “access” to this world, if you will, and a book called The Uprising, the first book in The Branded series, where players and readers can get a glimpse into (some of) the history of The Branded world – with other books in the series slated to come out in the future. Did I catch the gist of it?
Yes, you did, Andreas. Also, as I mentioned previously, I have an unpublished rule book of my RPG and other various unpublished supplemental books about it which came about as I was writing The Uprising.
I am currently play-testing the game for free. I am accepting new players all the time and encourage anyone interested to reach out if they would like to give it a try!
Fantastic, Zach! And just how can people who are interested in your world of The Branded get in touch with you to buy your book and game?
As mentioned, the game is currently in the play-testing stage at this moment – it’s not yet available for sale on the commercial market. For those interested in play-testing, I offer both in-person and online avenues for that. I have plans to host sessions via my Discord channel and record them for YouTube. That way, I can eventually have a live audience. But those plans are in the distant future.
The Discord channel is a great way to ask players and fans what they think of my game and novel, rather than taking it all on a leap of faith.
My novel, The Uprising, just recently [as of the date of publication of this interview] came in from the printer and is available for purchase directly from me.
Furthermore, I would like to note that I am currently working on the next books in The Branded series now.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and my Discord channel is https://discord.gg/2VqHpQFHW9. Please reach out to me if you are interested in buying the book and/or play-testing the game!
And remember, you read about it all on Biz Opp Empire - promoting ideas, inspiration, and opportunity within the realm of small business, freelance, and entrepreneurship!
Owner and Operator of Biz Opp Empire, a website by Andreas Philip Gross Enterprises
International K-12 Educator,