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 Post subject: Q&A with Jeff Berry
PostPosted: Mar 06, 2010 4:57 pm 
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From Jeff Berry's Blog: http://chirinesworkbench.blogspot.com/2 ... s-and.html

Quote:
I got to know Gary through Dave; the latter used to send me down to Lake Geneva as his proxy to vote his token share of TSR stock at what passed for stockholders' meetings, and I had the dubious and difficult job of being a voice of reason during the struggles between Gary and the Blume Brothers (tm) over who was going to control TSR. Gary often found that Dave was in agreement with his views, and was surprised that I'd put them with all the passion that I could in the meetings. He took me out to lunch a couple of times, and we talked about the early days of gaming and TSR, and how and where things had gone wrong. I'd pass along Gary's views to Dave, and Dave's to Gary, and it was astonishing to both how often they actually agreed with each other.



Any more insight on this?

Havard

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Last edited by Havard on Mar 08, 2010 11:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mar 06, 2010 10:35 pm 
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Ask away, I guess; I was in the middle of it all, and never thought I'd be a bit of history...

yours, Chirine

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PostPosted: Mar 07, 2010 10:08 am 
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First of all, welcome to the Comeback Inn! We are very happy to have you here Chirine. I am sure everyone has questions for you.

One thing I have been curious about is what kind of influences Prof. Barker and Dave would have had on eachother's campaigns. For instance, I noticed that there is a race of frogmen-like people in Tekumel. Also, Dave once stated that he did not yet know (had not decided?) whether Blackmoor had a high technological past or not. Do you know any other examples of ideas that may have been shared between these two men? Did Barker ever play in Blackmoor?


From another thread:

chirine ba kal wrote:
Dave played with gusto and real brio, and provided all of us with many hours of entertainment.


This is great! What else can you tell us about Dave as a player? What I have read so far mainly deals with Dave as a GM.

Havard

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PostPosted: Mar 07, 2010 12:29 pm 
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Havard wrote:
First of all, welcome to the Comeback Inn! We are very happy to have you here Chirine. I am sure everyone has questions for you.

One thing I have been curious about is what kind of influences Prof. Barker and Dave would have had on eachother's campaigns. For instance, I noticed that there is a race of frogmen-like people in Tekumel. Also, Dave once stated that he did not yet know (had not decided?) whether Blackmoor had a high technological past or not. Do you know any other examples of ideas that may have been shared between these two men? Did Barker ever play in Blackmoor?


From another thread:

chirine ba kal wrote:
Dave played with gusto and real brio, and provided all of us with many hours of entertainment.


This is great! What else can you tell us about Dave as a player? What I have read so far mainly deals with Dave as a GM.

Havard


Right; let me take things in order for you...

First, happy to be here; I liked Dave a lot, enjoyed working for him, and had a lot of fun watching him in action.

Second, all three of the 'first three' (Dave, Gary, and Phil [Prof. Barker]) all affected each other; you have to remember just how small the gaming world was back then. I'd be willing to say that this forum has more members then were around in the Twin Cities and Lake Geneva *combined*. Both Dave and Gary were hugely impressed at Phil's work on Tekumel dating back to the 1950's, and he in turn was impressed by their ability to run games and write the rules needed for those games. The D&D world-settings became a lot more detailed and 'culturally aware' after Phil's work became familiar to Gary and Dave. Likewise. Phil elaborated on elements of Tekumel that he'd largely neglected until he'd had a chance to work with Dave and Gary.

"Frogmen": All three had frogmen because all three read a lot of H. P. Lovecraft, and you just had to have frogmen and other servants of the Old Ones infesting the place; it gave the players something to do when they weren't exploring the dungeons.

"High Technology": Depends on your definition of that; Dave had the elves in Blackmoor pretty well equipped with stuff like the holy water pumps, which were Roman in concept, and eventually they had developed black-powder technology to about a horse and musket level. Only the elves had the "Magic Bang Sticks", and those were pretty rare on the ground. More advanced technology, such as Tekumel's ancient star-faring civilization's devices, never really seemed in my time with Dave to be part of his original conception of what was basically a medieval world. I should also note that both Dave and Phil agreed on Clarke's Law that stated that "Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"; I think Phil's technological approach to what we on Tekumel see as 'magic' did influence Dave's own approach to it in Blackmoor.

"Other Influences": Well, Dave's interest in ships and naval combat really influenced Phil; we spent several years exploring Tekumel by sea on Dave's ship, and got transported to the most unlikely places. Phil was familiar with boats and the water, but was in real awe of Dave's expertise with sailing ships and nautical matters.

"Playing in Blackmoor": Yes, Phil did play in Dave's Blackmoor for a while; the two of them conspired to transport us there in our ship, and we just appeared in Blackmoor Bay one day. Phil wanted to take a break from GM duties, so Dave took over the job of running our Tekumel PCs in his world. Phil played a Livyani character he'd rolled up, and was a very active player.

It was really funny; Dave was really hoping to get us to go down into the dungeons under the castle, and nobody in the group would take him up on it except Phil. Everyone was convinced that the two of them were out to kill us, so nobody wanted to go anywhere near the castle. We had several really fun weeks of virtuoso role-playing as all of the party explored everything but the Castle, and generally made a mess of things with the locals as nobody understood anyone else. Watching Dave and Phil trying to communicate with each other, simulating the language problem, was worth every minute of the game sessions; Phil had actually written an article about this very situation back in the late 1940's, so it was great to see him and Dave put it all into practice. No dice rolling, no tables, just two very talented guys having a lot of fun misunderstanding each other. Dave would try to ask Phil something in English, Phil would respond in one of the various languages he knew like Urdu, and they would do asides to the rest of us to keep us informed of what was happening. The two of them played off each other like a well-rehearsed comedy duo; in one wonderful misunderstanding, Phil and Dave got one of the players married to a prize sheep, which took the player ages to live down...

"Dave as player": He was just one heck of a lot of fun; like a lot of his friends, he was very fast on his feet and very, very smart. He threw himself into any role that he took; I once did a huge Brownstein-style "Star Wars" game set in Mos Eisley, and Dave played Jabba the Hut with his two friends and fellow gamers Ross Maker and Dave Wesley as his henchmen. It was hysterical, as they started to take the town over right under the noses of the Imperial Stormtrooprs; playing with Dave was an matter of yelling "GO!" and then holding on for dear life as he took the game and ran with it. Crafty, clever, funny, and a genuinely great guy to play with.

When he rolled up Captain Harchar, Phil had no idea what he'd unleased on his Tekumel; Dave played Harchar as an operatic Pirate King, and payed it to the hilt. My personal favorite was the time Phil's NPC customs officers had finally nailed Harchar for some elaborate smuggling scheme, and Dave got Harchar off by proving that he'd been dead at the time of the crime; Harchar had gotten himself accidentally killed at one point, and before I brought him back to life Dave very carefully got Phil to write up an official death certificate for Harchar (in Tsolyani, of course). Dave claimed that he'd need it for tax purposes, and Phil duly wrote out the document never thinking that Dave would keep it for a later emergency like being arrested.

Dave's showing up out at Phil's was always a good indicator that it was going to be a good night; we'd just hang on to the roller coaster, and watch the fun unfold.

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"My Lord, they're calling you a 'peasant'! Are you offended?"
"Nope. When you're an Imperial Governor, you usually get called *much* worse things..."


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PostPosted: Mar 08, 2010 11:56 am 
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Okay WOW! That was just priceless. Thanks Jeff for sharing. My question, do you know if Phil Barker played in Blackimoor before he wrote Empire of the Petal Throne? Some people have supposed so but nobody seems to be sure. There's alot in EPT that seems to have more in common with Arnesons gaming than with Gygax's.

Harvard - maybe you should change the thread title and make it a sticky?

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PostPosted: Mar 08, 2010 12:25 pm 
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Aldarron wrote:
Okay WOW! That was just priceless. Thanks Jeff for sharing. My question, do you know if Phil Barker played in Blackimoor before he wrote Empire of the Petal Throne? Some people have supposed so but nobody seems to be sure. There's alot in EPT that seems to have more in common with Arnesons gaming than with Gygax's.

Harvard - maybe you should change the thread title and make it a sticky?


Done!

Jeff, I am just going to second Aldarron here. This is pure gold! I am going to have some follow-up questions for you ASAP, but I will let others get their chance to ask as well. Thanks again for coming here to share this!

Havard

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PostPosted: Mar 08, 2010 12:54 pm 
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First of all, would you like to present yourself to our readers, Jeff?

:) I am not sure everyone of the occasional lurkers might know who you are.

And those explanations are AMAZING.

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PostPosted: Mar 08, 2010 6:32 pm 
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chirine ba kal wrote:

Right; let me take things in order for you...

First, happy to be here; I liked Dave a lot, enjoyed working for him, and had a lot of fun watching him in action.


:)

Quote:
Second, all three of the 'first three' (Dave, Gary, and Phil [Prof. Barker]) all affected each other; you have to remember just how small the gaming world was back then. I'd be willing to say that this forum has more members then were around in the Twin Cities and Lake Geneva *combined*. Both Dave and Gary were hugely impressed at Phil's work on Tekumel dating back to the 1950's, and he in turn was impressed by their ability to run games and write the rules needed for those games. The D&D world-settings became a lot more detailed and 'culturally aware' after Phil's work became familiar to Gary and Dave. Likewise. Phil elaborated on elements of Tekumel that he'd largely neglected until he'd had a chance to work with Dave and Gary.


Brilliant! This is a topic that I think is of great interest to most of us here, and definately to me personally. Trying to gain as much information about the kinds of ideas that would have been exchanged back in those days will help us understand how each setting was born and developed in its early stages.


Quote:
"Frogmen": All three had frogmen because all three read a lot of H. P. Lovecraft, and you just had to have frogmen and other servants of the Old Ones infesting the place; it gave the players something to do when they weren't exploring the dungeons.


Excellent! I have been using Lovecraft's Deep Ones as inspiration for my own Frogmen, including their tendency to spawn with humans (ewww) and the Innsmouth Look for people who live near the swamps. So I guess I was pretty close to the original idea then! :)


Quote:
"High Technology": Depends on your definition of that; Dave had the elves in Blackmoor pretty well equipped with stuff like the holy water pumps, which were Roman in concept,


Interesting! I always considered the Holy Water pumps a kind of joke, but I like that they were based on Roman design. Maybe something can be made from this afterall. I was considering replacing them with Water Elementalists, but now I might reconsider...


Quote:
and eventually they had developed black-powder technology to about a horse and musket level.


I do see references to gunpowder weapons in the First Fantasy Campaign, yeah.


Quote:
Only the elves had the "Magic Bang Sticks", and those were pretty rare on the ground.


Interesting!

Quote:
More advanced technology, such as Tekumel's ancient star-faring civilization's devices, never really seemed in my time with Dave to be part of his original conception of what was basically a medieval world.


It is possible that this became more prominent with the Sniders...
The medieval feel definately remains strong in Blackmoor.

Quote:
I should also note that both Dave and Phil agreed on Clarke's Law that stated that "Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"; I think Phil's technological approach to what we on Tekumel see as 'magic' did influence Dave's own approach to it in Blackmoor.



Makes sense. This is probably the best way to handle it.

Quote:
"Other Influences": Well, Dave's interest in ships and naval combat really influenced Phil; we spent several years exploring Tekumel by sea on Dave's ship, and got transported to the most unlikely places. Phil was familiar with boats and the water, but was in real awe of Dave's expertise with sailing ships and nautical matters.



Interesting. As mentioned in the other thread, this is something I would like to explore further. I like hearing about how much Dave knew about the subject.

Quote:
"Playing in Blackmoor": Yes, Phil did play in Dave's Blackmoor for a while; the two of them conspired to transport us there in our ship, and we just appeared in Blackmoor Bay one day. Phil wanted to take a break from GM duties, so Dave took over the job of running our Tekumel PCs in his world. Phil played a Livyani character he'd rolled up, and was a very active player.


Great! This is something I have been wondering about (hearing rumours) for a long time. I think it is really interesting to learn that you used Tekumel characters in Blackmoor! Now I really must read up on Tekumel! Maybe you can share some of your experiences in Blackmoor? What character did you play?


Quote:
It was really funny; Dave was really hoping to get us to go down into the dungeons under the castle, and nobody in the group would take him up on it except Phil. Everyone was convinced that the two of them were out to kill us, so nobody wanted to go anywhere near the castle. We had several really fun weeks of virtuoso role-playing as all of the party explored everything but the Castle, and generally made a mess of things with the locals as nobody understood anyone else. Watching Dave and Phil trying to communicate with each other, simulating the language problem, was worth every minute of the game sessions; Phil had actually written an article about this very situation back in the late 1940's, so it was great to see him and Dave put it all into practice. No dice rolling, no tables, just two very talented guys having a lot of fun misunderstanding each other. Dave would try to ask Phil something in English, Phil would respond in one of the various languages he knew like Urdu, and they would do asides to the rest of us to keep us informed of what was happening. The two of them played off each other like a well-rehearsed comedy duo; in one wonderful misunderstanding, Phil and Dave got one of the players married to a prize sheep, which took the player ages to live down...


Craszy! :)

Quote:
"Dave as player": He was just one heck of a lot of fun; like a lot of his friends, he was very fast on his feet and very, very smart. He threw himself into any role that he took; I once did a huge Brownstein-style "Star Wars" game set in Mos Eisley, and Dave played Jabba the Hut with his two friends and fellow gamers Ross Maker and Dave Wesley as his henchmen. It was hysterical, as they started to take the town over right under the noses of the Imperial Stormtrooprs; playing with Dave was an matter of yelling "GO!" and then holding on for dear life as he took the game and ran with it. Crafty, clever, funny, and a genuinely great guy to play with.



Wow, what a great idea! Were you all Star Wars fans? Its great hearing about Dave as a player as I have always thought of him primarily as a DM/Designer.

It is interesting to hear about you playing with Maker and Wesely. I think I have seen Wesely referring to himself as part of the older gamers, with Greg, Bob and the others who joined when Blackmoor was really developing into its modern form as the younger group. How well did you know Arneson's group? I might be totally misrepresenting things here, just basing myself on random quotes from various places on the net.

Quote:
When he rolled up Captain Harchar, Phil had no idea what he'd unleased on his Tekumel; Dave played Harchar as an operatic Pirate King, and payed it to the hilt. My personal favorite was the time Phil's NPC customs officers had finally nailed Harchar for some elaborate smuggling scheme, and Dave got Harchar off by proving that he'd been dead at the time of the crime; Harchar had gotten himself accidentally killed at one point, and before I brought him back to life Dave very carefully got Phil to write up an official death certificate for Harchar (in Tsolyani, of course). Dave claimed that he'd need it for tax purposes, and Phil duly wrote out the document never thinking that Dave would keep it for a later emergency like being arrested.


Hillarous! Obviously, I am going to steal this character for my own Blackmoor campaign.


Quote:
Dave's showing up out at Phil's was always a good indicator that it was going to be a good night; we'd just hang on to the roller coaster, and watch the fun unfold.


Again, great hearing about this! I can really tell from the way you are talking about this what great fun you must have had. Just like when I talk to Greg Svenson and Bob Meyer, it reminds me of my own early days of gaming.

Havard

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Currently Playing: Daniel S. Debelfry in the Throne of Star's Campaign


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PostPosted: Mar 09, 2010 10:35 am 
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Aldarron wrote:
Okay WOW! That was just priceless. Thanks Jeff for sharing. My question, do you know if Phil Barker played in Blackimoor before he wrote Empire of the Petal Throne? Some people have supposed so but nobody seems to be sure. There's alot in EPT that seems to have more in common with Arnesons gaming than with Gygax's.


To the best of my knowledge, Phil hadn't played any D&D before he wrote EPT; he had watched a few sessions run by Dave at the old University of Minnesota wargame club, as he was the faculty advisor of the club. Dave and quite a few of the original Blackmoor players were members and regularly ran games. Neither Phil or Dave ever said to me that they'd played together until the time in Phil's Tekumel sessions where we wound up in Blackmoor, which is why it was such a big event. Phil had done 'proto-role-playing' with college friends in the 1950s, so what dave was doing would have been familiar to him.

The two did have very similar gaming styles, though. Neither one was what we used to call a 'rules lawyer', and were much more interested in the flow of the game then looking up chapter and verse in the rules. Both Gary and Dave told me that Phil's rules for EPT were faster and cleaner then what they had done, and were both very impressed by them. Both Phil's and Dave's gaming styles were typical of the way we gamed here in the Twin Cities at that time, and I still game that way.

Dave and Gary were also very impressed that Phil had written EPT in six weeks in the summer of 1974; at the same time, he also created 1,000 NPC characters by rolling them up and creating color-coded 3x5 index cards for each as well as creating a huge multi-level underworld for the city of Jakalla as a venue for the players to adventure in. When Phil did his first game session, in August of 1974, he revealed a complete game 'package' that got Dave's immediate attention and which led to it being published by TSR.

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PostPosted: Mar 09, 2010 10:49 am 
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Rafael wrote:
First of all, would you like to present yourself to our readers, Jeff?

:) I am not sure everyone of the occasional lurkers might know who you are.

And those explanations are AMAZING.


I'm fascinated that people find all of this amazing; I sort of assumed that folks knew this, and I sort of take it for granted that people know this stuff. So, ask away, and I'll tell you what I can.

By way of introduction, I got started in Twin Cities gaming in 1975, and first met Dave Arneson at the University of Minnesota wargame club. I was introduced to Phil Barker based on my ability to paint miniatures very quickly and accurately, and became a regular out at Phil's Tekumel sessions; I'd sit at the end of the table and paint figures for him, and ask questions as we travelled around Tekumel. I was one of the founders, along with Jim Danielson and Rick Bjugen, of the original Thursday Night Group of Phil's Tekumel players, and gamed with Phil for something like 12 years. I also served him as a sort of major-domo and personal secretary, and was hired by Dave Arneson to be his 'Tekumel guy' at Adventure Games; Dave referred to us Tekumel folks as "the Tekumel boat people", because we'd be able to do things with next to nothing in the way of resources to promote and enjoy Tekumel. Dave also used to use me as his personal henchman in various business dealings like the TSR stockholders' meetings; I got sent into action because the guys at Adventure Games called me the "perfect hussar". we'd flog the Tekumel stuff dave was publishing at conventions for him, and were pretty successful at it.

I still do miniatures; the Aethervox Gamers' collection of Tekumel figures, of which I'm the Curator and Chief Paint Slave, runs around 5,000 miniatures. We also used to do a lot of Tekumel costumes, which are also in the Aethervox collections, and you can see these at both my blog and in the 'Der Speigel Online' article on Prof. Barker and Tekumel. There's even a picture of me and the Aethervoxes, too.

Does this help?

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"My Lord, they're calling you a 'peasant'! Are you offended?"
"Nope. When you're an Imperial Governor, you usually get called *much* worse things..."


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