Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tom Clancy, Larry Bond, and How We At Adventure Games Won The Cold War

Yes, that's a first edition. Yes, he signed it. Yes, I still read it regularly.
No, I don't think it is 'collectable'. Book are meant to be read, not preserved in aspic.
The news about Tom Clancy's passing away came across the wires as I was heading out to the airport yestderday afternoon to collect Youngest Daughter; I got it from CNN, as we were in the midst of a failure of the wireless hub that serves our household network, and I had no Internet access until this afternoon. We're back on line, and I thought I'd say a few things about the man.

A long time ago, and far, far away, I was working for Dave Arneson at Adventure Games as the "Vice President for Tekumel Affairs", being the guy who was dealing with Prof. Barker. One of our 'stable' of authors was local gamer Larry Bond, who had gone into the Navy and was a Commander, who had written the modern naval miniatures (this was back before home computers had been invented, remember!) game "Harpoon". We were gearing up for a trip to flog the merchandise at Origins, to be held in Baltimore, when we got a call from Larry; he told us that his local hobby store, in the DC area, had been given a special order for a dozen copies of "Harpoon" by - of all people! - the Soviet Naval Attache at the Soviet Embassy. From what Larry had gathered of the conversation, as relayed to him by the store's owner, the Soviets had gotten wind of the news that the U. S Navy had introduced "Harpoon" into the curriculum of the Naval Reserve Officers' Training Program (ROTC, for short) and was using it to teach naval cadets all over the place about modern naval warfare. The Soviets, it seemed, wanted to introduce their own cadets at the Frunze Academy in Moscow to modern naval warfare and wanted to use "Harpoon" to do it, and so could we please expedite the order when it came in.

"Well, of course, Larry," we replied, "anything for an old friend!"

The order duly came in, and we sprang into action; we were going to show those Godless Commies what real Americans - albeit a collection of fairly odd ones - could do. No Five-Year Plans for us, no sir! This was going to be good old Americian hard work, thrift, family values, and sheer grit! We put on the Ethel Merman tape of her singing "God Bless America!", and sprang into action; we'd show those Rooshins!

We pulled a dozen copies of Harpoon off the shelf, stripped out the separate statistics sheets from each set of rules, and fired up the typesetting machine. We generated new stats sheets, with the Soviet ships and weapons systems all upgraded by 50%; all of the NATO ships and weapons systems were degraded by an equal 50%. We printed up the sheets, collated them into the rules sets, shrink-wrapped the individual copies, boxed the order up, and sent it all off. We got a nice thank-you note, by the way.

We got to the convention, which was being held in a college gymnasium, set up our little gypsy stand, and fell to selling the goods. Being a shameless marketing kind of guy, I had a sign posted that said: "Harpoon - The Official Wargame of the Soviet Red Banner Fleets!". Dave Arneson had a fit, but as it was selling copies he bowed to the will of the people; I merely smiled and started painting up some C-in-C 1/2400 modern Soviet ships for Larry to use in his game demo. (Gosh, I was clever; I used the white circles from some 1/285th WW II Allied star-in-a-circle decals for the helicopter pad markings on the deck of the Kiev.) So, I'm painting away, praying that the paint will be dry before the game in a couple of hours, when this kinda stockbrokery / insurance agenty kind of guy comes up, and compliments me on my painting ability.

I thanked him very kindly, as he was about the only person (besides Larry) at the convention to notice the helipads, and he was very nice and polite. He asked me if Larry Bond would be here at the convention, and if he was, could Larry take some time out to talk to the gentleman. I assure him that yes, Commander Bond (That's "Bond, Larry Bond", of course) would be happy to do so, and might I ask his name so I could introduce them properly. "Tom Clancy," the gentleman says.

So, while still holding poor old Kiev in the one hand and a paintbrush in the other, I stands up on my chair and roar - in my very best Command Voice - across the hall "Larry! One of your rabid fans is here to worship at your feet!"; I hop off the chair, and inform Mr. Clancy in my best major-domo's voice that Commander Bond would be with him in a moment. (Mr. Clancy couldn't stop laughing.) Larry perks right up, comes over, I make the introductions, and the rest - as they say - is history.

If you want to see a product of that history, look on the bookshelves at your local book store for either Tom or Larry's work. Or look at Larry's website:


We've lost a master storyteller, who created a genre for all of us to enjoy, and a real gentleman. God bless him.

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