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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.
Condition: All 4 like new
Price: $40 (includes free Media Mail shipping)
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