Women in Tabletop Gaming Month #7: Chaosium interviews Kerie Campbell
Posted by Michael O'Brien on 11th Jun 2018
Lynne Hardy interviews RPG trailblazer Kerie Campbell for Women in Tabletop Gaming Month
Serious ones first:
1. What is your background?
I’m pretty boring, actually. Didn’t finish college, no degrees. I became disabled in the early 1990s and haven’t worked since then. Quite a bit of the past couple of decades has been me coming to terms with my health and learning to live with it. Before I went on disability I was pretty much a temp worker. My last “real” job was as a legal secretary for a small firm in San Francisco. I met someone in the mid-90s and got married, and lived in the UK with him for four years before we returned home so I could have kids. I have two lovely children, 15 and 12, but I’m no longer with their father. Both kids are gamers too. I have to negotiate terms with my youngest over who gets to use the PS4 on any given day. My oldest child does more online RPGs with friends and has started to borrow some of my old gaming manuals. I think that they’re going to be trying to run Werewolf the Apocalypse with some of their friends from school. My youngest is constantly designing games to play with his friends and is hoping to work in the industry when he grows up.
2. How long have you been gaming? What attracted you to it in the first place, and how were you introduced to it?
I know this is about tabletop gaming, but I am first and currently a video gamer. My stepfather was a gadget guy and he brought home the very first home video game, Pong, when it released in the early 1970s. Then we had an Atari 2600. It wasn’t until 10th grade (in 1979) that I learned about tabletop RPGs, from two guys in my French class that kept talking around me about their adventures. I asked to join and there was no going back after that. Tabletop RPGs were my life throughout high school and quite a ways into adulthood, until other things got in the way. I’ve always been into sci-fi and fantasy, books and video, so learning to play D&D (and later, moving on to Call of Cthulhu and other Chaosium games) was a natural progression for me. I took to it like a fish in water.
3. How did you get into the gaming industry?
I was into Call of Cthulhu and loved HPL’s Dreamlands stories. I saw that there weren’t any Dreamlands supplements for Call of Cthulhu, so I wrote one—started it at the age of 17 and got in touch with the folks at Chaosium, who took it, expanded on my work, and published it when I was 18. Apparently, I’m the first woman ever to be lead designer on any RPG, which was my second work, Hawkmoon, published when I was 20. I ended up moving up to the Bay Area where Chaosium was headquartered at the time and have been up here ever since, over 30 years now.
4. What was the first gaming product you worked on, and in what capacity?
That was the Dreamlands supplement. It was my concept and I did the bulk of the research and information compilation from the stories, as well as writing some of the sections. It was a very exciting day for me at that age, getting something I wrote published by my favorite gaming company.
5. What was the last gaming product you worked on, and in what capacity?
I believe it was Credo the card game. I did some playtesting and did the assembly and shrink wrapping of the first run.
6. What has been the most challenging gaming product you’ve worked on, and why?
I haven’t got a huge body of work so there isn’t a lot to choose from. I guess you could say Hawkmoon was the most challenging. Mainly because I wrote the entire thing myself and wasn’t one of a number of people working on one project. So, all criticism was for me alone. At that time, I was young and full of energy and writing games was more of a joy than a job. I count myself extremely fortunate that I became part of the Chaosium family, not only figuratively but literally. Greg Stafford and his wife Suzanne were my very closest friends for a very long time, more like sister and brother than folks I just met in my early adulthood.
7. What has been the most enjoyable/rewarding gaming product you’ve worked on, and why?
Hawkmoon, of course, because it was my project, all my work, and even though it didn’t do so great here in the US, it took off big in France which was thrilling to me. Finding a game store on a trip to Paris and seeing how many books and expansions they’d made based on my one game book was so exciting. Seeing it going for upwards of $150 on eBay currently has me feeling all nostalgic and proud of younger me for doing something that people find desirable and collectible over 30 years later.
And now for some more frivolous ones:
8. Just how large is your dice and/or stationary collection?
My dice all fit into one flour cannister. I haven’t bought dice in a long time. Life has gotten in the way of tabletop gaming unfortunately, so I’m strictly video games now. I have my dice put away up high so my kids aren’t tempted by them. I’m not ready to let go. I bought them their own dice instead.
9. What is your favourite gaming snack?
I used to be a voracious ingester of Coca Cola until I gave it up for health reasons (that stuff is poison). So, it was Coke and chips of whatever kind, especially in cheese dip. And of course, chocolate candy, which is something I’ve never given up. You’ll pry my Hershey’s from my cold, dead fingers.
10. What’s the most unusual/exotic location you’ve gamed in? Or that one of your games has been played in?
That’s a good question. I don’t think I’ve played anywhere particularly exotic (unless you count the UK as exotic). I guess just having Hawkmoon spread out in Europe is the best that can be said about it. Is DunDraCon exotic? I seem to recall playing something in a friend’s hot tub once, but it was a long time ago and I don’t remember exactly which game. It might have been Top Secret or Traveller. Perhaps Gamma World.
Kerie Campbell (formerly KL Campbell-Robson) is a disabled, stay at home mother of two, and dedicated video gamer. Born in San Diego, she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area which she has called home since 1986. Aside from gaming, she has had various incarnations as a rock star, playing bass for Phantom Rose/Blackjack Bandit; an artist who has had work hang in various venues including the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco; and has more recently been extremely politically active in getting medical cannabis legalized in Oakland and the Occupy Oakland protests. She still plays games with her oldest gaming friend of nearly 40 years, on PS4.