Interview with Omer Joel

Omer Joel

Fantasy/Sci-Fi Focus (FSF): Hi Omer, how have you been? How have the last couple of years of global insanity been treating you?

Omer Joel (OJ): I am lucky to have a stable job, performed from home, in translation, editing, and content writing, as well as my tabletop role-playing game work. This means that very little changed for me during the COVID -19 pandemic, and I stayed at a stable economic and social situation. I am used to working from home, so, I faced very little job-related and social discomfort due to lockdowns and quarantines.

My wife, however, did lose her job in customer relations for a local gym chain (the chain collapsed due to COVID-19 restrictions), and is now looking for a new one.

FSF: I’m sorry to hear that. It’s been rough rough all over, but as someone that also works from home, I agree it hasn’t effected me at all.

So let’s start with the background. Tell me about Stellagama Publishing. How did you get involved in table top gaming?

OG: I began gaming in 1997, when my friends got their hands on a second-hand copy of the AD&D 2E player’s handbook and monster manual, as well as a photocopied version of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Back then in Israel, getting these books was not easy, as international e-commerce was in its infancy and the local publisher went bankrupt some time earlier.

It was extreme fun – with merely three books and some old dice, we had wonderful, wonderful adventures for years.

In 2000, I found a copy of the local translation of Shadowrun 2E (best edition of Shadowrun to my opinion!), and soon began buying its expansions from a local vendor. The Classic Traveller “Books 0-8 In One Volume” reprint was added as a bonus to one purchase, and I was hooked!

Fast forward to 2011, when I published my first tabletop RPG book, Outer Veil, as a licensed 3rd party Traveller book through Spica Publishing. It was, in retrospect, quite flawed, but it was very well-received, and encouraged me to start writing more professional RPG books.

I founded Stellagama Publishing in 2016 to publish 3rd party RPG books for a few rulesets, including Traveller. When the Traveller 3rd party license was cancelled, we moved on to the open-source Cepheus Engine and never looked back…

FSF: That’s awesome. I know that many members of our community have enjoyed and continue to enjoy table top and video RPGs. What I’m wondering is if you read a lot of Fantasy and sci-fi novels that also enhanced your interest

OG: I read a lot of what might be considered “classics” nowadays. Niven, Pournelle, Clarke, Heinlein. Tolkien and Le Guin in fantasy.

Later, I went back to even earlier classics, such as Lovecraft, Howard, and Burroughs. So, my sci-fi and fantasy “education” is pretty “old school”.

I did read and enjoy Jordan’s Wheel of Time, but I do enjoy sword & sorcery more than epic fantasy. I also think that sword & sorcery is very gamable. Wandering hero who gets into adventurous messes without a big central Main Quest.

FSF: Looking through the expansive Cepheus Deluxe game, it seems incredibly well thought out and conceived. What do you find to be the biggest obstacle in putting games like this together?

OG: There is a distance, of lightyears, between the initial idea and the finished game. Rough ideas, even if they work perfectly at my table, are not necessarily effective for other tables. So, editing and a lot of playtesting are in order. I can easily invent rules and rule systems – but, again, this rough gem needs a lot of cutting, which is the most time-consuming stage in game design.

FSF: Can you tell our community about the story of Cepheus? Often the story is just as important to gamers as the mechanics.

OG: The Mongoose Publishing version of Traveller had an excellent third-party license. This created a community of third-party publishers making great stuff for Traveller. When the 2nd edition of Mongoose Traveller was released, Mongoose terminated that license and moved to a much less publisher-friendly license. Thus, publishers used the old Mongoose 2d6 sci-fi Standard Reference Document, which is “open source” (Open Game License”), to create a ruleset compatible with the old 3rd-party material, which grew into the Cepheus Engine. The original Cepheus Engine SRD, by Samardan Press, was pretty close to the Mongoose “open rules”. My old Cepheus Light, and now Cepheus Deluxe, moved somewhat away from this origin to provide a sleeker and smoother play experience.

FSF: How important is participant interaction to you as a creator, and what is your preferred method of networking with your users?

OG: Participant interaction is crucial to my game design practices. I want to write games that actually get played at people’s tables. Which means that I have to listen to my player base. This usually comes from social media, though blogs are also important. I am very active on relevant Discord, Facebook, and MeWe channels, always open to customer questions and feedback.

FSF: What takes up your time when you’re not working on games?

OG: As I noted before, I have a “day job” in translation, editing, and content writing. I also enjoy cooking, reading, playing video games, and herping (going out to look for cool reptiles and amphibians). I am the cook at home, cooking varied food for me and my wife, and, last but not least, I spend time with my cat, Saki.

FSF: So let us all know what you have planned for the immediate future and what we can expect from you over the next year.

OG: We are working on several more books, including expansions for our Barbaric! lightweight sword & sorcery ruleset; a new, near-future, near-Earth cyberpunk-ish setting for Cepheus Deluxe, called Cradle of Stars; a renewed edition of our These Stars Are Ours! space-opera setting for Cepheus Deluxe, and genre mods for Cepheus Deluxe

FSF: I like to end all of my interviews with this question. What one piece of advice can you offer to new and aspiring writers and game creators?

OG: My advice would be to get a honest person to edit your book. I learned much from my editors, and they made my books much more awesome than the original ideas. Learn how to listen to constructive criticism, but do not fear to make mistakes; you learn from them.

Purchase Cepheus Deluxe: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/370075/Cepheus-Deluxe

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Writing About the Singularity with Dave Welch: Authors in Focus Episode 124

Dave Welch

Hi! Welcome to this episode of Authors in Focus Podcast. I’m James Reid, a fantasy author publishing as JMD Reid. This podcast is all about getting to know writers, their books, and what makes them tick.

We all have a storyteller inside of us. Join me as we find out what the rising stars and established voices in publishing have to say about their craft and inspiration.

My new book, Mask of Guilt (Mask of Illumination Book 1), is out!

We all wear masks. Some of us to hide our guilt. Lady Foonauri, lost in the malaise of depression, finds purpose with a group of all-women thieves, the Cracked Gems. Intrigue, romance, betrayal, and adventure swirls around her in this epic fantasy tale!

Today, I’m joined by Dave Welch! He is the author of the sci-fi series Evolving Crane! Follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. You can reach him by email adaptorstudio@gmail.com and visit his website. Learn more about his books on Goodreads and Amazon.

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COVER REVEAL: I Shall Return With Winter by C. F. Welburn

DEFY FATE.

DEFY GODS.

DEFY EVERYONE.

When Oben’s farm is sacked by marauding Skalgs, he embarks on a deadly quest for revenge, leaving pious Edale behind to enter the godless north.

But Skaligar is a strange place, and his enemies are full of surprises, which will push his endurance and his faith to their limits. He finds himself an unwitting pawn in their ancient prophesy; one which tells of a Conduit who will deliver the south into their hands.

If Oben is to see his homeland again, he must not only survive, he must prove the prophesy wrong, whilst exacting vengeance on those to whom he grows ever more bound.

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Making Fairy Tales Your Own with Alma Alexander: Authors in Focus Episode 123

Alma Alexander

Hi! Welcome to this episode of Authors in Focus Podcast. I’m James Reid, a fantasy author publishing as JMD Reid. This podcast is all about getting to know writers, their books, and what makes them tick.

We all have a storyteller inside of us. Join me as we find out what the rising stars and established voices in publishing have to say about their craft and inspiration.

My new book, Mask of Guilt (Mask of Illumination Book 1), is out!

We all wear masks. Some of us to hide our guilt. Lady Foonauri, lost in the malaise of depression, finds purpose with a group of all-women thieves, the Cracked Gems. Intrigue, romance, betrayal, and adventure swirls around her in this epic fantasy tale!

Today, I’m joined by Alma Alexander! She is the author of Fractured Fairy Tales! You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook! You can support her on Patreon, check out her website, and buy her books from Amazon!

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Writing Urban Fantasy with Jason Kiefer: Authors in Focus Episode 122

Jason Kiefer

Hi! Welcome to this episode of Authors in Focus Podcast. I’m James Reid, a fantasy author publishing as JMD Reid. This podcast is all about getting to know writers, their books, and what makes them tick.

We all have a storyteller inside of us. Join me as we find out what the rising stars and established voices in publishing have to say about their craft and inspiration.

My new book, Mask of Guilt (Mask of Illumination Book 1), is out!

We all wear masks. Some of us to hide our guilt. Lady Foonauri, lost in the malaise of depression, finds purpose with a group of all-women thieves, the Cracked Gems. Intrigue, romance, betrayal, and adventure swirls around her in this epic fantasy tale!

Today, I’m joined by Jason Kiefer! He is the author of the urban fantasy novel Death (The Justice Cycle Book 1)! Check out his website and his books on Amazon!

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Using Mythology to Create Engrossing Fiction with Katharine E Wibell: Authors in Focus Episode 121

Katharine E Wibell

Hi! Welcome to this episode of Authors in Focus Podcast. I’m James Reid, a fantasy author publishing as JMD Reid. This podcast is all about getting to know writers, their books, and what makes them tick.

We all have a storyteller inside of us. Join me as we find out what the rising stars and established voices in publishing have to say about their craft and inspiration.

My new book, Mask of Guilt (Mask of Illumination Book 1), is out!

We all wear masks. Some of us to hide our guilt. Lady Foonauri, lost in the malaise of depression, finds purpose with a group of all-women thieves, the Cracked Gems. Intrigue, romance, betrayal, and adventure swirls around her in this epic fantasy tale!

Today, I’m joined by Katharine E. Wibell! She is the author of the mythological fantasy novel The Guardian’s Speaker Volume One! You can follow her on TwitterFacebookYouTubeAuthor PageInstagramBookbub, and Goodread. Check out her website and sign up for newsletter! Check out her books on Amazon.

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The Virtues of Plotting Your Novel by Jonathan Pembroke: Authors in Focus Episode 120

Jonathan Pembroke

Hi! Welcome to this episode of Authors in Focus Podcast. I’m James Reid, a fantasy author publishing as JMD Reid. This podcast is all about getting to know writers, their books, and what makes them tick.

We all have a storyteller inside of us. Join me as we find out what the rising stars and established voices in publishing have to say about their craft and inspiration.

My new book, Mask of Guilt (Mask of Illumination Book 1), is out!

We all wear masks. Some of us to hide our guilt. Lady Foonauri, lost in the malaise of depression, finds purpose with a group of all-women thieves, the Cracked Gems. Intrigue, romance, betrayal, and adventure swirls around her in this epic fantasy tale!

Today, I’m joined by Jonathan Pembroke! He is the author of fantasy thriller Rumble in Woodhollow! Follow him on Facebook and Goodreads. Check out his blog!

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Finally Writing That Novel Rattling Around in Your Head by R. R. Riley: Authors in Focus Episode 119

R. R. Riley

Hi! Welcome to this episode of Authors in Focus Podcast. I’m James Reid, a fantasy author publishing as JMD Reid. This podcast is all about getting to know writers, their books, and what makes them tick.

We all have a storyteller inside of us. Join me as we find out what the rising stars and established voices in publishing have to say about their craft and inspiration.

My new book, Mask of Guilt (Mask of Illumination Book 1), is out!

We all wear masks. Some of us to hide our guilt. Lady Foonauri, lost in the malaise of depression, finds purpose with a group of all-women thieves, the Cracked Gems. Intrigue, romance, betrayal, and adventure swirls around her in this epic fantasy tale!

Today, I’m joined by R.R. Riley! He is the author of the sci-fi novel An Average Man! Follow him on Facebook and Bookbubs! And check out his website and his books on Amazon.

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Rewriting Your Terrible First Novel by John Coon: Authors in Focus Episode 118

John Coon

Hi! Welcome to this episode of Authors in Focus Podcast. I’m James Reid, a fantasy author publishing as JMD Reid. This podcast is all about getting to know writers, their books, and what makes them tick.

We all have a storyteller inside of us. Join me as we find out what the rising stars and established voices in publishing have to say about their craft and inspiration.

My new book, Mask of Guilt (Mask of Illumination Book 1), is out!

We all wear masks. Some of us to hide our guilt. Lady Foonauri, lost in the malaise of depression, finds purpose with a group of all-women thieves, the Cracked Gems. Intrigue, romance, betrayal, and adventure swirls around her in this epic fantasy tale!

Today, I’m joined by John Coon! He is the author of the sci-fi series Alien People Chronicles! Follow him on TwitterFacebookInstagramBookbub, and LinkedIn. Check out his websitesubstack, and his books on Amazon!

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Writing Books with Your Spouse by Kelly Blanchard and Matthew Dale: Authors in Focus Episode 117

Kelly Blanchard and Matthew Dale

Hi! Welcome to this episode of Authors in Focus Podcast. I’m James Reid, a fantasy author publishing as JMD Reid. This podcast is all about getting to know writers, their books, and what makes them tick.

We all have a storyteller inside of us. Join me as we find out what the rising stars and established voices in publishing have to say about their craft and inspiration.

My new book, Mask of Guilt (Mask of Illumination Book 1), is out!

We all wear masks. Some of us to hide our guilt. Lady Foonauri, lost in the malaise of depression, finds purpose with a group of all-women thieves, the Cracked Gems. Intrigue, romance, betrayal, and adventure swirls around her in this epic fantasy tale!

Today, I’m joined by Kelly Blanchard & Matthew Dale! They are the authors of the fantasy novel, The Crown’s Secret. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and you can find more of Kelly’s book are her website!

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