Saturday, September 20, 2008

Interview: Tim Kask (Part III)

If you could dispel one common misapprehension that gamers today have about the early days of the hobby, what would it be?

I don’t know. What are the perceptions of those “good old days?" To be honest, I seldom paid attention to any of that after our little birthing process; I was far too busy with TSR Periodicals and the magazines.

Oh, I know one. No, it is not true that none of us understood personal hygiene. Many didn’t, but most of us did remember to bathe or shower frequently enough so as to not offend too many people around us. But some of those old cons could get ripe enough. I guess it is from that old perception that the term for a group of gamers, like a murder of crows, a sleuth of bears or a bevy of quail, would be stink; how elegant-a stink of gamers.

Is there anything you miss about the early days of the hobby?

The diversity of products published. BITD, anyone with a little money could put out their own games or rules sets. We had a lot more diversity before the days of the Hasborg.

Do you see new technology, like print-on-demand, making it possible to recreate the good old days when anyone with an idea might publish their own games or rules sets? If not, what's changed to make this less likely?

Who said they were good? Some of the stuff that was self-published was self-published for a good reason; it was dreck. You sent your money and took your chances.

Some few pearls did exist out there, but they were few and far between. One of the best boardgames I ever saw (for a variety of reasons) never got beyond a basement operation that published maybe a couple of thousand copies. The fatal flaw that denied it wider acceptance at the time was the recordkeeping. Today, if it was on PC and did all the recording automatically, it would be a singular game, in my opinion. But it was lost in the sea of dreck.

Having said that much, let me contradict myself a little. I am sure that there are a few designers out there, primarily of campaigns/scenarios/modules/adventures (whatever you wish to call them) that could make a few bucks doing P-O-D. But, as good as they have proven themselves to be, why should they when the established companies are more than willing to publish them and they will make more? I might be able to write a campaign adventure and perhaps sell a few hundred at $5 or even $10 apiece to download PDFs. I might make a thousand or two; if I sold it to one of the established companies with a distribution network, they might sell 20K copies from which I might get $1 each. Of course, I am making the assumption that anyone might buy because I wrote it.

Do you still have the chance to play D&D these days?

The first time I played D&D in over twenty years was for the Tower of Gygax event at GenCon 2008. I am assuming that playing is both DMing and adventuring, I haven't played a PC since the days of playtesting modules at TSR. One of my long-time PCs ended up as an NPC in the Hommlet module. I gave up playing as a PC when I became my group's DM in '74.
Now, if the ToG is repeated next year, I will do it. I have committed to run two, four hour adventures at next year's Lake Geneva Game Convention in June, as part of the "Gary's Virtual Porch" memorial thing they are doing.

Many thanks to Mr Kask for graciously consenting to this interview. I hope that his reminiscences and insights have been useful and interesting -- I know they were for me -- and I'll make every effort to line up some additional interviews to post here in the near future.


  1. Great interview, James. Thanks much!

  2. Does Tim really think that if he writes a module that one of the major rpg publishers is going to give him a royalty of $1 per copy sold, and that they're going to sell 20K copies? If so he's going to be in for a very unpleasant surprise...

  3. If so he's going to be in for a very unpleasant surprise...

    I doubt that even WotC sells 20K copies of their adventures. Indeed, I'd be amazed if they sell that many copies of anything besides rulebooks.

  4. 20K was my typo; should have been 2K. Point being more can probably be made with bigger co. and their distribution network.
    Who said anything about writing module for only one game system? FRPG is FRPG is FPRG from satndpoint of module writing.

  5. Very cool interview. I enjoyed all three parts.

    So what's the title of the mysterious limited print run board game that would have taken over the world if not for the record keeping?