Interview with Omer Golan-Joel of Stellagama Publishing
This interview originally appeared in Cepheus Journal #011, and is reprinted here and in the March/April 2023 issue with permission.
CJ: First up, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions for our readers. Could you tell us when did you first get into roleplaying games, what was your first and what was your favourite?
OG: I began with AD&D 2E, which was the primary game available in Israel in the mid1990s. I soon moved to Shadowrun when it was available, and then to Classic Traveller—I got the books08inonevolume Traveller reprint at a discount when I purchased several Shadowrun 3E sourcebooks. Nowadays I run Old School Essentials (an oldschool D&Dtype game) and Cepheus Deluxe, and I play in a Savage Worlds game. Classic Traveller was my alltime favorite since I found it, eclipsing any d20 game or Shadowrun.
CJ: Your bio says you are a freelance translator as well as an RPG publisher, how do you balance the two and what do you like to do in your downtime?
OG: If I could, I would have devoted myself fulltime to tabletop roleplaying game writing and publishing. As I still require additional income, I spend approximately 20 hours a week doing freelance translation work, and approximately 2025 hours doing my roleplaying game work. In my downtime, I spend a lot of time cooking; I also play video games, though I play them far less often nowadays than even a decade ago. My hope is that Cepheus Deluxe’s Second Printing Kickstarter will catapult my game design career far enough that I will be able to devote my entire work time to Stellagama Publishing.
CJ: How did you get into writing roleplaying games and what do you enjoy most about it? What inspiration do you draw from?
OG: I began creating fan material for Classic Traveller early in this century; I ended up publishing an official thirdparty Traveller setting, Outer Veil, under the old logo license, though Spica Publishing. Later, I founded my own company, Stellagama Publishing, to publish open-content and opensource roleplaying game material. I enjoy creating new rules for people to enjoy at the table, and, more than that, building interesting and deep settings. I draw gamedesign inspiration from the many great game designers who came before me, and sciencefiction inspiration both from older novels (such as stories by Niven and Pournelle) and from newer scifi media (such as Babylon 5 or Mass Effect).
CJ: Stellagama, how did that name come about?
OG: I am an amateur herpetologist; I love lizards with a passion, and my favorite lizard is the roughtail rock agama, Stellagama stellio, a very common lizard where I live (Israel). Its name also means “Star Agama” or “Star Lizard”, which is appropriate for a scifi game publishing company.
CJ: Stellagama has four other members on the team, Richard Hazlewood, Josh Peters, Robert L. S. Weaver and Hannah Saunders. When and how did they join Stellagama and what unique qualities do they bring?
OG: Richard Hazlewood was my founding partner in Stellagama Publishing; together we began work on our projects, most notably These Stars Are Ours!; soon after, in 2016, Josh Peters joined us in the same project, and Robert Weaver the next year, first as an indexing expert, and then as a writer. Around the same time, Hannah Saunders joined us as an illustrator, who eventually published her own products through our company. Last but not least, Ivan Cantero Muñoz joined us approximately a year ago as an expert translator into Spanish, and as a writer of sword & sorcery adventures and settings.
CJ: Stellagama was founded in 2016, what was your first product, which is your bestselling product and which product are you most proud of?
OG: Our first product was Scum and Villainy, a rogue supplement for the White Star d20based scifi RPG. Our bestselling product, which is also our joy and pride, is Cepheus Deluxe—a Mithral Best Seller on DriveThruRPG and an excellent scifi ruleset combining a classic spirit with modernized mechanics.
CJ: Stellagama has a range of settings/rules, Cepheus Light/Deluxe, The Sword of Cepheus, These Stars are Ours! and Near Space, as well as quirky titles like Cauldrons & Casseroles. Was there a plan for how these titles came out, or just an organic growth, or maybe something else?
OG: Our initial plan was to publish These Stars Are Ours!, our spaceopera setting. Other titles came organically, based on our ongoing brainstorming process, as we strive to offer a diverse and interesting selection of sciencefiction and sword-andsorcery books for our audience to enjoy.
CJ: What attracted you to the Cepheus Engine? Which of your titles was the most fun to write?
OG: I love the simplicity and straightforwardness of the 2d6 skillbased mechanics, as introduced by Traveller and propagated by Cepheus Engine. You can do almost anything you want with these rules, from the original science fiction to fantasy and even further. There are over 700 Cepheus Engine titles on DriveThruRPG right now, by a variety of authors and publishing companies, attesting to the system’s versatility and ease of use. Writing Cepheus Deluxe was a great joy—a challenge to improve on the alreadyawesome existing 2d6 Cepheus mechanics and make them more accessible to newer audiences.
CJ: What are you working on now? Any plans for future titles you would like to share with our readers?
OG: On July 1st, 2022, we will launch a Kickstarter campaign for Cepheus Deluxe Enhanced, a version of the same bestselling Cepheus Deluxe rules repackaged in much better layout and with much more fullcolor art. Alongside this campaign, we will also publish Terra Arisen, a concise and actionpacked retelling of These Stars Are Ours!, in the coming month. Beyond that—we have many plans for the future—a second edition of The Sword of Cepheus sword & sorcery rules, more adventures set in the Terra Arisen universe—and more!
CJ: Besides DriveThruRPG, what other avenues are available for purchasing your books? Any other web presences (blogs, Facebook, etc.) you’d like to promote for Stellagama?
OG: Some of our books are available in print from Lulu and from
Amazon. We also have a semiofficial blog (my own personal blog) and a
CJ: Do you, or Stellagama, ever make it to any conventions, at least before Covid? Do you get to interact much with fans?
OG: We had no official convention presence so far, but we intend to use the newlyavailable postpandemic freedom to make ourselves available for various conventions in the future.
CJ: One final question, your bio says you have two pet cats as well as an entourage of house geckos. Given that the Stellagama logo is a gecko, which would you say is your favourite pet?
OG: My favorite pet is Saki, my old cat, who has turned 15 this year. The geckos and agamas are wild animals living in our home and backyard… My other cat, Chicha, passed away in 2021.
CJ – Again, thank you for your time, Omer.