It’s a Tuesday evening in Bristol and author David J Rodgers is in the King William pub on King Street playing Yellow Dawn, a Role Playing Game he invented.
On April 16, he will be in another cafe/bar, Brigstowe on the harbourside, launching his new book, Oakfield, which took 25 years to write but is the ninth in a series about his game. It’s not all a life of pubs and games, however, as the rule book for his game is part of a publishing deal with Mophidius which will see him spending the next six months rewriting before publication in 2016. He is also setting aside some time to work with a US screenwriter who wants to turn the game into a movie.
Before that though, he is happy to talk about all things novel, game and screenwriting. Yellow Dawn – the game, the book event and the setting – takes place in the near future.
“The majority of my novels occupy a similar time period but this is cut short by the apocalyptic event known as Yellow Dawn,” he tells Bristol24/7. “Yellow Dawn acts as a dividing line and any book set after it can be considered post-apocalyptic in nature. They still occupy the same universe, but readers can see it warped through a different lens.”
There are six novels before the big event, with Oakfield at the beginning of it all, and three afterwards. “My first novel God Seed starts in Bristol, before plunging into New Tokyo (a corporate city that bought Florida from a bankrupt America) and then Egypt and beyond into Space.
Living in Flames is set entirely in Bristol, focussed on St Nicholas Market, drug dealers, criminal gangs and a monstrous Great Old One (sort of a god) dormant in the tunnels beneath our streets, with a cult of flesh-eaters determined to wake it up.
Bristol is in the Yellow Dawn rule book as one of the rare Living Cities but with no specific description. It does mean it has survived the apocalypse and survivors are keeping things running here.”
So Yellow Dawn is an apocalyptic setting, as well as a roleplaying game. If you’re’ not familiar with how RPG games work, Rodgers points out that Yellow Dawn is a massively complicated game which consists of a rulebook and comes to life when people start enacting it.
“There is an RPG community in Bristol but I play the game with a bunch of hand-picked players, some of which have been on this journey with me for 20 years, others come and go.”
The main crew, from left to right: Hagen Landsem, Tony Jordan, Chris Halliday, Kelvin Wright and David Rodgers sitting down in the middle.
Here, Chris Halliday and Hagen Landsem, two of the original Yellow Dawn play-testers are being told that their characters are caught between a rock and hard place:
The team have just raided a small compound being used by bandits with the intention of rescuing a young boy who has been kidnapped. If they fail to rescue the boy then the local crime boss will want them dead. But the bandits are below ground, using an old tunnel network as a base. It’s going to be a tough job to complete.
“The movie thing came out of the left field. A screenwriter from US contacted me saying he thought the world of Yellow Dawn, the books, game, and setting, would make a great movie. So he and I have had several video calls. We’ve fleshed out a story idea; he’s working on a treatment and will be writing the script this summer.
We’re going to delay pitching to studios until I finish the bit of work I’m doing now.”
The launch of Oakfield takes place on Thursday 16 April 16 at 7pm at Brigstow Lounge (opposite the ss Great Britain)