Foreword by Ivan: On a cosmological timeframe, fifteen years is insignificant. In internet terms, however, damn son, that's like back before there were dinosaurs. Fifteen years. That is how long this ol' website has been trucking along, and somewhere early on, about the third or fourth year, a highly talented and universally respected FPL creator named Abdiel decided to start conducting interviews with some of the most well known FPL creators of the day. (Those old interviews can be found here if you're interested- scroll to the bottom to see them all.) This was just for fun, and it was cool to get to see people reveal exactly what their take on the FPL was. Among those interviewed were Serge, Landon, ThreeDark, and Rookie (as well as some brilliant older FPL vets you've probably never heard of, like Austin, Number 2, and Abdiel himself.) It was a cool bit of history while it lasted, and it was never meant to exalt or exclude anyone, just to provide some small insight into the mind of your fellow creators. Flash forward to 2011, a few of us old guys were talking about how it might be cool to start up the interviews again. We discussed it a bit, and decided the interviewer should be a Moderator or Admin who is well liked among the general FPL/CBUB crowd and is also a competent writer. I nominated Tarvius, because in addition to posessing the above qualities I know he has an earnest interest, not only in Khazan, but in what might be dubbed the "general lore" of the site itself. Tarv humbly accepted, and then squarely got down to the business of scheduling and conducting interviews. What follows is hopefully the first of many. I was fortunate enough to get to sit in on this interview, and I was pleased to see that Tarvius had done his homework, not only on the interview subject- the delightfully misanthropic Rhekarid- but also on Abdiel's old interview format. He even starts with the requisite "first question," which seems like a small thing, but it's the kind of attention to detail that lets me know he's going to continue to do a great job in the future. -Ivan (PS, If you have any favorite FPL creators you're dying to learn more about, please PM that creator, not Tarvius. Interviews are chosen more or less at random, although creating a lot of really good FPL characters certainly won't hurt your chances...) The Rhekarid Interview Tarvius: Rhek, as much as you hate the social courtesies, I'd like to thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. Rhekarid: You'd have whined otherwise. Tarvius: That's true... Tarvius: Anyway, I really do appreciate it. Tarvius: Now, you undoubtedly know my first question as its been a tradition for quite some time. Tarvius: Which character do you feel is your "greatest success" and why? Rhekarid: Depends on the meaning of success. As far as reception, The Door seems to be popular. Personally, though, I'd say Broken Richter and Wicked Riser. Those two, I think, most effectively got across the "feel" I was trying to make for them, and converted from thought into writing. Tarvius: Can you describe that feeling a bit? Rhekarid: What I mean by getting it across is the difficulty of taking the image of a character in my head and translating it to written form. A character might have been written technically well (ignore that I technically suck), but I'll still dislike it if I failed to really put into words what I had in my head. Rhekarid: Richter was about loneliness and isolation; if you could see the world but couldn't tell things apart, if you could hear people talk but not understand them, and likewise, if they could see and hear you but couldn't understand, and there was nothing, absolutely nothing, that could be done about it. I didn't want to get across the common image of a figure who was hurt and therefore protected others from being hurt, but more the tragedy than the psychotic killer robot. Tarvius: Ah, I see. Tarvius: So I take it you value concept over craft? Rhekarid: It's a balance. I don't think I lack for ideas; my bigger difficulty is in giving it shape. I'm great at daydreaming all day, but am rarely satisfied with the resulting description of it. Still, no matter how great your concept, it will be mangled by awful writing. Tarvius: I know exactly what you mean. Tarvius: Speaking of awful writing... Tarvius: In your opinion what makes a "great" character in the FPL? Ivan: Powers. Say Powers! Rhekarid: That can be as hard to explain as to do. "The FPLGame" is a great character about the impossibility of grasping what makes a great character. There are the obvious factors of technical skill combined with creativity and originality. Then there's the more elusive combination of a story the creators WANTS to tell, and one the reader WANTS to know. Rhekarid: Also powers. Tarvius: Hmmm, I see I see. Tarvius: Rhek, are you saying that FPL characters are great for their own reason, but there's not really an all-consuming "great character" formula? Rhekarid: Pretty much. There are plenty of characters that can be objectively looked at and called great, but in practice, the results vary. When someone really thinks a character is fantastic, it's often because those two factors of the storytelling, writer and reader, have made an attachment. If you throw your heart into a story but fail to connect with the readers, you can end up with a character that's "great" but is ignored by everyone. Rhekarid: On the other side you have a frequent thorn in the side of some creators, when they didn't have that heart in the writing, but someone else did in the reading, causing them to raise up on a pedestal a character that you don't think is great, and wish they'd look at the other one. Rhekarid: When I wrote Darkness, I made no effort to create depth or tell a story that had any meaning. It can be hard to give meaning to a monster's actions beyond "grr, I'm a monster", and pretty much just for fun I decided to skip that and simply put my effort into the extreme of monstrous, murderous rage. It ended up being one of my more successful characters. Tarvius: Rhek, you mentioned that developing a connection between writer and reader as being essential. What sort of you connection do YOU try to make when you write characters? Rhekarid: While I consider it a major part of a good character, it's not an easy thing to do intentionally beyond hoping you can put your thoughts into words and further hoping that someone else can understand them both. Ironically, it's something I don't think I try for much at all, since as I'm sure will shock everyone, making connections with people is not my strong point. In fact, what I consider one of my own biggest weaknesses in writing is a lack of my own connection to it. Everything I write is generally done all at once, in a single draft, and never even edited. Tarvius: Hehehe. Well, you certainly have a lot of fans on EF, whether you like it or not. Ivan waves a "Rhek Yourself" T-Shirt Rhekarid yells into the audience, "Cover yourselves back up, you ugly bastards!" Tarvius: Rhek, you pretty much wrote the power descriptions for the new FPL. Can you describe that experience a bit? Rhekarid: "Took longer than I expected" would be the main experience. I wanted to define what they could and couldn't do, but also wanted to make them as open as possible. Even though most people (including myself) don't vote on powers, I often enjoy stretching the concept to come up with new ways to use them. Rhekarid: I'm not a comics nerd, but a gaming nerd, which is probably why I volunteered to write them. When I see a story or setting I'm always setting down rules of gameplay on what you can do, and how you can exploit the loopholes. Tarvius: Ah, never would've guessed. So gaming mechanics largely influenced the power descriptions? Rhekarid: The powers are, after all, the strongest "gaming" aspect of the FPL. While they exist as a framework to build characters around, they're also the stats. I play games for fun, not to win, and I prefer powers that make the game more interesting over those that are just "strong." Tarvius: I definitely agree with that take. Tarvius: What were some of the difficulties in creating the descriptions? Rhekarid: I wanted to make a sense of equality; that any of them are powerful if used right, and flexible if used creatively. With any luck, those who put emphasis on powers would be less afraid to move away from blatant attack power and those who aren't can see more options for them. Fire can burn a target, but it can also set off bullets without a gun. Tarvius: There's definitely a lot more versatility with these descriptions than the last set. Tarvius: Has this whole process changed the way you look at the FPL at all? Rhekarid: Not really. They are, after all, based on the way I already looked at (or wanted to) the powers. It's everyone else they're different for. Tarvius: Being someone who obviously knows the ins and outs of the FPL; what do you feel is the biggest misconception people have about the FPL? Rhekarid: Probably the idea of winning and competition. People join expecting to win with God of Everything Character #4825 don't, and quit. They come in expecting praise for their writing, find criticism or face a chance loss to an inferior character, and quit. It's nice to win, but mainly if the trip was worth it. Most of your competition is yourself. Rhekarid: If you're not enjoying the process, why take part in it? If you just want to win, why play something with such fuzzy rules and standards? Tarvius nods. I can see that Tarvius: Although, I'm kind of surprised to see you advocating fun and enjoyment. Tarvius: Whether you admit it or not, you've helped more than a few creators with their writing. In your opinion what's the best way to "help" a new creator? Rhekarid: To tell them not to quit. It's hard to really explain what sort of character and writing is best for the FPL without observation and experience, and you're more likely to improve by making new things than rewriting the same one over and over to make it great. Don't make excuses for yourself, learn from mistakes, and try again. If that fails, there are whips. Rhekarid: You either break through the wall eventually, or you entertain the rest of us breaking your face. Tarvius: Speaking of which, you've said in the past that your path to the FPL Hall of Fame was a difficult one. Can you describe that journey? Ivan: Tarv I require you to disagree with whatever Rhekarid says next Rhekarid: There's not much interesting story to tell. My first character was terrible, losing its first match and being fatalitied on the second. Upon getting a more up-close view of the FPL, my next characters were less terrible, but it was not a weak time for the gallery. Gradually I stopped thinking in terms of "this seems like a tough character" for "this seems like an interesting character", and after a 5-character streak of 1-win/3-loss records and a couple forays into the eliminations, finally reached the HoF with my 14th character, Creathers. Even then it was another ten until my first Main Event winner, Gribbinwrech, when I finally started reaching the Hall of Fame more often than not. When one character went down, I just wrote another." Tarvius: Uh... I disagree? Rhekarid: Ivan is just jealous because he can't live the pressure-free life of someone with no talent. Ivan: Have you asked him about his connection to the Bush family? Tarvius: Shhh Tarvius: That was supposed to be the secret question. Ivan: I want that Baked Beans recipe! Rhekarid: And I keep telling you, I'm a *different* talking dog! Tarvius: GASP* Tarvius: Rhek's a dog? Tarvius: That brings up quite a few questions... Tarvius: Well, Rhek after all the characters, and all those years you're seen by many as being among the FPL elite. Nearly every character you write is "hall of fame" material, and you're often cited as a favorite amongst the EF crowd. Tarvius: Now, I was hoping you could talk about your current project, "The Shadow Basement". Can you tell us a little bit about this story, and where the idea came from? Rhekarid: I'm just not sure how to describe the "concept" for it, beyond the basic point of most forum stories, "platform for extending background/personality behind characters." Tarvius: I see I see. So, its sort of a way to branch out your characters? Tarvius: Like a launching pad? Rhekarid: Kind of. The character of Jude/Judeccagorgon came about as pretty much the opposite of Darkness; instead of motivation less violence, an effort to depict "real" evil in the form of someone with very premeditated motives, and not just "evil for the heck of it." Rhekarid: That couldn't really be done effectively with the sole adventures of his character sheet, so The Shadow Basement formed around him as a way to depict who he is, what he does, and how he influences the world. It just hasn't really gotten past establishing other characters and settings enough to go back to him. Tarvius nods. Tarvius: There's definitely some deep psychological darkness going on with the story, which is pretty much a common theme in all your characters. Rhekarid: Plus, there's always an ongoing but scattered effort to put together more writing and canon for Khazan, which mostly takes the form of poor Ivan trying to coax acrobatics out of a retirement home. I mainly do villains anyway, so I thought a story could be a way to inject an antagonist into any larger storylines that may appear. Tarvius: So, people are just getting a glimpse of Jude? Rhekarid: For now. He's a lot more than the magical equivalent of a mad scientist, as has been most of the depiction so far. Tarvius: Speaking of Jude, you have a real talent for dissecting the psychology of some really "crazy" characters, be it serial killers, mass murders, evil it self etc etc How in the world are you able to do this so well? Ivan: "Well Tarvius, when you're a formless mass of writhing darkness, you really get a sense for these things..." Ivan imagines Rhekarid as a black cloud full of barbed tentacles Rhekarid: At the risk of putting myself on an FBI watchlist, I don't really need to. That makes up the majority of my characters because the bigger challenge is putting myself into a *different* mind. The characters I've written are largely toned down to be suitable for the FPL. That's the base wavelength of my thoughts at any given time. Tarvius eyes widen in shock Tarvius: Your characters are toned down?!?!? Rhekarid: There are basic levels of decorum for what is considered "too far" to allow a character to be accepted. At times, I have to deliberately stay below that. Ivan: To be fair there's a difference between what you are capable of imagining and what you think about most of the day. Tarvius: That just still blows my mind. You're one of the most gruesome, and mind-jarring writers I've ever read and now you tell me you're holding back. Rhekarid: Yeah, there's a difference between daydreaming and capable of imagining. The latter comes about when you stop and focus to turn the droning "hatehatehatehate" into capital letters before my thoughts turn to 80's cartoons and roguelikes. Tarvius: I have to know; How did you learn to write like this? Rhekarid: I can't stick it to any one point. I wrote a full-sized (400-500 pages) novel in high school, which drew some commentary from its readers for its dark nature. The prologue involved a child having her ears cut off in a torture/interrogation scenario. Before that I mainly drew, and often plotted out characters and scenarios, but did little writing. I don't remember a "start" to writing, but don't remember much before that novel either. I'm pretty sure I just started writing and that was the shape it took. Tarvius: Damn Tarvius: Going back to Ivan's question real quick before we move on: Has there ever been a time when you've held back writing a character and later wished you wouldn't have? Rhekarid: Not particularly. Going back to wanting to reproduce the vision in my head for a character, it can be too easy to substitute extra gore for actual substance. While the violence is a part of many characters, fewer of them really "need" an accurate representation of its severity. The possibility is there, but the line of what's "worse" in horrific acts is a vague one, and just adding more without a leash on it risks becoming ridiculous in more ways than one. Tarvius: Hmmm, I see what you're saying. Tarvius: No doubt, you're the FPL's dark horse in every sense of the term. Have you ever considered writing a "lighter" character? Rhekarid: I've written several. Hassae Hero, The Stone on the Sword , The Coalition of Bad Ideas , and The Marriage-Ruining Robot are all pretty darkness-free. Rhekarid: Ah wait, just remembered another one. Wrath of the Ridiculous Ninja*. Tarvius: So maybe you're not a formless mass of darkness... Tarvius: I'd like to get away from the FPL for a few questions. Tarvius: Are there any creators you'd be willing to collaborate with? Rhekarid: I did one collaboration with Ren, a while back, but generally I'm just not comfortable with it. I don't like messing with other people's writing OR having them mess with mine. Tarvius: Who is your favorite creator in the FPL, past or present? Rhekarid: I seldom remember the creator tied to a character. I often don't look, to prevent even subconscious favoritism in voting, not that it matters since I have terrible memory and will forget the creator AND the character in 5 minutes. Tarvius: Hmmm, I see where you're coming from. Tarvius: Do you think the current FPL is better or worse than it was in the past? Give your FPL State of the Union address... Rhekarid: The current FPL isn't in a very fair state to defend itself. It's only just now becoming active, many longtime creators are still in or slowly emerging from hibernation, and many current players are newcomers who don't really know what they're doing. Tarvius nods Tarvius: Ok last question... Tarvius: Anything you'd like to say to the FPL crowd? Rhekarid: "Eventually I will gather enough snakes for the lot of you." Tarvius: Well, I'm all out of questions. If the rest of you (Ivan) has any more questions feel free to ask them. Before I open the floor though, I would once again like to thank Rhek for agreeing to do this. It is very much appreciated. Ivan: Rhek do you like scary movies? Ivan assumes you have a huge collection of obscure foregin horror titles Rhekarid: I don't watch many movies, actually. Ivan: Gasp! *Wrath of the Ridiculous Ninja is heavily inspired by the movie Enter The Ninja, which is hilarious and highly recommended.