gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
[personal profile] gridlore
Yesterday a man I was lucky to count as a friend and mentor passed away. I only ever met Loren Wiseman in the flesh once, and that was long before we had a professional relationship. But he was one of the architects of the role-playing games that I still love to this day, and as I told my mom on the phone, he was probably one of the guys she wanted to punch in the face when I was a teenager (I was just slightly obsessed with Traveller. Slightly.)

Ah, Traveller. When Craig came home from a local game convention with that iconic little black box and told me that he wanted to run a game for me, I was thrilled. It was the early summer of 1977. I wasn't quite 11 yet, and attention from my big brother that did not involve a pummeling was a good thing. I found out years later I was allowed to game only because his regular group wasn't interested in doing a science-fiction game.

But I rolled up a merchant named Beowulf Schaffer (yes, I was reading a lot of Larry Niven) and Craig had of course figured out a 3-D starmap based on the Known Worlds. I think that game lasted three or four sessions. But there were more to come, and eventually I rolled up the character who would stay with me for years, Captain Sir Arameth Gridlore, Master of the Free Trader Driver Carries No Cash. I played Gridlore in multiple games through the years, and I'm proud to say that the old ethically-challenged merchant has made it into several official Traveller publications.

Eventually, I had my own set of the rules, and used my weekly allowance to gather more and more Traveller stuff. This is where Loren comes back into the story. GDW, the publishers of Traveller and other fine games, started a magazine to support the game. The Journal of the Travellers Aid Society (JTAS) had short adventures, new aliens and equipment, and mostly articles that expanded the growing Third Imperium setting from a vague "there's an empire out there" to a living, breathing place. Loren was editing the magazine, and I didn't know it then, but his work honed my skills as a world builder.

Loren also was a great game designer in his own right. He did a series of war games set in Republican Rome, and was lead designer on a game called Twilight:2000. The setting of the game was central Europe in the aftermath of the Third World War and a limited nuclear exchange. The characters are soldiers in the US 5th Infantry Division who get a message from divisional command: "Good luck, you're on your own."

Needless to say this game was immensely popular at Fort Benning while I was stationed there. A game where all the officers are dead and we get all the cool stuff? Awesome! I still remember the day we were playing in the rec room at Delta, 3/7th Infantry. We had found an intact M109 self propelled artillery piece, and were having an argument over how fast it could shoot. Then we all remembered that right across from our barracks was the 2/10th Field Artillery. After confusing the staff Duty NCO, we eventually got a quick lecture on the vehicle and a spare Field Manual for it. All so we could blow up imaginary river pirates on the Vistula.

Fast forward several years. It is announced that Steve Jackson Games has gotten a license to produce a version of Traveller. Loren was going to be mostly in charge. The intial projects look great, and I'm checking the "writers wanted" section of the SJG website when I see a call for a GURPS Traveller book on the Imperial Army and Marines. With great trepidation I send in a proposed outline and writing sample. And wait. And wait. Finally, I summon the nerve to call SJG and speak to Loren, who remember is one of my idols, and ask him about it. "Oh, yeah, I'm giving you the contract." He may have said more words, but I had stopping having a functional brain.

Writing Ground Forces was a challenge. I had never tackled such a project before. Luckily, I was smart enough to ask for help from my fellow members of the Traveller Mailing List, and brave enough to pepper Loren with questions. Each one of which he answered fully. Ever written for publication? You send in your first draft and it comes back covered in red ink, possibly reeking of brimstone and charred at the edges. But mine also came with a note "You write like a pro! Fix these few problems, and we're all good!" Exactly what I needed to see.

I can never express how it felt to hold that first author's copy in my hands. It was a Traveller book with my name on it. It was a good book, and I'm proud to say that it's always been highly rated by Traveller fans. And it never would have happened without Loren Wiseman's guidance and patience. He'll be missed.
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gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
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