Since its inception in the 70s Dungeons and Dragons has moved from cult status to mainstream, with a wide player base stretching from film stars to porn stars. Stefan Pokorny has been playing D&D since the 80s, and has created a company based on making terrain for the game table. Although known in gaming circles his company, Dwarven Forge, rose to prominence when its first Kickstarter in 2013 raised a staggering $2 million (with his following four Kickstarters equalling or surpassing that mark). Since then Pokorny has been the subject of a documentary (The Dwarvenaut) and is bringing his own unique style of dungeon-mastering to Blazing Swan, the inclusive celebration of art, music and culture that runs from March 28 to April 3 in Kulin, WA. DAVID O’CONNELL spoke to the master of the Dwarven Forge himself, to talk about Blazing Swan and D&D.
What attracted you to Dungeons and Dragons initially?
My parents took me travelling around the world shortly after adopting me at 2-1/2 years old, and that woke up the “sleeper” inside me at an early age… D&D was a great outlet for imagination and creativity…making your in world had an immediate appeal to me.
How do you end up making a living out of it?
I took a chance at a dream.
Did you actually spend hours arguing that “Dwarven” was a legitimate word when you went to register your business name?
Yes it’s true. (Fortunately one of the other clerks had actually read some Tolkien, and came in on Stefan’s side –DOC)
What brings you to WA?
Kristin of the Church Of Belligerence contacted me about maybe sponsoring them at Blazing Swan, and the more I learned and talked to him about it I decided I just had to see this fantastical magical part of the world! Once I expressed my interest in going, Kristan and his crew went into overdrive to convince me and my girl that they would take good care are of us. They really made us feel comfortable about staying with them (people I had never met in a land I had never been to) The trip is long. But not as long as some voyages used to be.
What is it about Blazing Swan that made it worth the long flight?
Oh, I guess I answered that already….but, I might add, that Church looked pretty kewl too!
What will you be doing at Blazing Swan?
I’m running a D&D game, giving a talk about DMing, and hosting a viewing of The Dwarvenaut, a film by Josh Bishop (about me).
Any event that you want to catch there?
We just want to sleep.
Is there something about the philosophy of Burning Man that appeals to you?
I’ve been to BM in Nevada 7-8 times every other year or so…and it’s the feeling of being free to be whatever you want to be that appeals to me…artistic happenings, no judgements, friendliness, community, sharing, almost a utopia, sort of like going back to nature or a more simple time…
In an age of computer games what does D&D have to offer?
We have been born during a very special time. A dangerous time. We must fight to stay free and work to retain our humanity. Soon the age of technology will come for our very souls and our bodies and minds…D&D, and the sharing of stories, being together, laughing, breaking bread, maybe even drinking, smoking, touching, just being in the same room together for hours as humans is maybe our last defense against the end of humanity as we know it. Any group activity (not over tech) is a great rampart against WWTech.
Your wares have a distinctive crafted style about them. Are you always going to clay model to create a mould, or will you shift to computer aided design and 3D printing?
We already DO use a little bit of 3-D printing and computer to create some round towers (and make sure they are perfectly round and can connect)…but it is like playing with Fire. You must control it. It must not control you. I personally don’t use those methods, I prefer to sculpt free hand in plastiline and press actual rocks into the material to make textures…I love nature. We must never forget her, or think we are above her.
What’s next for Dwarven Forge?
This is a special year for Dwarven Forge. Not only are we doing a Kickstarter for Terrain, but I’m also releasing my home brew world of Mythras and City of Valoria to the gaming world with the help of Elye Alexander, who writes and edits beautifully…(and also is one of our top sculptors,btw)
Oh, and, also a small Kickstarter for miniatures, maybe 30 figures…so 3 kickstarters will come out this year! And a T-shirt! It’s all a little overwhelming. But I have a great team, it’s no longer mostly me, it’s a whole crew of like minded inspired artists doing something they love.