I’m sure many of our readers would like to know more about particular individual gnomes, and if the topic of your creepy internet man-crush happens to be Patrick Benson, you’re in luck because today, we’re presenting an interview with this rising star in the RPG industry.
Patrick and I made a pre-Thanksgiving weight loss bet with the stakes that the loser had to interview the winner. Patrick lost 3.07% of his starting weight. I lost only 2.77%. In a way though, I feel like the winner because this interview was a fun and easy article to write. Plus, I still lost 11 lbs.
For starters Patrick, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself, your home life, family, job, etc… Who’s the man behind the gnome?
Sure. I am 35 years old. I have been married to my wife Karen for 10 years, and we have a daughter (Calen, 7) and a son (Liam, 5). Karen and the kids are really the best aspect of my life. I’m lucky because I married my best friend.
Currently I am the Senior Systems Engineer in the Information Technology – Infrastructure department for a software development firm in Chicago. My role is to design the systems used to deliver services with, and so I research available technologies and propose designs. If approved I refine and finalize the design and then assist others in implementing that solution.
What are your favorite systems to run and why? You’ve mentioned your work with your own variant of Fudge several times now, and You’ve discussed several games of Dread you’ve played. Is it fair to say they’re in your top five?
Fudge is my favorite system  because it is so simple to learn that I can start a game of it for non-gamers with no prep work. My variant of Fudge is called Budge, and it is short for “Benson’s Fudge” . All I am doing with Budge is streamlining Fudge even further so that I can develop settings for it.
Dread is another game that I love to run , and that is because players really become immersed into the game world with that system.
But a top five? I don’t know. I don’t think in terms of lists like that I guess. I have always enjoyed the Top Secret /S.I. system , and I loved the setting for the Mutant Chronicles RPG . Savage Worlds is a great system with awesome settings . I enjoy less traditional games like Dogs In The Vineyard , Fiasco , and Don’t Rest Your Head . Villains & Vigilantes  is a wonderful and crunchy supers game that I love making characters for. I play and run D&D 4e  too. Who knows what games I will be playing a year from now? I usually find something that I like in any RPG.
I do love to improvise, but now I am learning to enjoy prepped games again. I am constantly trying to find a “challenge” for myself as a GM. So how I run my games is not set in stone, but more like a process in development.
The common trait in my game is this: The PCs will change the game world. I hate playing in a game and having my character have no impact on the game world. When my players interact with the game world they will influence it. The PC’s actions will be significant, and eventually the PC’s themselves will become significant people in the game world.
I was active in the community surrounding Martin’s last blog – Treasure Tables . I wrote some guest posts for Treasure Tables and I was asked to be a moderator on the forums. When Martin decided to close down Treasure Tables and to start a fresh blog with Gnome Stew he asked me to be one of the authors and I gladly accepted. I took over the Treasure Tables forums and spun them off into You Meet In A Tavern , and began writing articles for the stew.
My gnomish super power is that I am blind to the presence of sacred cows. I just see steak.
If someone were to take a look at the abstracts for your 61 articles you’ve written for the Stew, there are some common themes. One such theme is the “hard look at the social situations of the hobby” theme. Why is this theme so important to you, on both sides of the screen?
RPGs are a great form of escapism, and everyone needs moments of escapism. Our minds are wonderful things that occasionally need a break from reality. So we give it to them in the form of fiction. RPGs are socially interactive fiction.
Think about that for a moment. What is the key part of an RPG? You have a fiction that is shared. In order to share that fiction you must interact with others. In order to have the fiction be interactive you must enter into a social situation. The whole foundation of our hobby is the social interaction that occurs between gamers.
It is not always nice. At times that social interaction is arguing with each other, but anyone who wants to have fun gaming has to realize that he or she is taking part in a social situation. The rules, the characters, the dice, and the game itself are all meaningless without that social interaction amongst everyone in the group.
That is why I write about that theme so often. I believe it is crucial for all GMs to think in terms of “Social situation first, and game second.”
Talk about your new article series “Video Gnoments” for a minute. Why a video format for these articles instead of a text format? What are some new things you’re learning as you explore this medium?
Seriously though, I wanted to expand what Gnome Stew had to offer. That is all. I am also working on starting a podcast for Gnome Stew. Blogs can be incredibly rich with their content, so why not take advantage of that? The worst thing that could happen is that our readers do not like the content. I will risk a failure in my attempts to deliver better content to the fans of the stew.
I am also working on a book for GMs about how to improvise that is based upon a seminar that I give at Gen Con every year for about three years now. Every year I improvise the seminar as a way to sort of put my money where my mouth is.
I have the Budge framework  scheduled for a January 31st release date, and two settings that will be released as follow-ups (one of which is the SinisterForces setting that I have taken far too long to develop). I am also trying to arrange a local RPG convention where I live.
Actually, thanks for agreeing to the bet that led to this interview Matt. It was fun having a little friendly competition, and it was a very close finish.
And if I might have one last say here: I hope that Gnome Stew readers read this interview and share their own personal projects with all of us in the comments section. One thing that I love about the RPG hobby is that there really is no barrier-to-entry thanks to the Internet. You can share your ideas and your own original content with everyone in the world, and if your stuff is good enough to earn you a buck or two more power to you. Myself, I just want to share some ideas for right now.