The Tinderbox Times

Team Profile – Ivan Nevill


Ivan Nevill  is the executive director of wit at Red Genie games, if you end up smiling as a result of an encounter with one of our titles, chances are Ivan is behind it.

Ivan can be found writing senarios for RPGs, hosting trivia, demoing food based war games and basically wherever games and puns can be combined for the betterment of humanity.

But let’s hear it in his words:

Where and when did your love of gaming begin?

I loved books as a child and quickly discovered Choose Your Own Adventure novels. I couldn’t get enough of them, and moved on to Fighting Fantasy and the various other “paragraph books” that were so big before digital gaming exploded. Roleplaying books were always in the same section of the library and this form of narrative storytelling appealed to my inner bookworm. Though I love board, card, and digital gaming, roleplaying gives me the storytelling kick that I’ve always loved.

What is the game that holds the favourite memories for you ?

I used to play a Werewolf: the Apocalypse freefrom/larp every fortnight in the Treasury Gardens (rain, hail or shine.) Though it had a lot of problems (poor system, player politics) we all had a load of fun and became a really close social group. I’m still close friends with many of the old Sept of the Dawn Wind, and we’re always discussing a reunion. Many of the players have since had children, and I’d love to see these cubs introduced to the garou nation. I’ve made many friends through gaming, and that game probably gave me the most.

When did you design your first game?

I must have been about thirteen when I tried making my first roleplaying game. It was awful, but I have to admit I’ve seen worse in print.

What is your role in Red Genie ?

Freelance writer and second rank cheerleader. I don’t look good in lycra, so they keep me hidden behind pom-poms.

Do you have a favourite game designer?

One of my favourite roleplaying games was Wraith: the Oblivion (despite its many flaws) and line developer Richard Dansky once stated a writing philosophy that I’ve taken to heart. He insisted that every paragraph should have at least one plot hook; a seed for storytelling. If a paragraph doesn’t inspire creativity and possibility in the mind of the reader then it is superfluous.  

What games are in rotation in your group at the moment ?

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is on the top of the pile at the moment and I’m loving it! Can’t wait for the Jack the Ripper expansion! I’m hitting the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons hard and have been writing various cynical reviews on it (as well as developing a comedy setting for it that no self-respecting publisher is interested in.) Tales of the Arabian Nights and Shadows Over Camelot are perennial favourites with my cheese and wine buddies, but I always carry a copy of Once Upon a Time in my gaming kit.

What was the last tabletop Kickstarter you backed and why?

I don’t do Kickstarter, really. I don’t even have a credit card. But I did once break the rule and chipped in with some mates for a copy of Puppetland. What a cracker of a game!

What would be your dream game to design ?

I’d love to work on Wraith, redesigning the World of Darkness from the ground up and making it a purely narrative game. But I doubt it would be popular with the majority of WoD fans.

What do you find hardest about game design ?

Getting people to play my games. I hate self-promotion, but it’s essential to getting attention. Games don’t succeed on their own merits; you have to push them aggressively. Without profile, a good game will never get played.

Do you have a day job?

I have a night job, running trivia nights for local bars, companies and charities. I also MC for private functions and public events. I run games for a living; I’m a lucky man.

What are the most useful game design resources you have come across?

My game design kit is mostly tactile stuff. Coloured pencils, crayons, post it notes, plasticine, card sleeves, Magic: the Gathering basic lands, regular playing cards, tarot decks, kinder surprise toys, chess pieces, poker chips, dice of all different shapes and sizes (I love my glow in the dark d5s, as well as my 2d6 dredel,) Heroquest furniture, Terraclips customisable terrain, lollies and sweets in various flavours and shapes… Anything that makes me go “Oooh…” I’m a sucker for toys..

You can have any 3 people in the world around a game, what is the game and who are the people?

Ooh… I’m gonna go with Wayne Brady from Whose Line Is It Anyway, Futurama writer David X Cohen, and Matt Lees from board game review site Shut Up & Sit Down. It’d have to be some kind of roleplay. Maybe even a Nordic-style larp, like in a submarine or something.

What is the game in your collection you will never part with and why?

There is a really obscure title amongst my rpg books called Shades of Divinity which is quite possibly one of the worst games I’ve ever owned. Nevertheless, it does have one original and brilliant idea that I’ve never seen anywhere else. I hope to develop that idea further one day and there’s no way I could find another copy to rip off. I think only fifty copies were actually published.

How do you account for the renaissance in gaming and can we keep it up?

Digital gaming has become a part of modern life over the last twenty-five years or so, but it can never take the place of actual human interaction. Gamers are only human and we crave company. Tabletop gaming and roleplaying have always had this human quality and it isn’t surprising that it has returned to popularity. However, I think the future of gaming lies in making games spectator-friendly; modern media has done a great job in opening up gaming to a wider audience, and I think that game design needs to account for non-players as well as the active participants