Friday, September 14, 2007

my new gaming grail

Okay, I had to choose between bidding on a pile of cool Judges Guild stuff or upping my bid, so I can quit being coy and tell you all about my latest wild goose chase for crazy gaming goodness. It was over at the Acaeum's message boards that I found a feller who declared Exotic Characters and Worlds to be the "dumbest" book he owns. ECW (as I will insist on calling it forever just to screw with the wrestling fans reading this) is a softcover, 166 page volume published In the Year of Our Fnord Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Three. The author is one Teddy C. Ryan III. I love that. Most other dudes called 'the Third' I've encountered would either drop the III or use their full name, Theodoric Cobblepott Ryan III or whatever. That mixing of the casual 'Teddy' with the grandiose roman numeral is just charming. Anyway, here is the cover:

I got that image from Tome of Treasures, a gaming collectibles site that I didn't know existed until I started investigating this book. It appears to be an encyclopedia of games that is built using some standard bulletin board software. I'm totally checking the rest of the site out when I get some free time to do so.

The banner over the upper right corner of the front cover indicates that this book is "Suitable for use with" AD&D, Gamma World, and Star Frontiers. One of Afterglow's informants describes the book this way:

...a bizarre mix of AD&D and Traveller, with a little Gamma World thrown into the mix. The first 75 pages are a Player's Handbook rewrite/supplement - character generation rules, new races, new classes, revised combat tables, and a new spell list (going up to Level 20). The rest of the book is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi/fantasy campaign setting, featuring Traveller-like sector maps and star-system generation rules, some alien races, and some miscellaneous rules (like mass combat and herbalism).
As I read it, the author put everything that was awesome about late 70s/early 80s gaming into a blender and this book came out.

Another Acaeum poster, who uses the handle Contrarian, has been hating on this game since he inadvertedly bought a copy at auction in the early 90's:
I'm in college in the early 1990s, trying to pick up some Gamma World modules at a local con in Toledo. Some bozo keeps bidding them up to more than they're worth, and I'm getting annoyed. Finally, the auctioneer brings this book (and its supplement!) to the podium, mentioning that the cover says it's compatible with Gamma World. I've never heard of the thing, and I have no idea what it's worth, so somehow I decide that means I can bid as high as I need to. And that's how I end up owning a beat-up copy of the Worst Roleplaying Supplement Ever. It has a "Waverider" character class that specializes in surfing!
Dude might hate the game, but how can I resist a fantasy/sci-fi/post-apoc game with a surfer class? Turns out that back in Usenet days this Contrarian guy wrote a much more indepth review of the game. It's too long to quote here, but please do yourself a favor and go read it now. Man, it sure looks like this book brings all the crazy-go-nuts awesome of World of Synnibarr in a third of the pages! Even as I type this post up I'm slowly talking myself into hitting the eBay again to bid up the one copy I can find for sale on the internets right now.

Anyway, Teddy 3's game company put out at least two more books. Monsters, Aliens, and Fantastic Beings and Dragons throughout the Multiverse are critter books. I don't have any info on the dragon book, but Afterglow calls the other one 'a fairly conventional knockoff of the Monster Manual, although a few monsters reference Gamma World-ish radiation rules. A considerable number of monsters are inspired by movies or television, i.e. "Alien", "Planet of the Apes" and others.'

The back pages of these three books advertise other products from Gamemaster Guides, Teddy's outfit. For the most part these items are blank record sheets for characters, starships, planets, etc. A setting product gets a mention, though. The Barbarians Enflands could be a potential source of craziness, but at first glance it's not much:

Completely detailed TOPOGRAPHIC CAMPAIGN MAPS [(4) 11" x 17"] with Information Sheets covering Cities, Governments, Ruins, and Relics. Also Includes the INTRODUCTORY MODULE The Gates of Gorgoroth.

And no, I didn't misspell the name. It really is 'Enflands'.

Finally, Mr. the Third released a product in 1985, apparently the last item from Gamemaster Guides. Called Heaven & Hell, Tome of Treasure poster tfm describes it as "Grounded in Christian mythology and literature, this book presents maps and descriptions for the ten levels of Heaven and the eleven levels of Hell, as well as stats in AD&D format for the denizens of both realms."

Which makes the note at the end of Contrarian's Acaeum post all the more interesting:

Scariest part of the story? A couple of years back, I decide to search Google for the author of this book to see if he's still in the hobby. The only mention I find is a reference to his (thankfully defunct) science-fiction erotica website, where he was apparently photo-shopping pictures of women to look like aliens.

So that's what happens to failed game designers: They go into sci-fi porn.

Up-and-coming game authors take note! This could be your fate! At least now I know where they get all those guys who Photoshop supermodels to turn their skin Orion Slave Girl green. Frustrated game designers of the world, I salute you.


  1. My favorite part from the Usenet profile of the book is:

    The Attack Matrix include Armor Classes down to -100. In case you were wondering, a 0-level fighter needs to roll a 110 (on a d20) to hit that AC -100 bad guy.

    Good post, thanks Jeff!

  2. Anonymous10:37 AM

    It sounds wonderful - like a crazier version of Rifts. And the title makes it sound so - boring. Although that cover image with that blurb in the corner would have had me pick it up anyway - the juxtaposition of the corner blurb about D&D, Gamma World and Star Frontiers combined with the image of a girl picking a flower is just too stark to pass by without checking out the insides.

    (And hey - apparently Dr. Who isn't even a 16th level Time Traveller. Who knew?)

  3. I actually have a copy of Heaven and Hell somewhere in a box in the garage. I picked it up as part of a job lot at a convention in (I think) 1989, and it's stood the test of time as the worst D&D supplement I've ever owned.

    The parts cribbed directly from Dante weren't too bad, but the rest of it reads like the last gasp of a poor game designer trying to reconcile his favourite hobby with a particularly odious and intolerant brand of Christianity.

    For example—back in the days when AD&D ability scores only went up to 25, and it was usually only greater gods that had stats that high—Heaven and Hell had tables for stats up to 100.

    But the only way to get these scores was by following a new character class devoted to "pious" deeds (and I don't want to have to define them). A class which, incidentally, would make even the most extreme munchkin cringe at its game-breaking splendour.

    And it lays the theology on with a trowel.

    Heaven and Hell labels itself as a Christianity supplement for D&D, but it'd be more honest to call it a D&D supplement for televangelist Christianity.

    I think we can guess what happened to Teddy between game design and sci-fi porn.

  4. (1) I don't know what an Enf is, but I know I want to play one.

    (2) When I was writing for Last Unicorn Games, I got into the spirit of Trekdom in a number of odd ways, including circulating (privately to the other LUG editors) a photomanip of a supermodel turned blue. This project was inspired by a website I discovered while web-searching for Andorian material to gear up for my book. Later on I sent a copy of the pic to the site, anonymously, and never mentioned it again. It had been easily the third-favorite Andorian in-joke among the LUG guys (right after the off-broadway lyrics and the naked mimes).

    (2a) Whatever makes the workday go faster, see.

    (3) I wonder. Oh, I wonder, if that website was Teddy's :)

  5. I'm always fascinated by how others who were raised by strict Christian fundamentalist families coped with their D&D addiction.

    Yet another reason I thank God I found a gamer girl to marry and raise a little gamer with.

    Otherwise, I'd probably be finding another website to photoshop for after Teddy3's website closed.

  6. Hey S. John, I remember that pic.

    Thanks for the memories :)

  7. Anonymous6:00 PM

    Jeff, I Googled "Teddy C. Ryan III" and there's a Facebook page. Can't be more than one guy with that name right? With a "III" after it, I mean. Contact him and ask if he has old copies of this book that he never sold, still sitting in a pile at home, and would he sell one to you... cheaply?