Wednesday, August 5, 2020

RPGaDAY 2020 Day 5: Tribute

I'm going to pay tribute to two different men whose work has left an indelible mark upon me.

The First is Robert E. "Two-Gun Bob" Howard. His stories, especially those if Kull of Atlantis, Solomon Kane, and Conan the Cimmerian have been essential archetypes within the stories I tell. Obviously, I'm not alone, Howard's work is important to Pulps, fantasy, and the Lovecraft Mythos. Specifically, it was Marvel Comics' Conan the Barbarian, Conan the King/King Conan, and Solomon Kane that hooked me on the writer's creations. I won't lie, I have as much love for Roy Thomas and John Buscema as I do Robert (Barry Smith was before my time). Growing up our local independent TV station showed older Black and White films on Sunday mornings and while Conan wasn't featured, Tarzan was and I loved those movies. We had a local department store named Zayres which had these great 3 Packs of Comics. The first of these was DC's Tarzan and I reread them constantly. The next time we went they didn't have any Tarzans but they did have Conan the Barbarian and I decided I'd give it a try. As I remember it, Conan was heavier and more high-stakes than the Tarzans and it took me a few reads to really get into them, but I eventually got hooked. In many, many ways Thomas and Buscema's run will always be classic Conan to me, but it got me to read Two-Gun Bob's work as an adult and helped me have a view of the Mythos that wasn't Lovecraft (for me Bryan Lumley is my favorite Mythos writer). Many people find this hobby through Tolkien or Shannara, but I found it through comics and pulp-style cartoons and that has always informed how I run a game.

Finally, this blog, Cross Planes is named after Bob's hometown of Cross Plains, TX. I came up with the name preparing a city connected to the Multiverse like Sigil, Nexus, The Infinite City, or Cynosure that used Feng Shui for its rules. That game fell apart but Cross Planes, thankfully, lived on.

Last, but certainly not least person, is Game Designer Mike Pondsmith. Mike is the first Game Designer that I would keep track of and buy his work sight unseen. I loved everything that R. Talsorian put out in its heyday. And Cyberpunk was a revelation for me, both in terms of setting and game system. Interlock was a revelation to me about how to present a very straight-forward that was easily learnable and yet very in-depth. I love how it broke down class niche-protection in the way it represented exclusive skills and both Attribute and Skill were important for a character's actions. But the Killer-App for me was Castle Falkenstein. It was a masterful product, beautiful in presentation, brilliant it's streamlined rules, and astonishing in its mechanics. In my opinion, Story Games owe a great debt to Castle Falkenstein and showcased how Mike could redesign ADnD 2nd Edition in space with Buck Rogers 25th Century game, establish the Cyberpunk genre in our industry, and then embrace light rules with a commitment to genre emulation in the span of a decade.

The man even released CyberGeneration to show how Edge Runner's kids would rebel and change their world.

Sadly, I've never met Mike, but I've seen at conventions. In my opinion, he a giant of our industry and deserves a spot next to Arneson, Gygax, and Gregg Stafford.

Thanks for all of the hours of fun Mike. I owe you at least 1 beer.


Timothy S. Brannan said...

I have met Mike a few times at Gen Con. Great guy. He was super easy to talk too. I spent some time last Gen Con talking to his son about the Witcher game he worked on with his dad.

Cross Planes said...

That's great to hear. I briefly met him the year CyberGeneration came out. He and his wife were great. I missed him and R.Talsorian in the years they weren't active and I wish Fuzion had worked out differently.

Until I saw this prompt I hadn't realized that whenever I design an rules engine I reference either Interlock or Castle Falkenstein. I haven't picked the Witcher up because I haven't even seen the Netflix show yet. I think its awesome that he is working with his son too. We need more people like him.

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