Rob recently got the chance to catch up with Chris Lock, one of the masterminds behind Lasers & Liches, whose Kickstarter went 200% funded in just 5 hours. Let’s see what makes “the Lord of the Multiverse” tick.
The Geek Lyfe: For starters, thank you so much for being here! Do you feel more comfortable with me calling you “Chris” or “Snickelsox”? Which do you prefer?
Chris: Uh, I mean “Lord of the Multiverse” is really what I try to go for, but I’ll settle for Chris.
TGL: First and foremost, let me get my fanboying out of my system. I could not be more excited for the official release of Lasers & Liches. Everything that you and Lluis have put together speaks to me on so many levels. It’s exactly what I needed right now for D&D, and I wish you all the damn success in the world.
Chris: Well, thank you! I really appreciate that.
TGL: Since I’m already jumping ahead here, can you tell everyone what Lasers & Liches is and what The Retroverse is? Because they’re going to be hearing those names a lot in this interview, and in the weeks and months to come.
Chris: Okay so, at the top level Lasers & Liches is the name of the company that we have. It’s what will be on the book. It’s sort of how Dungeons & Dragons has their Dungeons & Dragons books, and then they have the Player’s Handbook, and they have all that other stuff. The Retroverse is actually the universe that all this stuff takes place. But for the sake of hashtags “Retroverse” is what we typically use on Twitter. So, if you’re looking for our stuff, just #Retroverse. So, that’s top level. What the Retroverse is is an unstable plane that intersects all other realities at one point and time and either transposes them, like puts something else where something was, or just takes something from that universe to add to its own universe. We’re trying to make Saturday Morning: the Tabletop Role-Playing Game.
TGL: How did this you and Lluis start your epic tale together? Did you have this idea for a product first, and then the idea to look for a partner to help production? Were the two of you already friends, and stumbled upon this idea together?
Chris: It started as a joke, on Twitter. Lluis had been putting out some pretty cool art. None of the neon stuff or anything, but just art that really resonated with me. I really enjoyed his style, I thought he was übertalented, and he seemed like a nice guy. Anytime he would post art, I would put little lore bits to go along with it, just as like a retweet or a comment. And he really dug that; he was really into my style of storytelling, and trying to cram as much of that as I could in between those lines. This was back when we only had 140 characters on Twitter. Anyway, he decided he was going to do this neon looking Lizardfolk Paladin. He and I both are super into Dragonborn and Lizardfolk; that is our jam. I’d much rather play that than a human, any day.
TGL: Yeah, I mean, you play a human everyday already.
Chris: Yeah! I’m always a human, and I don’t get those +1s to every stat. It’s crap! And my feat was Two Left Feet. So, he put that out, and I put a little bit of lore into it. Nothing huge, but I just really liked it. It also resonated with a lot of people. People were super into that image. He decided he was going to stick with that aesthetic for a little bit, and drew the Neon Dragon. And at that point I’m like, “Alright, let’s really dive in.” So, I did a huge string of tweets about what this world looks like, the classes, and just surface level ideas. Nothing super in depth, but Lluis was really into it. And then someone said “Hey, is this a thing you’re making? Can I buy this?” So I messaged Lluis about 20 minutes later and was like, “Hey, uh, I think we work together now. Is that okay with you?” And he was like “Hell yeah! I’m totally into it!” And that was literally how Lasers & Liches started: A string of tweets, some jokes, some funny ha-has, and then six months later I’m filing for an LLC and trying to make sure that our rights on this are protected.
TGL: Now, I know you play D&D; I’ve seen a plethora of some of your one shot hooks. But I’m interested to know, does Lluis play, or does he not smoke his own product?
Chris: He has definitely told me about some Retroverse games that he has run, and they are… NUTS. There’s one he was talking about where they were fighting a giant bus beetle kaiju, by the end of it. And I was like “WHAT?! Why is this not in our game, Lluis?!” His response was “Yeah, there were cyborg ninjas everywhere.” So, yeah, he definitely runs some Retroverse games in his spare time. He doesn’t talk about them a whole lot, but he likes to test out our product, as it were.
TGL: So, I’m gonna derail a bit here, and give you some one-off questions.
Chris: Okay, shoot.
TGL: You get a table of 6 total people, including yourself. You can DM or be a player. Cast your dream table for a one shot. Who is sitting at that table with you?
Chris: Oh man. It’s going to be a little bit cliché, honestly. I wish I could be more original, but I want to have Matt Colville, Matt Mercer, and Satine Phoenix. And I want to have Mike Mearls and Christopher Perkins. Just to be with them for an afternoon of gaming, seems like something that I would just never forget.
TGL: That’s a solid table right there. So, I’m going to throw another choice at you, here. If money was no issue, what would be the song of Lasers & Liches?
Chris: If money was no issue, I’m gonna break the question just a little bit. I would have Gloryhammer do an entire album because their albums are basically one giant song. I would absolutely have Gloryhammer do a full Lasers & Liches album.
TGL: Yeah, Gloryhammer is some sweet symphonic power metal, and it’s nice to see you’re a man of culture.
Chris: Yeah, yes.
TGL: So, tech is something that’s synonymous with The Retroverse, what’s some of your daily carry or daily use tech items?
Chris: So, in the game or in real life?
TGL: IRL, in real life.
Chris: Okay, in real life. I mean, I’ve always got my cell phone on me, no matter what. I have a Fitbit, and I don’t really do much with it, but it’s a pretty fun watch. I maybe play Pokémon GO too much. And I definitely play that whole Twitter game WAY too much.
TGL: Well, you kind of have to, at this point. Also, since you brought it up, I gotta know what team are you sporting for Pokémon GO?
Chris: It’s gotta be Team Mystic. I’m sorry.
TGL: Team Mystic? Alright, well it’s been great talking to you, and we’re just gonna end this interview right here.
Chris: Okay, later!
TGL: Yeah, no, I play that game too much too.
Chris: So, are you Valor or Instinct?
TGL: I’m Valor. Instinct‽ Please.
Chris: Yeah, Valor. You frickin’ dirty Valors. Get outta here.
TGL: So, when you’re not playing PoGO or surfing the synthwaves of The Retroverse, what do you do with your you time? How do you unwind?
Chris: The answer right now is, “What ‘you time?’” No, um, I always try to make time to spend with my wife and my two sons. My youngest is just about a year old. So he’s easy; I can play with him for 15 or 20 minutes, and he’s just happy as a clam. My older one requires a bit more time. But the cool thing about this project is that I was able to go part time at work. So, I don’t have to hold a 40 hour a week job, while building all this, while also trying to take care of my family at home. Ultimately, I always want to spend more time with my family, and I think that’s, honestly, where a bunch of the drive for this project came.
TGL: Family can be such a powerful motivator. That’s great! And speaking of drives, what drove you into D&D? Who was your dealer that got you hooked on your first taste?
Chris: The person that really got me into it was my old DM, Dave. Dude is amazing. He’s just super smart, super talented. The only thing that frustrates me about him is that he won’t just write all of this stuff down. I feel like he could be huge in this industry. He’s been doing it forever, but anyway, he’s great. Anytime I need some inspiration or need to talk over mechanics of stuff with him, he’s there. He’s still stuck in 2nd edition D&D. So, that’s where I sort of have my roots, and you can see that in some of the design, especially in the first test wave. Mainly in the terminology and some rule phrasing that’s just like, “This is clearly grounded in 2nd edition and not 5th,” which is hard to break. Because, let’s face it, 2nd edition is pretty good.
TGL: “What is your favorite edition of D&D?” was absolutely one of the questions I had lined up for you, but it sounds like you’ve already answered that. So, tell me, if that’s your favorite, why set Lasers & Liches in 5E? Is that just because it’s the most recent, and what’s happening right now?
Chris: I think it’s a combination of that’s what’s poppin’ right now, and it is what’s got the most open ruleset. So, if you’re designing stuff for 5th edition that you want to sell, and you’re not doing it on the DMs Guild, there’s a lot of different rules and hoops you have to jump through to be able to use the System Reference Document (SRD) and the Open Gaming License (OGL). Now, Pathfinder, 3.5, and I believe 4th edition all have their own SRD so that you can do that, but everyone hates 4th edition.
TGL: Yeah, we don’t talk about that.
Chris: And 3.5 is also… it’s fine, but man is it number crunchy, and there is just so much that you have to learn to be able to fit within those rulesets. Pathfinder, I don’t really know all that well. And 2nd edition is completely closed off; you cannot make or sell anything for 2nd edition. So, all of those reasons combined is why we went 5E.
TGL: Fair enough. Are you at all worried about how close you can get to your inspiration(s) without receiving a cease & desist from their law team?
Chris: So, I’ve looked into a lot of it, to make sure what we’re doing is something that’s “inspired by” but not totally ripping off. Especially when it comes to things like the Henshin class, which was one that I was a little bit worried about. It’s very much based on Super Sentai warriors and that sort of stuff. But that is simply a trope that is out there.You can’t claim that a certain trope is necessarily yours. No one can say, “Oh yeah, a spandex warrior is just ours,” because then professional wrestling would never have happened.
TGL: Very true. And let’s be honest, as a nation, where would we be without professional wrestling?
Chris: This product wouldn’t exist without wrestling. Let’s put it that way. Wrestling has been a big inspiration for lots of things in this set up.
TGL: I’m excited to play that wrestler class!
Chris: I’m excited for people to see it because it’s very different than most fighters play. I wanted people to be able to suplex multiple times in a row. So that’s why we went with the fighter class.
TGL: And I gotta ask. When you hear the phrase “multiple suplexes in a row” who’s the first wrestler that comes to mind?
Chris: Oh didn’t someone do that to John Cena recently? They just kept suplexing, or maybe it was a DDTing, over and over again?
TGL: I’m sorry, the correct answer was Kurt Angle.
Chris: So, I didn’t watch it a bunch as a kid. I’ve actually had to go back and like research it.
TGL: I’m worried about how that holds up, if you’re going back and watching old wrestling stuff now.
Chris: Some of it holds up fantastically. Especially things with like Sting and Undertaker are often very good still. There part where Sting is wearing a Sting mask and takes it off, and it’s just Sting underneath!
TGL: YES! That’s one of my favorite gifs.
Chris: I love that stuff.
TGL: Well, we’re nearing the end here, so to help get us in a somber mood I wanted to ask you, is there anything you wanted to use inspiration from, but in the end it just didn’t make the cut?
Chris: We’re actually still developing a lot of stuff, and there’s definitely been some ideas where I make a note of “I need to come back and look at this. I don’t really have the time for it now, but I’m going to try and get at it.” I don’t think there’s anything we’ve put out there that is just “too close” to the source material and had to be taken out. I’ve changed a couple names around that we were using. For instance, one of our fodder enemies used to be called a Putty, and now it’s not that. It’s a Muddy because it’s made from mud and not clay. It’s little stuff like that.
TGL: Yeah, take it and make it your own.
Chris: Exactly. That’s what we’ve been working on. Trying to make it to where it’s not just a reference because references are so easy. If you just wanted lasers in your game, and you just wanted some reskinning, you could just say, “Okay, Magic Missile is now lasers and called Magic Lasers,” and call it a day. But that’s not fun, it’s not exciting, it doesn’t bring something new to the game. Reskins are fun, but they’re easily something you can do. So we’re not going to do that.
TGL: Is there any item that you can spill the beans on for our readers? Just to give them a taste.
Chris: One of the items we have in there is the Arcane Eye Network Glasses, and essentially, they are glasses that let you record and stream your adventure. Or you can tune into other peoples’ adventures, and chat in their chat boxes. I’m REALLY hoping that people enjoy that item and come up with some unique and fun ways to play with that one.
TGL: I’m excited for you to see your creations go out into the world. Then, getting to drop in on some of them, and see things you never thought of. Be it using an item a certain way, or maybe how two specific items would interact with one another.
Chris: Absolutely. People break the stuff all the time, and it’s great!
TGL: Chris, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us! Tell our beautiful readers where they can find you.
Chris: I live on Twitter, but you can get everything Retroverse from LasersAndLiches.com. That’ll take you right where you need to be. If you want to follow me it’s @Snickelsox. That’s how everyone knows me these days.
TGL: Thanks again, and we’ll see you in The Retroverse!
Laser Corgi tax: