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Cam Banks
Works at Atlas Games
Attended University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand
Lives in Saint Paul, MN
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Work
Occupation
Game designer, writer, editor
Employment
  • Atlas Games
    RPG Director, 2013 - present
    Oversee & manage role playing game lines, including development & production.
  • Margaret Weis Productions
    Creative Director, 2007 - 2013
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Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Currently
Saint Paul, MN
Previously
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin - Auckland, New Zealand - State College, PA - North Shore, New Zealand - Lawrence, KS
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Tagline
Ginger Kiwi Game Designer and Family Guy
Introduction
Born in the mythical antipodean utopia of New Zealand, wisely regarded by scholars as the fountainhead of cultural excellence and the only place on Earth capable of filling in for Middle Earth, Narnia, and Ancient Greece, Cam Banks was lured away by the siren call of a life with meaning and purpose. Cam now lives a quiet, pastoral existence in the Twin Cities of Minnesota with his beautiful wife, their two sons, and a cat. He pays the bills by writing and editing role-playing games. In his free time, Cam likes to read and write fantasy fiction, watch movies and television with his wife, play video games with his oldest son, and allow his youngest son to chip away at his sanity.

Cam’s work has appeared in almost every one of over a dozen Dragonlance game sourcebooks published by Sovereign Press and Margaret Weis Productions, and twice in Dragon Magazine.
His work on the Bestiary of Krynn earned a silver ENnie Award in 2004 for Best Monster Supplement.

Following his work on Dragonlance, Cam has been involved in the design and editing of licensed roleplaying games based on Universal's Serenity and Battlestar Galactica, Dead Gentlemen's Demon Hunters, The CW's Supernatural and Smallville, TNT's Leverage, and Marvel Comics.

Cam's first short story, “Chain of Fools,” appears in the Dragonlance anthology Dragons of Time; Tracy Hickman Presents the Anvil of Time: The Sellsword (April 2008) is his first published novel.
Education
  • University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand
Basic Information
Gender
Male
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Married

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Cam Banks

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Stalker Thoughts 2

13th century Europe. The Visit happens, dropping two Zones on the Continent (Cologne, Bucharest) and one on Manchester. Discoveries are essentially treated as magic. "Adventurers" = stalkers. Widespread unfolding consequences of the discoveries brought out topple some monarchies and elevate others.

There are literally endless ways to play out stuff like this using any given fantasy RPG. In this case, could be a hack of Ars Magica. 
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J. Walton's profile photoMarshall Miller's profile photoSteve Hickey's profile photo
18 comments
 
Must give you so many +1s, +Marshall Miller.

Cam Banks

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Science Fiction RPGs: Equipment & Gear

Many of you may know that I have a strong dislike for chapters full of gear and guns in RPGs. It's my least favorite part of writing anything, that point where I feel I need to obsessively list out all of the different kinds of weapon or high hard boot or ten foot pole. Fills me with ennui. So the problem I'm currently facing is: can a science fiction RPG do without?

Given that I'm setting #PillarOfFire in a far-future setting, with generation ships, sentient AI, weird alien technology, and so forth, it's clearly a big deal if I don't actually cover the tech level and what is and isn't available in terms of equipment, vehicles, and weapons. But I'm running into my own resistance when it comes to this stuff. I don't want a big chapter of lists and charts, but how can I avoid it?

One solution might be to not delineate any of this at all, just to say "well you know, it's space" and have GMs hand wave it. But that's weak sauce.

Surely, a thousand years from now when we're all genetically diverse from generations of bio-engineering and selective breeding and the singularity has already come and gone, we're not going to have gun manufacturer companies putting out specific models of blaster or whatever. Right?

So perhaps the other solution is to promote a truly diverse technological environment where the basic building blocks of technology exists but is molded, adapted, shaped, and grown to suit utility and purpose. I can therefore define the limits of this proto-tech, allow players to configure what they like and present it like a sort of far-future technological LEGO set.

Thoughts and comments welcome on this subject! 
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Robert Burson's profile photoCam Banks's profile photoAdam Minnie's profile photo
40 comments
 
+Cam Banks for sure.

Cam Banks

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Unknown Armies Third Edition is a new version of the classic occult RPG of broken people conspiring to fix the world. The UA3 Kickstarter will launch in March or April. If you'd like to hear from us when the campaign goes live, enter your email address below.
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Neal Dalton's profile photoVille Ojanperä's profile photoAvi Waksberg's profile photoGreg Stolze's profile photo
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It shall happen. 

Cam Banks

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Urban Shadows Session Three

I'm running Urban Shadows, by the remarkable +Andrew Medeiros & +Mark Diaz Truman of whom I have spoken well of in the past. It is the first time I've run a Powered by the Apocalypse game for longer than a couple of sessions, and I'm still getting the hang of MC moves and other things. But it's a lot of fun.

What I'm really appreciating most about the game so far is the whole currency of Debts and the use of Factions as stats. Anyone who's familiar with my work on Smallville knows that I really like alternatives to traditional stats when it comes to social or systemic play, and Urban Shadows really nails it. Because players are encouraged not only to call people on their debts but to honor them, and from both other PCs and NPCs, the result tends to be a series of carefully (or not so carefully) orchestrated exchanges of favors, promises, and team-ups. It's fantastic to see it humming along, literally generating plot as we play.

Our group has a Dragon, an Immortal, a Fae, a Revenant, and an Aware. They play off each other really well. The Fae was missing session 2, and the Revenant was missing this session, which strongly affected the nature of play just because of the absence of certain Factions within the player characters.

Anyway - US satisfies all of my modern day gaming needs right now, doing what World of Darkness has done in the past with a system that I appreciate in the present. I strongly endorse this game!
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PK Sullivan's profile photoPatrick O'Duffy's profile photoAndrew Medeiros's profile photoMark Diaz Truman's profile photo
8 comments
 
I ran a really enjoyable 3-session game last year, and I'm tempted to go back for another arc this year.

Urban Shadows may be my favorite PbtA game. 

Cam Banks

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Urban Shadows

Having done a lot of soul-searching about TMNT, I've decided not to subject my group to that and instead see if Urban Shadows works as-is without stripping out the factions and GM prep to use with a 1980s Palladium system game.

I'm keen to find the additional playbooks that came out for this game, so I assume they'll turn up since I was a backer. In the meantime, what have other folks' experiences been of playing Urban Shadows? Is it an ideally 8-10 session kind of PbtA game or could it go way longer?
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Michael “Draco” R's profile photoCam Banks's profile photoBenjamin Davis's profile photo
17 comments
 
Awwwwww.

Cam Banks

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Credit Creators Correctly

Okay, so despite appearances I have a really hard time promoting or advocating for myself. I don't like to toot my own horn, and I'm sure this has held me back from a lot of things in the past. Despite working on over 70 books or game products in the last 13 years, I continue to find it challenging to go out there and talk myself up to people.

I know this is true for many creators, not just me. I can peg it on Tall Poppy Syndrome in my case, but for others it could be connected to anything from fear of being labeled bossy or aggressive (especially for women) or because of crippling self-esteem and self-worth. It's not easy, even if you're really talented.

So for this reason, it is crucial that publishers, interviewers, reviewers, and promoters - including Wikipedia editors and bloggers - properly credit creators for their work. Leaving somebody's name out of a credits page, spelling their name incorrectly (I did this once and it's the worst), not bothering to include the designers, developers, artists, editors, or writers in your reviews or promotions, or favoring a headliner or named creative talent over supporting or contributing talent is not only a blow to that creator's already struggling ego, but can be professionally damaging or silencing.

Credit your creators. Do right by them, even if you don't like the work they did, or can't tell what part of the work they contributed to. Do it, and do it right. 
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Aleksandra Sontowska's profile photoJeb Boyt's profile photoCam Banks's profile photo
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+Aleksandra Sontowska I'm likely losing something in translation here, but anyone who is writing a review or blog about a game or creative product should make sure to check the product's credits and accurately represent them in the review. Publishers should be sure to work with developers and creatives to get their names and roles correct in credits pages and marketing/promo.

Cam Banks

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Cam Banks originally shared:
 
Pillar of Fire: No More Parents

Humanity in Pillar of Fire has been genetically modified & spliced & adapted. Reduced to genetical potential, much of it was carried to the new planetary system of Azur in storage, ready to be reborn there. In the hundreds of years leading up to the exodus, the process of birth & parenting changed significantly.

Humans are created through selective engineering into castes, the Houses. Genetic donors contribute to every newborn, who through surrogate technology & rapid neurological stims reach maturity in about 12 years. There are no accidents, no pregnancies, no mothers or fathers.

Not yet, anyway.

Drastic setting conceits like this, together with a shift in society's attitudes on gender, gene mods, status, and vocation, are part of the story I'm weaving together in Pillar of Fire, ready to have players and GMs bring it all down in play and rebuild it. To really examine the human condition under the microscope. I'm excited by it, but also somewhat intimidated.

What sort of new problems & consequences can you imagine this new society having? How difficult is it to imagine a future like this as a player or GM?
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That is some shift. Once you start breeding like that, your are working hard against an individual's right to self-determination. I can't imagine how many generations it would take to cement that into the culture. Sounds like a good source of dramatic tension!

Also, will there be mutants?

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Cam Banks

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Roadside Picnic/Stalker

I blame +Jason Morningstar for my obsession with this book. I still haven't seen the movie. It's such a great niche of SF. I read Jeff Vandermeer's SOUTHERN REACH books (well, the first two) before I got started on this, but I consider them all the same basic genre.

I was thinking that a really smart game to use for adventures in the "go into the Zone, recover things, make sure nobody on your team dies or betrays you, make money" style of SF adventure would be +Malcolm Craig's shit-hot HOT WAR or COLD CITY. Those are designed for post-nuke British SF but I think they'd serve the same function here, with very little adjustment.

Reading Ursula K LeGuin's foreword also reminds me that often the distinction between "hard" SF and space opera is that of elitism vs common/blue-collar characters. I don't think this is necessarily true, not any more, because shows like Firefly and game like Traveller have certainly placed a high value in playing ordinary people or low-lifes versus officers and starship captains. LeGuin thinks that Russian SF like Roadside Picnic is exemplary in that it uses SF to tell stories about hard-done-by people who are nevertheless appealing to read, and I think outside of epic SF stories like that of Pillar of Fire (which is REALLY grandiose and epic in the truest sense) my preference is for characters like that, characters who wrestle with authority or oppression or a system that seems entirely counter to the central premise of a progressive future. Characters like Red in Roadside Picnic.

Anyone else adapted ideas from Roadside Picnic or Stalker in their gaming? 
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Good to know, +Abstract Machine! 

Cam Banks

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Here's Why I Love the Open Game License

I love toolkits and bashing things together. It's a lot of fun, it helps to exercise game design muscles, and you can create whole new experiences at the table when you do it.

The OGL makes this even easier. Here's an example:

* Take baseline 5th edition SRD
* Sub out the classes for the d20 modern classes (Strong Hero, Fast Hero, Tough Hero, Smart Hero, Dedicated Hero, Charismatic Hero)
* 5e backgrounds but they're Delta Green style government agency backgrounds or other previous groups/orgs
* Rework the way the skill/attribute check system works to instead use the core four Fate actions: attack, defend, overcome, create an advantage
* Add back in Fortitude, Reflex, Will as DCs each character has
* Use skills, but replace fixed proficiency by level with proficiency dice from the 5e DMG
* Use hit points but allow Fate-style conditions/injuries to absorb damage
* Use the Icon system from 13th Age/Archmage engine, but for organizations, cults, powerful sponsors, patrons, villains

You could do more: you could add aspects if you liked, or fate points, or d20 Modern action points, or keep the 5e personality traits but make them more potent, etc etc. All of the above makes for the perfect foundation for a modern day Bourne/Bond/Kingsman-style spy thriller/secret history/etc campaign. And it can all be built on what's come before.

What are some other OGL mashups you'd like to see? What mechanics would work well together - or not?
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Jason Tocci's profile photoMatt Widmann's profile photoMarcus Morrisey's profile photoRJ Stewart's profile photo
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. 

Cam Banks

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This is excellent. I like what Quinn is doing here.
 
I appreciate +Quinn Murphy's attempt here to create a term for a particular phenomenon in the roleplaying hobby that's near and dear to my heart. Clarity is cool.
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Shervyn von Hoerl's profile photoBruce Baugh's profile photoBill Bloom IV's profile photoRafael Ferreira's profile photo
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You can get it here. The recommended price is $3.

https://payhip.com/b/3A75

Cam Banks

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness

Almost as a dare from one of my local gamer group members +Jacob Kellogg I am seriously considering running a by-the-book, no house rules, random-generated campaign of TMNT, the "classic" Palladium system RPG. Before the cartoons, before RIFTS, before common sense: TMNT.

One thing I may do however is see how much of Urban Shadows by +Andrew Medeiros & +Mark Diaz Truman I can incorporate for handling urban politics. Is there system stuff in there that isn't contingent on PbtA moves/characters that I can crib so that as a GM I'm able to prep faster? Can that political stuff work with mutant sparrows, coyotes, elephants, and mice?

Comment here with your TMNT RPG memories & thoughts about GM prep. Or send help.
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Adam Minnie's profile photoBrian Ashford's profile photoDavid Miessler-Kubanek's profile photoWoo Hoo's profile photo
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Woo Hoo
 
I'd suggest +Adam Minnie probably has it spot on, generate the characters with the system and then interpret what they are capable of using GM fiat/some simple system during the game. From memory our fun was playing mutant super heroes and being a team, not nailing the rules to our advantages.

Cam Banks

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Pillar of Fire re-posts

I'm posting a bunch of gaming-related thoughts to this collection that were originally posted in my main feed under limited access, mostly because they're all about #PillarofFire, the original all-new science fiction RPG I'm developing at Atlas Games. So if you've seen these already, that's why!
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Paul Mitchener's profile photoSteve Dee's profile photoCam Banks's profile photo
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I've had this setting idea since the D&D campaign search that resulted in Eberron. I really wanted to design a SF RPG from the ground up, so I pitched it to Atlas and they greenlit the idea. 
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