Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blast from the Past: Haunted Keep

Been some wild and wooly holidays so far.

My best friend, Al, was able to come up to visit for several days, and we were able to get a good day of gaming in... almost a solid 12 hours!

We met over at Ray's place, about three blocks away; Ray is the player in the 1-on-1 AD&D Greyhawk campaign I may have mentioned now and again (though we haven't been able to get a session in in some time).

To make things quick and easy and to make it truly a trip back to the "good old days" we went with B/X D&D (Moldvay/Cook/Marsh), and as with the B/X two-shot we went with odd double-classed characters; Al ran Anarchy, a 4th level elven Fighter/Thief, and Ray ran Tanis, a 5th level elven Cleric/Magic-user.

Not having had any real time to get anything prepared, I decided to go with something old and yet something new, and printed up my PDF of The Haunted Keep by the guys at Dragonsfoot.org. The module was not quite what I had hoped, and I had to just wing things a lot of the time; the module seems disjointed in places, the result, I expect, of being designed by committee. But it worked out, for the most part.

Even with the advantage of several levels on the suggested level of the module, it was a hard slog for Anarchy and Tanis. They easily routed the bandits in the Gatehouse and had little trouble dealing with the goblins of the West Tower.

The encounter with Lady Lemunda (#13) did not go well; I cast her as an annoying, demanding, shrewish yet beautiful noblewoman, and being neutral elves, the PCs decided she was more annoying than she was worth. They ended up locking her in her own chamber, along with the (love-maddened) Relda (#15) who wanted to kill them as they had killed her love, the Robber Knight (#11). They told the two that they would be back to rescue them "after they cleared out the bandits and goblins," and never really looked back.

After returning from town for provisioning and healing, they discovered the goblins had re-kidnapped the pair. They also encountered two other captives (#22), which I cast as Jurgen and Fritz, the lady's footmen, who said that the "hooded ones took the lady and her maid down the trapdoor!"

They rescued the two footmen (simply Normal Men), who insisted on assisting to rescue their "fair lady." First they were outfitted with the goblin's weapons; Fritz died in the Torture Chamber (#30), nibbled to death by rats. There they rescued Relda, who was being tortured by Kalakia. They then returned to town, and put Relda up in their room. Tanis was being ravaged and wasted by a terrible disease, which he thought was lycanthropy, but was merely the standard nameless rat disease (both he and Anarchy might have been diseased with lycanthropy, lethal to elves; that was yet to be determined, as it was several weeks until the full moon). They still spent a good chunk of change on a cure disease spell, which was fortunate, as the disease would have been fatal in four weeks.

Upon returning they failed to check the trapdoor in #22 for new traps, and Anarchy fell victim to a black lotus sleeping gas poison. So this time, Tanis and Jurgen had to carry him back to town. A neutralize poison spell awoke him from his enchanted slumber and depleted the last of the wealth of the pair.

They returned yet again, and this time were more careful; the gas exploded harmlessly, and they waited for it to settle before returning to the dungeon below. There they encountered the haughty hobgoblin leader and his crew (#s 29, 34), and though Jurgen comported himself heroically (slaying two or three hobgoblins single-handedly) he fell. Tanis also fell (unconscious), and Anarchy had to drag him out of the chamber in a fighting retreat. It was down to one roll of the dice determining survival or death for all, and after a lengthly exchange with the last standing hobgoblin, Anarchy stood victorious (with all of three hit points). With the great treasure they looted from the hobgoblins, they were able to purchase healing at the temple and were back adventuring the next day.

Unfortunately, when they returned they didn't bring back Jurgen's body, and Relda, who had now latched onto him as a heroic-lover figure, was devastated. Anarchy and Tanis (who were both aligned "Neutral Bastard") mocked her situation, and suggested she go and "earn her own keep" (Anarchy even offered her a few coppers for a tumble to "get her started in the business"). She ran off into the night, and was not seen again...

When the pair returned to the Haunted Keep, they delved deeper into the dungeon, having discovered the secret entrance to the second level. There they encountered Lucretia (whom I'd bumped up a bit, to be more of a match), and I looked forward to a good battle between them and her, but she only got one shot in before the pair smacked her down; Tanis send three magic missiles into her, each almost maxing out, and Anarchy hit her hard with the sword +1, +2 vs. lycanthropes that they had looted from the tomb (#32).

We ended the session there, as it was almost midnight. Too bad, really, because I had decided that Relda, having had enough of their terrible treatment, had decided to go back to the keep herself and bring the bad guys to town, to ambush the pair in their own room! Ah well...

So though there were many hiccups, the module worked well enough, and fun was had by all.

Every time I run B/X, I am reminded of why I consider it the best version of Dungeons & Dragons. Every combat went smoothly, and every judgment call I had to make was easy and unencumbered by crunchiness or rules-mongering. Someday, perhaps, I can put together a B/X campaign. I really have to check at the local library if they allow people to put up signs for games and such... gaming in Stevens Point hasn't panned out lately due to weather, and while the 1-on-1 AD&D Greyhawk sessions with Ray are fun, a regular campaign with four to six players would be most pleasing...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Castles & Crusades: Martial Artist Class PDF

Now available at DriveThruRPG and RPGNow:

Castles & Crusades: Martial Artist Class

This seven-page PDF features a new class for Castles & Crusades, the Martial Artist, designed as an alternative to the ascetic monk. The class is designed to emulate the classic non-monastic martial artists, from kensai (sword saints) to gangland street fighters to noble samurai. The class provides a simple framework for all the core abilities needed for a dedicated martial artist, and provides dozens of ideas for additional optional abilities based on martial arts weapon styles; the exact framework of special abilities is left wide open for the individual Judge to adjudicate based on her own campaign. If you want a character that kicks butt and takes names with open fist, bare chest, and a pair of ‘chucks, this is the class for you!

The Martial Artist class abilities include:

Move Silently
Sixth Sense
Unarmed Attack
Unarmored Defense
Weapon Focus
Stunning Attack
Ki Strike
Battle Mind
Fist of Fury

The PDF also includes new weapons for use with Castles & Crusades:


The new Martial Artist class can be used with any Castles & Crusades campaign!

NOTE: The new Martial Artist class will be included in the forthcoming Wilderlands of High Adventure: Guide to the Wilderlands of the Mystic Realms product (AGP03001), where it will be expanded upon and considered a core class for that region. If you plan on acquiring that product at a later date, you do not need this PDF.

NOTE: If you are an Adventure Games Publishing subscriber, you should have received an e-mail detailing how to receive a complementary copy of this PDF. If you did not receive it, contact me at the Super Secret Subscriber E-mail Address to let me know.

This seven-page PDF retails for a mere $1.00! Buy it now at:



Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sandbox Meanderings

Recent posts at Grognardia and Greyhawk Grognard about "tent-pole" "mega-dungeons" got me to thinking about the origins of the Wilderlands and Sandbox-style adventuring. Dungeons & Dragons has its origins in the exploration of a massive dungeon beneath a castle, ruined or otherwise; Blackmoor in the case of Dave Arneson's campaign and Greyhawk in the case of Gary Gygax's. The character of these mega-dungeons helped mold and determine the character of the campaign settings derived therefrom.

In the case of Blackmoor, the wahoo wild adventures with robots and monstrosities in the Dungeon of Blackmoor were expanded into the wilderness of the World of Blackmoor; the strange mirth of the mad mage that guided the creation of Castle Greyhawk and the dungeons thereof guided the development of the subsequent World of Greyhawk. Each world, in essence, became an extension of the dungeon in which it had its genesis. Also of importance here is the origin of each world in the medieval and Napoleonic miniatures battles that preceded the development of Dungeons & Dragons; thus, the strong feudal nature of each setting, from the dichotomy between the Kingdom of Blackmoor and the Empire of Thonia (ruled from the city of Mohacs, an indicator of the games origins) to the many various feudal kingdoms with countless barons and counts and dukes in the Flanaess of Greyhawk.

The Wilderlands, on the other hand, has a completely different origin, and this is reflected in the style of the game and, subsequently, as it was one of the strongest influences on campaign-building (versus dungeon-building), its origins are the origins of the Sandbox-style campaign, and thus most Dungeons & Dragons campaigns throughout the years. The important factor to consider when dealing with the origins of the Wilderlands is that it was not Bob Bledsaw's first D&D campaign setting; it was his second! Bledsaw's first D&D campaign was run straight out of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth, complete with Hobbits, Rangers of the North, Mordor, and so forth. The player characters were not the great heroes of the Lord of the Rings cycle, no, they were simply adventurers going around encountering many of the things their players had read about. Manys the time since Bob's passing that I regret not sitting him down and dragging out of him the whole tale of those days. But suffice to say, from what I know, eventually the players got tired of adventuring in a world they could not change; after all, Middle Earth had a certain destiny that could not be altered. And so another world was born... the world of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.

Rather than being a dungeon writ large, then, the Wilderlands was designed as a successor to a previous campaign setting. The Wilderlands itself was accessible through a magical portal in the Misty Mountains of Middle Earth; the first adventurers in the Wilderlands were from that original campaign world. On the other side of the portal they encountered a world that was similar, but still different in great details. Overall, like Middle Earth, there were few great kingdoms; the world was "far passed its prime" and most great works lay in ivy- or sand-covered ruins. Here and there were signs of civilization; a few villages, a town or two, even a few great cities that might control a small region of farmlands, or even still claimed a great empire. Viridistan was the Gondor of the Wilderlands; the City State was the Annuminas of an earlier era, after its heyday but before the final fall. But even if the City State fell, that was not the end of any great cycle, or the beginning of a new one, for there was no "grand destiny" in this realm. Kingdoms might rise and fall, but even the gods took little note.

The overall feel of the Wilderlands was also quite like that of Middle Earth. Dwarves were in retreat in their mountain fastness; they had even been routed from their great delves some centuries ago by a dragon (Analegorn ~ Ancalagon). Elves were merry fellows in the forests, again passed their prime. Orcs and goblins ruled in the dark spaces. Hobb... er, halflings lived in small villages, where they grew pipeweed. Wizards were named after various colors of the rainbow, and rangers wandered the great wild spaces in between the sparks of civilization.

But not all was based on Middle Earth. The City State strongly felt the influence of the adventures of Fafhred and the Grey Mouser; here and there were references of the ancient lands of Pegana; now and again could be glimpsed a dash of madness straight from the Necronomicon. Conan, Elric, and Gilgamesh might well feel at home wandering the wild lands or in the flesh-pots of the city states. In addition to an open-ended world where the player characters could make anything happen, a second world enabled Bledsaw to drop in ideas and elements from other fantasy sources. The only things missing were banths and green martians (never did get around to asking Bob about Burroughs, whether he had not read his Martian works or simply chose not to include them).

The one thing notably missing was a mega-dungeon. Oh, to be sure, one did appear; Tegel Manor, of course, being the famous Wilderlands "mega-dungeon." But the Wilderlands adventures did not start out as the exploration of Tegel Manor; the mega-dungeon came later, and so the influences were reversed. With Tegel Manor, Bledsaw took the spirit of the Wilderlands and encapsulated it in the medium of a haunted house. And so in a way, the circle was complete.

From the simple desire of Bledsaw's players to have a world that they themselves could make an imprint upon, thus was born the Wilderlands... and from this came the whole concept of a Sandbox-style, rather thans Set-Piece setting.

Friday, December 19, 2008

AGAOAAGE Awards Coming Soon!

The Adventure Game Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the Area of Gaming Excellence are to be awarded in the following areas:

Board Games
Card Games
Collectible Miniature Games
Comic Books
Damn, I Wish I Had Done That
Geek Stuff
Graphic Design
Keeping It Real
Lifetime Achievement
Miniature Figures
Miniature Games Rules
Role-Playing Games: Adventure Module Design
Role-Playing Games: Art
Role-Playing Games: Campaign Setting
Role-Playing Games: Cartography
Role-Playing Games: d20 System Games
Role-Playing Games: OGL System Games
Role-Playing Games: Non-OGL System Games
Role-Playing Games: Simulacrum Games
Trading-Card Games

The one and only judge is yours truly. The only qualification for the award is if I think your game (or whatever) kicks ass and was released in 2008. Sending me free copies of your games will not help (though it certainly cannot hurt). If you win, you might get a certificate. Or something. I'm sure I have some colored paper sitting around the study somewhere.

Oh, and blame Jeff Rients for this madness. Yes, blame him well.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Last Call for Goodman Games 3.5 Products

On December 31st our good friends at Goodman Games will stop selling their d20 3.5 products, as is required by the end of the d20 license. This is the last opportunity you will have to get Dungeon Crawl Classics and all the other d20 3.5 products direct from the publisher. Visit their online store to purchase what is left of their 3.5 product at 50% off. Everything in d20 3.5 is readily useable with Castles & Crusades, and almost everything they've ever done can be used in the Wilderlands of High Fantasy and the Wilderlands of High Adventure.

Also for the rest of December, you can also purchase d20 3.5 PDF e-books at $2 each at their store at RPGNow. Remember, after December 31st, the PDFs are gone forever!

Goodman Games Judges Guild modules are all also on sale for only $2. Each is significantly larger than the typical Dungeon Crawl Classics modules! Each is set in the Wilderlands of High Fantasy, but can be used with the Wilderlands of High Adventure and Castles & Crusades with minimal work.

Goodman Games Judges Guild Page
Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor
Citadel of Fire
Dark Tower

I cannot more highly recommend Dungeon Crawl Classics and the Goodman Games line of Judges Guild products than to say that these are products that I wish I had made. DCC #35: Gazetteer of the Known Realms is one of the best campaign setting products ever published, and is on sale for only $5! Combine the broad information provided by the Gazetteer of the Known Realms with the crunchy bits provided in the Wilderlands of High Fantasy Boxed Set from Judges Guild, and you've got more adventure than you could play in a lifetime. Don't miss out!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Superior Scribbler Award

Dave of Sham's Grog 'n Blog tapped me for a Superior Scribbler Award. Much thanks Dave, glad you enjoy my meanderings and scribblings! It now falls to me to pass on the good cheer to five worthy bloggers. Mercy me, only five? So many folks out there are doing such wonderful work. Therefore, I must limit myself to "those five blogs that you would require access to if you were stranded on a desert island." The Pentacle of Awesomeness consists of:

James Edward Raggi IV never posts often enough, but when he posts on Lamentations of the Flame Princess, it is a must read.

James Maliszewski's Grognardia. If you are not reading this one already, what are you doing here?

Jeff Rients' Gameblog. Look in the dictionary under "scholar and a gentleman," and you will see a picture of Jeff there, sitting behind a DM shield and rolling dice. How empty would our weekends be without Shatnerday?

Monsters and Manuals; Noisms' aritcles always have multiple layers, like a sweet, sweet onion, and a vertiginous depth that is frighteningly cool. In other words, you always need to read his posts twice, at least, 'cause you always miss something the first and often, second time around.

World of Thool... The Wilderlands' loss is weird fantasy's gain, for if Scott felt constrained by such limits as the Wilderlands provided for the development of his campaign setting, then so it must be, as a caterpillar must lose it's, um, caterpillarness to become a butterfly. Or something profound like that.

The Fine Print:
  • Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.

  • Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.

  • Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.

  • Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!

  • Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tempting Fate: A Sneak Peek...

I hate tempting fate by showing this... but sometimes, you just gotta show off!

Sorry about the dearth of posts of late, but I've been busy, and so has the wonderful and amazingly talented Peter Bradley...

This is just a wee snippet...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Chartistry Redux: OD&D to AD&D2E Mark III

Hello dear readers, new and old!

Had I known this little chart of mine would be picked up and flung across a swath of the gaming blogosphere, I'd have perhaps dug a little deeper and fashioned it a bit clearer. As it stands, I've a lot on my plate that must come before dealing with this or further charting of Dungeons & Dragons design history, so this is probably the last I can really comment on it until I get some of the paying work done... many apologies.

I've made no real changes to the following chart, save to add background colors to the edition groupings; hopefully this will make it a bit easier to read for those who do not normally deal with such charts.

The blue section in the upper left is the segment that I class as "Original Dungeons & Dragons," from the original wood and white boxes through all four major supplements, plus Swords & Spells. Note how this edition feeds into Empire of the Petal Throne and First Fantasy Campaign; also, the early Arduin series is included in it whole, as a subset, though not a part of it, as it was neither official nor did the series influence the development of the official game systems.

The green section to the upper right is Holmes Basic Dungeons & Dragons, which, save for its ties to several of the Monochrome Modules (aka Pastels), stands pretty well on its own, though it influences both First Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and Moldvay Basic Dungeons & Dragons.

Moldvay Basic and subsequent derivations are on the lower right in brown; the only direct influence from elsewhere, other than Holmes, is a return of Blackmoor via the DA Blackmoor modules, as shown in the brown colored section to the lower left of the chart; this influence is late- and post-Mentzer BECMI. Rules influence is very slight to non-existent in this case, but influence on the development of the Known World/Mystara was strong, and as the development of Mystara and the rules included in the various Gazetteers strongly influenced the subsequent development of the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia, it is included herein. You will note that under my interpretation of the development of D&D, Dave Arneson's contributions were vital to the original development of Original Dungeons & Dragons, but save for his input in the Blackmoor supplement (most of which did not survive in any form in AD&D or later iterations of D&D) and the DA Blackmoor influence, latter contributions are minimal.

The large yellow section in the center is the AD&D 1E continuum, which is hardly complete and shows only the major influences during the period. As pointed out by a poster in the prior thread, absent entirely is the feedback from the early Judges Guild products; that's such a convoluted can of worms it requires a large chart in and of itself, from Bob Bledsaw's major contributions to the Dungeon Master's Guide to the direct and major influence of Judges Guild's mapping systems on the cartography style used by TSR for both AD&D and D&D for decades (I'll simply note at this time that the open-ended 1E/2E AD&D Forgotten Realms and hex-based D&D Known World/Mystara maps are both direct evolutions of map standards developed by Judges Guild for their Wilderness Books series and leave it at that until I get a chance to fully develop the presentation).

The green section between 1E AD&D and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition (the darker yellow section at the bottom center and left) is what is often termed as "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1.5E." Though 1.5E usually includes the materials in Unearthed Arcana, in truth UA was a essentially a design dead end, as while the material therein is used in 1.5E products (notably in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting set and the various Solamnic knights in Dragonlance Adventures), it was never further or more fully developed in 1.5E, and almost none of its influences (save a few spells and magic items) survive to 2E, likely due to its direct connection to Gygax, who left TSR shortly after its publication. The true apogee of UA influence, or rather, proto-UA influence, was on the Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon, of all places... The true progenitor of 1.5E and thus 2E, is Oriental Adventures. Of special note there is the involvement of Dave Cook, later developer/designer of AD&D 2E, in the writing of OA.

OA, which included the first use of Non-Weapon Proficiencies, begat DSG, which begat WSG, which begat MoP, sire of GA (a "1E/2E" product) all cousins of Dragonlance Adventures, the other major influence on the development of 2E, particularly the divisions of the magic system and evolution of divine spheres as fully realized in 2E. So too, though of lesser influence, was the development of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, in which stewed many of the concepts released during the AD&D 1.5 era, and wherein developed many concepts added to 2E, notably the vast expansion of the powers of dragons (which went from being a classic, semi-regular encounter in 1E to more often being a campaign-ending encounter in 2E).

Now, the influence of Dave Cook and his work on Expert Dungeons & Dragons may or may not be a factor in the development of AD&D 2E; most of the elements added to AD&D 2E were already in development elsewhere in the 1E/1.5E continuum, through regional house rules, designer's campaigns, and Dragon Magazine. So as to any specific elements of the D&D rules continuum feeding back into the AD&D 2E continuum, that would be a good question for Dave directly. I'll see what I can do on that end, as his input on many things will help in the next stage, taking development from 2E through 2.5E to 3E and beyond.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Chartistry: OD&D to AD&D2E Mark II

I've fixed this after some folks schooled me in mistakes and omissions. I've also added a few modules and another line of influence. Thanks to all for the comment

I've also made one major adjustment. After further consideration, and some in-depth re-reading of the Blackmoor supplement and Holmes, I've come to the conclusion that there is zero influence from the Blackmoor supplement in Holmes. Zilch. Nada. Unless, of course, I'm missing something

The minor influences from the Blackmoor supplement (notably a selection of monsters) are re-integrated into the Dungeons & Dragons line with Moldvay, and from the variants included therein, the influence is more readily derived from the 1E Monster Manual, rather than direct Blackmoor seeding.

Dungeons & Dragons Chartistry

Is that a word? Chartistry?

I dunno. But thanks to Jeff Rients, I got a hankering to present my own chart of the origins and evolution of Dungeons & Dragons. This first chart keeps things simple by charting the origins of D&D and the evolution of D&D, AD&D, and the positioning of some other early developments, up to the debut of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition in 1989. Perhaps later I'll take things from 2E through 4E, but the era presented is the real heart of the whole discussion, particularly the split between D&D and AD&D and the contributions of Gygax vs. Arneson.

I know there are a few things I missed here and there (like EPT), but from my recollection and studies, this is for the most part complete, and includes the most important and influential elements. I'm sure you folks will let me know where I've gone wrong...

As usual, click on the image to get the embiggened version. Unless you have the "microscopic vision" mutation...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Super-Mega-Ren-Faire the Music Video

AKA, Hawk the Slayer Part II, the Musical Sequel.

Warning: What has been seen cannot be unseen; what has been heard cannot be unheard.

Atlas of True Names

This is absolutely awesome!

My next (non-Wilderlands) campaign setting is totally going to be named in this way.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Holidays are Here

One of my few measures of time, and knowing that the Holidays are upon us, other than actually looking out a window once in a while, is when Santa Claus goes hunting in the Ogre Cave.

Another is when Wizards of the Coast has its annual layoff. Condolences to all who were caught up in this round, and to those who are left picking up the pieces. Per the WotC spokesperson, "Wizards of the Coast consolidated its digital game organizations to streamline execution of digital growth strategies for core brands." A more soulless quote has perhaps not been released in regards to the adventure game industry.

I give WotC another year, on the outside, before Hasbro gives them the WizKids treatment, a la Topps.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Memories of Bob and the Wilderlands

A few random things. I found this on the archives at the Judges Guild Necro site... a re-post from the Guest Book from the days when JG had an earlier site...

James A. Mishler - Fort Wayne, IN, USA
Monday, April 26, 1999 at 23:50:19 (EDT)

Hoody-Hoo! Judges Guild is BACK! Great to see you are back on your feet! I felt that there was a lot of promise after Bob Bledsaw's presentations at GenCon last year! Looking forward to seeing CSIO, CSWE, Tarantis and the whole world back in action!

I was the sixth to post in the guest book after Bob and crew got the site up, within two days of it going active.

Bob and I first met at Gen Con in 1998, when he was part of a series of seminars on the founding days of the industry. Apparently Lou Zocchi had finally gotten ahold of him again, and convinced him to come to the show; Bob had been difficult if not impossible to find since the closing of Judges Guild back in 1985, wanting little to do with the industry. Bob hung out at Lou's Gamescience booth, as he often did at later Gen Cons. I used my little precious time away from the Kenzer & Company booth (where I was working at the time) to go to his presentations.

The next year, Bob had the 1999-62 ("Blue Book") Edition of the City State, sold at his own booth, along with boxes and boxes of old JG material he'd found somewhere.

At some point after that he hooked up with QLI/QuickLink, and they published a new, d20 edition of Dark Tower and a new edition of the Treasury of Archaic Names. Though the relationship started off well, things didn't go as planned, however, and at the end of 2002 the relationship with QLI came to a close and Bob started working with Necromancer Games.

Throughout all those years I wanted to work with Bob on various things, but one of the problems of working in the game industry full time is that your bosses tend to be jealous of your time; they feel that the pittance they pay you means they own you, your time 24/7, and any thoughts or ideas that pop into your head (even if you are not being paid as a game designer and, say, are employed as a marketing or public relations manager). So unfortunately through the early years of Bob's return, save for some initial work while I was "between gigs," I was unable to work with him in any official capacity...

By the time I was free to do work officially with Bob (early 2003), it was too late to get on the development team of the Necro products in a major capacity, which were already deep in development with Greg Geilman, Rob Conley, and crew. So again, my assistance was mostly on the sidelines, even though I was working full-time freelance for most of the year.

One very bad year later, I was again fully employed, and though I was allowed to work all I wanted on RPGs, I had no time, as it was a 60 to 80 hour week kind of job. I finally got that tamed to the point where it was merely ~45 to 50 hours per week, and so jump-started Adventure Games Publishing in August 2006, with the Wilderlands license from Bob and the Castles & Crusades license from Troll Lord Games. And then the company I worked for bought a major website, which they dropped in my lap, and all my plans went to Hell... again.

When I was finally freed almost a year later from that duress vile (i.e., given the boot, and much glad of it at the time), I was able to finally get things fired up. I had XXXI at Gen Con 2007, and re-developed plans to launch Adventure Games Journal, to be the modern incarnation of the Judges Guild Journal. Finally, I was able to work full-time, on material that I loved, with Bob himself. We talked back and forth quite a bit in the months following Gen Con (which he was regretfully unable to attend, the first he'd missed since '98, IIRC). But then I got deeper into working on AGJ #1, and further behind, and began noticing sales dropping precipitously on all RPGs (the "4E Crash"). I got so busy and involved with other issues I didn't get around to calling him as much, and when Bob stopped calling regularly I had other things on my mind, and didn't notice.

And when I finally realized in January that we hadn't spoken in several months, I called, only to find that he had been in the hospital and things looked bad.

They were worse, of course. Through those final months, we spoke often, whenever he felt well. He was able to see the first (and to date, only) issue of AGJ, and the Southern Reaches Map. But he never got to see the completed Rhadamanthia map; I sent the semi-final version to him via e-mail the night before he passed away, and he never saw it.

The funeral, I have written of before.

I miss him. I miss his advice. I miss his stories. Even the same stories he told every time we spoke. Especially those. Emig and Autocannon. Bill and selling the maps out of the trunk of the car at Gen Con. Gary and the Blume Brothers.

We spoke of Judges Guild, and Dungeons & Dragons, and RPGs in general. We'd speak of politics and wars, history and anthropology, swords and computers, and all sorts of things. But it would always come back to games, and Judges Guild, and the Wilderlands. Especially the Wilderlands.