A little context: WCHL is our hyper local news and Tar Heel sports station. If you live in Chapel Hill and Carrboro for any length of time you’ll start listening. Especially to Woody Durham, “Voice of the Tar Heels“, during Tar Heel basketball season.
All this thinking about games, in-between doing real work, I’ve run across some abstract strategy games. A friend gave me a copy of Go a few years ago. Only played it once or twice. But this game Hex has me intrigued ….
My first day at the Duke Special Collections Library I looked through three boxes. Each one had about four game boxes in them. The first one, Box #9, had three box sets from the RPG Gamma World by TSR Games. The first box I opened was Gamma World 3002 circa 1978 by James M. Ward & Gary Jaquet. This is a early paper based roll playing game set in a post-apocalyptic world after a nuclear war that combines fantasy and science fiction characters.
I totally recognized this game. Not sure if I ever played it but I’m sure I either spent hours looking at it in a game shop or at a friends house. The forward of the rules book acknowledges influences from science fiction books and the Ralph Bakshi movie Wizards [Link to the whole movie on YouTube!]. Its interesting evidence that nothing in the arts is completely new. But a re-imagining of the world around us.
The art on the inside cover page of the Gamma World Manual from 1978 is of a guy in a wearing some kind of fatigues crouched down pointing a ray gun at a large humanoid creature with cat/bear ears holding a large club. Its a black and white ink drawing that imitates a wood block cut. The signature is the letter D and T on-top of one another. These initials are similar to the signature of Albrecht Dürer. While this illustration is not nearly the same level of detail as a wood block its very interesting to get a glimpse of this artists inspiration from the signature.
The second game box I opened was the Gamma World 7010 Basic Rules Booklet circa 1986 from TSR, Inc.. It has a full color cover with large pseudo three dimensional title letters. Beneath the main title is a sub title that reads, “Science Fantasy Role-Playing Game”. It’s a good reminder of the mash-up of two different creative genres.
The illustration on the cover is of a man who looks like a roman soilder holding a large laser gun riding a white horse. Is he the good guy? The solider is charging two humanoid creatures on the ground who appear to be defending themselves. The creature on the left has pointy ears and is wearing a furry loin cloth. He’s firing a large laser bazooka at the guy on the horse. Fortunately for the rider the bazooka blast misses him. Another fellow leans back holding a shield in one hand and a laser pistol in another. He has on a helmet with silver hoses coming out the back that end at a utility belt. He is also wearing fetching green tights and big boots with fur on top. His skin is like armor. This amazing illustration is by Keith Parkinson. His signature adorns the lower right corner of the work.
When I see this cover I feel a combination of nostalgia and distain. The style is super cheesy yet totally constant with the time and genre of art used for fantasy and science fiction games. I’ve personally enjoyed more dark science fiction art like the kind imagined for Aliens by H.R. Geiger. Somehow its sinisterness makes it more real.
My university professor, Elizabeth King, told us that artist receive inspiration from two creative sources, fantasy and science fiction. Then and now I believe that most of my creativity spawns from Sci-fi. But I read all the J.R.R. Tolkien books in middle and high school & love nature. Did that not stick? I guess when I started making art with computers I became a technology Utopian. I believe that humans can improve themselves with creativity and engineering. Recently that belief has been shaken.
Artists don’t have to be influenced by only fantasy or only science fiction. Issac Newton worked hard to prove that the magic of alchemy can be explained by laws of science. In a way role playing games are creative live action research to prove this very assertion. Here is what the Gamma World Basic Rules Booklet says we need to get started with this research.
Part I: INTRODUCTION
What You Need to Play
In order to play a GAMMA WORLD game, you need the following:
* This Rule Book
* The Adventure Book
* The dice provided in this game
* Pencils and erasers
* Paper and graph paper
For your first adventure, you should play the one enclosed in this game set. It has been designed so that it can be played without a GM. Or it may be used by one player to help him Game Mater a group of other players.
The contents of this game set include the following:
* The rule Book with attached appendices
* The introductory Adventure Book
* The Game Master’s Screen with all the most important tables
* The Reference Book with important tables and appendices, as well as a campaign setting for use in creating your own adventures
* The Player’s Screen with tables
* The large four-color map of a ruined city, the countryside, and a map of America.
* Sets of six and 10-sided dice
The final game in box #9 was Gamma World Rule Book circa 1983. Its book cover has a similar design to the Basic Rules Booklet. The main title was 3D but didn’t have the extruded Y axis. A border of similar color and luminance goes around the top, right, and left sides. Inside the border is a illustration of a futuristic knight in high tech armor holding a large bazooka sized gun. He rides upon a giant cat like steed with two rows of very sharp teeth and claws. A armor of similar style covers the mounts head, feet, back, and tail. This giant cat appears to be a cyborg of some kind with hoses connected to its head that has a helmet that covers its eyes and doesn’t appear to come off. Both of these figures stand atop a very big rock. In the background is a big sky and the snow covered mountains of a very large mountain range.
The inside cover of the Gamma World Rule Book has a blue spot color illustration that appears to be a offset print. A guy with long dark hair wearing a cape with no shirt and tight pants rocks boots with a scalloped material on top. A futuristic rifle is slung across his chest and pokes out from behind his back. The dude sits atop a very large dog in a mid or far eastern style saddle. The choice, by the artist, not to illustrate a western saddle gives it a other worldly look in context with the other items. The rabid looking steed bares his teeth and lets his tongue hang out till it almost touches the ground. A spiked collar and a muzzle complete the giant dogs attire.
Next post in this series is about the RPG I found in Box #19.
Note: This work is pretend scholarly research and inspired by morbid curiosity. I intend to respect the intellectual property of all companies and persons. If you object to your images being on this page please contact me and I’ll take them down asap.
In what seems like a never ending quest to remind myself of important things to do I’ve set up yet another scheme. This one uses telephony service If By Phone. I subscribe to their Complete service for Carrboro Coworking. It gives the business a great call tree and voice mail with a call routing service. I use this to get calls sent from my business number to my cell phone. Its more advanced than Google Voice in many ways and isn’t free. This reminder call is another advantage of paying for it.
I set up a recurring reminder to call me every day at 10:30AM to play a recording. I recorded, with my phone, a list of important long range to-dos. This reminder isn’t for daily to-dos but big picture stuff that will take months to get done. The If By Phone service even called me and recorded my message to be used with this service. I need this type of to-do because I have so many ideas that they often subvert each other. One day I’m down on idea A and another day I’m down on idea B. This has lead to a confusing and depressing feeling of mental limbo. I get stuff done but feel like I’m not going anywhere. So my answer is to learn focus by repetition.
The reminder can call any phone number you want. It’ll even ask you for confirmation you understood the message. You can type in your confirmation question. Mine is, “Do you dig it?”. I just say ‘Yes’ into the phone and the smart service understands then hangs up.
I’m trying this out because I don’t really like the sound of ringing phones. Its something I have a hard time ignoring. So I figured I would bug myself with it to force attention to important things. After a test call today I gave a name to the number in my cell phone address book. That way when I see the call coming in I’ll be ready to refocus my energies.