I know a lot of interesting people. Some I’ve worked with, some I’ve met while traveling the world, some just owe me money. My name may be on the website, but it seems kind of boring if I’m the only person whose voice is heard here. So I’m bringing some of my friends to the site, as time permits. I’m not a podcasty kind of guy, so I’m just keeping things simple: one guest, six questions.
My next guest is C.A. SULEIMAN. I had the privilege of working with him on the Eberron sourcebooks Dragonmarked and City of Stormreach, and he cowrote Faiths of Eberron with Ari Marmell. You may know C.A. from the many products he’s created for White Wolf, for his Egyptian Adventures: Hamunaptra setting, or perhaps you’ve heard his band, Toll Carom. But let me let the man speak for himself!
What’s your story?
I may not be that old, but I’d like to think my story can’t be told effectively in a couple hundred words. In the spirit of the question, though, I suppose my story is that I’m a musician, writer, and game designer who’s worked for most of the top companies in the RPG field. I’ve been a developer for White Wolf for over a decade, and I shepherded Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor property until his death in 2009.
You worked on City of Stormreach, Dragonmarked, and Faiths of Eberron. What’s your favorite thing that you’ve added to the Eberron canon?
I was lucky enough to get to work on a couple of the really seminal sourcebooks for Eberron, and I still feel a fond attachment to the setting and to its fresh vitality. My absolute favorite additions to Eberron never made it into the print canon, actually. One of the things I got to do was take the first crack at developing the Lords of Dust, and not just the cult, but its specific demonic overlords. Canon says there are almost 30 of the buggers, so it’s not like I got to articulate the entire pantheon, but I did create what I thought of as a ‘core group’ of about half a dozen of these rajas — the equivalent of the Lovecraftian big names (Cthulhu, Hastur, Nyarlathotep, etc.) — along with a detailed write-up of each one’s prakhutu (“speaker”) on Eberron. That whole chapter ended up getting cut from the book, and while I did get to sneak one of my rajas into a later book (City of Stormreach), the bulk of that material never saw the light of day. But I’m still most proud of it, I think, and I definitely had a blast coming up with it all. Of the work that ended up appearing in the books, I’d say my favorite stuff is probably my development of the Dark Six pantheon and the Blood of Vol religion. They say I’m good with the Bad Guys™, and I guess it’s true.
You’re the developer for White Wolf’s Mummy: The Curse. What can you tell us about it?
Yep, Mummy: The Curse is my World of Darkness baby. Like the other “relaunch” games (Requiem, Forsaken, et al), it’s a return to the Gothic form of the archetype. The starting point for the design philosophy is the classic mummy figure evoked in the tales of Bram Stoker and the exhibits of Howard Carter and his ilk. The characters’ context is wholly new and unique to my interpretation for the World of Darkness, but the game builds in plenty of opportunities to shamble, plot revenge, choke the life out of hapless tomb robbers, and all the other fun accoutrements we’ve come to associate with mummies.
Stephenie Meyer taught us that vampires sparkle and werewolves never wear shirts. What do you think she’d do with mummies?
What do I think Mrs. Meyer would do to mummies if she got a hold of them? Probably the same thing she did to the vampire and werewolf archetypes: “Borrow” the name of the archetype, and then not just promptly ignore everything that makes the archetype what it is, but to actually design a being that embodies the exact opposite themes. I’d have no problem with the supernatural creatures with which Meyer has populated her world; I simply object to them being called “vampires” and “werewolves,” when it’s pretty clear that they’re not. It’s one thing to offer a new twist or spin on a classic archetype; that’s a time-honored tradition. It’s another thing to effectively redefine an archetype as its own polar opposite.
How do you afford your rock and roll lifestyle? Tell us about Toll Carom.
Toll Carom is my band, though I gave up long ago trying to find a sub-genre/category/niche/thing into which we can feat neatly. Some folks call us alternative rock, and that’s as good a descriptor as any. I grew up an American kid who loved his rock n’ roll, but who was also steeped in the traditional music of his cultural heritage (Palestinian). So, most of my songs incorporate elements of both, with guitars, drums, and English lyrics, but also with traditional folk instruments, like doumbeks and ouds. Our last album, Night in the Sun, received positive notices in places like The Washington Post and Relix magazine, and we think the concept album we’re recording now is going to blow Night out of the water. Folks can find us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/tollcarom
These days, I’m excited mostly about my music, my World of Darkness line (the core set for which should be out any day now), and my novels, the latest of which I’m finishing up as we speak. The new Toll Carom album, The Word, should be out early next year, and our intent is to jump right back into the studio to record its follow-up after the usual round of local support gigs. (My muse is persistently vocal, so I’ve gotten way ahead of myself when it comes to songwriting over the last couple years.)
I’m also excited to be part of the new era in White Wolf publishing, with the launch of Onyx Path Publishing (http://theonyxpath.com/). Moving forward, fans will get to see all kinds of goodies from OPP, with an aggressive publishing schedule over the next year and change, including not just Mummy, but Werewolf: The Apocalypse 20th Anniversary Edition and the return of the much-loved Trinity Universe.