Saturday, April 21, 2012

Authorial Voice

Last night, before bed, I was reading my copy of Starships & Spacemen, which is a charming little RPG pastiche of Star Trek published in 1978 by FGU. Currently, the game is available from Goblinoid Games, either as a PDF or as a printed book (hardcover and softcover). I call S&S "charming" in large part because of the way it's written. The rulebook is clearly the product of a single person, using his own voice. Rather than coming across like a technical manual, S&S evinces the idiosyncrasies and quirks of its author, Leonard H. Kanterman. For example, in the section about naming characters, Kanterman states:
In our playtest group, we had some fun naming the non-player security guards after game designers, giving the low attributes (especially in intelligence), and ordering them into the jaws of death.
Some might see this aside as petty and "unprofessional" and perhaps it is on some level. But you know what? I don't care. In fact, I rather like it, if only because it's clearly reflective of the mind of the game's author, revealing his quirky sense of humor (among other things). I personally think there could be worse trends in the hobby than seeing a return to rulebooks that include stuff like this.


  1. I agree.
    'Professional' too often just means that something has had all the humanity sucked out of it.
    One of the reasons I've always preferred college radio to the 'professional' stations is the independent voices of the DJs, who often play what they like vs. off of some mandated list... and speak in human tones, vs. 'radio voice'. I love that more human touch... dead air space moments and all.

  2. I have a Lulu copy and its a delight to read. There's more than a few knowing winks to seasoned gamers and star trek fans. :)

  3. Kanterman also did a very charming Star Trek-ish boardgame that I still play called Star Explorer


  4. That's actually one of the things I really like about the 1E DMG. I may not agree with everything Gygax says in there, but I like his voice.

  5. S&S was the 3rd RPG I played, after Gamma World and D&D. We enjoyed it immensely. I especially liked the rule that limited how many questions you could ask the computer. I have to admit that I never actually read the rules, though. They belonged to the GM; we just played. Which is a pretty good recommendation right there.

  6. I'm of two minds about this myself.  On the one hand, I had remembered fondly the 'conversational' and 'anecdotal' tone of some of the first RPG publications I ever bought (at the start of the 1980s).

    But on reflection, that seemed to go hand-in-hand with incomplete and/or incomprehensible descriptions of many rules, poor organization of the rulebooks themselves, and a frustrating tendency to 'sprinkle' key background (and other) details throughout the book, almost randomly; almost as if you were reading the transcript of a conversation about the games being had in a bar over a few beers.

  7. Have you read the rulebooks for Ron Edward's Sorcerer, or Luke Crane's Burning Wheel? Lots of idiosyncratic authorial voice in those!