July 2, 1997:
The scene opens. Wizards of the Coast, giant of the industry, buys TSR, another giant. Panic sets in. Rumors sprout about the evil empire growing around us. Jedi knights start disappearing... no, wait, wrong subplot. Ah, right, people talk about the imminent death of role-playing games, crushed in the iron hand of WotC.
Meanwhile, there was an irate Sandy. Judges at GenCon get their admission refunded if they run enough sessions. At GenCon'96 last year, I ran more than enough, and had 24 happy gamers at the end. But I was never reimbursed. After two query letters to TSR, nothing had been done. In fact, I'd decided not to run tabletops at GenCon because, well, if they won't keep their end of the deal, I'm certainly not going to pay for the "privilege" of providing content for them!
But I received a very unexpected letter in the mail last week. Not from TSR, but from WotC. It was my judge reimbursement for last year, with a nice note from their accounting head (an Adkison, to boot) apologizing for the delay.
"Wait!", I thought, "but evil empires don't pay their gamers on time! This goes against tradition! And they certainly wouldn't bother to pay legacy debts!" Yet there it was, in straight dollars and cents-- WotC was honoring TSR debts even at the piddly judge's fee level. How unexpected! How civil! This ruined all the evil rumors! What was I to do?
"Well," I thought, "at least we have the cold-hearted, elitest people at White Wolf to criticize." But wait, they were the ones nice enough to provide a free review copy of "Liege, Lord and Lackey" before it hit the stores! How dare they be so kind!
"Atlas Games!" I thought, "they make 'Lunch Money', they must be cruel at heart!" But, I liked the review copy of "Shattered Heart" they gave too much, and the two "Ars Magica" supplementes were most generous. I was running out of options.
Looking desperately for a villain, I cast my nets at Iron Crown Enterprises. With a name like "I.C.E.", they must be cold-hearted. No, wait, they provided 2 boxes of "Silent Death" for reviews and asked if I needed freelancer work.
How about the new kids, on the block, Pinnacle? Tough as nails and twice as ornery? Well, the copy of "The Quick and the Dead" they gave us, plus giving out free "Independance Day"s to retailers, sort of nixes that image.
Chaosium, purveyor of dark horrors? Not only did they give me review copies, they provided a box to lug everything around in. So much for cruel Mythos threats.
FASA. One of the big five in RPGs. All big companies must be intrinsically evil, right? Until, at least, their sales person asked me "just how many books can you carry?" It almost makes up for her helping to have me tied up in packing tape earlier (but that's another story.)
"Aha! Kult! A bleak, dark, cruel game, obviously by a bleak, dark... what? A copy of 'Purgatory' to review? How... kind. Hmmmm." Target Games had been kind. I started to sense a pattern.
If only one company had been underhanded and bribed me with immoral favors, but no, they all honestly and politely gave me review copies at the end of the Armory show because they like games, want happy gamers, and would like to have people playing their games! This is an outrage!
Until next time,