Interview with the Capharnaum RPG Creators part 2: François Cedelle
First of all, welcome to all the new backers who've joined us over the past 24 hours! Thank you all for your support! We've now passed the 80% mark and are heading towards our first funding goal of the Capharnaum core book - then it's on to those sweet stretch goals!
Today, here's the second part of the two-part interview I did with Raphaël Bardas and François Cedelle, the two co-creators of the Capharnaum RPG and setting. Everyone, please meet François!
Hi François! So what was the origin of Capharnaum for you? What made you get into this kind of RPG in this kind of universe?
Hi Sarah, hi everyone at the Capharnaum Kickstarter! Well, it was a time when Raphael and I were working together on a game called AmnesYa 2k51 here in France, which was a dark future SF game, pessimistic with some serious themes. For the next project we wanted something colourful, bright, epic. Raphael turned up with an idea for a game based on the Mediterranean world and the 1001 Nights. I’d always been fascinated by the region, the cradle of humanity and numerous civilisations, so I quickly got into the project, and as I was free for work at the time I just immersed myself in it totally.
What do you consider to be Capharnaum's main themes, the things that Al-Rawi GMs and players will come across during play?
It's all about culture shock and the clash of civilisations. After 9/11, we all felt like that, and for me it was important to fight against the confusion which was everywhere at that time. The idea of being able to play characters from Arabia-like cultures instead of Westerners was a really interesting challenge. On top of that, Capharnaum proposed a PC party that was really cosmopolitan, mixing religions, cultures, traditions, goals, and doing all that in the total powderkeg that is the land of Capharnaum!
The other theme of course is “Adventure”—with a capital “A”. Players take on the roles of characters with these great destinies. They have this Dragon-Mark, a fate bestowed upon them by the dragons, which they have to deal with. They’ve been chosen.
As far as the rules are concerned, what are the things you think are special or unique about Capharnaum?
For me it’s two things. First of all, the Babouche-Draggers. Of course this isn’t unique to Capharnaum, but we’ve really pushed it to a sweet spot for players. You feel powerful when you come up against a group and just plough through them! The second thing is the freeform magic system. I’m a real fan of Mage, and I wanted to create a system with that vibe, but integrated into the Capharnaum universe. That’s how we came up with the Sacred Word system—the Tarmel Haja. (Sarah's comment: You can read much more about the Tarmel Haja in the Capharnaum Quickstart, The Tears of Ampharool.)
In Capharnaum, PCs can advance to high levels of power, perhaps even approaching heroes, demi-gods, or even gods. What were the challenges that you had to deal with to make that kind of gameplay manageable?
The freeform magic system is very powerful. Imaginative players can do loads of stuff. So we needed a way to rein in that power, without restricting people’s freedom. That’s where the Shaytan comes from, your malevolent magical double. The more a sorcerer uses his art, the more he’s corrupted. It makes you think before casting a spell. Is this spell really useful to me? Is it worth what it’ll cost me?
Do you have a favourite moment from your experience of playing Capharnaum?
I love seeing the sense of wonder on players’ faces! Capharnaum, because of its exotic setting for Western gamers, is a different and refreshing perspective from more traditional pseudo-European mediaeval fantasy. The One Thousand and One Nights is firmly anchored in the players’ collective unconsciousnesses—they love fleeing on flying carpets, coming up against a sandstorm in the Desert of Fire, or rubbing a magic lamp to see what’ll come out!
What are your future plans for Capharnaum?
We’re working like mad on the Atlas of the Known World, and a new scenario compendium, a novel, and a special 10th Anniversary Edition of the rules here in France. After that, we’ll see if people want to see more! :)
Do you have a message for the English-language gamers who are about to discover the Capharnaum game and setting?
When you play Capharnaum, forget your preconceptions, let yourself go, and think big. Dare the impossible!