I knew I was hooked on gaming ever since my brother came home from the store with an Avalon Hill board game called Starship Troopers. I am not sure what year that would be, but I would have to think it was the late 70s. It wasn’t until high school that I came across D&D; I remember pointedly each time I bought a brand new copy of the 1st edition set of AD&D — still to this day can I remember the smell of the binding, cracking open the Dungeon Master guide. It was only a few years later that I started constantly DMing and then writing my own adventures. During those formative years we use to play a different RPG every month, trying out dozens of games — Sadly after three moves I own only a small percentage of my original core rules booklets.
In 1980 I home published a little book called Phantasm Adventures. I typed all the pages up on a typewriter and photocopied and bound them. Perhaps 100 copies of this game exists, yet only recently I had people from Canada and England asked me if they could buy a copy for their RPG collections. I own one original copy of the game — the where about of the other 99 are a mystery to me.
It was during this time that Jeff Dee (the creator of many of the original art found in the 1st and 2nd edition D&D rules, and also the writer of Villains & Vigilantes), and later Jack Herman (co-author of V&V), both moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan. I am unsure of the reasons he moved here, but I think it was a comic-drawing gig. The funny thing is I remember asking my mother if I could go down to this guy’s house and do some gaming, and my mom, always the worrisome type said no because it was in a rather unruly side of town (for Grand Rapids). So it wasn’t during the first alignment of the planets that I met Jeff Dee and started my game design career.
But the second time when again he posted a sign at a local hobby store looking for gamers a year later, I did finally get to meet him. It was here that I was introduced to V&V (the first super hero role-playing game). If I had to put a date, It was probably around 1984. Jeff Dee was the best GM I have ever played with — his campaigns were so imaginative, the stories were intricate, and best of all the battles were engaging. I remember always wanting to go to his house and game.
During this time, I also met up with Scott Bizzar (president of Fantasy Games Unlimited) and I pitched him a number of ideas on different full length gaming system including my little brown book called Phantasm Adventures. This was before the time of true word processing or very early on. If my memory serves me in 1984 the Lisa computer came out for Apple and that was the start of what I would call personal computing — although it would be another 15 years before I owned a Mac for a brief period of time. Alas, during this “Stone Age” everything had to be typed on either a typewriter or a bit later on my archaic Commodore-64 word processor.
It was in 1984 the I wrote my first adventure module for V&V called The Devil’s Domain. The adventure centered around a demonic figure trapped in another dimension trying to escape to Earth and a group of stalwart heroes trying to stop him. To this day I still get small royalty checks from the company every year.
In 1985 I released a compendium of super villains for V&V called Most Wanted III, having the prior two Most Wanted written by Jeff Dee and Jack Herman. This was another great production value module with artwork predominately done by Jeff Dee.
In 1986 I released my third and last V&V adventure called Return to the Devil’s Domain. By this time the franchise was seeing great growth but the overall production standards having slipped with shoddy artwork and poor editing.
In 1987 through 1988 I moved to Japan for a year. It was during the early part of my stay that I visited a bookstore and bought a Japanese game magazine called Game Graphix. On the back they put their address in English, I suppose because they thought it looked fantastical — as if a game’s magazine here would put their return address in elven, I guess. I wrote to the company and within a week I was sitting in their offices talking about games. The rest of the year saw the formulations of a dozen game books — I would write them in English, then present them to the editorial staff that would translate them into Japanese. It was during this time that I wrote and published Phantasm Adventures, Bloodbath, Bloodchant, and Multiverse.
in 1990 I was nearly considered for the producers position at Interplay, the maker of games like Fallout and Bard’s Tale. I was to work on a game called Castles. I flew out there and had serious talks with the president, but in the end I did not take the position.
When I returned to the states I continued to work on RPG designs for 10 years, working with every major publisher including TSR, Steve Jackson Games, Iron Crown Enterprises, and Different World Magazines. I still banged out expansions, modules, and map sets for the Japanese.
It was between 1987 and 1997 that I wrote such works as The Castle Guide and the Equipment Guide for 2nd edition AD&D. I also wrote a huge compendium for RoleMaster under the name of Heroes & Rogues. I also took a hand at editing for Hero Games, working on several super hero adventures for Champions. the Japanese continued to buy my creations including Advanced Phantasm Adventures. You can see more about this English version here:
It was during this period that I was on fire on creating home-brewed game systems, just as desktop publishing was taking off. I created a dozen RPG systems all seeing a very limited print but I became a center of gaming fury in Grand Rapids. At one point, I remember, I had 12 guys in my house playing one of the games. I created such systems as TED&D (pronounced Teddy like the bear) which stood for Troy’s Enhanced Doom & Death; Realms of Ardaan; and Star Traders.
I finally got to work at a computer game company when I accepted a position at Bethesda Softworks, the maker of Skyrim among other computer games. I was to work in the offices and also collaborate on Dagger Fall. My stay at the company was short lived as I discovered that working in the industry was not as glorious as it sounded.
After returning from Bethesda, I entered the “Dark Ages” of design, not producing anything of real quality for 10 years. It was a time of placid existence, without thought of worlds beyond ours — even my gaming dried up and I became lost in the world of gaming.
In 2007 I returned with several community mods for Civilization IV, a computer game of conquest from Firaxis. Although not a programmer, I did figure out how to make large modification to the rules. To this day, I still get people from all over the world emailing about how much they enjoyed my mod.
in 2010 I was contacted by Jeff Dee and Jack Herman about writing a new module for V&V; This project is in the works. It was during this year that I was also contacted by some of the original editorial staff of Game Graphix in Japan and they sought to release a new version of Advanced Phantasm Adventures. Sadly, this project keeps lapsing because of many outside factors.
In 2011, I started another design project called Iron Age. It was built off from my game rules system called Bloodbath, but a bit more complicated. It was also backed up by historical research, hoping to put players into a relatively real world environment of history. My hopes is that playing the game will spur the players to learn more about the culture and history during the Iron Age. The development continues, but slowly.