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Q&A: The 'Flash Gordon' RPG

Pulp Pulpit

We chatted with writer Scott Woodard about the Pinnacle Entertainment Group's new 'Flash Gordon' tabletop role-playing game.

Could you describe the production history of the game?

As you may recall, the big announcement that we (Pinnacle Entertainment Group) were working on a Flash Gordon roleplaying game was made at Gen Con back in 2015. Prior to that, Shane Hensley (President of Pinnacle) had been working hard to secure the rights from King Features and Hearst Holdings and within a few short weeks of the convention, I was brought on board as Brand Manager and Lead Writer on what would eventually become The Savage World of Flash Gordon™.

My first step in writing the game was to completely immerse myself in the vast universe of Flash Gordon. I grew up with Flash, particularly the original film serials with Buster Crabbe, the Saturday morning cartoon, and the 1980 feature film starring Sam J Jones and Max von Sydow, but I wanted to read, watch, listen to, and absorb it ALL before I wrote a word of the game. This meant acquiring things like all of the original comic strips (I highly recommend the exquisite collections published by Titan Books), the Buster Crabbe film serials and the Steve Holland TV serials, the Flash Gordon novels from the 1970s (published by Avon Books), the 1980 motion picture, the Filmation cartoon series, and whatever else I could get my hands on.

As I pored over all this material, I took copious notes, compiling lists of all the things that I felt absolutely needed to be a part of the gaming universe. This also meant juggling continuity issues, rectifying numerous contradictions, and dissecting multiple interpretations of events presented over 80+ years. Using the original strips as my primary source, it made it relatively easy to pull elements and ideas from other media to expand and update that material.

I then dove head-first into writing, bouncing from designing new rule mechanics to crafting kingdom histories to statting up over 80 monsters and unique races, all the while working hard to incorporate as much of the source material as possible in order to please Flash Gordon fans of every stripe. I also inserted loads of Easter Eggs for the most hardcore Flash fans out there. There are several things buried in the manuscript that only a handful of people will get and I really look forward to hearing from fans when they discover them.

At the same time as I was writing, I was also pulling art references and making requests for new material from our design and art department. When all was said and done, the first draft of the manuscript for the core rulebook contained something like 200 comments pointing to individual comic strip panels for inclusion in the final book.

Who are the creative team members behind the game?

I’m the Brand Manager of the line and I was Lead Writer of the core rulebook, but several others were involved in its creation as well including Shane Lacy Hensley, Norm Hensley, Clint Black, John Goff, and Matthew Cutter, who all contributed additional material. The design and look of the entire line was handled by Aaron Acevedo, Alida Saxon, Chris Bivins, Bien Flores, Jon Taylor, and Thomas Shook, while the covers were rendered by the great Aaron Riley. Of course a lot of the interior artwork was done by the late, great Alex Raymond who co-created Flash Gordon back in 1934.

Our 192-page sourcebook, The Kingdoms of Mongo was written by a team of terrific and experienced game designers including Anthony Pryor, Simon Lucas, John Goff, Preston DuBose, Randy Mosiondz, David Boop, and Ed Wetterman.

What is the appeal of Flash, in your estimation?

Back in the mid-1970s, a young filmmaker named George Lucas attempted to get a Flash Gordon movie off the ground, but unfortunately the rights were already tied up with another company and so he wound up creating his own space adventure in the same vein.

Flash’s influence on pop culture is undeniable and my good friend, Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg, wrote all about that in the fascinating introduction to our core rulebook. A lot of comic characters from the 1930s have slipped into obscurity over time, known only to hardcore collectors and historians. Flash, on the other hand has stood the test of time. In the past few years alone, we’ve had a live action series on Syfy, new comic adventures from Dynamite Entertainment, Sam J Jones (Flash from the 1980 feature film) popping up in Seth MacFarlane’s films, Ted and Ted 2 (wearing his original Flash Gordon costume), and rumors of a new, big budget feature film to be helmed by director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, and Kingsman).

It’s pretty clear to me that Flash Gordon is not going away any time soon.

Will there be supplements?

We launched our Kickstarter last year with the promise of a number of supporting items including our sourcebook, The Kingdoms of Mongo, a Game Master’s screen with a 32-page adventure, a set of metal miniatures, a deck of custom action cards, a new Cliffhanger token, maps, posters, and much more. Down the line, especially with the ongoing publication of Savage Worlds Explorer, I suspect we may see some more material popping up to support the line, even if it’s just an occasional adventure. I’m certainly in it for the long haul!

Will a Buck Rogers game come next?

Well, never say never, but until then, I recommend taking a good look at the Fear Agent™ Roleplaying Game for Savage Worlds based on the science fiction comic series originally written by Rick Remender. While horror also rears its head in that setting, it does harken back to the days of planet-hopping space patrols.

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