Interview: Rob Hobart

I first met Rob Hobart in the mid-90s when I was often going to gaming conventions. He was one of the best DMs around working with Living City and the RPGA.

He, along with Parvez Yusufji, gave me one of my favorite role-playing experiences ever. At a Weekend In Raven’s Bluff I hosted in Wichita mumblety years ago, they DMed a Cthulhu scenario using two parties of six, one on a boat, the other on a submarine, with each group only communicating by walkie-talkie.

We all died, of course. Cthulhu is like that. But man, that was fun.

What is your quest?

After many years working in the RPG hobby and industry, primarily for Call of Cthulhu and Legend of the Five Rings, I’ve decided to move on to writing fiction – which is actually what I intended to do back in my college days, before I got distracted by those pesky games. J I’ve recently self-published my novel The Sword of Amatsu, the first volume of an epic fantasy set in a samurai-themed world.

What is your favorite color?

I’ve always had a taste for adventure stories – whether fantasy, sci-fi, thrillers, or otherwise – that have more serious and sometimes tragic themes. This probably goes back to my lifetime interest in history, especially military history. Even in gaming, the RPGs I was drawn to most strongly were the ones rooted in history and that took danger, death, and Evil seriously.

On the other hand, I reject nihilism, and I don’t care much for the “subvert for the sake of subversion” trend that I see in a lot of recent storytelling, fantasy and otherwise. I write stories that incorporate tragedy and suffering, but that nonetheless seek to evoke heroism and virtue. Both of the five-year organized-play campaigns I created for Legend of the Five Rings were built around this duality of tragedy and heroism, and I am trying to do the same thing in my fiction.

Rob Hobart
Rob Hobart

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

For me, actually getting started writing is always the hardest part. I can tell stories in my head all day long, but forcing myself to just sit down and write them is often incredibly hard. During my time working on Legend of the Five Rings, it was usually the hard reality of deadlines that forced me to overcome this obstacle and actually get work done. As a self-published writer I still wrestle with this challenge, and have developed a variety of tricks – such as posting word-count updates on my FaceBook page – to try to create a sense of obligation that will keep me from procrastinating into oblivion.

In my early days of writing, during and right after college, my other big challenge was in writing characters who were markedly different from myself, especially female characters – like many young men of a nerdly persuasion, I was hapless at dating. I actually wrote two entire novels then which were unpublishable (though proving to myself that I could write entire novels was valuable) and the flat, shallow depictions of women and relationships in those books makes me cringe now. This weakness was partially solved by sheer practice, and partly by marrying and having a daughter.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I think my strength, when I’m writing at my best, is found in evoking a strong emotional response from the audience. The second Legend of the Five Rings organized play campaign I ran ended with a room of a hundred people crying and cheering, which was exactly the result I was hoping for. So far, if reader feedback is to be believed, I think I’ve managed to do the same with my fiction.

One of my touchstones in this regard is actually drawn from the (in)famous anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. That story as a whole was – at least in my view – a hideous evocation of cruelty, nihilism, and despair. But the “Asuka awakens” sequence in the final Evangelion movie, in which she regains her mojo, connects to her long-lost mother, and annihilates the invaders – all to the accompaniment of glorious, triumphant music – is a brief divergence into a different and infinitely better movie, one in which heroism and virtue would have redeemed the whole series. A lot of what I’ve written over the last fifteen years has been an attempt to create a story like the one that scene should have belonged to, and to evoke the emotional response that scene creates in first-time viewers.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? – The Skeksis
  • Crunchy or Creamy? – Creamy. (This question better be about peanut-butter…)
  • Favorite Sports Team? – St Louis Cardinals
  • Cake or Pie? — Pie
  • Lime or Lemon? — Lime
  • Favorite Chip Dip? – Queso
  • Wet or Dry? – Um…
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? – Two Steps From Hell
  • Whisky or Whiskey? – Yuck!
  • Favorite Superhero? – The Punisher
  • Steak Temperature? – Medium
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? – None. They were all terrible.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? – Spring
  • Favorite Pet? – Sweety, a mixed-breed dog I got when I was 9 years old.
  • Best Game Ever? – Legend of the Five Rings, of course!
  • Coffee or Tea? – Coffee
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? – Probably Fantasy, although I enjoy both

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

Biographical info:

Rob Hobart is a lifelong fan of fantasy, science-fiction, Japanese pop culture, role-playing games, and military history. He worked for eight years in the role-playing game industry, serving as line editor, co-designer, and eventual Lead Design of Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition. He lives in rural Missouri with his wife and daughter.

He may, or may not, also be the immortal 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire.

Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here:

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