Indie Interview — Leonard Balsera of Evil Hat

Indie Interview — Leonard Balsera of Evil Hat

Published: June 8, 2015 9:00 AM /


indie interview leonard balsara

Leonard Balsera is one of the numerous people at Evil Hat, where he has worn the hat of Lead System Developer for the Dresden Files RPG, Fate Core, and The Paranet Papers. He’s been a part of Evil Hat since 2002 when he was on the Yahoo Group where he commented often on the first edition of Fate. After a while of talking with the heads of Evil Hat on AOL Messenger, he was eventually challenged to write with them and took it up, working through various projects that Evil Hat has done since then.

With the Paranet Papers just out, I was lucky to have the chance to talk with him about the Dresden Files RPG, Fate in general and the Paranet Papers.

Leonard’s hand can be most seen in the Las Vegas chapter as well as the mechanics chapter in the Paranet Papers. He lived in Las Vegas for a while, and so he channelled his experiences living in the glamorous city into the writing. He felt that his time there brought a unique prospective to the city that was built closest to the traditional city creation introduced in The Dresden Files.

Far more than many, Las Vegas is more of a pessimistic setting with a lot of people who are dark and grimy. When talking about it, Leonard shared a story about his first draft that he sent in of the chapter:

“My editor Amanda Valentine tells a story about the first time I submitted her a draft for that chapter, and she sent it back to me with no notes inside the body of the chapter and just gave me high level notes in an email. And the notes in the email were basically like ‘okay, Lenny I would like you to take a pass again at this entire chapter, and this time, I would like it to feel more like a game supplement and less like therapy. And also on a personal note I feel like I have way too much insight into your current life and as your friend I recommend you move as quickly as you can.”

While Las Vegas is no longer that dark, as we discussed, it’s definitely a dark chapter full of broken characters and lone operators. It isn’t a pretty place and it’s built for faction-based conflicts to occur, with the characters arriving and able to tip things over. When discussing that, Leonard revealed a bit of his personal GMing philosophy when wanting to scare his players, “If you really want to install the fear of god into your players, don’t try to install in them the fear of failure, install in them the fear of success.”

In that chapter there was of course one line that stood out to everyone, "the Demon’s bargain with the Dragon has somehow prevented the unseelie accords from being binding in this valley." After saying that it was intentionally tossed into be somewhat confusing and that it’s up to the Game Master to decide what it means for his game, he said it was the supernatural and magical way of evoking "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."

We talked about a lot more in the over hour and a half we spoke on topics like Fate Core, Dresden Files Accelerated, other parts of Las Vegas and the new thaumaturgy mechanics in the book. You can listen below for the full details, though be warned, spoilers for Ghost Story come in about a half hour in – so if you haven’t read the series and don’t want any spoilers, this might not be for you. Please note it is all audio, so you'll only get to listen to us!

If you want to learn more about The Paranet Papers you can read our review, and it is available for purchase now on Evil Hat's website, or on Drive Through RPG for $20 in PDF form or $49.99 for book and pdf (via Evil Hat).

Have a tip, or want to point out something we missed? Leave a Comment or e-mail us at

Don Parsons
| Senior Writer

A longtime lover of speculative fiction, in almost all its forms, Don joined TechRaptor in 2014 on a whim sending in an application as he was looking for… More about Don