Unpacking the entire experience one has at a Gary Con takes time - so much happens there. You meet so many awesome people and play in so many games. By the end of it, the memory becomes a blur. What I find is that over time the most important memories float to the top.
One of these was being able to spend about an hour one on one with Lou Zocchi and quiz him about all the games he made.
Something that had been on my mind for a long time is how I felt that his Alien Space and Star Fleet Battle Manual seem to be a huge influence on the Star Fleet Battles games. It is hard not to want to compare the ship damage logs between all three games as an obvious connection.
“… They contacted me about it. I told them to go ahead and make their game and I was fine with it. I had already printed 5000 of copies my game.” - Lou Zocchi
Ok, so a game designer just lets their IP go out and be used in someone else’s game?
It seems Lou is just a very magnanimous guy. He allowed another company to piggyback onto his original design and produce a game that became a huge success. I can’t think of any game club or group of gamers back in the 80’s where a copy of Star Fleet Battles wasn’t floating around in someone’s backpack, or actually being played at game night.
That story alone was an interesting peek into how the indy game community operated back in the day. Everyone knew everyone else and you could just ask someone if they minded you using their ideas in your game.
Meanwhile, also BITD, the big companies were busy unleashing their attack dog lawyers on each other over such things as Orcs and Balrogs. Maybe nothing changes after all?
An Old School Gem that is Worth Owning
Something else happened at Gary Con. Well it happened there, but I had no idea about it until I got home!
When I go to Gary Con I always bring a Banker’s Box with me. This is where I keep every game that I will be running at the Convention. This time it had a bunch of lead ship models and the various other implements for running Fletcher Pratt’s Naval War Game, A print out of Dave Arneson’s Draft Rules for D&D Areal Combat along with counters and dice, And Also everything I would need to run a game of Tonisborg Dungeon.
After the con my box of games just sat there in a corner untouched. I don’t need to unpack it as I leave it alone until a week or two before the next Gary Con when I go to work on creating new scenarios for my convention demo games.
I can’t recall why, but a few weeks ago I popped the lid off the box and sitting right on top was something I had no recollection of having seen before. Maybe it was handed to me and I forgot about it, or maybe someone was a little devious and snuck it into my box when I wasn’t looking.
Hmmm… some kind of booklet. I peered through it and realized it was a fanzine for D&D.
It floated around the house; meaning it would be on one of my To Read Piles located at various locations as I tend to read several books at once.
Thus I would pop it open and read a little bit of it then set It down unfinished.
I will tell you, the more I read, the more I wanted to read. It just seemed to get better and better the deeper I dug into it.
You see, this little fan booklet is a time machine. It has the physical dimensions of the original, Little Brown Books of Original D&D fame. It also is the same dimensions of another fanzine I was very fond of in the 70’s, The Dungeoneer.
If you want to know more about The Dungeoneer my advice is to do your own web search, as my fanboy passion for The Dungeoneer runs really deep and I would end up doing an entire article about it. Trust me, you’ll find a ton of info on it as others have already covered the subject extensively and most likely in a better manner than I could.
I have a thing for small books that can stack neatly with my LBBs. In the old days my white box had the 3 LBBs, 3 supplements. Chainmail (2 copies), and swords and spells inside it at all times, along with my favorite small form fanzines.
At first I couldn’t even tell what the title means. Is it, the Wizard Funk as an homage to Fred Funk of the Blackmoor Bunch, or is it just Wizard Funk as a commentary on smelly gamers?
What got me to keep looking through the book is the art. Cover art by Craig Brasco. Interior pieces by Colton Rosws and Josh Ross. There are other very interesting pieces which are un-attributed. There is a small gallery of art by Thaddeus Moore. Every bit of art is black and white and just screams old school.
To be honest the layout sort of turned me off at first. It looks like it was laid out in word, complete with Xcel sheet style grids. But now I’ve really warmed up to it. The fanzines of the 70’s reflected the technology available in their time, well then, a contemporary fanzine will reflect current technology. It should be made with ink jet printers and the all too familiar fonts and layouts of common word processors.
When it comes to books I am a bit of an ADD freak. I pick up a book and find a page and read for a bit. Then it gets tossed aside. Thus it has taken me a couple weeks to get through this book. Yet, the feeling I have from it is that I want more. And that this belongs in every traditional RPG players tote bag.
The Issue I found, which is issue three, contains:
3 interviews with old school luminaries
2 complete dungeons
5 Rule Variants and additions
Everything in this mag is the kind of stuff all of us would read back in the day. The interviews were eye opening for me. Granted the one with Stephen Rocheford was all stuff I already knew since I have 2 interviews with him and often call him on the phone to catch up on things.
But the other two were surprising and now because of these short interviews I have other games I may need to find copies of and study.
The same can be said for the pre-gen dungeons. I never run other people’s dungeons modules, but I love reading through them for ideas. Both dungeons are prepared in the time honored fashion of being very scant on details. Each room description has just enough info to guide a DM without railroading every little detail. A new DM could easily draw their own map and then place the encounters from both dungeons into it and create their own game.
The game variants are something that will inspire any referee. Eric Hoffman’s D100 Humanoid Traits is a random chart for designing unique properties for the standard Orc, Kobold, or Goblin clan. I may not like every idea on here, but you can be sure I will be ‘lifting’ some of these encounter ideas into my own Blackmoor Campaign.
Thaddeus Moore writes about uses for mundane items. Everything from Chalk to Wool Blankets has at least one way to use it creatively on an adventure. I love this article because again, it is a jumping off point for creative play both for players and DMs.
Other articles include a guide to using M.u. spells that are not combat oriented. A random dungeon generator and even a list of words one could use to describe weather conditions in the wilderness.
The beauty of this booklet is that it truly is fan material. You aren’t going to find it very easily. There isn’t any contact info in the booklet.
It does have attributions, thus I was able to determine that the most likely creator is Robin Irwin who played in my Tonisborg session at Gary Con. I expect that is when he slipped it into my bankers box.
I like it so much that you should not be surprised if an old blog post of mine appears in a future issue. I want to make sure this mag keeps on being published and I will gladly donate white box D&D content to it in order to make sure they have enough articles to publish into the future.
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