uke Peterschmidt

Luke Peterschmidt works at Sabertooth. He has been in the card game industry since 1994. Before he got to Sabertooth, he designed 3 published CCGs, developed for 2 existing CCGs, and brand managed 4 or 5 other CCG releases as a Brand Managers at Wizards of the Coast. Thanks to Dave Frank, he was also privileged enough to be one of the first outriders for GW in the U.S. He has even published a small GW fanzine many years ago called Warmaster. Luke Peterschmidt's main job at Sabertooth is keeping the office running smoothly, helping out Ryan Millers with the game design, and making sure that the "Calendar of Doom" is fed before it absorbs all of the souls and turns them into an avocado pit.

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This interview was realised in autumn 2002.


[Philbarfly] As you reported it in the Traveller's Guide, you began with Guardians as a playtester substitute ! The original game was so bad ;-) ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] The game wasn't THAT bad, but the mechanics needed a good deal of work. The world was already well established and Keith had breathed life into many of the characters. I was working late shift (9pm to 5am) as a chemist and after my first playtest night, I wrote up 5 or 6 pages of notes for Keith. By this time, I had realized that Keith was, well...famous and I was pretty intimidated to call him the next day to go over my notes. But I realized I would have been more upset with myself for NOT calling, so I called him. He lived close, so I drove over and showed him my notes that afternoon and the rest is history. I have to say this about Keith - most creatives would not have taken my feedback well, but Keith was very open minded and I owe him a lot for opening the door to the gaming industry for me. I should also thank his wife for making me all those yummy treats for playtest days...

[Philbarfly] Is it true that the published version was the 17th ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] At least. While I had good feedback for Keith, I was in no way a "pro" designer when I started working full time on the game. I had some learning to do...

[Philbarfly] What was your background in games at this moment ? Which games you played before ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] At this point, I was mostly a Games Workshop (40K) fan. I had played just about everything except Magic the Gathering at this point. Big hex games, funny games, Uno, Dungeon & Dragons, etc...

[Philbarfly] What is your idea of a really good (card or board) game ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] My ideal game is one that is fun first, but that holds up to extended replay. I like games that reward smart players, but are fun for all players. Games need to have Drama too - exciting pivotal points that players talk about after the game. I think Guardians has all those elements.

[Philbarfly] The basic set of cards was existing when you started, how was organised the work with Keith ? Are the rules for you and the cards ideas for Keith ? Was it the same for the design of the others expansion sets ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] The basic card set was underway when I joined, but everything was changed. Working with Keith was great! I worked in his art studio which was above his garage - it was a great working environment. Keith had a drum set in his studio and whenever things got tense, it was easy to crank some music and bash away. (Keith is an excellent drummer - I am a loud drummer). Mary was always bringing up treats and food and stuff. Some nights we'd stay late for playtesting and drink a few beers as we tested out cards with some great local characters. I think the beer shows in the final cards...

[Philbarfly] What is your prefered beer ? the Gringe Commander beer ? ;-)

[Luke Peterschmidt] You just can't go wrong with that fine brew! Keith made me fond of the darker beers while I worked with him, culminating with the insanely dark Sam Adams Triple Boch. It was like drinking motor oil. Jummy juicy motor oil...ahhh....

[Luke Peterschmidt] There wasn't much structure to our working days, it was like playing with clay looking for a sculpture to appear out of the lump. After the first set, I would do the card text after Keith "invented" the characters. It was a great way to work, I could use the drawings for inspiration sometimes and he could use my card ideas for inspiration as well. A real team effort, although I never got to paint a card.

[Philbarfly] For example, which cards are your own invention ? What was your inspiration ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] The set of cards that mocked the game industry (Lizards on the Toast, You can't see me, I'm a vampire, etc...) were from me. I really wanted to unleash guardians humor on the gaming industry directly. Keith then took it another step when he went after the comic industry with the "O-Men" cards. For game mechanics though, about 80% of the cards started from my gameplay ideas. I was always enamored with the fact that our game had good internal balance - you really could play the game without deck limitations if you wanted to. I really liked the command card aspect as well, a very good way of representing weak units with good leadership type effects.



[Philbarfly] Was it easy to create the text for cards ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] Nope. The first set wasn't too bad, but after that set every set got tougher. Luckily, Keith would have some really cool description of a character and how he lived and what he ate and how he fought, that I had good source material to work with. In the end though, if Dave didn't get involved, I probably would of shot myself.

[Philbarfly] Some cards are more usefull than others. How the balance was made ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] One of the deep dark secrets of CCG design is that designers don't get half the time they need to playtest. Even with all of our external playtest groups, once a new set was released, it saw more real play in the first week by all the players than all the playtest hours combined. So, some cards which we think were not so good end up being killer great and some cards that we thought were great end up being bland (or WAY too powerful). It really turns into an art for the designers and a great sense of discovery for the players who literally make better decks than we ever thought could be made.

[Philbarfly] How was determinated the rarity of the cards ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] Generally, easy to understand cards were commons. Cards that you could focus a deck around would be Uncommon, and hard to understand/lots of text cards were rare. After that, we rolled dice.

[Philbarfly] How many cards were printed by sheet ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] I think 100 cards fit on a sheet, so many times a card appeared more than once to fill up the sheet.

[Philbarfly] The easiest expansion to find is Dagger Isle, the rarest Drifter Nexus and the most wanted Necropolis Park. How many boxes was made of each expansion set ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] I have no idea actually. I know each set was a bit smaller than the previous and Dagger Isle we way over printed.

[Philbarfly] Who had the ideas of the thema of each expansion set ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] All Keith. My brain doesn't live in the same universe as his.

[Philbarfly] What was the aim of the design of each expansion set for the gameplay ? ( I hope not only to make money ;-) )

[Luke Peterschmidt] To make money. No seriously, we really just wanted to make a product we could be proud of and that people would play. No one gets into this industry to be rich. While time has shown that some have, it is rarely the goal of the designers.

[Philbarfly] Who writes the silly warning label and the other funny things on the back of the booster boxes ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] That was a group work. The chili recipe was all Keith though - and it really is pretty good chili. I have to credit Keith for the idea though, he was really good at not taking things to seriously, while at the same time being very serious about getting quality art and game design.



[Philbarfly] If you speak french, what do you think of the translation ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] You know I don't speak French. I actually have a very poor brain for other languages and odd concepts (like calculus, even though I'm ace at normal math). It's the one thing about me that I would change if I could. One of my sisters teaches European languages for Pete's sake!

[Philbarfly] Do you remember how was the contact with the french editor ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] That was all handled at the production level, I didn't have anything to do with it.

[Philbarfly] The german version has more misprints but the translation seems better. Same question !

[Luke Peterschmidt] Same as last answer. The translations were all done by our distribution partners.

[Philbarfly] And what was the mission of Dave Gentzler ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] Dave was brought on to help with the development work on the game. I was being drawn many different directions besides development, like writing magazine articles and going to trade shows, etc... I needed help. Dave was another one of the play testers and he was invaluable to the later sets. A real hard worker who just happens to look exactly like Tweezle.



[Philbarfly] What is the signification of Tweezle ? The nickname of Dave ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] I don't know. It sounds like a Keith name - he always had good names like that.

[Philbarfly] Is Keith a real human being ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] Barely. If you ask art fans, he's a god. If you ask his kids, he's embarrassing, if you ask his wife, well...I don't know but I'm not going to ask her. If you ask me, he's simply one of the most fun people I know to be around and I'd love to spend a few weeks inside his brain to see what colors look like in his world.



[Philbarfly] Who had the brillant idea of Bribery cards ? Keith said that it was a vue of the reality, do you agree ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] All Keith on those cards. I totally agree with him on the concept though. Humans are simple things and we all have our weaknesses.

[Philbarfly] Were the shields and terrains cards already in the game when you arrived ? Your creation ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] Sort of. They had real different uses when I started as I recall. By the way, I totally dig the artwork on the shields - it's old-school fantasy Heraldry - which you don't see much of anymore.



[Philbarfly] What is the origin of the word Vierkun ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] Keith's Beer Soaked brain is my guess.

[Philbarfly] Which are your prefered cards and why ? The worst (if any ;-) ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] I always like cards that looked to be more or less useless, but when used just right are great. Thematically, I love the cards that are just funny like the O-Men and all the game industry jabs like "Dork Age" and "40,000 Useless Warhammers" - funny stuff and funnier still that we tried to make the art work well (Keith painted like Brom on Dork Age for example." The only card I regret making was the original Champs the Wonder dog - that card was just broken.

[Philbarfly] Could you explain why you regret the original Champ ? why it was broken ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] He was very reusable and that tends to be bad in a CCG. That card came back to your hand after you used it for gosh sakes!

[Philbarfly] How was the reaction from Wizards of the Coast ? Did they appreciate the Black locust, Small mox or Lizards of the Toast ?



[Luke Peterschmidt] Interestingly enough, I have the Lizards on the Toast original art sitting right next to me as I type this. It is signed by about 15 folks from WotC who worked at their booth at GenCon in 95 or 96. They really were good sports about it and thought it was really funny.

[Philbarfly] C.J. Burke tried to explain the in-jokes, bad puns and other references in Guardians, have you some comments ?

Limited/Revised edition

Bruce the Goose -- A goose in Scotch plaid with bagpipes? A reference to Robert the Bruce, perhaps?

[Luke Peterschmidt] A bit, but I think Keith just liked the way the name sounded and then the artwork took off from there.

Captain Red Nose -- First, takeoff of Blackbeard, Bluebeard, etc. Second, Maitz does the Capt. Morgan Rum bottles and if you drink too much alcohol, you'll get a red nose.



Don Maitz as Pirate


[Luke Peterschmidt] Correct, we wanted Don Maitz to do a lot of pirates. He's a pirate nut and when you can get an artist working on a subject they love, you always get great work.

Demon Horde of Kabod -- "kabod" Hebrew for 'body, mass, substance'; "honour" to a man, "glory" to a heavenly being. (applied to demons??)

[Luke Peterschmidt] Reading too much into this one I think. I think Keith just liked the sound of the name here as well.

Devil Dog -- Drake's cake; usually these mythical animals are "Hell Hounds".

Dry Heaps -- sounds like "dry heaves".

Floyd the Flying Pig -- "When pigs fly!", cf. Pink Floyd's "Animals" LP cover. Appparently, your army chows down on a revitalizing pork lunch.

[Luke Peterschmidt] Certainly correct on the above three.

Giant Penguin -- Fantasy-game staple or "Monty Python" reference?

[Luke Peterschmidt] Actually a reference to a game cover Keith did years ago. I forget the name of the game, but you play giant monsters with weapons and eat popcorn (which is actually people). Gammarauders - that's the name of the game.





Gn'obby Gnomes -- "knobby" (rounded hill or mountain?)

Gn'olegable Gnomes -- "Knowledgeable", i.e., learned. Gn'Omish Gnomes -- "Amish", i.e., Pennsylvania Dutch

[Luke Peterschmidt] Which is where we both lived at the time.

Gringe Commander -- Guide to the Mid-Realms suggests that the artwork was inspired by Brom. Possible reference to "grunge" icon Kurt Cobain, who bore a slight resemblance.

[Luke Peterschmidt] He's a cross between grunge and Isaac the bartender from the Love Boat.*

Pauly, Official Parrot -- I'm sure there's something, though I'm not sure what. "Polly, want a cracker?" perhaps?

[Luke Peterschmidt] We just wanted to have the "official" pirate parrot in our game, not a cheap imitation.

Schneeble -- "schnee" is german for "snow", but I don't see any connection there, other than it sounded nice

[Luke Peterschmidt] Again, Keith went for the good sounding word here. I actually designed a little trick taking game with the same name during a 48 hour press check once.

Snogwart -- predates "Hogwarts" by several years.

[Luke Peterschmidt] I'm calling my Devil Lawyer now!!!

Dagger Isle

Heisenburg's Missiles -- reference to Eisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

[Luke Peterschmidt] This was one of my cards, my degree is in chemistry.

Slimwit Man -- or 'Slim' Whitman, singer. one of the worst puns in the game



[Luke Peterschmidt] There had to be worse in there if you just keep looking...

Yap Attack -- Yap is "Pay" backwords. A play on "payback", perhaps? Yap is the currency of the MidRealms.

[Luke Peterschmidt] I think Keith liked the sound of Yap as well. Much like his little dog at the time. I have to say, whoever did this list did a fantastic job - finding things that were probably in Keith's head, but that he never shared with me!

Drifters Nexus

Annoying Gnats in the Hood -- "Boyz N the Hood" reference? timing may have been right, but I don't think that's it.



[Luke Peterschmidt] You are correct. We just thought Gnats were annoying and small, so mixing them with big gangster/hip-hop types is just funny.

Caddy -- Caddy/Gopher/Golfer is just a silly combo. Why a Giant? Caddyshack reference?



[Luke Peterschmidt] We wanted to do three "ode to Caddyshack" cards.

Gopher -- Caddy/Gopher/Golfer is just a silly combo. Why is Gopher dressed like Napolean? Caddyshack reference? (He's conquering the golf course?)

[Luke Peterschmidt] I think he was dressed that way because he was the smallest of the three and in the movie, he was the great strategy mind.

Oscar the Wonder Chimp -- don't know any famous chimps. Takeoff of Rex the Wonder Dog?

[Luke Peterschmidt] Correct, we wanted to do a whole series of "wonder" animals

Tiger Baloo -- "Cat Baloo" Also, "Jungle Book" reference? Baloo was a bear. Shere Khan (sp) was the tiger. Predates Tiger Woods (so no bonus for Woods. Or Irons.)

[Luke Peterschmidt] I think this was a jungle book reference

You Can't See Me, I'm a Vampire -- artist did the Vampire game. And the kid's looking right at him. Dave Gentzler had an interesting commentary on it regarding LARPS Vampire players at cons.

[Luke Peterschmidt] I love this card. It was the only card Tim Bradstreet did for us, but it was just perfect. The boy in the picture is his nephew I think. You have to understand that I once saw Tim at Gencon running down the hallway saying "I can see you, I can see you, I can see you too..." as he pointed at LARP players with their arms crossed. The guy is really funny.

Necropolis Park

Dead Cats -- there's an expression about "not enough room to swing a dead cat". Also, the dog reminds me of one of the Disney cartoon dogs.

[Luke Peterschmidt] The dog is Champs the Wonder Dog!

Mayor McEvil -- Mayor McCheese of McDonaldland fame.

Mayor McFood -- a pack of french fries with McDonald's arches for eyebrows.

Mayor McGreed -- Mayor McCheese meets Taco Bell.

McHooter's Distraction -- McDonald's meets the Hooters franchise?

[Luke Peterschmidt] Exactly!

Scamp Jones -- is it just me, or is this Joe Camel in New Orleans?



[Luke Peterschmidt] Yup.

Squibby -- squib: a small firecracker, one that burns but not explode; a witty speech or lampoon, or a filler article.

The Minx -- a promiscuous woman, or a young woman who's flirtatious or impudent. Why an animal? Pun on "mink" or "manx cat", perhaps?

[Luke Peterschmidt] Most of them are Keith's observations translated to card ideas. For instance, he hated pink plastic lawn flamingos, everywhere he looked, there they were. So that is the hardest card in the game to get rid of.



Cheezy Con Souvenir Tweezle, was our stab at how silly we thought things were that you could only get at trade shows.

St. Balantines Evocation was Keith's nod to the book publisher of the same name who Keith had great respect for. I don't have my sets in front of me, but I would bet that 35% of the cards have a "story" behind them, the rest are just cool fantasy stuff.

[Philbarfly] Have you advices to the players ? How to play it, and how to rid of.

[Luke Peterschmidt] Lots of little guys that give advantages when used as secondary attackers or big guys with the appropriate off-color bonus.

[Philbarfly] Who decide to put some leaves on the nymphs ? And why ?



[Luke Peterschmidt] I think that was Mike Friedlander - or Keith. Although Keith didn't paint clothes on them the first time....

[Philbarfly] Just before FPG disappeared, there was a project for a deluxe box with two starters, a booster pack from the Revised Edition, a booster pack from Dagger Isle, a new (unknown...!) card, and two boardgames, with new simple rules for beginners. May we have info on this project ? Is there any relics of this project ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] I had designed a board game which I really liked (have the pieces in my desk right next to me in fact!), I never got it to a point where it was totally solid, but it was fun to play.

[Philbarfly] Could we have a glance on this board game ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] It would take a long time to get together, if I do get it presentable, I'll surely get it off to you! Interestingly enough a lot of the Guardians art later appeared on a collectable board game (Stratego Legends). I also did a mini campaign thing for Guardians (don't know where it is), where you could connect 3-5 games into an uber game with just a small bit of extra rules and a fixed 12 card deck.

[Philbarfly] Please, give us more informations !

[Luke Peterschmidt] Basically, before each game, you'd draw a card from the "campaign deck" . The card had a small effect on the game like "Flyers can't fly" or something. It also had a victory point value from 1-3 and maybe a cool ability you got if you had won the card. If you win the game, you get the cards abilities for the rest of the campaign and the VP's. The first player to 7 VP's wins the campaign. It was pretty straight forward.

[Philbarfly] A new expansion set called The Seven Seas was also planed. Would you tell us more about this expansion ? (Concept, cards, art already made...). Did you planed others expansion set ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] Wow, I have no memory of this at all. Must have been the beer.

[Philbarfly] It was in a SCRYE magazine in 97… Maybe the beer !

[Luke Peterschmidt] Yup. The Beer.

[Philbarfly] It is very hard to find an Exploding Tweezle. Do you know the frequency of a Tweezle in a Necro box ? Could you explain the concept, joke, fake ...around the Tweezle ?



[Luke Peterschmidt] As mentioned Tweezle is basically a "leprechaun version of Dave Gentzler". We got to print 3 versions of him, one for Necropolis Park, one for the set after, and one for conventions. He was probably one per case (10 displays) in Necropolis Park. We really did this one because we could - we had an extra spot on a press sheet and some extra time (2 dangerous things in combination).

[Philbarfly] It is very hard to find a booster with only rare cards. Do you know the frequency of those boosters ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] I'm not sure, I think it may have been one per 6 displays, so they are crazy rare.

[Philbarfly] Some promo cards were edited in magazines (Barrow Wight, in Combo number 8, Druk, in Venture from september-october 1995, Land Drake, in Capital City Advance, Chaos Summoner in Inquest n°8) and some others (Cheesy Con Souvenir Tweezle, Tweezle the Sneaky, Exploding Tweezle ) were distributed by Dave Gentzler, Keith and you. How many of these cards were printed and distributed ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] The Sneaky Tweezle was meant for the next set, but was never released, so there are probably only 100-200 of these in existence today all from folks who were smart enough to grab a stack before FPG went belly-up. Probably under 1000 of the con souvenir cards out there. The other promos went out in pretty good force as magazines like Inquest had subscription rates in the 100,000's - although most have probably been thrown away by now.

[Philbarfly] We found on ebay two Guardians pins sold by german people. Was it a german initiative ?



[Luke Peterschmidt] Correct. So much so, they didn't even ask permission! (but they were real nice pins, so we were happy about it)

[Philbarfly] Have you some anecdotes about great moments or jokes that arrived to you or to the Guardians team ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] I'll never forget the GenCon that Guardians launched. It was absolutely fantastic. I stayed awake probably 48 hours in a row. I got to meet the best artists in the industry, who were without exception, really nice people. And I felt like my lifelong dream of working in this industry was realized.

[Philbarfly] Have you some pictures of the Gencon for my website ? Some pictures of the Guardians team, at FPG ? In the art studio of Keith ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] I have almost no pictures from the FPG days, I regret it a lot. It wasn't all fun, there was lots of hard work, but we had drums, we had beer, we had yummy snacks from was a great time.



Cathy, Dave Gentzler and Brett Stoner (Brett was the person who asked Luke to take his place playtesting)


[Philbarfly] On the pics you send me (thanks !) Dave Gentzler was wearing a sweatshirt with a beautiful Ploogak on it. What are the other products which were created around Guardians ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] That's actually a T-shirt that was made by a company called Electric Blue (I think). Really good quality shirts. I think that was the only one they did though. We also did art prints of 6 of the pieces. Also very well done.

[Philbarfly] What can be the future for Guardians ? Could we hope in a Guardians come back ? Who is the owner of the rights ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] Keith owns the rights to the world and the characters, but the individual artwork is still owned by the artists. If anything will happen with it, it will be at Keith's discretion, and he is one busy man these days, so I wouldn't think it would be anytime soon.

[Philbarfly] We have obtained from (a brother of) Keith the possibility to create some cards for the fun and not for money. Thierry made the first one and we start a Challenge. Have you some advices for creating new cards ?



[Luke Peterschmidt] The basic "formula" for the average card is this.... Vitality = X Off-Color Bonus = 1/2X One Bribery icon No channeling Red CMP bar. No Ability So if you create a card with Vitality 12 and only give it an off color bonus of 2, it should have a good ability. I hope that made sense. It's an odd concept.

[Philbarfly] Did you kept contact with Keith Parkinson, Dave Gentzler,... ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] Funny you should ask... Yes. Dave is going to be playtesting my new game soon and I'm getting on a plane tomorrow for business, but am adding a day on to my trip to catch up with Mr. Parkinson.

[Philbarfly] Why FPG have stopped its activity ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] That place was a mess. Weird divorce at the top of the company didn't help, neither did all the other affairs going on there... I probably shouldn't talk about it, but I can say that other games, with less sales survived (like Legends of the Five Rings). I guess you could say there were management "issues."

[Philbarfly] What have you done after the end of FPG ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] I did some freelance game design for Five Rings Publishing Group. When they got bought, I went to work for WotC as a brand manager. Then about 18 months ago, I left WotC with a few other folks and we started Sabertooth Games where I am the COO. I helped design our first game, the Warhammer 40,000 CCG with Ryan Miller (Soon to be out in French!). Then about 9 months ago, Games Workshop bought an 85% stake of Sabertooth, so I guess you could say, I'm back at my roots of being a Games Workshop fan, while getting to do all the cool stuff I got to do on Guardians! (with beer but sadly without drums)

[Philbarfly] What are your projects at this moment ?

[Luke Peterschmidt] Still working on Warhammer 40,000 as well as getting the basics down for our Fantasy Battle game (also based on Games Workshops properties). We also have a super-secret game in the works right now - probably made public in a few months. It's cool...

[Philbarfly] Thanks, Luke.


*The Love Boat premiered on ABC on September 17, 1976. The show is about the crew of an ocean liner, called the Pacific Princess, and their different passengers each week. Sailing on the ocean in the moonlight is supposed to be quite romantic, and each week new couples got together on the show. Often the crew members were involved in romances as well.


Captain MerrillStubing .................................... Gavin MacLeod

Cruise Director Julie McCoy ............................... Lauren Tewes

Doctor Adam Bricker ....................................... Bernie Kopell

Yeoman-Purser Burl "Gopher" Smith ......................... Fred Grandy

Bartender Isaac Washington ................................ Ted Lange

Vicki Stubing ............................................. Jill Whelan

Cruise Director Judy McCoy ................................ Pat Klous

Photographer Ashley Covington "Ace" Evans ................. Ted McGinley

Theme Song: "The Love Boat" by Paul Williams and Charles Fox, sung Jack Jones