: Hi, Larry. Can you
tell us a bit about yourself ?
: 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.
: What are your hobbies besides Rpg’s ?
: 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.
: How did you discover Rpg’s?
: 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.
: Do you still have the time to play? What are your favorites games?
: 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
: Can you tell us how you met Scott Bizar and how you came to work for FGU?
: 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.
: 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?
: 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.
: Do you have still some contacts with other authors or people at FGU?
: Not really, though a couple of other old-FGU types like yourself have found me
on the net on occasion.
: 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?
: 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.
: 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
: 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.
: 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?
: 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.
: Did you have some material for Space Opera that was never published? If so,
could SO fans hope to see them one day?
: Some articles, as I noted before. Most of the material is being re-adapted
to Macrocosm and is showing up on my website.
: As a designer, where does your inspiration come from?
: 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.
: What are your professional projects at the moment and for the years to come?
: Right now I'm trying to bootstrap a new software consulting company called
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. =)
: Do you get a lot of messages from fans around the world, particularly
concerning Space Opera?
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.
: Have you seen the web site? What would you like to find there?
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.
: After all these years, are you surprised by the continuing popularity of
: 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.
: Finally, what message would you like to give to all the Space Opera fans?
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.
: Thanks again Larry for having taken the time to answer our questions.
: 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.
Litchfield, NH, USA, 5/11/01