Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A Memo from the Past

So I am cleaning out the downstairs game library (boxes upon boxes of comics, games, and magazines), and keep coming across pieces of my past. Some of these pieces will never see the light of day (say … the photos from the time TSR all went to the Medieval Times restaurant), but some are worth sharing. Here is an internal memorandum posted on the wall at TSR, sometime in the late 80s.

There are explanations due to the newcomers, of course. “Bud” was a cloth dummy used in the TSR display at Toy Fair one year that DRAGON editor Roger E. Moore rescued and adopted, and as such was propped up in absentee employee chairs, hung off the balcony by his thumbs, and surrounded with empty bottles of Mad Dog 2020. “Richard Awlinson” was the house name (All-in-one) created for the Avatar Trilogy, and represents Scott Ciencin, Richard Deacon & James Lowder, and Troy Denning. “Frog Keep” was an in-house joke created promoted by Freelance Coordinator Bruce Heard, who added it to the schedule whenever he thought no one was watching. This particular time he made Bud the designer and Awlinson the editor. “Unamit Ahazredit” was pun from the SPI game “Swords and Sorcery”, and a shout-out to another Lovecraftian Mad Arab.

Anyway, this appeared after "Return to Frog Keep" was added to a massive "schedule wall" we had in a meeting room. Bud was listed as the designer, Richard Awlinson as the editor. Everything else is pretty much self-explanatory.

TO: Bud
FR: Richard Awlinson
RE: Return to Frog Keep

Boy, you’ve drawn a tough one. Frog Keep was one of the most unpleasant, controversial, downright painful products that this department was ever involved with. The original concept was Bruce and Zeb’s, but it was a freelance design from a guy named Unamit Ahazredit (The Mad Arab). The resulting manuscript was so vile that Zeb went mad from the design review, and Bruce changed nationality (you knew he was originally Samoan, right?

The original version was deemed “too unhealthy for mortal man” but through a scheduling glitch was sent out to a freelance editor, who followed the “Three Check’ method of editing (Spell Check, Grammar Check, Paycheck), so the more disturbing scenes remained intact, in particular the Halfling nipple-pierecing sequence. By the time we realized that the transvestite Githyanki sex slaves were still in the book, it was in galleys, and as you know, there’s nothing we can do to change the text once it is in galleys.

Marketing manfully tried to prevent Frog Keep from coming out, but their efforts amounted to Bob borrowing the office copies and never returning them. You probably remember the scandal when it hit the shelves – all the major tabloid new shows were here, Lorraine was accosted in the streets by angry mothers, and the sexual practices of “gnoming” became a regular staple of TV talk shows. The fans, of course, enjoyed it tremendously (“Finally a project that speaks to me” was the review from White Wolf), so TSR was faced with a successful product which offended everyone.

I do not envy your position, Bud. You’ll be under tremendous pressure to clean up the sordid presentation of the first version by upper management, particularly the pansexual practices of the wizard Flintminster the Semi-Lucid (last seen crawling through the sewers of Frog Keep muttering “Anything that moves, boys, anything that moves”). By the same token, delivering anything less than a full-fledged debauch will offend the hard-core fans and result in death threats, bombings, and kidnappings by whip-wielding women wearing tight leather outfits and knee-high boots.

Hell, I’m not getting anywhere near this one. Count me out of any meetings you’re holding. I don’t even want to know you.


More later,