Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Bases Loaded

Is it all right to feel bad about an assignment that is 33 years late?

John (Sacnoth) Rateliff has been clearing out his files, and has come across a number of old artifacts of the middle age of TSR (the 80's). Among these artifacts is a page from a 1984 catalog, describing various upcoming products. most of which never saw the light of day. And one of them was Bases Loaded, a Gangbusters adventure by yours truly. A project that was never finished, and hardly begun, and I still feel bad about it.

For those of you not of venerable age, Gangbusters was a boxed RPG, originally based on Bloody Twenties by Rick Krebs who sold it to TSR, where it was expanded/revised by Mark Acres. The default setting of this 1920s Mobsters and G-Men game was Lakefront City, an ersatz Chicago. And the local ball team was going to be the Mudcats (which was a variant on my phone number at the time). The project got approved with a bare-bones pitch - The Black Sox scandal, where players fixed the 1919 World Series.

One challenge in all this, I knew very little ABOUT the Black Sox scandal. And my resources were fairly limited to be able to find out (no Internet in the modern sense, nothing much at the local library, the movie version, Eight Men Out,  would show up in 1988).  It landed on my desk in the schedule with me having done precious little research, and I scrambled to little effect - I had a murder early in the mix as a way to get the players involved (a catcher who would no go in with the others), but I bogged down in research on details, building my own league in the process. But it didn't really hang together, and the deadline loomed and I had precious little to show for it.

And then, the specter of defeat moved on from me. Bases Loaded (and more of the other games on this list) was cancelled as TSR decided to concentrate on other games (like, um Dragonlance and Marvel Super Heroes). I was spared, but to be honest, the onus of defeat, or not delivering the product (and not having much of a plan on how to deliver it) has continued to haunt me to this day.

Maybe that's why I am tolerant of Kickstarters with good intentions but overdue delivery dates. To these people I say - it is OK, but show us you're working on it.

But that's not all the sad nostalgia that this particular catalog page brings me.

One of the projects listed was Tin Man, by TSR Staff (which means they had not assigned it to anyone). It was one of my pitches as well. Originally in the pitch called Operation: Tin Man, it was going to be a hacker adventure. The description is horribly bollixed up in the catalog, but the idea was that the agents were going to be at JPL when the first pictures came back from a martian lander. The first pictures from Mars comes back, and there, on the Mons Olympus, is a banner stating "Surrender Dorothy."

And from there it would become a search to find out who hacked into the supposedly-secure JPL feed, and what else these hackers found. This was in 1983. The year the term "Cyberpunk" was coined. The year after Blade Runner came out. The year before Neuromancer showed up. Years before the Secret Service turned up on Steve Jackson's doorstep wanting to know about the Legion of Doom. It would have been ahead of its time, and concentrated on the "real world" work as opposed to sleuthing through the matrix. Alas, that one was never officially assigned, and nothing ever existed but the pitch. Unlike Bases Loaded, which I still feel bad about.

Sigh. More later,