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Interview with Tom Ana creator of solo fantasy worldbuilding game Foundations

Posted by Panayiotis Lines on

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We got a chance to sit down and chat with Tom Ana (they/them) of Big Lizard Games. Tom is the creator of Foundations a solo, fantasy world building and map making game to create worlds for use in tabletop roleplaying games or fiction. You can read that interview below.

You can support Foundations on Kickstarter now here.

Tom Ana
Tom Ana (they/them)
 
Hi Tom, can you tell us a little about yourself? 
 
I’m Tom - I’m a community support worker from the North of England, currently living and working in London where I also sometimes work as a writer and events facilitator. I love games - roleplaying games especially - and I worked in the tabletop industry full time for a couple of years before returning to the work I do now 

You're involved in the London indie TTRPG community, what's your experience of that been?

London is a great place to meet other people working in this area. There’s hundreds of creatives, freelancers and players floating around the different groups and meet-ups here. It was in London that I first started working in the industry professionally, but since then have met a tonne of amazing independent creators whose own work has inspired me to pursue my own ideas. 

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Can you tell us about Foundations?

Foundations is a solo worldbuilding game for TTRPG players. Essentially its a fun and engaging way to create worlds for TTRPGs or stories which draws from some of the actual historical forces that have shaped our own world. It uses prompts to build a many-layered world starting from its very geology where every decision and change shapes the final outcome. Its a fun game on its own, but leads to some really rich settings that GMs can then use as settings for their own games.

What inspired you to create Foundations

I always enjoyed the worldbuilding part of TTRPGs, perhaps more than the actual game itself. One day I read A People’s History Of The World by Chris Harman and he talked about how material factors and physical geography shaped early history in a way that echoed throughout history and it began to inspire all of the worldbuilding I was doing. How Europe was divided into the Latin and Germanic worlds along river boundaries which informed the Roman Limes Germanicus for example. Or how the direction of the winds helped Portugal colonise the African Coast. Or how the Eurasian continent, mostly arranged on similar longitudes, allowed vast empires like the Mongols to rise and flourish. I wanted to create a game where it wasn’t just the actions of people, but the very geography of the world that shaped its history. 
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What do you think the appeal is for worldbuilding games like Foundations

The game itself is a lot of fun, even for people that don’t normally enjoy worldbuilding. Despite being something that allows for massive depth and granular creations, its an accessible and simple game. You can rush through the whole process in a couple of hours and create a world with a history that stretches to the very beginning of time. But as well as being a blast it’s a really useful tool for GMs, TTRPG players and writers who want to build a fully realised world.

You must have created and seen a lot of different worlds in playtesting Foundations, what were some of the ones that stood out to you or surprised you?

The order that prompts emerge and the ways in which people push the ideas in them always leads to some incredible outcomes. One of my favourite was a world where an ancient race of frog people had spread across most of the world before going extinct, leaving behind abandoned cities that the remaining desert-dwelling elf-like people feared to go near (I actually set a D&D campaign there). One playtester told the story of the empire of “New France” who discovered magic at the bottom of the sea and created a religion that worships volcanoes. And of course there was one world where the ice age never ended and a vast brutal empire conquered the land from the backs of giant woolly mammoths. 

What are some misconceptions about solo games like Foundations that you'd like to address?

They are better than video games! I love video games of course, but people are so used to them being the only thing you play on your own that things that are slower and more reflective are often forgotten! 

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What other tabletop games have you been playing?

With board games I play a real mixed bag - mostly owing to the fact that a lot of my friends work in the industry and so I’m always playing new games and prototypes. With TTRPGs I run a weekly online D&D game that’s set in a world I made with Foundations - and I have a few play-by-post games going on, one of which has been running now for nearly 7 years. I’m also very excited to be playing Blades In The Dark soon with a group of friends who have never played an RPG!

Are there any other ZineQuest or tabletop RPGs you're looking forward to?

I love the art and theme of Hit The Road Jack by Urania https://urania-games.itch.io/hit-the-road-jack They also made a fun game about Rasputin which I enjoyed. I love the look of An Honourable Place by Ryan Vance - and am keen to try more 2 player games.  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ryanvance/an-honourable-place-a-narrative-game-of-survival-and-myth
PLUS I’m really excited by Stout Stoat’s Border Riding. Apawthaceria was probably my favourite game from last year and I really hope this one funds https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/stoutstoat/border-riding

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