An Interview with the creator of
"Project Chimera: Enhanced Covert Operations"
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG) creation?
I’ve been in the hobby for over 3 decades. I started in earnest on system design over 2 years ago on my pet project. I have several per diem projects done in the field and have written for RPG e-zines in the past and run some large community projects.
What inspired you to create your own TTRPG? Were there any specific games or experiences that influenced your design?
Major influences to the game setting include but are not limited to:
Comics: Len Wein’s/Grant Morrison’s Weapon X/Plus
Video Games: Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear series, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon series, Remedy’s Control, Prey (2017), Quantic Dream’s Detroit: Become Human
Movies: Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell animated franchises
RPGs: Mike Pondsmith’s Cyberpunk franchise
Television: Eric Kripke’s work on The Boys, Sam Esmail’s work on Mr. Robot
The system is a blender of everything good while removing everything I didn’t like that I’ve encountered in 30+ years of running TTRPGs.
How would you describe the unique gameplay mechanics or systems in your TTRPG?
I don’t know that there are unique mechanics in game design, everything is iterative, so even when something is “new” it’s been done before, just slightly different.
Here’s the 1 page system overview: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1L92aFLtXeYyCPWCmsMfaQ1j0B7FCxfZZZqCGqrTFlWE/edit#heading=h.n049qf5o7vjd
The most unique thing is probably how the system manages to be both crunchy and narrative driven in a way that is functional, easy to learn, and fast-ish. I’m not sure I’ve seen a game that does it quite this way.
Can you give us a brief overview of the setting or world in which your game takes place?
Here’s the elevator Pitch:
“Enter a world of Super Soldiers, Espionage and Intrigue.
Chimera Group International (CGI); a private military security company (PMSC) based in Canada, has funded a new crew for a covert special crisis response (SCR) team. Each surviving operative from the volunteer candidate pool has been enhanced with specialized black ops training, unique super powers and a slew of distinctive talents; not to mention their robust arsenals.
In this Table Top Role Playing Game take on and immerse in the role of a Special Operations Super Soldier in a near future world of advanced technology, super powers, magic, psionics, bionics/cyberware, espionage, intrigue, and conflicting priorities. Travel around the globe (or further) and face off (indirectly or directly) against AAA Mega Corporations, rival PMSCs, rogue nations, brutal dictatorships, terrorist cells, super groups, shadow syndicates, government coups, AGI, street gangs, and so much more.
Every job has a goal and every goal has a hidden agenda. In the world of Project Chimera the only easy day was yesterday.”
There’s probably about another 500 pages in lore that’s going into the 4 core books release. Literally too much to tell.
I have some media I can share here also.
What role do you believe storytelling plays in TTRPGs, and how does your game facilitate or enhance that aspect?
Well, I’m fond of saying that the core strength of the TTRPG medium is that it allows for infinitely branching narratives in a way that other media does not satisfactorily support.
That said, rules books are tool boxes. They give the players and GMs the tools to tell the stories. I view this more as primary function of the rules rather than a feature, if they don’t assist in this respect then what are they for? How is it a TTRPG?
Are there any interesting or unusual character classes or races in your game that you would like to highlight?
There are no classes per se. There are skill programs which are the closest thing to that, but they aren’t really classes in the sense that it’s all open to everyone, but the programs you choose give you a boost in a specific skill area to start. Along with that all players are at least competent in all tent pole areas of the game, it’s more a question of what they are really good at.
Additionally there are aspects aren’t really classes either, but they give a boost into one of the various “powers sources” available to players, some examples: powers, feats, skills, bionics, gear, psionics, etc.
In this way no player is locked out of anything, but gets to pick where they want their initial boost investments, from there they can continue to specialize or spread, depending on how they want to grow their character.
As far as races, at present we’re only really dealing with humans of the enhanced super soldier variety, but there are already ongoing plans in the pipeline for both supernatural and space expansions that would include various creatures.
That said there is one alien species of psychic symbiotes in the core materials. If you cross reference the typhon from prey and the klyntar from marvel and then make them extradimensional psychic beings that will get you most of the way to imagining them.
How do you balance the need for player agency and the overall structure of the game in your design?
It’s managed through moves, which is inspired by the concept from PbtA but honestly looks and works nothing like it. Essentially players have a wide range moves they can utilize at any given moment. As they progress they gain access to more moves allowing them to do more things.
There’s no restriction on player agency artificially baked into the game outside of accepting the core premises of the game. Additionally the GM guide goes into depth on this topic extensively to ensure GMs aren’t a roadblock to agency either, while still providing game structure.
What is your favourite aspect of the TTRPG creation process, and why?
I tend to have utilitarian feelings on this sort of thing and don’t ever really pick favorites in general, I like different things for different reasons. I enjoy the activity of game design because I enjoy the activity, it’s not a lot more complicated than that. If I didn’t like doing it, I wouldn’t do it.
If I had to pick a favorite “thing” it’s probably when I resolve a problem area and make it work better than I intended by accident and surprise myself, but that’s not really a specific “thing” it’s just something I enjoy as an experience.
Are there any unexpected challenges or obstacles you encountered while developing your TTRPG, and how did you overcome them?
Sure, plenty. Overcoming them though, not a terribly exciting answer. Just like with my music career if I get stuck on something there are two opportunities: A) go work on a different thing on the project and come back to it later or B) go do something else entirely till my head is clear and come back with fresh eyes. A lot of it is just powering through though, and editing your work.
I’d say the most challenging thing for me personally is the tedium of form filling. Once you have your base mechanics and rules and all that, then you need to design your templates and icons for various things… and then you need to fill out those templates a lot. As an example there’s something like 200+ feats in the core rules, and then you’ve also got gear, powers, etc. etc. etc.
How do you approach the inclusion of diversity and representation in your game, both in terms of characters and players?
Like normal designers I suppose.
1) Keep a reasonably progressive mindset, learn more, do a little better than yesterday.
2) Present diverse characters in artwork and NPC renditions.
3) Make sure you do your due diligence on any cultural research and treat the subject matter with respect, etc.
4) Get sensitivity reader eyes on the content.
If you’re dialed in as a progressive person you’ll avoid most of the the giant blunders of the past pretty easily. You’ll still make mistakes, but that’s what the sensitivity readers are for.
Do you have any memorable anecdotes or stories from playtesting sessions or player feedback that you’d like to share?
I have many… I’ve been running this game setting before I worked on it’s own proprietary system for about 20 years. I’ve also been actively playtesting for over two years.
Give me a specific prompt and I can probably talk on this all day. I have more stories than one can shake a stick at.
What advice would you give to aspiring TTRPG creators who are just starting out?
I usually give them a link to the TTRPG System Design 101 document I linked above. That’s about the best I can do for free. There’s about 30+ pages that will guide them to making their game from beginning to end.
How do you envision the future of TTRPGs? Are there any emerging trends or technological advancements that you believe will impact the industry?
Obviously VTTs are gaining more traction. AI is another obvious big thing that has and will continue to impact the industry.
I think a lot of the time of the “do everything all at once” games is on the decline as more folks (the ones that branch out from their first game) tend to want a targeted/tailored experience rather than a game that does everything in a shallow manner, such is my read on indie trends for the last decade or so probably starting with BitD, this specifically applies to generic systems but also other systems that try to be everything.
The big names will hold their ground due to legacy branding and cash infusion, but the indie development space is seeing these kinds of generic games being produced at far lower rates in my experience.
If you could play your TTRPG with any group of people, living or dead, fictional or real, who would you choose and why?
I tend to be a “no gods, only men” sort of person, so celebrity and fame doesn’t really do anything for me. So for me I’ll default to new friends made and old friends I know I enjoy gaming with.
What are some of your favourite TTRPGs created by other designers, and how have they influenced your own work?
Again, not a big “favorites” person. I like different systems for the things they do well.
Probably the most recent thing that made me go “that’s pretty neat” was Mothership’s UX elements.
Like many designers my path began running a system, finding it didn’t work right, house ruling it to death, trying another system, house ruling that, and so on until eventually I set to make my own that worked for what I wanted it to do.
Can you share any interesting Easter eggs or hidden references that players might discover in your game?
So the artist I started to talk about working with recently was wanting to do a remake of the CP 2020 cover but with more modern design aesthetics.
I thought that would be fun to put in a painting on a wall in an apartment interior illustration or something like that. It wouldn’t be the original work, but a rendition of it as an homage to that setting that has a lot of clear lines between the games even though I’d say they are very different types of games and play experiences. We haven’t done that yet, but it’s something we talked about recently.
What do you think is the most underrated aspect of TTRPGs, and why do you believe it deserves more attention?
I don’t know how to answer this. Obviously people have their own subjective opinions and that’s cool. If someone isn’t that into one aspect of a game or not into even playing TTRPGs at all that’s fine, I don’t see anything wrong with that. People can like what they like.
I don’t really pretend to speak for everyone about what the modern zeitgeist is regarding hot or not trends. I’ve never really bothered keeping up with that. The goal is always to make a quality product, not worry about whatever everyone else is doing.
Don’t get me wrong, I do lots of research constantly on other systems, but that only tells me what I think about a game, not what other people think.
If your TTRPG were to be adapted into another medium, such as a video game, TV series, or movie, what would be your dream adaptation and why?
Well we have expectations/plans for play aid decks, VTT support and a comic since it has some roots in supers. If the money is ever there, I think a video game would be awesome, but it would be ambitious even for a AAA studio to wrangle this game properly, but who knows where the tech will be 10+ years from now with AI advancements. If there was going to be a movie or TV show I’m pretty picky about scripts for those mediums so it would need a more talented writer/director than myself, I’d probably be more of a source material consultant.
If you had to design a TTRPG based on an unusual theme, like a game about sentient vegetables or underwater cowboys, what would you choose and how would it work?
I don’t know that I would do this on my own. I’m designing my game because I want that game to exist, much in the same way with my songwriting I’d write songs I liked. I wouldn’t really ever pick a mad libs style theme just like I wouldn’t write a song I wasn’t interested in listening to.
I’ve considered it at length as a mental exercise, but ultimately I’d rather just focus on working on the game I want to work on. If someone wants to pay me money to design their system that’s fine, I have done that in the past, but it’s not really what my goal is. In that case I’d be making what they paid me to make in exchange for money and it’s not really about what I want, but what the job entails.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be and how would you incorporate it into a TTRPG session?
If you mean if magic was real and a genie said you can have a power, then there’s only one likely answer I can think of and that’s the ability to alter reality at a whim. Why not have all the super powers, or not when you don’t feel like it? Seems like the best power to me.
I presume this would make me a far more effective GM since I could take the players directly into the world and give them the same attributes and powers they have on their sheets. It would probably be more immersive that way. Definitely would require waivers though just in case anything was “too real” for someone to experience.
Where can people find and purchase your TTRPG? Are there any online platforms or stores where they can access it?
It’s in Alpha, not publicly available yet. It’s not even open to the public for beta yet. It is getting closer to that stage though, likely in a year or less.
Have you published any supplemental materials or expansions for your TTRPG? If so, where can players find them?
Not yet, gotta do the core books first, but there are huge amount of follow up products in the pipleline already to include adventure paths, sourcebooks, and play expansions.
Are there any upcoming projects or future plans that you’d like to share with your fans and the TTRPG community?
Not much, slow and steady wins the race at this point. I do weekly dev logs on the socials and publish links for media that is relevant. Until the public beta there’s not a lot to digest except for other fellow system design nerds who enjoy reading about mechanical progress.
How can people connect with you and stay updated on your work? Do you have a website, social media accounts, or a mailing list that they can follow?
Yes there are three socials for Project Chimera: E.C.O.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to add or share with our readers about your TTRPG or your journey as a game creator?
If you think black ops super soldiers in a dystopian, five minutes into the future version of cyberpunk sounds cool, then come check it out.
There’s also lists people can get on if they message me with an email or discord they respond to:
Closed Beta Testers
Public Beta Notification
Break the System Public Beta Contest
FLGS Ambassador Program
Media Review Copies