It's been an exciting day, and we're now officially in the final 24 hours of the campaign!
We have one more interview for you today, and the final interview and Fifth Season preview article planned for tomorrow. Let's see if we can unlock that Digital Map Pack by morning!
Getting to Know: Hiromi Cota (they/them)
Can you tell folks a little about yourself?
I’m a bit of everything in just about every possible sense.
In the analog gaming world: I’m a writer, developer, and cultural consultant. I’m also a queer fiction writer, developmental editor, GM, streamer, video game programmer, actor, actor-combatant, video & audio editor — whatever the story I’m telling (or helping tell) needs.
On a more personal side: I’m Indigenous Okinawan & Yaeyaman (two of the native peoples of the Ryukyu Islands), Mexican, and Swedish American. I’m an ADHDer and disabled combat veteran. I’m queer, trans, non-binary, autistic, and probably a few other things my brain’s decided to leave out.
What did you do for the Fifth Season Roleplaying Game?
I wrote a little over half of the Quickstart — mostly setting material, the handouts, and the adventure itself. I also developed the Quickstart, interweaving my text with Steve Kenson’s fantastic mechanical and setting work. For the core book, I was one of the developers alongside Tanya DePass and Joe Carriker, coordinating the writers, smoothing the seams between writers’ drafts, and filling in details as needed.
Approach to Writing
What got you started writing?
I got started pretty early — no later than 9. I remember reading tons and tons of sci-fi, fantasy, game manuals, comics, etc. and deciding that I wanted to make my own. A lot of my early stuff was essentially fan-fiction. At some point, I won a *very* minor award and decided that I should keep writing. Getting to where I am now has been super weird, but it all connects together in hindsight.
What kinds of things do you like writing? (In general, not necessarily games)
Queer genre fiction that screws with social, physical, and/or generic conventions. As a fun example: my novella “@ and &” is about a pair of genderfluid sorcerers (@/N@alie/M@ and &/Cass&ra/Alex&er) trying to solve/prevent a murder that hasn’t happened yet. It also has possibly the worst title for Search Engine Optimization; I’m terrible at self-promotion.
What do you think are some of the signature elements in your writing? What makes a Hiromi Cota piece?
In fiction, my work is going to deconstruct something most people take for granted. That could be having a pair of queer brains going on a date with their rented robot bodies (Bi Robot), a whimsical fairy bemusedly wrecking havoc after hearing the phrase “be gay! Do crimes!” (Be Fae! Do Crimes!), or a group of mercenaries analyzing the morality of hunting zombies (Cold Case). I want my readers to say, “What‽” at least once. I’m also merciless with puns, as those titles demonstrate.
In games, my aim is to give players options for approaching situations. I don’t want anyone at a table to think that fighting is the only approach that’ll work. Different people like different things, and even someone who loves having their character kick butt might want to take a break from violence to talk someone down or crack a mystery.
Is there anything about you/your background/your skills that you think shapes the way you approach writing?
As an undergrad, I got big into the post modernist movement (particularly its deconstruction of existing stories), cyberpunk (esp. how it explores the nature of personhood, bodies, and consciously (re)constructing one’s self), and folklore. Unsurprisingly, my work often touches on at least one of those topics.
What was your first TTRPG experience like?
I was like 5 years old, playing 1st edition D&D from the Magenta Box (the version right before the Red Box). I played a cleric, my cousin Scott played a fighter, and my uncle Mark was the DM. We ran into a room full of stirges (giant mosquitos), and my character died because I was captivated by the game’s fantastical elements to the point that I just didn’t realize that there was any danger. I mentioned that I was 5 and have autism, right?
What’s your favorite TTRPG and why?
Scion Second Edition. It’s a game where players roleplay as the children of one of Gods from world mythology and do heroic things (for whatever definition of heroic the players subscribe to). I love folklore, and the game does a great job of steering people to learn more about the world’s cultures and peoples. Also, I’m the line developer for it, so I’m kind of obligated to say it’s my favorite.
My favorite TTRPG that I don’t have a clear conflict of interest with is Shadowrun because I love the setting. It’s also basically 5 games in one, which is super fun... so long as the GM knows how to run physical, magical, matrix, astral, and vehicular combat simultaneously. That’s a pretty big ask for any Game Moderator, but it does work beautifully at times.
What kind of games do you like playing?
I like playing games where everyone gets an opportunity to shine. I don’t need a Big Damn Hero Moment, but if we’re sitting around a table for a few hours, each of us should get up being able to say, “Holy crap! That thing you did with the McGuffin that guard was holding!”
When you're playing TTRPGs, what kind of characters do you enjoy playing and why?
Ones that approach the game in new and interesting ways: a wizard who’s kind of a jock, a wholesome marshmellow in a brutal setting, a Jekyll/Hyde character struggling to figure out who they are (and hiding it from other players for as long as possible), etc. So long as I can do something interesting without spoiling anyone else’s fun, it’s all good.
What kinds of things do you do within the games industry?
I’ve done a bunch of work as a developer, line developer, and cultural consultant, but in my heart I’m primarily a writer.
How did you get started in the games industry?
I was an adjunct English professor (lecturer and instructor, technically) when Trump became president. See, a huge portion of Seattle’s students are international students, and his foreign policies alarmed a *lot* of folks from other countries. When enrollment numbers dropped, those of us without tenure track positions were left to fend for ourselves.
So, I pinged my friend Satyr (Phil Brucato, writer/developer for many White Wolf books) to ask for his advice in getting writing work in the industry. As it happened, he really liked my writing style and had some Mage: The Ascension books in the pipeline. So, he hired me to write on M20’s Gods & Monsters.
What other games have you worked on?
Uhhh. A lot. Mage: The Ascension, Magic: The Gathering, Avatar, Root, Scion, Modern AGE, Cthulhu Awakens, Chronicles of Darkness, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Scarred Lands, Exalted, Pathfinder, D&D (kind of), Capers, Eldritch Century, Pugmire, They Came from…, Trinity Continuum, Demon Castle Mononoke, and a few that I can’t name because they’re unannounced.
Working on 5SRP
What drew you to work on the Fifth Season Roleplaying Game?
The books were a huge draw. I’m not Black, so some elements undoubtedly went over my head or didn’t land as squarely as they might have for other folks, but the novels still spoke volumes to me. The absolutely casual “this isn’t weird; this is just how the world is” way N.K. Jemisin handled multiracial, queer, trans, and polyamorous characters was beautiful. There was a lot in the books about literally and figuratively finding family, being comfortable in your own skin, choosing whether to hide parts of who you are, and choosing to let people in. Those themes are pretty powerful, and I needed to at least try to get onto the book.
Did you write any details you’re especially proud of?
Probably the climax of the Quickstart. I’m not going to spoil what happens, but it’s a very me way to bring an adventure to its boiling point.
How did it feel building atop N.K. Jemisin’s lore?
Challenging. I wanted to explore and expand her world without taking away from the feel or contradicting lore — well, without contradicting lore besides Imperial/Yumenescene propoganda, at least. I spent a lot of time going through my e-book copies of the trilogy, mashing ctrl+f and searching for anything remotely connected to the topic I was writing about.
Is there any sort of message or feeling you hope people take away from your writing?
I really want people to think about the Stillness (and our own world) in terms of how they can come together and help each other survive.
Is there anything else you'd like people to know?
Native Ryukyuans are a group of Indigenous peoples with our own cultures and languages. The Japanese government has worked fairly hard to irradicate our languages, but the internet has made it possible for us to connect with each other and help us learn our languages. If you’re Uchinaanchu (Okinawan) or any other kind of Ryukyuan, I highly encourage you to learn more about your heritage. A good starting place is your local kenjinkai; there are over a hundred of them around the world. You can find them at https://wun.jp/en/network
Are there any causes or projects you'd like to tell people about?
Many people live on the ancestral lands of Indigenous people. Very few of these lands were obtained without deception, threats of violence, or both. https://native-land.ca/
is a useful tool for figuring out who lived in your neighborhood before you did. It’s also useful for figuring out which local tribe(s) you can donate to.
How can people get a hold of you? (i.e. website, social media, etc.)