Dom: Hi, Niall. Can you tell us a bit about yourself ?
Niall: I'm an engineer, a computer scientist, a novelist (as yet unpublished), a science fiction fan, a husband, a father of a teenage daughter, and a player of RPGs.
Dom: How did you discover Rpg's?
Niall: I used to do a bit of miniatures gaming, and one of the people I met through that hobby was a chap by the name of Alan Lucien. He introduced me to this strange game that he was helping playtest -- oh, what was it called? Ah, yes, Dungeons and Dragons. This was back in 1972 or thereabouts. When D&D came out in 1973, I picked up a copy and a few of my friends and I started playing.
I was going to grad school at the time, so I didn't have all that much time for such frivolities. A couple of my friends became "addicted" (one flunked out of UC Berkeley due to his spending too much time playing D&D), and I became a "fan".
Dom: Do you still have the time to play, and what are your favorite games?
Niall: Not as much as I used to (something about having a career, a family, and a writing "bug" to deal with). My favorite games? Well, for some "obscure" reason, OTHER SUNS and the revised second edition OTHER SUNS, then Shadowrun and CHAMPIONS. Unfortunately, I only have time to game about once a month now.
Dom: Do you have any memorable moments from play?
Niall: Lots of them, but not all that many that are suitable for all ages.
Dom: What are your hobbies besides Rpg's?
Niall: Reading (science fiction, mysteries, history), trying to raise a daughter who is saner than I am (yes, this is really an occupation, but...:-)).
Dom: How did you come to write role playing games and especially Other Suns? How long did it take you to write the original game?
Niall: I loved D&D, but I wanted to see a good science fiction role playing game. I picked up TRAVELLER, and found it to be a waste of time, from the viewpoint of game mechanics. I wanted something that was, like the original D&D, an open ended system. One where the referee/starmaster/what-have-you would be making his OWN campaign background come alive. And I wanted something that had the feel of realism, without bogging the players down in too much detail (The Morrow Project, copyright 1980 by TimeLine Ltd, for example, made the mechanics just a wee bit too complicated in spots for my taste).
I bought a copy of RuneQuest early on in that games' history, and found the skill-system concept to be a highly adaptable one. And I began work adapting some notes that I had been working on for OTHER SUNS to use a similar system. The first notes I had dated from 1978 (mechanics notes, not background -- the background I began working on in the mid-1960s, as a future-history/science fiction background). The first edition was published by FGU in late 1983. The majority of the writing was done in 1981 and 1982. So it either took five years, or seventeen, depending upon your viewpoint.
Dom: Where does your inspiration come from? Do you read a lot of Sci Fi or Fantasy?
Niall: Inspiration comes from the Muses; the rest is perspiration. And yes, I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy (and write some of it, too).
Dom: What are your favorites films?
Niall: Casablanca, Hiroshi Inagaki's Chushingura, The Great Escape, Akira, Yojimbo, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and The Russians are coming, The Russians are coming.
Dom: Can you tell us how you met Scott Bizar?
Niall: Lee Gold, an old friend, had dealings with Scott, and I'd just had some contract problems with Chaosium, so I introduced myself to Scotty (at, I believe, a DunDraCon). The rest is history...:-)
Dom: Other Suns seemed not to have received the same support as Space Opera. Can you explain why the product line remained so short?
Niall: It's hard to write for a hard science fiction game. It's also hard to write for a new game. And OTHER SUNS in the first edition may have been a bit too complicated and not given enough to "blood and thunder" for most of the gamers at the time. And FGU was never a games design house -- it was a publishing firm -- and as a result, didn't have the "in house" staff to work on all the projects. And SPACE OPERA had several authors, all as I recall at the time, in the gaming business as their primary business. I was (and still am) a working engineer, with all the time demands that that involves.
Dom: Did you play Space Opera? To your point of view, what's the main difference between the two universes?
Niall: Actually, I never played it, though I bought just about all the FGU supplements (something about stealing ideas for my own campaign use...:-)).
Dom: Have you heard anything about Steven Crompton, who worked with you on the "Alderson Shipyards" supplement, or about the FGU staff?
Niall: I bumped into him once, a few years after SHIPYARDS was published. I've not seen him since. I haven't spoken to Scotty in at least eight or nine years -- since shortly after FGU shrank and moved to Arizona.
Dom: Rpg's have evolved since Other Suns was released in '80, how did you intend or imagine, Other Suns would be played, and how would you play it differently today?
Niall: I don't play it particularly differently now; though I've updated and revised the rules (yes, there is a 2nd edition in the works...Real Soon Now). The main changes in the second edition have been in improving "ease of play".
Dom: "Ice World", the second version of Other Suns was only available through the Internet for a while. What can players do to find and play this new version? Have you looked for an editor (Dancing Stoat Enterprises…) to publish your work?
Niall: Ice World was to have been a supplement to OTHER SUNS. The original manuscript (by an outside writer) had to be virtually rewritten by yours truly (the original manuscript was a TRAVELLER supplement, with the serial numbers filed off). Parts of that work have appeared on the Net. To get the new material, players have to come to me for the moment.
Dom: What are your professional projects at the moment and for the years to come? Can you imagine writing new materials for Other Suns?
Niall: Working on a science fiction novel with my attorney. New OTHER SUNS material? Perhaps someday.
Dom: I only found one website dedicated to OS. Have you some links on the web or other stuff for gamers?
Niall: Sorry, not at the moment.
Dom: After all these years, do you have some news or messages from Other Suns players?
Niall: There will be a second edition someday.
Dom: Finally, what message would you like to give to all the Other Suns fans?
Niall: Thanks for all the kind words over the years.
Dom: Thanks again Niall for having taken the time to answer our questions.
Los Angeles, California, USA, 15/02/03