Attic Sale

Dotek / Touch,” by Radek Lát, CC BY 2.0

My office shelves are overfull. Some things have to go, listed here in no particular order. Can you give them a good home?

2300 AD Bundle

Lester : June 18, 2017 5:38 pm : Sold!

Beanstalk was the first adventure module, and it launched my full-time career in game publishing.

(I had sold a 4-paragraph “capsule review” to Space Gamer magazine about a year-and-a-half before, but that was as a hobbyist only. I’d also sold Space Gamer a 2-player board game; back in the day, game magazines often published a game in the center, and Space Gamer did it nearly every issue for awhile. The editors delayed my board game for one issue, because they were selling the Space Gamer title to someone else, and they figured they were doing me a favor. I wish they’d have published it as scheduled: better to be in the last issue of the mag published by SJG than buried in the “Space Gamer” section of the first issue of VIP of Gaming. Ugh. But I digress.)

Back to Beanstalk launching my career. I had been proofreading for GDW part-time for a few months, as professional practice in college, and making helpful comments in the margins (often from my medic experience). One day Marc Miller came to me and asked, “Would you like to write an adventure module for us?” Starry eyed, I responded, “Absolutely!” He handed me a cover painting, said, “The book has to be 64 pages. It has to work this cover scene into the adventure somehow. And it’s already overdue.”

The longest thing I’d ever written before was a 2,000-word paper for an English class. A 64-page module averages 50,000 words. Somehow I survived, and it whetted my appetite for RPG publishing.

At the end of that work, I left a 2-page memo on Frank Chadwick’s desk, saying “When you reprint Traveller: 2300, I’d suggest these changes to the text.” Things like an experience system, so PCs could actually progress during a campaign. That was on a Friday. On Monday morning Frank called me into his office, where he and Marc said, “You’re right about these things. But we don’t want to wait for a reprint. We want to republish the game as 2300 AD. Would you like the project?” Starry eyed, I replied, “Of course!” And suddenly I had a full-time game design job.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the power of the memo.

From there, I went on to manage the line, which included writing The Deathwatch Program and editing Ranger and Invasion (pictured here), among many other things.

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Blue Max, 2nd Ed.

Lester : June 18, 2017 6:57 pm : I'm in the Credits!

If you’ve never seen the components of a Blue Max game, it’s difficult to explain just how beautiful those plane counters are. Maybe just by saying each was produced first as a detailed full-size color painting, which was then shrunk down to fit a counter about an inch across.

The designer was a serious war gamer who had done lots of research into the various plane capabilities, and his game mechanics reflect that care.

I’ve been a fan of WWI air combat since discovering Richtofen’s War at about 18 years of age. I love Blue Max. And while I respect the designer’s observation that these planes could not change altitude enough to be reflected in the time scale of the game, I find fascinating that jockeying for altitude and losing it during maneuvers. I also admired the altitude abstraction of Frank Chadwick’s Sky Galleons of Mars game. So while on staff at GDW, I convinced Frank to let me marry those to Blue Max during a reprint.

Later, during my years at TSR, the Creative Services department (we designers, developers, and line managers) were allowed a 90-minute lunch, with 30 minutes paid, if we’d use it playing games. I brought in some 1:72 scale airplanes, mounted each on a “pick up stick” (remember those?), mounted that to an upright dowel, using a couple of checkers and a wing nut to allow the plane to bank and nose up or down (signalling climb or dive next turn), mounted the whole of that on a base about 3 inches across, and played on the mat from Milton Bradley’s Battle Masters.

The resulting 3D dogfighting was awesomely fun! I’m looking forward to a chance to reconstruct it all and play it with my teenage grandson.

I’m sort of stunned to realize my work on that 1992 edition was 25 years ago.

Condition: New in shrinkwrap
Price: $75

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Bughunters RPG

Lester : June 18, 2017 7:00 pm : I'm in the Credits!

Tabletop game designers tend to pour their heart and soul into projects. And publishing companies tend to keep the rights to those projects. It’s the difference between “work for hire” and a novelist’s “advance on royalties.” I’m not sure why a salary doesn’t equate to an advance on royalties. But then, I’ve always sided with labor unions, which if I’d been born in the early 20th century instead of the middle would have gotten me labeled as a communist. By the time I came along, it merely implied you were affiliated with gangsters. In either case, “Blood and souls for my Lord Arioch!”

But to continue, Bughunters was my very first RPG project at TSR. I applied much of what I’d learned at GDW, including a foldout 3D star map in the back. And it plays on tropes represented in popular film and fiction at the time. But it’s meshed together with some inventiveness of my own, to fit an entire sci-fi campaign in a 128-page book.

The premise is that PCs are “Synners”—synthetic humans built from volunteered DNA, which donation scores the volunteer a cushy pension. Because they’re enhanced beyond human norms, they’re forbidden from setting foot on Earth (ala Blade Runner). Their job is to prepare habitable planets for human colonization, by clearing traps and monsters leftover from an interstellar war between two alien civilizations that managed mutual annihilation. And while participating in this hellish task, they have all their donor’s memories, including the day of DNA donation for a pension, so they also suffer a weird sort of displaced self-loathing. Add in a modular starship system, with deck plans, that involved choosing a command module size, marrying it to a cargo bay size, and tacking on an engine module size (small command module and small cargo with big thrusters is fast and nimble fighter ship; medium command module and huge cargo space with small to medium thrusters is a cargo hauler; etc.), and the result was a game I could feel proud of.

Two quick memories from that project:

  1. The editor was going to revise the mortar-fire rules to say the skill roll should be based on the higher of the forward observer’s rating and the firer’s rating, because why penalize the better PC? My first reaction was to just say, “Leave it alone. You simply don’t understand. Trust me. I’ve actually fired mortars during my National Guard days.” (Medics are invited to fire pretty much everything while attending a range in case of accident.) He got offended at my high-handedness, and I pretty much had to beg him to wait, and to listen to a careful explanation, delivered in a humble manner, in order to convey that it doesn’t matter how experienced one person is, if the other member of the fire team isn’t. (Now that I think about it, there’s a parallel in that story. But I certainly learned some humility and patience that day.)
  2. When the book was published, Steve Winter stopped by my office to say, “This is good. I’m impressed.” Steve had been one of the two TSR staff members I had gotten to know and respect before I hired on there, from meeting them at Gen Con parties each year. (The other was Doug Niles.) So such words coming from Steve were more encouraging to the “new guy” than he might know. Thanks, buddy!

I still love Bughunters. I’ve asked WotC about selling me the rights, to turn it into a D6xD6 RPG book. But they’re not interested in even discussing it. So it’s gathering dust with the other Amazing Engine titles while WotC pursues more high-ticket projects, ferreted away just in case they may someday want a weird little fairly hard sci-fi property influenced by Philip K. Dick’s paranoia.

Update: An old friend and GDW colleague pointed out that the Bughunters setting is now part of WotC’s d20 Future sourcebook. So I guess they did dust it off and use it. And I guess I just now gave them free advertising.

I’ve no idea if I’m credited, but if you click the linked title in the previous paragraph and happen to buy a copy, I’ll get a few cents kickback from Amazon. :-)

Condition: New in shrinkwrap
Price: $25

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Gloom – 1st Edition

Lester : December 17, 2016 4:11 pm : Other Stuff

Price: $15.00 (includes US shipping*) 1 copy available.

In this innovative “transparent plastic cards” game, 2-4 players compete to prove their chosen family is the most miserable. Perhaps your “Cousin Mordecai” (the “Red-Headed Stepchild”) was “Ruined by Rum,” or “Jinxed by Gypsies,” and “Died Old and Alone,” gaining you lots of victory points. Or maybe instead he was “Wonderfully Well Wed” at the instigation of another player, giving him unwelcome happy points.

The game consists of 110 transparent plastic cards, allowing bonuses to be covered or revealed with each play. That’s 20 individual characters, 58 modifiers, 12 events, and 20 “Untimely Deaths.” (The box also includes a rules sheet, of course.)

The box shows minor corner wear (typical for multiple plays), but overall the game is in extremely good condition.

*Contact me for shipping outside the U.S.

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Vampire: Dark Influences

Lester : July 11, 2016 5:25 pm : Other Stuff

Price: $15.00 (includes US shipping*) 1 copy available.

This boxed game for White Wolf’s World of Darkness setting includes

  • 5 different clans
  • 25 Kindred Cards
  • 30 Event Cards
  • Blood tokens for each clan
  • One 10-sided die

It is a game for 2 to 5 players, each leading a different type of vampire clan.

The game box shows some shelf wear. The components are in pristine condition.

*Contact me for shipping outside the U.S.

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