An Interview with Jamie Chambers

Copyright Lisa Brandel © 2008

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion

In a throng of Utilikilt clad men, costumed women and gents, and gaming people from all lifestyles, at Dragon Con 07 in Atlanta Georgia. The MWP LTD. booth was swarming with fans of Ms. Weis, who were gobbling up signed books, comics, and basking in the glow of a preview of the coming movie, Dragons of Autumn Twilight. (Due to be released December 18th). In the midst of the crowd and buzz, Jamie Chambers-Vice President of Margaret Weis Productions, sat down with me and answered a few questions about himself and his role at MWP.

LB: Jamie, tell me how long have you been with MWP?

JC: I started volunteering with Margret at her original company Sovereign Press back in 1988, so close to ten years. I started running the Sovereign stone website, and got involved in adventure writing and I wrote a portion of the original Sovereign stone book. Then, in 2001, Margret invited me to move to Lake Geneva Wisconsin, to work for her full time as an editor, writer, and game designer. Over the years it just evolved, my role has grown, and now I run day-to-day operations for her, for her new company Margaret Weis Productions. We kind of put Sovereign press in a state of semi-retirement for right now. Since we have done that, we published the Dragonlance D20 game system books, we just premiered Battlestar Galactica, and we are about do Supernatural, based on that television show.

LB: Wow that is a lot going on! What kind of development do you personally do?

JC: Well, I designed the game system that all of our new RPGS are going to be coming with. We originally designed it for the Serenity game; it is called the Cortex system. Which is a more story and character focused RPG. It is quicker and easier to play; it is less focused on rules. I designed that. I am the project lead on all of our major licensed properties, Serenity, Battlestar Galactica, and of course Supernatural. And I was the original lead for Dragonlance, even though that's under the management of Cam Banks, who is working while the rest of us are out here playing at Dragon Con.

LB: What other major projects do you see coming down the road? Can you talk about anything you might be bidding on for the future?

JC: Well I can say that Margaret REALLY love the TV show Heroes, and I'll leave it at that.

LB: I had the great fortune of talking to Nichell Nichols this morning, and I can tell you she signed on for Heroes too. So I'm sure it is going to be pretty amazing. Tell me Jamie, what's it like working with one of the icons of the role-playing world?

JC: It's amazing! Margaret has actually been my favorite author since I was ten years old. So, not many people are lucky enough to even get to know their idols-per say- but I get the chance to work with her personally, and be a part of the worlds she created. It is fantastic, and it's really fun. Not only have I gotten to be in the sidelines as she is writing her new books, but over the years we've got to do a lot of tie in properties that I've got to be involved. Starting with Sovereign Stone, back in the late 90's, got to be involved with the Dragon world doing a game source book for that. Now Margaret and Tracy (Hickman) are doing a series called Dragon ships of the Midress, which is sort of an epic Viking themed fantasy. That's going to start next year and we're going to be doing game tie in products for that. Really expanding that world, it is going to take three or four years for all six books of that to conclude.

LB: You do a lot of writing, do you that you'll ever hit a solo novel yourself.

JC: Actually, I was originally going to be writing a Dragonlance novel, though that deal fell through. I have done a lot of short work, and I have a great agent, if I can just manage to get something done, I'll be able to get a solo novel out there.

LB: Do you think MWP is going to give TSR a challenge, one that I think it needs to get back to what gamers want. Maybe push it out of the way?

JC: I don't know of anybody that is going to be able knock Dungeons and Dragons out of the top spot of role-playing, and I don't know that that is our roll. What we are trying to do, is try to find the niche for the gamers who want to do things a little different. I really like D&D, I even like D&D third addition quiet a bit, but it's very focused on miniatures and combat, and obsessing over the numbers on your character sheet. Where as we really like to make games, where the numbers fade to the background. It's not to say that the rules aren't important at all, but good story telling is pushed to the forefront. My boss is an amazing storyteller, so we wanted to have a game system, and the ways you play game be more like that. Not just simulation style game, which is just not out style.

LB: Here is a typical fan-girl question for you; Do you guys game in the office?

JC: Not as much as we'd like, we do sometimes. Lately we've been doing a lot more board and card gaming, because that is an easy pick up. We do have three of us getting ready to start an RPG game. Not just our own stuff, right now Cam Banks our managing editor is going to run White Wolf Scion, except he is going to tie it to the Chronicles of Amber. It sounds really really cool; I can't wait to play that. I'm going to run a modern horror role-playing game. Digger, is going to be doing some sci-fi stuff, so yes we love to game. In the summer, it's hard for us to get to play RPGS, because we are so busy, but maybe in the fall or winter we'll get time.

LB: Do you ever con Margaret into gaming with you?

JC: Absolutely, Margaret likes to play. I'm she is really busy and it has been a long time since we've all been able to get together, but what would probably surprise a lot of fans is that Margaret actually likes playing warriors and thugs. She likes to play the character that likes to shoot first or kick in the door, and ask questions later. In the years I've gamed with her, I can remember her playing a barbarian warrior; I've seen her play a cold-blooded mercenary, and black knight type characters. It's a little bit different from what you'd expect.

LB: Giving us, just a few final words, Jamie, where do you personally see your career in the gaming industry going?

JC: Um, I want to continue to do what I'm doing. Create original properties, do really excellent licenses I love. Taking worlds and characters that I know and love and being able to dive in and translate that into a game. We have more card game ideas; I'd love to just grow what we are doing. I mean Margaret Weis productions, produces RPG's, card and board games, and fiction, doing reprints of older Margaret and Tracey's work, I'd like to see us get to the point where we are doing original sci-fi and fantasy book, helping new authors get in, or other authors who haven't been able to sell their ideas at other places. At the same time, I'd like to make my own writing career too. Margaret is my hero; I want to be like her…when and if I ever grow up.

LB: Has she grown up yet?

JC: To a point, but she is still a lot of fun.

LB: Thank you Jamie for your time, and I wish you and your company the best for the future.