I have always been a teller of tall tales. During my school years, I harassed my teachers in Swedish, English and German with unusual essays dealing with science fiction or fantasy topics. In my final school year (1977-78), I wrote an SF novella as my graduation project. The oddest project the teachers had seen, but hardly the best. Producing such a long text turned out to be far more strenuous than I had imagined.
I got hooked on role-playing games in May 1977. At Sweden’s first wargaming convention in Gothenburg, Mikael Börjesson ran demo games of some new-fangled kind, called Dungeons & Dragons. It was an instant hit with me and most of the other chaps in our wargaming club.
In 1978 I switched to Traveller, a game far more to my taste. When GDW launched the Journal of the Travellers’ Aid Society (JTAS) magazine in 1979, I got the notion that I could contribute something to it. After having lived for a while in the United States and having studied English Lang for one semester at Gothenburg University, writing in English — nominally a foreign language — did not trouble me much. In the summer of 1979 I was drafted for ten months of military service. It was a boring experience and therefore I spent as much time as possible with the role-playing games.
Somewhen during those dreary months (I do not remember the details 30+ years later) I bought the first issue of JTAS and thereafter typed “The Werewolf Disease”, an adventure outline based on a scenario I had run in my group. I served in the army medical service so I had ready access to typewriters and my boss was a nice sergeant-major who overlooked my hobbies as long as I carried out my regular duties diligently. I mailed it to GDW with few expectations, but to my surprise I got a kind acceptance letter from Loren Wiseman, the JTAS editor, a few months later with an attached cheque. Cashing it turned out to be impossible because of the local bank regulations. I made a photocopy of it for my archive and returned it to Loren, who instead paid me by a device called International Money Order (probably obsolete today). And my first professional article appeared in JTAS #5 (in late 1980 or early 1981).
“The Werewolf Disease” was a werewolf tale in sci-fi disguise. The characters’ task was to track down and capture a scientist who suffered from the unexpected side-effects of a medical experiment, and who had escaped into the wilderness. He had become extremely strong and paranoid. If I remember correctly, my gamers solved the problem by luring him into the open and tossing a high-tensile net over him to entangle him, after which they gassed him with teargas till he was knocked out. The player group contained one or two engineering students at Chalmers, the local polytechnic university college, and those players usually approached my adventures as if they were engineering problems.
So there my fantastic journey began — and it is still going on.
I’ve decided to give my response in English, since the article is written in English. Hope it won’t bother anyone.
Well, there’s not too much to say, besides that I really, really like this kind of stories. It’s fun to hear fascinating bits and pieces of others lives. Though, I guess that it’s mixed up my interests for the work of game designers and writers and authors in general, of course.
Do you remember how much you got for writing that article for JTAS? I really enjoyed the anecdote about the cheque. 🙂
No, unfortunately I don’t remember the sum. But money was worth a lot more then than today. I probably have the photocopy tucked away in a cardboard box with old documents, but I don’t have the time to look for it.
It is fun to learn that my many anecdotal reminisces of those golden days are so appreciated. That encourages me to put more of them on the blog.
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