Dom : Hi, Larry. Can you tell us a bit about yourself ?

Larry : Well, let's see, I just passed 45, and my son, Lar, just passed 5.  He keeps me young.  He's not quite up to the give-and-take of rpg's, but he loves MageKnight - we play a simplified version that is helping him learn his basic arithmetic.  Been married 12 years this summer, and that's helped keep me sane.

Dom : What are your hobbies besides Rpgs ?

Larry : Rocketry - I'm a born-again rocketeer, coming back to that hobby after leaving it in my late teens.  I also write fiction - mostly fantasy - and I still keep my hand in some gaming.  I've just recently reclaimed WarpWar from the dustbin of history. Since it wasn't patented all someone needed to do was re-write the game to avoid copyright problems. It's up at my website at www.smith-house.org. I hope to recover several of the old Microgames, including Wizard and Melee, if I can find copies of them.

Dom : How did you discover Rpgs?

Larry : My roommate in college was into D&D - the ORIGINAL D&D, with the 3 buff-colored rulebooks - and the school I went to was SUNY@StoneyBrook which was just across the railroad tracks from Waterloo Hobbies, the gaming store run by Scott Bizar's folks, where I also met Scott.

Dom : Do you still have the time to play? What are your favorites games?

Larry : I still make some time to play, but with Lar I tend to play games more at his level.  As he gets a little older I expect to start easing back into rpg's and I'm more than looking forward

Dom : Can you tell us how you met Scott Bizar and how you came to work for FGU?

Larry : As noted above, I used to hang out at Waterloo and met Scott there.  He encouraged me to write some stuff for Space Opera, though Alien Base was the only thing that saw print.  A did a bunch of articles for an FGU magazine (The Lens?  I think.) that never saw the light of day.

Dom : Did you met the authors of Space Opera, Ed. Simbalist, Phil Mc Gregor or Mark Ratner? Or the staff that worked on the other supplements?

Larry : I met Ed once, and Mark Ratner at one point moved up here to New Hampshire where he roomed with Bruce Lutz, whom I knew from working with him at Sanders Associates.  I never knew any of the others, though I have conversed with Jeff Dee by email once or twice.

Dom : Do you have still some contacts with other authors or people at FGU?

Larry : Not really, though a couple of other old-FGU types like yourself have found me on the net on occasion.

Dom : You wrote "Alien Base". How did you worked to issue these supplements? How long time did you spend in the process? Did you have your own team of play testers?

Larry : Alien Base was adapted to Space Opera from my own set of rules (now available from my website under the name "Macrocosm").  It was the introductory scenario I used on a couple of groups over several years, so it did get an uncommon amount of play testing - one reason why it has several solutions. Actually writing it up for publication took a few months of on-again off-again work, mostly due to the primitive state of word processors at the time.

Dom : The copyright date of "Alien Base" is 1980. Are you really the first who wrote a scenario for SO? If so why your module was not published in the first place?

Larry : To tell the truth, I don't know if I was first or not.  I was certainly in the first handful.  I know it wasn't published first because Scott had already committed to several others to publish their scenarios.  Scott had gone through a long period where he didn't believe in publishing scenarios, just rules and supplements, and when he turned around on that he had a fair amount of stuff ready to go.

Dom : You express your appreciation to Bill Connors, Dave Kukla, Rob Caswell, James Cavanaugh, and Mike Dane. What part did these persons take part in the "Alien Base" process? Have you still contact with them?

Larry : They were my original playgroup and playtested AB very heavily (and imaginatively).  I still have regular contact with Bill and Mike.  Mike is in Connecticutt so I still see him every few months, and Bill went on to become one of the mucky-mucks in the gaming industry with his work for GDW and TSR, though I've seen him only a few times as the trip to or from Wisconsin is rather a pain.  Dave and James I lost track of when they moved out west. Rob went on to become fairly well known as an illustrator (and some of his work can be found at my website) though I haven't seen him in some time.

Dom : Did you have some material for Space Opera that was never published? If so, could SO fans hope to see them one day?

Larry : Some articles, as I noted before.  Most of the material is being re-adapted to Macrocosm and is showing up on my website.

Dom : As a designer, where does your inspiration come from?

Larry : I'm an "improv" type gamemaster.  I take motifs from movies or books and weave them together into worlds people can play in as they like, and then use the background information to guide me as things develop.  AB is, of course, from much the same horror root-stock as Alien (-s, -3, etc).  Gaming is the spark plug of my imagination, I work much better when I try ideas and refine them in the give and take of gaming rather than working in a vacuum.

Dom : What are your professional projects at the moment and for the years to come?

Larry : Right now I'm trying to bootstrap a new software consulting company called "Wild Open Source".  We specialize in helping people migrate from expensive proprietary solutions to open standards.  For fun I work on new material or adapting old material for Macrocosm and put it up on my website.  And, because my son asked me to, I'm writing "Jurassic Park IV: The Secret of Isla Sorna."  I doubt it, too, will ever see the light of day, but since Michael Crichton stopped writing JP novels, maybe I can sell it to Steven Spielberg. =)

Dom : Do you get a lot of messages from fans around the world, particularly concerning Space Opera?

Larry: Fans?  =)  I don't think I have much of a fan base. When FGU faded so did most of its material, and though it had an active base of very enthusiastic fans, without the games and advertising and support, they all kind of fell apart and moved on to other things.  Since FGU started to make a bit of a comeback I've heard from two now, including yourself.

Dom : Have you seen the web site? What would you like to find there?

Larry: Yes.  Since the rules are getting hard to come by, what I'd like to see most is to see the rules themselves come to light with some kind of arrangement with Scott Bizar.  As we in the open source world well know, things done in the open, without closed proprietary licenses, do not die easily.  Space Opera and Chivalry and Sorcery would be uniquely suited to moving to this kind of development model and their availability would stimulate the market for hard-copy versions of the rules.

Dom : After all these years, are you surprised by the continuing popularity of  Space Opera?

Larry : In a way, yes, but in another way, no.  FGU games were fun, and largely of pretty high quality, with a lot of value for the money.  Sure they were more complex than others - the "pass/hand-off" rules in Space Opera were proof of that - they were more modular than others of their era and so more tolerant of tinkering and simplifying, which is, I suspect, how most people played them.  Even so, I am surprised and gratified that they continue as strongly as they do - but, really, there are no good SF rules left on the market if you don't want to play Star Wars or Star Trek.

Dom : Finally, what message would you like to give to all the Space Opera fans?

Larry : I kind of gave up the oracular thing. =)  When I was wrong I ticked people off, and when I was right I ticked them off even worse, so it didn't seem worthwhile.  For myself, I try not to let myself be too aware of the outside world just enough to keep me out of jail.  My projects and my fantasy worlds are much more fun, and my family, Lar and my wonderful wife Marjie, keep me happy. Security and comfort are not treasured enough in this hypercompetitive world.  I guess I'm just a very large hobbit at heart.  =)

Dom : Thanks again Larry for having taken the time to answer our questions.

Larry : Here's one story no one ever asked me about that you might find interesting.  Alien Base was the first of a projected series of five scenarios. You will note that its stock number is followed by a gap of four numbers that never appeared in print.  Because FGU was in borderline monetary problems even back then, the payment for AB came so little so late than I never could justify working on the sequels.  They are still just piles of notes.  As most people know, Jeff Dee illustrated Alien Base, and a nice job he did, too.  But not too many people know Rob Caswell, who went on to become quite well-known as an illustrator himself, also did some illos for Alien Base, though Scott never used them.  Attached is Rob's take on the panarmn. Also, to set the record straight, the uncredited illustration of the sonic blaster in Alien Base was by Mike Dane, not Jeff Dee.

regards,

Litchfield, NH, USA, 5/11/01