Valor Interview: Jenna MacKenzie, Lead Writer
For our third interview, we sat down with Jenna MacKenzie, the Lead
Everything Writer for Valorous Games and asked her about the process of writing for Valorous Foes, as well as the Valor events she runs.
Staff: So, tell me a bit about yourself and what you do with Valor
MacKenzie: I actually wear quite a few hats here. Most recently, I’m the Lead Writer for the new expansion, but I’ve also done a wide variety of other things both for the game as well as getting the name out there. Before VCF, most of what I was involved with was getting Valor to events, so more often than not I was the person that people would see either at convention booths or at local gaming events. If you’ve seen us around, you’ve probably seen me!
Staff: What are you most excited about in the writing for this book?
MacKenzie: The lore for our Foes. While we aren’t drawing from any one particular setting, getting to write the flavor for each one has been a blast. I was a huge mythology nerd as a kid (I think I lot of us were, honestly), so I feel like I’m making my nine-year old self really happy. While most of the Foes that we have in this book are based on things that people might recognize—urban legends, myths, things like that—we also have a few originals, and I get to really go wild with those. Being able to take a base stat line and breathe life into it has been an amazing experience, and I’m having a lot of fun.
Staff: What are some of the challenges for writing for a book like this?
MacKenzie: This thing is enormous. Initially, we had 200 Foes slotted, and that got to be too much, but even 160 makes it a huge challenge. But I think the most challenging part comes with translating the rules in such a way that will be approachable both to GMs who are veterans of the system, as well as those who are coming to us fresh. Valor really lets players and GMs come up with just about anything, but there is a learning curve. I hope I don’t end up writing over anyone’s heads!
Staff: You mention Valor lets players do whatever they want, how do you plan to express that with VCF?
MacKenzie: With VCF, we’ve added a bunch of different Skills and Abilities to give both GMs and players more options. Obviously a large majority of them are Foe specific, but I like to think that there’s enough in there that the players can really sink their teeth into. And who knows, maybe this book might be a sign of more to come on the players-side.
But you didn’t hear that from me.
Staff: Duly noted! Are there any new skills or abilities that really stand out in making interesting lore?
MacKenzie: Too many! Going into this project, we expected to create a few different Skills and Abilities to be able to properly depict some of the Foes, but we ended up with a lot! Did I say this book was going to be enormous?
I think the most fun new toys that we’ve had to play with are the ones that expand upon Malevolent Entity. It’s something that we thought was a really fun mechanic, but really felt needed to be fleshed out. It might have seemed like a simple Flaw in the core rulebook, but in VCF it’s potentially really dangerous. I kind of feel bad for the players who have to deal with it!
But no I don’t. Sorry. This may have also been indirectly my fault. And I’m still not sorry.
Staff: Let’s talk about some of the other hats you wear, what has it been like being the face of Valor, and running all these events?
MacKenzie: One of the faces at least. Running events is probably the most exhilarating, exciting, stressful and chaotic things ever. You have to be crazy to want to do them. And yet it’s one of the most fun things for me, since I get to meet with our players face-to-face. It’s really gratifying. Tiring, but gratifying. Our fans are awesome, we get a lot of people who come back and see us event after event, either to tell us stories about their games or even just to give us some love.
Most of the time I’m in the trenches selling the game, but being able to run demos as well has been a blast. I’m still a bit shaky as a GM myself, so I feel sorry for anyone who has to be at a table with me! But honestly, the feedback and support we get from the fans is almost addictive. I love it.
Staff: What are some of the best or most memorable moments from events you’ve been a part of?
MacKenzie: That’s really not fair. Can I say all of them?
Staff: Try to narrow it down to two or three
MacKenzie: That’s still really tough. We’ve been running demos and events for seven years now, even well before Valor was first released, and we’ve had so many wonderful memories and experiences. But I think my favorite ones come from when the players really get into the game. Valor naturally lends itself to loud, dynamic games, and there have been times where I’ll laugh so hard that I start crying. But I think the moments that stand out the most to me were when people really went outside of themselves to role-play their character.
We’ve had people rap at the table before, which was fantastic, by the way. We’ve had epic monologues at bitter rivals, and puns. So many puns. It’s terrible, the dad jokes flow freely apparently. But really asking me to narrow it down to two or three concrete memories is nearly impossible.
I’ve been with Valor since our first demo, and in the seven years, I’ve gotten a chance to be a play tester, a con gofer, booth staff, marketing staff, so many different things. So not only are my favorite memories tied to the things that our players have done at the table, but also to being able to see players get excited while playing our game. We’ve had people who come to see us every year, who have been around about as long as I have. And when asked what I remember most about the events, I would have to say that look of joy and excitement when they come out to play our game.
Staff: It definitely sounds like you’ve done a lot with Valor. Is there anything else you wanted to mention, either about the events or the writing you’re doing now?
MacKenzie: I’m just that person behind the curtain, don’t mind me.
But in all seriousness, I know my opinion is probably extremely biased, but having played tabletop roleplaying games for half my life, and playing a number of different systems this one really does feel like home for me. And I don’t just mean in the way that Valor plays, which, yes, it is a lot of fun and I highly recommend it. But with the people who have created and contributed to it, with our fans, and the people who we’ve been able to meet along the way.
As far as writing is concerned, I always wanted to write books, but I never imagined that my first would be a rulebook! It’s strange to think about, but at the same way, it’s been a fun challenge, and I love being able to construct this lore for players and GMs to do with as they please. I want to hear about what stories everyone ends up telling with the Foes in this book. In a way, they’re all like my kids. My sometimes ugly, awkward, terrifying kids.
Valor: Villains, Creatures and Foes can be found on Kickstarter through October 15.