Interview With a 9th Level Kobold


While we get our Interview section in order, we figured we'd give you a taste of things to come via an exclusive interview with 9th Level Games, the guys behind Kobolds Ate My Baby and the forthcoming Ninja Burger role-playing game. So what do kobolds taste like? Chicken, of course.

9th Level Games started out as an attempt to make and market a Fantasy RPG that would compete with D&D. The market had gotten really saturated with non-fantasy games, and players were chomping at the bit for a quick and easy fantasy system, that was really scalable. At Origins 1999, 9th Level Games demo'ed a FRPG product called "Adventure! The W¸rlde of Kroson" with a free give-away game called "In the Company of Rats". About 50 people played that game and loved it, and they were flying high when it was announced that D&D 3rd Edition was coming in at GENCON 2000. While drowning their sorrows in Martini's and Guinness Stout, they got into a bragging match with another game company. The other group was complaining that 9th Level Games was able to get 50 people to play a game that no one ever heard about. In their drunkenness, they made a bet that they could make a game for GENCON that year (less than 1 month away) that would have people lining up to play. The result was a mad scramble to put together "Kobolds Ate My Baby!"

GG: Explain the whole "Kobolds Ate My Baby" thing for those who don't get it.

9LG: KAMB started out being a joke about D&D. What it became was one of the most fun ways to kill (pardon the pun) a few hours. Every D&D game seems to have Kobolds that the villagers are all afraid off, yet Kobolds are the weakest thing in the game. Housecats can kill Kobolds! So why does everyone fear them - because they steal babies! Why do kobolds attack humans, because they have no fear! It all makes for a great break from serious role-playing.

GG: Who's tougher, 9th Level kobolds or D&D kobolds?

9LG: 9th Level Kobolds are much tougher. If you hit a D&D kobold it dies, but if you hit a 9LG kobold it still dies, but there is a chance that it explodes taking you with it, or a cow could fall out of the sky and land on your party. Plus, 9th Level Kobolds are cute and cuddly - 3rd edition D&D kobolds apparently speak Dragon and are scaly.

GG: What do you think of D&D3e and the d20/Open Gaming movement?

9LG: Personally, we all think it's a great thing. We don't play any d20 games, but its good to see the industry stirred up about it. Hopefully, Open Gaming will bring a lot more people into the hobby. The d20 Engine isn't going to take over all gaming, people are still going to want to play by rules other than D&D.

GG: How many people make up 9th Level Games? What do y'all do for a living?

9LG: Well, 9th Level Games started out as Chris O'Neill and Dan Landis, two high school friends from suburban Philadelphia. Chris is an MBA and a Business Development Manager. Dan is a Software Quality Assurance specialist at a giant pharmaceutical company. In addition to Chris and Dan, our good chums Chris "Ensign" Davis and Matt Hicks fill out the design and product team. Chris and Matt work for a giant German software company.

GG: What's it take to run a game publishing company?

9LG: Instructions on Running a Game Company

Ingredients: 2-4 Literate Geeks 1 Kitchen Table 1 Room of old Game Books and other Material 10-20 lbs. of assorted dice 2-4 Copies of Quark XPress, Adobe Photoshop, and Word 2000 Beer to Taste

Directions: Have life stop geeks from playing games. Confine geeks at kitchen table. Have geeks brainstorm until creativity comes to a boil. Stir in dice and computer programs. Continue dousing with beer if creativity does not rise to the top. Skim away good ideas. Repeat.

GG: What's on the agenda for the upcoming year?

9LG: This year 9th Level Games has a lot of great stuff planned. Our big change this year is the introduction of the BEER ENGINE Role-Playing Game System that will be the core rules for a number of new games. The first Beer Engine release we have planned is NINJA BURGER(tm) The Game coming out in Late April/Early May. This knee-slapper of a game is based on the hysterically funny website (If you haven't seen the website, go to it right now!) In the game, you take on the role of ninja employees at a fast-food franchise and try to deliver food in hostile conditions. Another Beer Engine game is WARHAMSTER, which is being produced by John Kovalic and Dork Storm Press. We wrote a short Beer-Engine compatible game for Dork Tower #12, and we are expanding on those rules for the upcoming stand-alone game that also features the work of John Wick and Ken Hite.

In Kobold news, we have KAMB Third Edition coming out at Origins this year. KAMB3E is the new flagship product at 9th Level Games. KAMB3E is really funny, and uses a much tighter set of rules. To back-up Third Edition we will have "conversion rules" on the web for all of our current products, and will be releasing a number of 3E supplements, including FARMAGEDDON, an adventure featuring VOR and the Chickens of the Apocalypse. Also this year, we will start the LIVING CAVES series with The Kobold Midnight Massacre, a set of adventures that can be played as a tournament or as a campaign. Later in the year we will release Living Caves 2 (which will be played at Origins and GENCON), again playable as a Tournament or as a campaign, where the Kobolds are up against Tabriz in a race to collect the most pages of the dread Codex of the Arch Warlock. LC2 will come with at least 50 new spells for all Beer Engine Games.

GG: Can you give a brief description of the Beer Engine, and how it works say, in comparison to the d20 engine used by D&D 3rd Edition?

9LG: BEER ENGINE was built on a simple idea. Make it simple. It's a D6 based game system that goes something like this: "Every time you want to do something you roll some six-siders are try to get under one of your four stats (Brawn, Ego, Extraneous, Reflexes). The harder the action, the more dice you roll." That's pretty much it.

Unlike d20, you don't need to read a lot of rules, or have a degree in mathematics, to play with the Beer Engine. Each Beer Engine game uses the same basic rules for skills, combat, and magick and has a unique HOUSE RULES section, which has the game-specific rules for that particular game. We promise that you can learn to play any BEER ENGINE game in less than 15 minutes (unless you have a serious short-term memory loss problem, sorry!)

GG: Who would you want to play you in the Kobolds Ate My Baby movie?

9LG: The KAMB MOVIE would feature Christopher Walken as Tabriz, and a host of puppets. Drew Carey would play Chris O'Neill and Christian Slater would play Dan Landis.

GG: You're surrounded by 150 kobolds. You have initiative. They have hungry smiles. What do you do? What do you do?

9LG: It depends on how many fireballs I have memorized.

GG: Any final cheap plugs?

9LG: 9th Level Games will be attending Origins and GENCON 2001. Check us out at our Booth at ORIGINS (near Kenzer and WOTC). Last year's Kobold Midnight Massacre was a huge success, and we're hoping for close to 100 people all playing Kobolds at once this year! Don't miss the unveiling of KAMB3E.

Visit the 9th Level Games website at

Ninja Burger: The RPG is available online now at