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Peter K. Ullmann Speaks!

September 3, 2010

Anyone who has spent any significant time on the White Wolf forums knows this man. Anyone who has perused the Scroll of Errata is grateful to him. Anyone who has utilized Alchemical Artifacts or cried out for an advocate for Sorcery has this man to thank. I present you all with a much-needed interview with none other than Bodhisattva himself, Peter K. Ullmann!

Octopoid Prevarication: Would you be kind enough to introduce yourself for our audience?

Peter Ullmann: Sure. My name is Peter K. Ullmann, but many Exalted fans might know me by my alias, “Bodhisattva” either on the Exalted forums, on the Exalted wiki, other Exalted-related websites or even over on RPG.net. I’m the administrator of the Exalted wiki and produce the Scroll of Errata.

OP: Can you tell us what Exalted products and projects you’ve worked on?

Peter: As I mentioned before, I am the administrator for the Exalted wiki and I do the layout and production of the Scroll of Errata. I was also involved in writing Chapter Six of the Manual of Exalted Power: Alchemicals, which featured new artifacts, protocols and thaumaturgy.

OP: How would you characterize your experience with Exalted, both working on products and playing the game?  In what ways has working on the game changed your view of Exalted?

Peter: I love Exalted. I’ve been playing it since the First Edition Limited Edition Core Rulebook became available, so it’s been nine years that I’ve been involved in Exalted as a player and storyteller. Overall, I think it’s been a great experience, even though there are things that I wish were better about Exalted. Working on the game has really made me a lot more critical of the overall experience of game-play, and as a writer, I try to express that in areas of the game that are less well-tended. I think the entire setting has such a depth and richness to it that few games can approach, and I’d love to see the kind of development into every area of the system that we’ve clearly seen in the line writers’ love of Charms.

OP: I know you are one of the (underappreciated) members of Errata Team Prime.  What guidelines and inspirations do you use when working on errata-ing game material?

Peter: First and foremost, you’ve got to think of other people and their games and try to come up with things that will be fun for them to use. Inspiration can come from any source—from mythology to movies and anywhere in between. But, after you come up with ideas that you think will enhance game play, you’ve got to take a look at how that interacts with established materials. If it works with what’s been established, that’s great! If not, you really have to decide, “Is this piece of Exalted that I’m deliberately altering in need of altering?” If the answer is no, it requires a little bit of swallowing your pride to leave it alone and tweak the idea that you had. I think it’s important to respect the work of other authors who wrote for this game. After all, they made it what it is. Other freelancers may feel that their ideas are better, and that’s fine. Maybe they are. But, I think those ideas can be incorporated into the game rather than overwriting parts of it. It’s a delicate balance, but I tend to err to the side of respecting other people’s works.

OP: Who would you say are your favorite authors or writers are in the gaming field, in the Exalted line specifically?  What about your favorite artists or designers?

Peter: I’m going to talk about my favorite writers for the Exalted line. I really love Michael A. Goodwin’s work and I think he’s brilliant. No one writes Charms like he does, and he’s pushed the game into some fantastic directions. I also respect Neall Raemonn Price a lot. Writing storytelling chapters is probably the hardest work for a line writer, because you’re pioneering absolutely new things. You don’t have other mechanical work to build off of, just your own ideas. I’m also a fan of Eric Minton’s and Kraig Blackwelder’s works—they have a lot of flair. I’ve also got to give mad props to Genevieve Cogman and Dawn Elliot for their work on Caste Book: Twilight, back in first edition. I thought it was one of the most interesting books of the entire line.

OP: Can you tell us a bit about how you first got into Errata for White Wolf?  What advice would you offer to others who might be looking to follow in your footsteps?

Peter: Well, I can’t really give any advice for anyone seeking to work on errata for White Wolf. My own ideas on errata haven’t even seen the light of day yet, although I’ve worked on sorcery keywords, some sorcery and necromancy errata, rules for naturally spawning shadowlands (and how they can be encouraged to form), and some errata for my work on the Manual of Exalted Power: Alchemicals. But, I have no control over what gets approved or even what order things get worked on. There has been fantastic work on errata for Charms, but Charms (although in critical need of errata for certain Exalt types) aren’t the only part of the game that needs errata, and although Errata Team Prime is taking a “triage” approach to writing errata, if there were more hands involved, we might see more quality errata coming out faster for other parts of Exalted as well.

OP: What is your favorite material from Exalted?   Why?

Peter: Before I became a freelancer, I really didn’t have a favorite part because I was just so enamored with the whole game. If I had to pick a favorite thing, I would pick some of the ruined bastions of civilization from the First Age, like Denandsor… The setting is truly amazing and so open for development. After I became a freelancer, though, I really started getting interested in the sorcery system. I think it’s a tragedy that sorcery has become a distant second to Charms as an avenue to power for players. I never minded that it played second fiddle, but developments in Charm technologies over Second Edition have really pushed sorcery further and further toward obsolescence. I wish things didn’t have to be that way, but Exalted really took off in a different direction as a system over the past few years.

OP: What would you say is your favorite part of being on Errata Team Prime?  Your least favorite?

Peter: My favorite part of being on Errata Team Prime is that I get to stay involved in the game in some fashion. Unfortunately, since I really have extraordinarily limited input, I’m really just the layout person for the Scroll of Errata. I have to admit, it’s no fun being on the outside of things, but I’m not the only freelancer in that position. At least I’m still involved in some fashion. If there’s a least-favorite part about being on Errata Team Prime, I’d have to say it’s the fact that I’ve not been able to errata anything yet. There’s been such a mono-focus (although not an exclusive focus) on one aspect of game play that the things I’d like to work on may not see print for a long, long time. I feel shut out, and I may not be the only freelancer that feels that way, but that’s White Wolf’s call. All I can do is hope that my efforts will eventually be recognized and rewarded and I’ll get to write new material for the game and get my hand in on updating aspects of the game that need a little love too.

OP: What message would you want most to give to frequent readers or forumites, given your position as both ETP member and frequent forum-goer?

Peter: No matter what, enjoy the game. That’s really all there is to it. We’re all here to have fun with a game that we love, and some people lose sight of that. Sometimes that means they move on to other games or forums, other times they get irritable with each other. I generally try to maintain an even keel about things, but even I get away from myself sometimes. Remember, it’s all about a great game and your enjoyment of playing it. Everything else is secondary.

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