as told by Bob Bledsaw
A group came to me asking me to monitor or judge a game for them which they had tried on four separate occasions to play. After a brief look at the three books, I pointed out that many of the rules were incomplete and I would have to rewrite much of it before we could attempt a game. I had always loved fantasy and science fiction. Although a stereo systems designer at General Electric with limited free time, I reworked the game and designed a small dungeon located near Weathertop in Middle Earth. Despite the misfit magic, this campaign grew to consist of around eight large hex maps from the Grey Havens to the Lonely Mountains and from the Iron Mountains past Mordor. We experimented with many combat systems and magic systems along the way. I had a gigantic dining room table which was filled with gamers and around thirty or more spectators from the local college and high schools. My original group began to beg me to run a session every night and even tried chasing me down the road in automobiles when on family outings. Some all-night sessions did not end until dawn and the magic system became less Tolkien like over time. To permit the gamers to justify this more Vancian type of magic, I created a gate to the City State of the Invincible Overlord just before General Electric closed the plant I worked at. I will add more on the history of my campaigns later but suffice it to say for now that I have ran several campaigns besides the original based upon the Wilderlands. Lord Dunsany and Fritz Leiber are two of my most favorite storytellers. Naturally, I placed in this world much of what I loved in my extensive library. This was prior to the publication of Greyhawk or any other city for this genre that I am aware of. At the 1976 GenCon, Bill Owen and myself sat at a small table where I sold the first City State installment with all four map sections rolled up to prevent creases. I promise more particulars later.
The pace of action and quality of description is important to anyone wishing to maintain an active campaign. The best rules are intuitive and easy to memorize. Subscribing to the philosophy of KISS (keep it simple, stupid), I devised a judge’s shield based upon the rule set, then allowed the gamers to roll their own dice. I never viewed myself as a storyteller to guide the gamers through a preconceived adventure. I tried to maintain the suspension of disbelief by permitting the gamers complete freedom of action. When encouraged to run a typical session at GenCon, Gary Gygax himself was quick to point out that I was not running an “official” game. Critical die rolls for negotiations and so forth; I readily rolled in plain view of all. One of the first things I discovered is that even well-meaning gamers tended to remember bonuses and forget penalties. One of the first experiments we tried was to allow gamers to decide which spell they wished to cast in a particular situation with a robust backfire table should it go it be unsuccessful. It was based upon allowing the mage to have a number of mana points equal to his total spells such as 3 points for the one third level spell he could memorize and 4 points for his two second level spells permitted and 4 points of his four first level spells permitted for a total of 11 points. Thus in a situation in which he needed a simple light spell unexpectedly, he could attempt to cast it without the artifice of memorization per day.
Judges Guild was founded by myself and Bill Owen (Llangwellan the Blue) from my campaign. It was he and his friends which contacted me with the original three book set. T hey had reached me via Dave Petrowsky, my cousin, and the local gaming club. Bill Owen is renowned for running miniature games based upon WWII, and his father, Ralph Owen, had founded a chain of hobby stores in Central Illinois (later founding the Franklin Mall and highly successful Franklin Travel Agency in Decatur). Bill has a real genius for graphics and helped with the development of many of our first products including the Judges Shield and Dungeon Tac Cards. Bill and I continue to game together to this day although he is now the CEO of many of his family businesses. I had asked others of my gaming group to participate such as an out-of-work printer but Bill took the risk with me. He helped with the paste up on the huge Mylar sheet naming every shop in the City State of the Invincible Overlord and consulted some lawyers in his family to make the Crime and Punishment rules. Bill is one of my best friends and stepped aside when his family enterprises began taking much more of his time.
Craig Fogle played Beorn in my original Middle Earth campaign. He fit the description as Craig is a huge bear of a man with quiet unassuming dignity and a fierce devotion to honor. His barony was filled with creativity and meticulous detail. He married my secretary, Peggy, and has a wonderfully intelligent girl. He is one of my best friends and I still game with him every chance I get. Craig went on to become a Systems Manager and now does computer work for Diamond Star. I wish I knew half of what he has forgotten about computer technology. Craig set up my TRS-80’s chaining them together. His good natured laugher and penchant for rolling twenties when needed made him the favorite at most sessions (oh the moans and groans when Craig could not show up).
Nimrod the Wood Elf of Mirkwood, aka TJ Kater, sported a bushy blood afro and John Lennon spectacles. He was ruddy of complexion especially when excited (about every ten minutes in our gaming sessions). His gusto was harnessed in processing orders with his sidekick, Balin, aka Bill Davis, Dwarf Lord and Shipping Manager. Bill had an unassuming air but his smile provoking good nature hid a sensible commonsense approach to life. I have lost touch with these friends as they moved out of state to obtain employment. Marc Summerlott, or Marcham the Noldor Elf, was infamous for his stunts of comic relief (such as trying to break a hippogriff by pounding it about the head while soaring over the Elven King’s Hall), He was engaged to a girl which gamed with us for some time but broke the engagement when Marcham married a princess from a northern petty kingdom for political reasons. Her amazons cut a swath through Prince Marcham’s barony before riding off into the sunset. Marc did galley layouts and paste-ups mostly. He authored Theives of Badabaskor under my close direction and help. Later he began dating my little sister Debbie without my knowledge then married her. Four fine children resulted and Marc is still one of the regulars at our weekend gaming sessions. Mark Holmer played Gandalf in my campaign from the first session onward when he was not playing in a local rock band. Mark’s careful attention to detail became a useful asset to us in the early years and he became my business manager.
Through the Gate
The circumstellar ring has been revered as the Heaven’s Bridge by most ancient races of Ghenrek IV as the planets, moons, and even the sun itself travels across the sky upon it. By daylight, it assumes a light blue aspect and at night, it glows silver with tinges of scarlet (since the war of the gods against the Markrabs or Uttermost War). It is speculated that the mass of the ring is responsible for the intensity of the plasma wind given off by the star. The ring becomes golden once every 52 years for a period of 90 to 96 days due to a sharp decrease in solar storms and sunspot activity. Intelligent life forms use these phenomena to mark the end of a cycle and the beginning of new events. Astrophysics specialists predict that the asteroid belt will eventually move outward into the circumstellar ring to precipitate the formation of two additional planets in roughly 13 million years.
The unusual cosmic cauldron that formed this system resulting in four elements not found anywhere else in this galactic spiral arm. Adamantite is an extremely light weight tough metal of a golden reddish hue. Furthermore, adamantite molecules align themselves in response to mental energy in the form of alpha waves by the repeated actions of magicians (more on this later). These alignments seem to both store and focus energy in metallic crystalline lattice structures design by the magicians to achieve unusual results. The term pyschoreactive has been applied to this property. Meithreil is a nearly translucent silver colored metal whose unique molecular structure permits an edge almost monofilament in thickness, is virtually corrosion resistant, and forms a crystalline matrix that ejects other molecules making it near impossible to alloy. Heat treatment yields a tough ductile core able to withstand great stress and strain. Magicum is a turquoise colored metal with a low melting point (244 degrees C) and has an unusual crystalline structure electromagnetic energy to a concentrated form which can be manipulated by the electrical synapses in the brains of living creatures in close proximity. Magicum absorbs heat from its surroundings, chilling the ambient significantly when this happens. Where large deposits of magicum are located, the efficacy of spells and magic in general is so potent as to indicate that the metal may be the source of all magic (and a significant factor in the geological ice age of this planet). Orichalcum is an extremely dense black metal whose crystalline form permits it to absorb gases and liquids similiar to a sponge, locking them within the crystals. Being rare, it is often overlaid on adamantite weapons to produce especially potent rings, staves and artifacts.
These rare elements were first discovered by explorers from the Alliance of Elder Races which brought many of the shorter lived races to the planet for exploitation prior to discovery of the indigenous races of Dragons and First Men.
The Alliance of Elder Races was founded by star faring races of extremely long life spans, up to 1,400 years. They accepted any race that achieved the ability to travel between the stars and agreed to the Ethic Charter. This charter proclaimed that sentient life itself is of the highest value and only the quest for knowledge is worthy as the ultimate goal of any race. They choose to remain hidden from any culture not accepted and developed strict laws prohibiting contact or exploitation of any system wherein a non-star faring sentient race was developing. Upon finding no sentient life forms on Ghenrek IV, they established four bases and filled them with scientists and engineers from the 255 systems of the Alliance. It was found that shallow craters containing magicum could be found upon every continent and life forms of all varieties had adapted to the use of magic in hunting and gathering. Huge gravity anomalies dotted the landscape often resulting in giant flora and fauna.
Raliban the Wise would be shocked to learn what he considered the Uttermost War was actually world wide but small in comparison to the actual Uttermost War which occurred 45,000 years ago. Raliban relied upon metal tablets found beneath the ruins in a metal chest near the Calendar Obelisk which described the conflict between the Pious and Philosophers which ended around 6,000 years ago. One faction believed the overuse of magic stifled creativity and the felt the salvation of all races depended upon technology and abandonment of the gods. Magic was only to be used in the most dire of circumstances as it sapped the will to work. T he Pious believed in the gods and glorified Magic as the gift of the gods. One passage referred to the appearance of many new gods during this conflict and whole races warred on one side or the other. The destruction of temples, spell books and scrolls was left in the wake of some armies while others destroyed machines, tools and crafting shops of all types. Obviously, the Pious won and all persecution was ended against priests and magic users. The creation date of 12,000 years ago was determined from the interpretation of one tablet which explained that the gods greatly increased in number then with many fantastic and mythological creatures almost simultaneously. It referred also to the Great Dispersal wherein all races were purged, blessed, gathered together, dressed in holy robes of paper, and scattered in small groups throughout the lands (actually done by the Alliance for War protesters seeking a peaceful new world free of technological demands and curious about magic at the time of the cease fire).
Many reports of footprints and unusual items filtered in as the scientists began to collect data on the flora and fauna. Due to the lack of complete data, botanists and geologists largely ignored this information. The biology of this world was rich with marvelous finds attracting scientists from all 255 worlds of the Alliance. An extensive root system seemed to cover most the world’s topsoil and core drillings revealed a silicoid layer similar to silicoid life forms found elsewhere deep beneath the clay layers. Electrical impulses were detected traveling amongst this root system and some speculated it was interfacing with the silicoidal layer. Four bases were built and only one was for accommodating the huge bodies of the elder long lived races. After 133 years of exploration and exploitation efforts, a robominer tunneled into a large cavern containing dragons and humanoids. War immediately insued.
The First Men attacked upon the backs of dragons. Only twenty casualties resulted before the Alliance surrendered in abject humiliation that they had broken so many laws. Dialogue began with the Alliance promising to leave as soon as all equipment could be destroyed or lifted off planet. The First Men explained that they would dictate the terms based upon the will of their god. They returned the next day to insist upon hostages numbering at least six of each race to be left behind. A compromise was worked out whereby the elder races alone would not stay behind due to their low numbers. Volunteer hostages would be transported in groups after all skin implanted nanocomputers were rendered ineffective. Botanists pointed out that they were not to blame as the First Men explained that they neither used fire nor built habitations. Their god had warned them to hide long ago. A party of Markab slaves called Shadows had found out the secret of Gates being studied and a Markrab prince arrived in orbit near the space station above.
After a brief period of demands by the prince to share all technology discovered upon the planet and repeated attempts at compromise by the Elder Alliance, an Alliance star cruiser/transport arrived to pick up the Alliance colonists. During this two year period, the Alliance constructed a fortress north of the base constructed to accommodate the large bodied elder scientists (later to be called the City State of the Invincible Overlord when nomadic barbarians settled amongst the ruins thousands of years later). The Markrab constructed a fortress base within the Valley of the Ancients and immediately attacked the dragon enclaves there (since Dragons were the most abundant indigenous life form there were 944 large warrens and over 1,200 smaller warrens). The Alliance protested this act of war against these neutrals but did not know that it resulted from a failed attempt to convince the dragons to attack the Alliance bases being dismantled. T he Markrabs destroyed over 70% of the entire population of dragons. Completing the dismantling and demolishing of all tools and machines not worth transporting, the Alliance star cruiser filled up with the colonists going off planet and the Markrabs began the Uttermost War by destroying the cruiser, all satellite probes, and the Alliance space station. The planet itself was spared devastation as neither side wished to disrupt or destroy the unique ecological cauldron of immense scientific interest. The fortresses prevented additional landing by either side and were themselves dismantled upon agreement to a ceasefire.
There can be only one! The faint outlines of a huge rectangle on a sheer flat granite rock face could be discerned upon new moon nights. The sheer size of the ancient artifact resulted in the legend that it was a creation of a greater god. A gathering of sorcerers attempted to harness the power of a summer storm through ritual magic at the base of this godly place. A tremendous bolt lanced down from the thunderhead and struck the surface of the granite artifact . The blazed white hot and the rectangle glowed a brilliant blue. Already shaken to their knees, the sorcerers were thrown to the ground by a deafening clap of thunder and hurricane force winds as a long metal comet streaked out of the glowing blue surface with a rush of heat and disappeared quickly over the southwest horizon. The outline of the rectangle began to trickle down the rock face and the blue glowing rectangle disappeared forever.