By Aaron Sagers
Since leaving his post on “Ghost Hunters,” Grant Wilson has developed some serious game. Really. The reality-TV paranormal investigator from Syfy has shifted his focus to tabletop game company Rather Dashing Games. And now, for his newest gaming adventure, he’s mining new territory.
While he remains largely known for investigating spooky locations in nightvision mode for nearly eight years on “Ghost Hunters” — the Syfy network’s long-running series that debuted in 2004 — Wilson has quickly established professional gamer cred with Rather Dashing. Acting as artist and vice president, alongside game designer Michael Richie, he was weened on “D&D” and continues to do his small part in keeping Blizzard Entertainment in business.
And in the time since the company was formed, he and Richie have launched a variety of three games that span family-friendly adventure, educational and abstract strategy. But for the fourth Rather Dashing effort, Wilson said they “had to think small to think big” for Dwarven Miner.
The focus of a new Kickstarter campaign to assist in funding start-up costs, Dwarven Miner is Rather Dashing’s grandest concept yet. Not surprisingly, the player acts as a diminutive dwarf in a fantasy tabletop game where resources are needed to build stuff for a cast of 15 patrons. For instance, if a miner’s client is a Chieftain, they might need to dig up precious metals or gems for a sword or armor. The mining might be foiled by orcs along the way, but success leads to a points and power.
On its own, the game looks to have the elements of a fairly addictive strategy and building/crafting game. The video for the Kickstarter campaign also does a solid job of explaining gameplay. But what’s really cool is that the campaign offers a lot of goodies to supporters, such as limited edition artwork signed by Wilson, chain-mail dice bags, a wooden dice tower and mini-figures from Reaper.
Wilson chatted with MTV Geek about Dwarven Miner, the Kickstarter campaign and transitioning from paranormal TV to playing games for a living.
MTV Geek: Did you leave “Ghost Hunters” to start Rather Dashing?
Grant Wilson: I get that a lot from people. “So you left a TV show to start a board game company?” No, I didn’t, but that’s what I’m doing now. I left because it was kicking my butt. Eight years on the road is not healthy, especially when you have a family.
Geek: How did Rather Dashing come about?
Wilson: Mike and I have been making up things together since we were about five and always knew someday we would put our creative talents together. We began discussing the concept around a campfire in the fall of 2010. It took about a year to get going and we have since launched three titles. The first two, X Marks the Spot and Red Hot Silly Peppers were launched in 2011 and the third, Four Taverns, in 2012.
Geek: What games did you play as a kid?
Wilson: “Pathfinder,” classic “D&D” and those role-playing games. I don’t know if you remember games like “Dark Tower,” “Scotland Yard.” I would even make up games with my older brother, and we’d flip over board game boards, draw a new board on it and make all sorts of games.
Geek: And you continued playing as an adult, even before Rather Dashing?
Wilson: Jeez yeah. It’s funny, some people saw the show and never realized I was into geeky stuff, but I’ve got all that stuff in my house, am friends with Larry Elmore (the artist behind the “Dungeons & Dragons” red dragon) and have way too many 20-sided dice.
Geek: And instead of attending comic cons as a reality-TV celebrity, or that guy from Syfy, you’re now there as a game designer and not really hyping the “Ghost Hunters “connection?
Wilson: It isn’t that I want to ignore my time on “Ghost Hunters” but I’m seeing people appreciate these games for what they are, not because I was a guy on TV. [At the cons] you’re at a booth watching people at a table watching people laughing, having a great time, playing a game you helped forge … plus, I don’t want to throw my face on the games and say, “This is Grant’s game” and try to milk my “Ghost Hunters” fans for everything they have. Besides, I’m not the genius behind the games. I don’t make the games. I helped forge and define them, and I do the art, but I didn’t make up the game. And our games need to stand on their own quality instead of having everything resting on the pillar of the show.
Geek: As for “Dwarven Miner,” what makes it different from other games out there?
Wilson: While it definitely has a very heavy fantasy theme, and will appeal to gamers in the hobby market, the rules are very approachable for the more casual family-style gamer, which was evident in the extensive play-testing. It has become one of our guiding principles when we make a game that you should be able to learn the basics in under 10 minutes and pick the rest up as you play. And the game play is both strategic and addictive.
Geek: Why focus so much on dwarves as opposed to other fantasy creatures?
Wilson: Well the heavy fantasy theme puts you squarely in the realm of the dwarves, which have more often than not been very mythologically similar — whether they’re found in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, “Dungeons & Dragons” or “World of Warcraft.” “Dwarven Miner” features 15 unique Dwarves that we feel are a nice addition to the genre. Our characters range from the more traditional Warriors and Wizards, to the exotic Rune Singer and Bardic War Chanter.
Geek: What was the eureka moment as you were developing “Dwarven Miner”?
Wilson: When we added the unique game-changing powers each dwarf has, which are activated once they are played. We first played the game with a very basic concept to see if the math worked, card counts were right, etc. The mechanics were fun, but we knew it needed more. We added the powers, tested them, honed them, and finally we were ready to play with some trusted people. As we watched them laugh while strategizing each time a new power came in to play, we knew we had a winner.
Geek: And why is “Rather Dashing” going the Kickstarter route this time?
Wilson: The game is fully designed and developed; we just need to make it. Plus, Dwarven Miner will be made in America with sustainably forested materials. For instance, the playing pawns are made from a mix of sawdust and recycled plastic bottles. You know, this allows gamers to really get involved with the process of the games they love, and love to play. They’ll play it and know, “I helped make this happen.” And we just have a lot of cool exclusives they won’t be able to get anywhere else. We nerds love exclusives, after all.