Steve Marsh is a name long associated with Dungeons & Dragons, having worked on two supplements to OD&D and the Expert Rulebook published in 1981. He's also a friend of Sandy Petersen, creator of Call of Cthulhu, with whom he shares a longtime fascination with the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I had the opportunity to ask Mr Marsh a few brief questions about his involvement in both the hobby and the industry and he was kind enough to reply with the answers below.
1. How did you become involved in the hobby of roleplaying?
I had tried to come up with my own system, working from boardgames and The Golden Bough and did not get very far. One day I sat down next to Sandy Petersen in a class at BYU, saw his D&D rule books, and started asking questions.
2. It's interesting that you tried to construct your own roleplaying game before you'd actually seen the D&D rulebooks. Do you recall why you tried to do this? Had you heard of D&D beforehand?
It was 1969 or so, I was just starting High School, had never played miniatures, but I had encountered some Avalon Hill/SPI boardgames (and subscribed to Strategy & Tactics for years). D&D wouldn't come out until 1974, and I wanted to play a game. I had a mythos. I wanted a game, but did not get very far (I was trying to make unit counters work in the place of miniatures, which I had never seen).
3. You were given special thanks in Supplements II and III to OD&D. What were your contributions to those two books?
I did the underwater encounters, monsters and some other material in Blackmoor and a character class I designed was taken apart and turned into the psionic powers in Eldritch Wizardry.
4. So the introduction of psionics into D&D is your fault then?
Kind of, I wanted a character class, but the editor decided that the abilities belonged available to everyone, except for elves (I was 5'2" at the time and built like a wrestler, because I was a wrestler, and had more sympathy with dwarves than elves, in case you are curious).
5. How did you come to be hired at TSR and what were your responsibilities at the company?
Gary wanted me to visit, so I worked a summer. I did Judges Guild product reviews, wrote the Expert Rulebook and did the minigame Saga.
6. So how did you meet Gary Gygax in the first place?
Correspondence. Then face to face years later when I spent a summer working at TSR. We got together at Dragoncon in Fort Worth and introduced each other to our wives even later.
7. Speaking of the Expert Rulebook, what was your role in bringing that particular product to publication?
They had already decided to do it and Tom Moldvay had finished the book that went before it. I was supposed to pull things together and get it written.
8. Were you more of a developer/editor than a designer then or did you and David Cook work together closely in the writing of the rulebook?
We were in the same room at TSR, but it wasn't seen as that difficult, though everyone felt free to kibitz and make comments, even the artist (no one liked the idea of hairy rhinos being intelligent) ...
9. You contributed to Monsters of Myth, showing us a little of your campaign world's unique characteristics, including its take on Chaos, which had a distinctly Lovecraftian quality to it. Would you consider yourself a big fan of Lovecraft and, if so, how have his writings influenced your gaming?
I like Cthulhloid menaces, though I'm not always a believer in their not being able to be beaten. My home brew game was the originator for Call of Cthulhu according to Sandy [Petersen --JDM], but it provided as much to that game as a pair of dice would have, Sandy did everything of significance from his own work.
10. Speaking of Lovecraft, is there any chance you're related to Captain Obed Marsh of Innsmouth, Massachusetts?
All the Marsh families in the United States before WWII are related to each other as descendants of John Marsh of the William and Mary Company (he was a bondservant with that group).
11. Do you still roleplay and, if so, what games do you play nowadays?
I play over at Sandy Petersen's from time to time, not as often as I would like.