Some time during my eighth grade year, I asked my mother for a check for a few dollars so I could order a couple of games from an ad in Analog magazine. The fact that I was currently subscribing to Analog magazine has to say a little at least about the kind of kid I was. I was a science fiction fan, and still am. The games in question were “Microgames”—mini versions of the science fiction and fantasy strategy board games of the day. They came in little Ziploc bags: a rule book, a folded paper map sheet, and a sheet of cardboard counters. A buddy of mine and I played these like crazy almost every day after school and that was it, I was on my way in the SF/fantasy gaming hobby. This was well before the internet and when video games were still the Atari 2800 and games were still played at a table between two or more living humans.
That summer I discovered Dungeons & Dragons.
Yeah, that one took.
And that was 1978, so still right at the beginning of the role-playing game hobby, and what few other RPGs there were tended to be very DIY. But as a science fiction fan, I was on the hunt for the RPG experience, for lack of a better word, in space.
Originally presented as three little saddle-stitched books in a black box, with basically no art and a style to the rules that still harkened back to the strategy board games that gave the RPG its birth, Traveller was very much like D&D: A set of rules, but with no story or setting to speak of. That started to change for Traveller very quickly, and even more so than the rules, I was hooked on the universe.
Once I started high school and found the very small but very rabid community of gamers there we quickly started to explore games other than D&D and eventually we each had our “favorite” game, which we tirelessly fought to get the others to play. Mine, for a very, very long time (through college and beyond) was Traveller.
Let’s fast forward a couple decades and fifteen years spent working almost exclusively on D&D first at TSR then at Wizards of the Coast, a couple of kids, real, adult, grown-up life, etc. and Traveller ended up in a box in my garage, but never left me in spirit. In fact, some of my very first published credits were Traveller game adventures and other stuff. I was part of the pre-internet History of the Imperium Working Group—a fan community that supported the ever-growing, ever-evolving Traveller Universe.
Then I find myself out here on my own, and I happened upon the Kickstarter for Marc Miller’s new incarnation of the Traveller RPG rules and about half a second passes before I realize: I need to publish Traveller fiction.
That’s what I did at TSR and WotC: publish game tie-in fiction. I know how to do that, and do it well.
So I contacted Marc Miller, we started talking, then we signed a contract, and now here we are, with Traveller5 on sale and Fate of the Kinunir by Robert E. Vardeman, the first Traveller novel, on sale in multiple e-book formats at Smashwords and at Amazon for the Kindle, and coming soon in print, with as many as a dozen more in the pipeline with plans to publish a new Traveller (or 2300AD) book every month for the next year.
What can we learn from all this?
I’ve said before, and just recently again at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference here in Seattle: Be a part of the community.
I loved playing RPGs. I loved writing. I learned the publishing business. I wrote. I became part of the community. I submitted my work. I got the job. I stayed in the job. I made friends, and those friends have friends. And now my friends are some of the RPG hobby’s grand masters, including Marc Miller.
I have a copy of the MegaTraveller Players’ Manual signed by Marc Miller at Gen Con 1990, five years before I started working at TSR. It is the first and only time I’ve ever asked a game designer for an autograph.
What else can we learn from this?
Be a fan!
I’m working with Marc Miller and a great team of authors in this amazing, huge, dynamic Traveller Universe because I love it, and have loved it for . . . wow, has it really been 35 years? And they say that if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life.