Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tékumel: The Lands of Joyful Addiction

I’ve been a fan of M.A.R. Barker’s Tékumel setting since discovering it in my early adulthood. I regret it’s been a rather solitary adoration; despite immersing myself in the world in its several incarnations, I’ve failed to interest any player group in trying it beyond a single game session. It comes to mind once again as renowned game artist and industry luminary Jeff Dee is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to bring the rich, exotic land of Tékumel back in its newest roleplaying game incarnation, Béthorm.

Tékumel was one of Dungeons & Dragons’ earliest campaign worlds, yet the first to fall by the official wayside in favor of more western-oriented medieval fantasy game environments. The setting combines two themes very alien to western audiences: exotic cultures and “magic” from a long-lost, advanced science age (one of the core elements of Monte Cook’s popular Numenera game). Rather than draw on the “traditional” western paradigm of medieval fantasy, Tékumel relied on more exotic foundations, inspiration from Indian, Middle Eastern, Egyptian, and Meso-American cultures. These historical elements combined with a science-fiction plot in which the formerly advanced interstellar resort colony was inexplicably warped into an isolated pocket dimension, plunging civilization into a primitive state which, over 50,000 years, produced an exotic, medieval-level society with pseudo-science magic.

Because it’s based in elements still very foreign to gamers, Tékumel remains one of the more fringe game settings, yet one with a rich and storied past and thus an extremely intricate depth. I’d consider its creator, M.A.R. Barker, among the Holy Trinity of the D&D game designers along with the revered Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, all of whom having now passed into the great Valhalla of the adventure gaming hobby. Barker, a linguistics professor, incorporated in his creation the same cultural and linguistic depth as another founder of modern fantasy literature, J.R.R. Tolkien. The novelty and intricacy of Tékumel and the intensely creative personality of its author garnered a core of devoted fans who’ve helped keep interest in the setting alive more than 40 years and through several roleplaying game incarnations.

This love for Barker’s creation and the vast opus of Tékumel material engendered several “official” game interpretations and numerous fan conversions.

I’d heard about Tékumel and Empire of the Petal Throne in the general adventure gaming lore I consumed as a kid immersed in fantasy roleplaying, primarily Dungeons & Dragons. I’m not sure if I read anything in the pages of the venerable Dragon Magazine, learned about it from friends, or caught a glimpse of it at local hobby stores, but it remained in the back of my mind well into my college years. Shortly after graduating and starting my first job (as a reporter for my weekly hometown newspaper) I ran my first game events at a local convention (a linked series of D6 Star Wars scenarios); I found a soft-cover, saddle-stitched edition of Empire of the Petal Throne: The World of Tékumel published by Different Worlds in 1987, a reprint of material originally published in 1975 by TSR. I read it cover-to-cover and immersed myself in the amazingly alien setting, though other gaming endeavors commanded my attention. At some point – I can’t recall when or where – I acquired one volume of Gamescience’s two-volume Swords & Glory version of the rules.

At this point in my life I was working full-time but had a host of college-aged friends who got together over the summers for regular roleplaying game campaigns. At the time these included story arcs for D6 Star Wars and Cyberpunk 2020, with occasional side-trips into Space 1889 and Call of Cthulhu.

I recall experimenting with a few games, notably Teenagers from Outer Space, The Morrow Project and Empire of the Petal Throne. My escapades in Tékumel did not last much past a character-creation session and a brief, two-part adventure introducing players to the setting. I quickly learned that when players make up silly names for their characters the gaming endeavor is doomed to failure. I relegated the Tékumel materials to my roleplaying game collection on the shelf as a personal interest without any intention to play.

In 1993 Theater of the Mind Enterprises produced an impressive boxed game, Gardasiyal: Adventures in Tekumel, containing several books, folios, and a map, and later supported with several supplements. At this point in my interest with Tékumel I might otherwise have let this pass, except that most of this game incarnation focused on solitaire, programmed adventures. I put the game system and solo materials through their paces as proven by several handwritten character sheets still tucked into my rulebooks, but the rules and setting still proved too complex to try with gamers used to more accessible fare. Alas, the game soon met an untimely and unsupported “death” and, like its predecessors, mostly faded from the general adventure gaming hobby’s collective consciousness as another blip in Tékumel’s publication history.

The last incarnation of a game based in the rich Tékumel setting – Tékumel: The Empire of the Petal Throne – came out in 2005 from Guardians of Order. After much pre-release hype, previews of illustrations, and some sample teaser PDFs, the 240-page hardcover came out...and then Guardians of Order disappeared beneath a flood of overwhelming debt (an unfortunate yet occasional occurrence in the adventure gaming hobby). I bought a copy when it released and read it, though it ultimately saw no actual play and ended up on the shelf with the rest of my Tékumel game collection.

A far more complete game history resides at tekumel.com, a website devoted to the setting, and at The Eye of Joyful Sitting Amongst Friends. Copies of past games remain difficult to find through retailers, though they sell at premium prices on the secondary markets.

After Barker’s passing in 2012 his fans helped establish the Tekumel Foundation, a non-profit institution “to encourage, support and protect the literary works and all related products and activities surrounding Professor M.A.R. Barker’s world of Tékumel and the Empire of the Petal Throne.” Barker left a host of notes and other world-related materials that never saw publication, and the foundation seeks to preserve his memory and maintain the interest in his innovative setting. Tékumel fans remain a vociferous and productive minority in the overall population of adventure gamers. They continue creating material for and celebrating Tékumel across the internet at such aptly named websites as The Tékumel Project, Skein of Destiny, and The Eye of Joyful Sitting Amongst Friends.

Why is Tékumel so difficult for gamers to comprehend and enjoy? It’s a rich, deep, intricately devised setting...so alien in its origins and interpretation that gamers need to really immerse themselves in it to identify and understand familiar roleplaying game paradigms. Aside from a very different culture, Tékumel incorporates a host of strange and often savage deities, lost-tech-driven magic, and a bestiary of wildly alien monsters and races with names steeped in Barker’s fictitious language. This kind of ground-breaking originality can seem foreign to westerners raised on European legends, medieval history, and the fantasy fare perpetuated by books, comics, and films.

I’m excited to see – and to back – the latest gaming incarnation of Tékumel, Béthorm, in the knowledge Jeff Dee can produce an outstanding game product that receives the support and promotion Barker’s fantastic setting deserves. I’m hoping the rules engine Béthorm employs strays more toward the rules-light end of the game mechanics complexity spectrum. From what I’ve seen Jeff Dee not only has a love for the setting but a keen and clear means of expressing it and sharing the excitement it holds for adventurers.


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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pathfinder Offers An Ideal Beginner Box

I recently picked up a gently used copy of the Pathfinder Beginner Box at a game convention flea market. After examining its contents and reading the rulebooks I realized it’s an outstanding example of the introductory roleplaying game ideal.

I’ve had the Pathfinder Beginner Box on my Amazon wish list for ages, more out of a curiosity with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game as an Open Game License interpretation of everything players loved from third edition Dungeons & Dragons (and argued by some to rival D&Ds’ popularity and sales) and my longtime fascination with introductory game sets to tempt newcomers into the adventure gaming hobby. The $35 price tag kept it on my wish list as just that – something I’d like to have, but nothing immediately essential to my gaming or writing – but then I found a used copy for $15, a reasonable price I couldn’t pass up. To my delight I discovered the Pathfinder Beginner Box handily satisfied most of my criteria for an introductory roleplaying game...to the point where it even got me excited about playing.

Defining the Ideal

An introductory roleplaying game has some very definite goals regarding its target audience and source material. It must distill the essentials of an established game system and present them to non-gamers in a basic format so newcomers can easily comprehend them...quite possibly exciting and inspiring them to continue playing and eventually graduate to the game’s full version. Designers engage in a balancing act between presenting a game’s core mechanics in an often simplified manner and yet retaining the allure and play style of the original material.

What do I consider elements essential to an introductory boxed roleplaying game ideal?

A Complete & Extended Play Experience: An introductory game should provide players with everything needed to play – player and gamemaster books, dice, character sheets (and pre-generated “sample” characters), maps, and scenarios – and not just run a single adventure with a handful of pre-generated characters, but explore original character creation and scenario-building for an experience that lasts more than a few game sessions. It must go the extra mile beyond a basic quick-start version of a game, which often consists of pre-generated characters and core rules enough to run a sample adventure; such quick-start products often omit character generation and advancement rules, gamemastering advice, and other niceties of full games. They’re more intended to market a new game to established gamers than to newcomers to the hobby. A good beginner game includes everything required to become fully immersed in play beyond a single session.

Step-By-Step Rules: A good beginner game does not consist of a reference book or tome of rules but an experience. Many game rule books assume a previous knowledge of or experience with roleplaying games and, as they’re often written by gamers, adopt certain style and organizational convention that aren’t always effective in teaching new players about adventure gaming. A good beginner game presents clear, concise rules in a logical learning sequence, each section building on the previous ones, at a pace and in a graphic style to make things clear for both learning the rules and referencing them later. This approach often incorporates a “programmed” solitaire tutorial adventure demonstrating core game concepts from the players’ perspective, and possibly a similar scenario to guide would-be gamemasters (frequent readers know I’m an advocate of solo adventures both as a teaching tool and for fun).

Inspiration: An introductory product must inspire players. Without a continually fueled excitement for a game players might not find the enthusiasm to read through all the carefully presented rules, “sell” it to their potential player-friends, and run at least one game. Additional inspiration can help drive energy toward more than one play session. Where does one find inspiration in an intro game? Evocative, color artwork of character types, monsters, locations, and equipment remain essential to help players visualize a game in which most action takes place in their imaginations. Maps offer ideas on areas to explore. Setting resources – accompanied by numerous illustrations – can offer a host of ideas to expand the play experience, like a sample adventuring base for characters, scenario design tips, and lists of monsters, treasures, equipment, and locations to enhance play.

High production values on all the components puts a sheen on a beginner product that says the company really cares about the game; they’re not enticing newcomers to the hobby with some cheap knock-off of a core game, they’re tempting new players with some of their best-looking work.

Pathfinder Meets the Standard

The Pathfinder Beginner Box meets all my criteria for a great introductory roleplaying game. The box includes everything for extended play, starting with a one-page flyer outlining what players need to read first if they’re on their own, seeking to play a hero, or hoping to run a game. Other components include a book each for players and gamemasters, four pre-generated hero folios (four pages each with character sheet and stat explanation), four double-sided blank character sheets, a full set of polyhedral dice, more than 80 cardstock “pawns” showing color images of heroes and monsters (with a handful of stands), and a poster-sized, “flip mat” with the sample dungeon on one side and a gridded sand-surface on the other to scale with the pawns and laminated for use with dry-erase markers. Everything’s full color with quality artwork and material.

The comprehensive components don’t fulfill the “complete and extended play experience” qualification by their simple existence. The execution and contents of both the Hero’s Handbook and Game Master’s Guide offer all the mechanics for creating and running characters through adventures up to fifth level. Aside from offering comprehensive information about races and classes, equipment, spells, skills, and feats, the Hero’s Handbook provides advancement rules and an overview of how to play the game. The Game Master’s Guide offers a host of resources beyond the nuts and bolts of game mechanics: explanations of different environments in which heroes can adventure, gamemaster tips both general and tied to game elements, 44 monsters with complete stats and encounter notes, a map and description of the region and a base town from which heroes can set out on quests, and some adventure hooks keyed to the regional map.

Both rulebooks take an approach that walks readers through various gameplay processes while immediately immersing them in the game. A 23-entry programmed solitaire tutorial adventure leads off the Hero’s Handbook, primarily demonstrating combat rules but touching on other game elements. Character creation walks players from one concept to the next, first race, then class (including spells and advancement), providing helpful suggestions at every turn; reference lists of skills and feats compliment those provided and explained with each class and the pre-generated characters. To help readers identify with the kind of characters they might like to play, the Hero’s Handbook uses questions and comments keyed not to game terms but familiar fantasy stereotypes everyone understands. For instance, the cover of the rogue pre-generated character states “Play this rogue character if you’d like to be good at:” and then lists a host of basic yet appealing qualities, like “sneaking,” “being a swashbuckler,” and “discovering secrets.” The Game Master’s Guide leads off with a full group dungeon crawl that gives each location a clear and well-organized one-page treatment; the format allows for a mini-map of the area noting monster and treasure positions, an illustration, monster stats, treasure information, and tips for handling the game mechanics for most situations characters might encounter there. Page organization walks through the basics in order, from what characters see to how they interact with challenges there. Both books employ an almost comic-book approach in visual style: short paragraphs, lots of in-column sidebars, graphic headers.

The Pathfinder Beginner Box certainly offers plenty of inspiration by getting readers excited about creating heroes, running adventures, and playing the game. Full-color illustrations demonstrate what heroes look like and what kind of adversaries they face. Everything gets an illustration no matter how small: weapons, armor, equipment, monsters, and magic items. (Sure, most of these pieces are probably drawn from other Pathfinder products, but “original” nonetheless to adventure gaming newcomers). Inspiration isn’t simply visual. The chapter on adventuring “environments” offers numerous menus and descriptions (in both narrative and game terms) for elements in dungeons, cities, and different wilderness terrain. The all-too-few pages on Sandpoint – the adventuring base town – and its environs, as well as a few plot-hook ideas, still excite readers with a concrete example of a starting-character setting reminiscent of the classic “Keep on the Borderlands” environment.

I’m no newcomer to fantasy roleplaying games. I even immersed myself in the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons when it released in 2000, played it a few times, and wrote some published material for it under the Open Game License. Even though Pathfinder’s game engine remains based in that Open Game License content, it’s presentation in the beginner box managed to rekindle some boyhood enthusiasm in this often jaded gaming veteran. While reading its contents I found myself seriously considering gathering some friends and giving it a try. Though it’s quite a bit beyond what my four year-old son, the infamous “Little Guy,” could comprehend right now, I’m definitely keeping the box around for some future time when he’s keen and interested enough to really enjoy the experience. That might not be far off...he’s already seen the box and cover illustrations in Daddy’s office, wondered what kind of game it is, and asked when he can try playing it.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Price of D&D Next

Last week word reportedly leaked out through a pre-order page on Barnes & Noble’s website that Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro’s next iteration of Dungeons & Dragons – tentatively called “D&D Next” in its seemingly lengthy design and playtesting phase – would cost $50 for the Players Handbook. Assuming this leak contained any degree truth, this presumably means the other two books in the D&D rules “trilogy,” the Dungeon Masters Guide and the Monster Manual, would also come with a similar price tag, theoretically bringing the overall price for all components necessary to play the game to $150.

The pre-order page has since been withdrawn. Was it a legitimate mistake on Barnes & Noble’s part? Was it a clever test to gauge reaction to a $50 price? No doubt the adventure gaming population has been following and discussing this development, eagerly awaiting more official details hopefully justifying the cost, particularly page count and contents. One assumes in today’s roleplaying game publishing market the books will all release as full-color hardcovers, though the page count remains to be seen and, no doubt, judged in relation to the $50 price.

(As a side-note, yet more relevant to my own intetests, the next edition D&D Starter Set faces similar uncertainty, with a $19.95 price tag for contents unknown at the time, though such an “introductory” price isn’t as much of an issue.)

Members of the adventure gaming hobby have long waged the debate over what’s a reasonable “buy-in” for games of all kinds, from roleplaying and board games to traditional and miniature wargames. While perusing one of the numerous online gaming community forums I noted someone’s comment that $50 seems the pretty standard minimum buy-in price for any adventure gaming hobby these days. They’re probably right, but that’s $50 for enough of a game to get started and have at least some time for a satisfying game experience before buying supplemental material to fuel the game.

What’s a reasonable buy-in price for the next edition of the game that gave birth to an entire roleplaying game industry, a game with once-infamous brand recognition that still defines the hobby?

Overcoming Obstacles

D&D Next, whatever the price, must overcome several obstacles to attract customers (and players) to pay whatever buy-in Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro finally chooses: a price tag commensurate with similar games with the hardcover, full-color production standard; the requirement (presumably) of three books to purchase at that price to fully enjoy the game; a plethora of competing games offering a similar play experience for a lower price; and gamers’ usual wide spectrum of preferences for particular game mechanics and play style, which this game may not satisfy.

Hardcover, full-color core rulebooks remain the standard in the adventure gaming hobby today. For instance, Monte Cook’s fantastic Numenera cost me $60 through the Kickstarter campaign to get the physical book – a hardcover volume filled with an extravaganza of inspiring artwork and relatively intuitive and helpful layout – though this also came with a plethora of similarly high-production-value PDF supplements and extras. Even rulebooks for some of the more popular miniature wargaming systems maintain these high production standards with the associated price tag. D&D Next must justify any comparable price with a high perceived value of its contents.

Since its birth the Dungeons & Dragons game has adhered to a multi-book presentation. It quickly solidified around the three core aspects of the game: a book for players, one for gamemasters, and one packed with monsters. Although some roleplaying games have since adopted this multi-book approach, many focus on a single, high-quality core rulebook with an appropriately high price tag. Theoretically, as with most roleplaying games, a game group only needs one copy of each tome, primarily for the gamemaster’s use, with the books passing from one player to the next for reference or character development ideas. From a practical standpoint, many gamers prefer to own the rules of games in which they’re involved.

Since the Open Game License enabled publishers and fans to release their own games based on many elements of the groundbreaking third edition of D&D in 2000, the adventure gaming hobby has seen a flood of d20-related product. Consumers helped sift out what many considered the dreck and propelled several lines into immense popularity. The release of fourth edition D&D in 2008 came without an Open Game License to permit such independent creative efforts. It so significantly restructured the game that a rift formed between fans of the latest two editions. Capitalizing on this schism and the privileges of the Open Game License, Paizo Publishing developed the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, offering a similar third-edition experience to gamers who felt fourth edition did not meet their needs and tastes. (Paizo previously released D&D third edition materials under license from Wizards of the Coast, including Dragon and Dungeon magazines, and retained a number of former Wizards staff who were instrumental in the third edition development.) It became so immensely popular that some claim Pathfinder has in recent years equaled or even exceeded sales of D&D products.

The Open Game License also opened subsequent editions of D&D to additional competition. A host of fan game designers returned to the game’s roots in D&D’s earliest editions in what came to be known as the “old school renaissance” of “retro-clone” games which emulated that cherished, earlier game experience. Many are available for free or low-cost; they’ve since garnered a sizable, vocal, and creative following of devotees who may not want to pay for the latest iteration of a D&D they’ve tailored to their own tastes. None of these developments with competing fantasy roleplaying games bode well for D&D Next to make an overwhelming impact on the market, particularly with the high price expected for a trio of high-production-value rulebooks.

Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro hopes to capitalize on brand loyalty, a nostalgic appeal, and the hopes of some innovative game mechanics, all elements working in the new edition’s favor. What will win out over the game’s final price tag – and what impact D&D Next may have on the gaming community and the corporate bottom line – only the future can tell. I’m in no position to tell Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro how to run their company, nor do I care to make predictions for a fluid future for D&D based on a marketing strategy and the whims (and budgets) of a mercurial gamer population. It’s worth watching how this pricing drama unfolds so perhaps we as consumers – and others as publishers – might learn something from this approach with a brand that has long been the cornerstone of the adventure gaming industry.

Will I Buy It?

I doubt it. The possible $150 buy-in price remains too high for me. My gaming tastes have changed away from rulebook-heavy games to lighter fare. Don’t let my personal preferences sway you, though – everyone’s mileage may vary – but here are some insights on my decision.

I’m a gamer who’s proud of his geeky involvement with D&D over the years. I began playing D&D in the early 1980s, arguably the “Golden Age” of roleplaying games. I still own my copies of the three first-edition rulebooks with a host of supplements and modules, as well as my cherished D&D Basic and Expert rules. Frequent readers know I have a nostalgic spot for games I discovered during my youth. Although I didn’t get involved in TSR’s second edition D&D while I was distracted by college and early professional life, I bought the D&D third edition books when they released for a number of reasons: the $19.95 price tag for each was relatively affordable; I had the possibility of doing some freelance writing for the numerous Open Game License publishers; I had a nostalgic interest to see where the game was going; and, I’ll admit that, like many gamers at the time, I was curious how Wizards of the Coast would advance the D&D brand and eager to try the next iteration after so many years under second edition.

I rarely spend $50 on a single game purchase these days, let alone $150. Perhaps my biggest single-game purchase lately was the aforementioned Numenera, more for the uniqueness of the setting and the promise of innovative game mechanics (though the fantastic production values and host of PDF supplements helped). If I want to engage in medieval fantasy roleplaying games I have plenty to choose from that are probably more to my taste these days: those geared for play with kids; systems I know and love and can easily adapt to a fantasy setting; and a host of mostly free old-school renaissance “retro-clones” which seek to simulate or build upon the D&D Basic and Expert games I preferred to the more official, “advanced” rules.

Few other games – quite possibly no other games – approach the adventure gaming industry stature of Dungeons & Dragons. It’s still a part of my gamer identity and remains on my radar as a follower of the adventure gaming hobby. I wrote about my interest in D&D Next news almost two years ago, when Wizards of the Coast announced the project and put it into “open” development playtesting; re-reading that missive I realize my views really haven’t changed. Like many fellow gamers I’ll watch developments in Wizards of the Coast’s re-launch of the most celebrated roleplaying game brand in the industry.


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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

In Memoriam: Aaron Allston

Game and novel author Aaron Allston passed away Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, at the age of 53. I knew Aaron from our involvement in the adventure games hobby and the Star Wars fiction franchise, though our acquaintance wasn’t as deep as I would have liked. He was a quiet yet significant contributor to numerous games throughout his life; he also published novels in his own, original settings in addition to his involvement in the Star Wars and Terminator licenses.

Fly casual, Aaron.
In the few days since Aaron’s passing many friends and colleagues who knew him better have offered their fond memories and condolences, including game industry luminary Allen Varney (who broke the news to much of gaming fandom and drafted the earliest obituary), the prolific Matt Forbeck, and Bruce Heard, who provided a comprehensive, impressive game and fiction bibliography of Aaron’s work. No doubt more will follow my meager contribution to the many internet missives remembering Aaron’s life and work.

Ironically our family was thinking fondly of Aaron the week he passed away as we endured a long car ride home from a wedding. My aunt had given our four year-old “Little Guy” a bag full of toys, including a Playskool Clone-Wars-era pull-back starfighter for young Obi-Wan; unfortunately the Obi-Wan figure with lightsaber was difficult to fit into the cockpit, so the Little Guy pulled out his Playskool Wicket the Ewok figure he’d brought along for the journey and fit him perfectly into the cockpit (except for the spear point). We immediately thought of Aaron with a smile, remembering how he incorporated the humorous image of Ewok “pilots” into his X-Wing: Wraith Squadron novels.

Aaron’s Star Wars novels were just hitting publication when West End Games folded, so I never had the privilege of working with him as a game or Journal editor, but we knew each other through occasional meetings at conventions and rare correspondence on Star Wars matters. My wife and I were fortunate enough to get to know him at several conventions we attended in North Carolina where, with fellow authors Timothy Zahn and Michael A. Stackpole – with whom I had worked at the Journal – he was part of the always entertaining “Tim, Mike, and Aaron Show.” Aaron was incredibly intelligent and witty, quietly listened to folks he met, and always had at least one, if not a flurry, of puns handy to break the ice among new acquaintances. In his self-effacing demeanor he sometimes referred to himself as the “pun-gent.”

In reflecting on Aaron’s life and his passing I arrive at several realizations, many relevant to anyone’s passing and some unique to Aaron’s. Two particularly stand out: be friendly and be playful. Aaron’s friendship – whether in a brief convention exchange or throughout a career – displayed a quiet intelligence and a positive outlook. He always had a kind or encouraging word for people, and I never recall hearing him disparage others...not an easy feat in a niche hobby where numerous, contentious small factions build themselves up by tearing others down. Aaron also reminds us to maintain a playful spirit; whether writing for games, infusing Star Wars novels with his agile wit, or simply cracking numerous, groan-inducing puns to share some laughs and set folks at ease. Aaron shared his playfulness with everyone.

At these times we often say we regret not getting to know people better during their time among us. Aaron’s passing reminds us to appreciate people in our lives, from our closest loved ones and friends to casual acquaintances and even those in the adventure gaming hobby whom we admire from afar. Take a moment to drop an e-mail to someone who’s made a positive difference in your life and thank them. Drop a +1 onto someone’s deserving Google+ post to show them their ideas and opinions matter. Reach out and engage someone in an informed, respectful discussion with the aim of forging a positive connection and a greater community.

I think fellow Star Wars novelist and Aaron’s friend Timothy Zahn put it best in his Facebook post regarding Aaron’s passing: “Aaron was a wonderful author, a devastating punster, an erudite teacher, and – most of all – a wonderful friend. His humor in the midst of his pain and medical difficulties was an inspiration to everyone around him.”