We are happy to anounce the Guests of Honor for Ropecon 2024!

Please find below the interviews of the Guests of Honor Sharang Biswas and Alessandro Giovannucci for Ropecon 2024.

Sharang Biswas

One of our Guests of honor in 2024 Ropecon is Sharang Biswas, a game designer, writer and professor based in New York.  Ropecon asked him a few questions!

What is your ”elevator pitch intro” ?

“Lol, I always feel awkward doing this! 

I’m a game designer, writer, interactive artist, and professor, and a lot of my work is focussed on queerness & sex! I think cold chocolate milk is the zenith of the Anthropocene, and no other human innovation can compare to its lacto-cacao goodness. I get upset when elderly people get hurt in the media!”

What inspired you to become a game designer and how did you get started in the industry?

“In primary school, I used to make little roleplaying games to play with my friends on the bus to school and back. They were terrible, incredibly biased games, but that was my start with RPGs! As an undergrad, I took an introductory course on Game Design taught by Mary Flanagan…I guess the rest is history?

I took another game design course by Greg Trefry in grad school, and then worked with my friends Max Seidman and Yeonsoo Kim on a number of different game projects. I’m mentioning these names to give credit where credit is due, because many of my successes are thanks to my collaborators!”

Which games or game worlds have you found particularly inspiring, and have they influenced your work?

“I think some of the design elements in Epidiah Ravachol’s SWORDS WITHOUT MASTER—where players work directly with literary devices such as tone and visual motifs—is quite brilliant, and I’ve recently been thinking about that in some of my work.

John Harper’s BLADES IN THE DARK includes some gorgeous worldbuilding—haunted Duskwall is a marvelous place for stories—and some terrific mechanics that make you feel like a competent, clever rogue. The way he translates the feel of the characters directly to the players is something I strive for.

Monte Cook and his team’s NUMENERA captured my imagination a long time ago. The science-fantasy of it, the way the game instructs GMs to keep it weird, that has influenced my GMing, writing, and game design!”

What do you enjoy most about attending gaming conventions, and what are you looking forward to at Ropecon this year?

“I really enjoy playing new or unfamiliar games with new people, and forming bonds over the gaming table. Since most of my gaming conventions are in the US, I’m excited to discover a whole new swathe of gamers in Helsinki! 

Also, this might sound…narcissistic, but I really enjoy giving talks? It’s exciting for me!”

 What advice would you give to aspiring game designers who are just starting out? 

“I think working with a partner is a marvelous thing: you get to cross-cultivate ideas, use each others skill sets, and hold each other accountable! Most of my most successful projects have been team projects!” 

Can you share any details about any upcoming projects you’re currently working on? 

“Well, my biggest thing, which is not strictly about gaming, though it’s gaming adjacent, is my book coming out next year from Neon Hemlock Press called THE IRON BELOW REMEMBERS. It’s about an archeologist who discovers a giant, ancient mech from the Indian subcontinent buried in the dirt, and hopes that the find will make him more famous than his boyfriend—who happens to be a superhero.

I’m also the lead designer on a new TTRPG commissioned by the National Academy of Sciences here in the states, about kids discovering portals to the fae realm in their eccentric boarding school. It’s inspired by classic children’s stories by authors such as CS Lewis and E. Nesbitt, and features mechanics that ask the players to go make observations in the real world!

Finally, I’m on the roster for a number of smaller projects. Keep an eye out on Hitpoint Press, for example, and their next Humblewood book, as well as Thorny Games companion book to their game XENOLANGUAGE!”

In addition to tabletop games, what other hobbies or interests do you have, and do they influence your creative work?

“I’m a pretty avid cook, and I’ve definitely made a few games about food (and have plans for more!). I’m decently involved in the bondage & kink scene, and if you’ve followed my work in the past, particularly HONEY & HOT WAX, you know that sexual expression shows up in my artistic practice a lot! I joined a gay triathlon team three years ago, and while I’m still only on swimming & running, I’ll hopefully graduate to biking and full triathlons soon! I can’t say that’s directly shown up in my designs yet…but we’ll see!”

Our theme this year is ”Monsters”. What are your favorite monsters in games, and why? What makes a monster?

“Hah, I’m planning a whole talk on monsters for Ropecon itself, so I won’t go into “what is a monster” here (lol, I do have a poem on that very question published by Strange Horizons magazine, so you can read some of my thoughts there!). 

My favourite monsters are the ones that are either wholly new, or add a twist to classic ideas. Angels in Rowan, Rook & Decard’s SPIRE and HEART, for example,  have marry some classic ideas with some bizarre, horrific new elements. Many of the monsters in the supplements to Michael Sands’ MONSTER OF THE WEEK are weird entities that players have to puzzle out, perfect for a mystery-solving game!”

Finally, if you could give one piece of inspiring advice to us gamers everywhere, what would it be? 

“I heard this from a game designer I really admire, Naomi Clark, the current chair of the NYU Game Centre. I was lamenting about how useless I feel when the world seems to be in such dire circumstances and how fascism seems to be taking over. She looked at me and said, “Sharang, during fascism is when people need the arts the most.” So just a reminder that all the work we do as game designers, as artists, it’s all important!”


To find our more about Sharang, check out his site at https://sharangbiswas.myportfolio.com/

Alessandro Giovannucci

One of our Guests of honor in 2024 Ropecon is Alessandro Giovannucci, an Italian larp and narrative designer and founder of Chaos League. Ropecon asked him a few questions!

What is your elevator pitch?

“I am a larp designer and lecturer, but most importantly a playful all-around person. I felt in love with role playing games since my first year on this planet, and I am still amazed by the power of living stories in other worlds. I co-founded the larp collective Chaos League and wrote some renowned international larp (Sahara Expedition, The Secrets we Keep, Miskatonic University, Eclipse). Writing and thinking about game theory is also one of my big passions. Role play can be a very powerful tool for social and political change. I am curious, kind and proudly anti fascist.”

What inspired you to become a larp designer/producer? How did you get started in the industry?

“What always inspired me in games, and in role-playing games in particular was the fact that they were a kind of separate ”society” with its own rules, its own imagery, and a different way of being together. I started it because it allowed me to do this with people I liked. Then gradually this went on and evolved with me, accompanying all phases of my life. Having started as a kid it was a natural thing, and it changed as I changed. Then at some point you look back and you see all the things you’ve done, the projects, the collaborations, the thousands of people you’ve played with, and you realize it’s really a lot. Then over the years you refine your skills and organization. But the drive of the first few days remains unchanged for me, without that enthusiasm you can’t get far.”

Which games or game worlds have you found particularly inspiring, and have they influenced your work?

“Inspiration can come from many different sources. In my case, games that left room for imagination and participatory storytelling were crucial. The love for design and rules came later, the first push was the free and unbridled imagination. I liked that they were collaborative games and that they created a world that was ”real” to those who played it. I loved role-playing games, larp, gamebooks, mystery-solving games, campfire stories.”

What do you enjoy most about attending gaming conventions, and what are you looking forward to at Ropecon this year?

“For me, conventions are crucial. I come from a small town, and I remember it was hard to find people who shared the same passion. I still remember my first convention, the long talks, the gaming sessions with strangers, the idea of not being the only one who loved this world. I attend conventions whenever I can because dialogue is the key to everything, the way we improve ourselves and others. I have often heard about Ropecon. The thing I look forward to most is connecting with the local community. Getting to know the mentality, the games, the culture. I think I will learn a lot, and I am really looking forward to it.”

What advice would you give to aspiring larp creators who are just starting out? 

“Don’t focus on immediately trying to make a larp that will attract a large audience, don’t settle for what works for sure, or what you have seen good at other events. Find your way, find your voice, what makes you unique and what excites you. Conforming to others makes the scene flat and the authors all look alike. Authors who are brave and ready to experiment attract an interesting audience. And that is where the magic of larp comes from: from aligning intentions and venturing into unknown paths, trusting each other.”

Can you share any details about any upcoming projects you’re currently working on? 

“We are working on several projects. One of them is Eclipse – A  New Home, our next big production inspired by the classics of the Sci-Fi Drama genre. The location in Poland is just amazing. It’s a planetary space base reconstructed to the smallest detail. The larp is a story about humanity and its limits, about differences among people, about hope, love and fears. Participants will take the role of members of the Eclipse 7 mission. It can be a scout or an exobiologist, a diplomat or a communicator, a scientist or a soldier engaged in a quest on which the fate of humanity will depend. It is the story of a group of explorers who will have a singular encounter that will change them forever and confront them with their fears, hopes and contradictions.”

In addition to larp, what other hobbies or interests do you have, and do they influence your creative work?

“I cultivate several, and I think they all contribute in their own way. I choose two to answer briefly: music and sports. From music comes reflection, getting lost in virtual worlds and looking at reality with other eyes. Music in the end is a form of participatory storytelling, where everyone creates or interprets the content and form we give to the sounds. From sports I get the dynamism, the desire to be with others and the reflection raises group dynamics, about moving together following certain logics sometimes alternative to those of everyday life. That’s what playing means to me, in a nutshell. Having a different look at the world, and doing it together with others.”

Our theme this year is ”Monsters”. What are your favorite monsters in games, and why? What makes a monster? 

“Probably ghosts and spirits. I love the fact that they are half and half between two worlds. In addition,  dealing with them forces you to use other ways of action and have another mindset, what you normally do with them doesn’t work. I also love the fact that they have a story and a reason that imprisons them and often meeting them means discovering it, listening to them and valuing them. I like that they are a continuous relationship between us and the others.”

Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to us gamers everywhere, what would it be?                

“Be curious. Try new games, meet new people. Playing increases empathy, understanding of the world and others. Ask, inquire, make connections and share moments. Probably the best experiences are those outside our comfort zones. That is why being open and curious is perhaps the best thing a gamer can do. If I can’t play, it’s not my revolution.” 

To find our more on larps, check out https://chaosleague.org/eclipse-larp-en/