Saturday, April 29, 2017

Richard Tucholka Eulogy

Noted game designer Richard Tucholka, designer of The Morrow Project, Fringeworthy, Stalking the Night Fantastic and others, has passed away. Eulogy reprinted with permission:
Donald Jones of Thunderhead Gaming has written a tribute to him that I think covers everything pretty darn well, and which is reproduced here with permission.
It is with broken hearts that we at Thunderhead Gaming must say goodbye to a lifelong and dear friend, game designer and creator of dreams, Richard Tucholka.

In 1980, when we opened one of the first commercial gaming centers in the country, it was an experiment that we weren’t sure would succeed. A few months into this experiment, a significantly large group of people walked in for some gaming.

After our jaws were done dropping and we finished hearing cash registers in our heads, we were introduced to the ringleader-apparent, Richard Tucholka (whom we were told we could call “Krot”). A friendship that would span decades began. We had been strong advocates of role-playing games before then, but Richard and the people with him went on to teach us what eventually helped Thunderhead Gaming Center prosper. It was community. When Richard gathered with people to game, it was never about the game, it was always about the people. You never met him, you met him and dozens of other people who would become friends for life. As literally hundreds will attest, even if there were a dozen or more people at the table, he could always make it seem like you were a crucial member. In a community in which many people had been on the social fringes, often facing rejection and isolation (nerds, 1980s, before Big Bang Theory), Richard could make you feel like you not only belonged, but you were a vital part of the people around him. His ability to be ornery was well-known, but it never mattered. For every gruff comment, there were a hundred smiles and laughs.

One of the other things we at Thunderhead gained from Richard was the spark of wanting to create. We had made our own adventures and played around with house rules before we met him, but we saw from him just how much of an art form games can be. Teaming with Bob Sadler and Kevin Dockery, Richard was one of the original co-creators of the Morrow Project. When he first came to Thunderhead, it was to begin play testing a new game he was working on called Fringeworthy, which would be published in 1982. This was a game about secret military teams that were assigned to travel through inter-dimensional portals left behind by advanced aliens, to explore far off planets and alternate earths, with adversarial aliens that could assume the identity of others. Sound familiar? We’ll get to that.
That same year, he also published FTL 2448, a game set in space, but without the space opera feel that was so common back then. Richard followed Fringeworthy and FTL 2448 with Stalking the Night Fantastic in 1983, later to be known as Bureau 13, a game of supernatural investigation by a secret government agency. In 1991, Bureau 13 won the Gamers Choice Award at Gencon. This was one of the earliest supernatural horror role-playing games, only predated by Call of Cthulhu from Chaosium. Rogue 417, his second post-apocalyptic game, began a string of creative endeavors that continued until the day he made his last trip to the hospital more than 30 years later.

Through Richard’s eyes, the world we live in was a place of constant amazement. It wasn’t uncommon to see him staring at something ordinary, completely fixated, only to have him make the most unexpected observations about it. Unlike the vast majority of us, Richard never lost the child’s ability to look at everything as if it were brand new and waiting to be discovered. Some artists use pigments to create paintings to stir the imaginations and emotions of people. Others may use stone or clay to create sculptures. Richard Tucholka’s art was to create amazing worlds of wonder and devise the rules and means for the rest of us to join him there. His worlds sparked the imagination and stirred the soul. More importantly, though, everyone always felt as if they belonged there. In Richard’s worlds, there were no outcasts.

It is often said that facts describe reality, but that may not always be the case. It is a fact that Richard Tucholka was an only child who never had children of his own. In the truest sense, however, he was a beloved father and big brother to hundreds. It is a fact that, apart from his widow, Melody Natcher, Richard had no living family. The reality is that, through the impact he has had on people’s lives, Richard’s family numbers in the thousands and, arguably, unknown millions. Richard traveled the United States and Canada introducing thousands of people to his games and the worlds he had created. There is reason to say that one of those people was Dean Devlin, one of the creators of Stargate. Stargate was a movie and television series about secret military teams that were assigned to travel through inter-dimensional portals left behind by advanced aliens, to explore far off planets and alternate earths, with adversarial aliens that could assume the identity of others. Yeah, that’s why it sounds so familiar. Though uncredited and most certainly uncompensated, we at Thunderhead are prepared to say that Richard touched the lives of unknowing millions of people through the Stargate franchise that “was inspired by” his intellectual property.

The phrase “larger than life” truly applies to Richard Tucholka and it is nearly impossible to wrap our minds around the idea that he is gone. When we restarted Thunderhead with a focus on publishing games, he was one of our earliest and strongest supporters. He has been our constant companion and cohort at conventions for the last two years, sometimes sharing dealer tables, as well as innumerable laughs and amazing memories. We already know that the next convention will feel like scabs being pulled off from sore wounds, because we will look at the table next to us and the Krot won’t be there. No matter what, it just won’t feel right.

There really isn’t much we can do to honor Richard’s memories. There isn’t anything we can say to add to his legacy that the masses of people he has touched doesn’t better express. There is one small gesture we can make, though. Richard enthusiastically endorsed our game, Netherstorm. When he played it with our group, he smiled and laughed with abandon. Those who have seen the book know there is a race of anthromorphized animals called the Wilderfolk and one of the illustrations in the book is an anthromorphized squirrel, which we named Iora Barkskipper. Richard loved the squirrel illustration, created the squirrel ranger as his first character and spoke about the squirrel almost every time he mentioned Netherstorm. When he played the character, there were a couple times he actually giggled. Iora Barkskipper has been our unofficial mascot and appeared on signs, flyers and other Netherstorm material, often with the slogan “Do you have the nuts for it.” This was also a source of amusement for Richard. Today, we retire the squirrel. Iora Barkskipper doesn’t belong to Thunderhead, it belongs to Richard. Yeah, it sounds stupid and a lot of people won’t get it. But Richard would almost be in tears laughing about his character being retired and to us, that’s all that matters.

Everyone has a different idea of what there is after death. We are a game company, not philosophers and clergy, so we don’t feel it is our place to lecture or teach. However, as an allegory or metaphor, we can picture Richard standing in front of a Fringe portal (suspiciously identical to a Stargate portal from 12 years later), looking back, smiling, then walking through to explore the final Fringe path. Along the way, he’ll probably pick up Bill “Photomat” Welsh, Stuart Robertson, Terry Williams and Michael “Ox” Klemish. It’s just a picture. It probably isn’t accurate and it may not fit anyone’s idea of what happens after death, but it makes us smile. That’s good enough.

Bye, Krot.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Free Comic Book Day

At the May 2nd city council meeting, Mayor Mike Henry will proclaim May 6, 2017 as Free Comic Book Day in Carbondale.

Mr. Thorne,
The Free Comic Book Proclamation is set to be read at Tuesday’s Council Meeting.  The meeting will start at 7:00 p.m.  Thanks-

Faith Johnson
Administrative Secretary
City of Carbondale

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Game Library

Just a reminder that we have a very well stocked game library that you can borrow from to play here or rent to take home and play for a week (except for Cards Against Humanity, that you can only rent for a weekend). We just added copies of the Legend of Zelda Chess set, Fallout Yahtzee and Arkham Horror to the library bringing us to well over 200 titles for you.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Influencing People

This week's ICV2 column looks at the 6 principles of persuasion, which we use to influence others. A key factor is social proof, evidence that other people think the same way that we do. This is why when a game or comic gets "hot" everyone wants one (and prices go up).

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Importance of Packaging

I had the opportunity to try a game designer’s newish card games earlier this year The games played smoothly and in general, I liked the card art. However, I opted not to bring them in for one simple reason:  the only packaging was a strip of plastic shrinkwrapped around them holding the cards in place. No box, no clamshell, nothing, so I passed on it.  If you want to sell any product (with the possible exception of live animals), you need packaging.

Packaging serves two basic purposes: functional and promotional.  The functional purposes of packaging are to allow the customer to transport it, protect its contents and give needed information about them.

Consider consumer products. Could you transport liquid laundry detergent or toothpaste home from the store if it did not come in a bottle or tube? This is the first function of the package, to hold the contents together conveniently. While carrying home an RPG like 13th Age or FATE is relatively easy (though try getting one home without that handy binding), imagine taking home a board game like Settlers of Catan or Zombies! without the box. Pieces and cards all over the place!

The second thing the package does is protect the contents. Even something as simple as a deck of Once Upon a Time cards needs a package. If you just put them out on the shelf, they will get dirty, shelfworn, even torn. The box, or clamshell, or case, protects them from normal damage.
The third functional thing the package does is provide information about the contents. In the case of toothpaste, the customer wants to know how many ounces, is this tartar control or whitening formula, does it contain fluoride? Consumer protection laws for consumable items require a list of ingredients as well. You find that information on the package. Though ingredients are not necessary, in the case of a game, the customer wants some basic information: how many people can play, what ages are suitable, how long should a typical game take, what is inside the package?  This last is important because the customer typically cannot open the box to see the contents and stores may not want to open it if they do not have a shrinkwrap machine (If a store does not have a shrinkwrapping machine and the customer decides not to buy, the opened game is now worth less in the eyes of the next customer).

In terms of promotion, packaging can do two main things: make your product stand out on the shelf and sell it to the customer. Steve Jackson Games is a prime example of using packaging to make its products stand out, purely though box size. As I mentioned in previous columns, I used to think SJG was wrong for packaging Munckin in such a large box. Time proved me wrong and over the years, SJG has moved away from the small tuck boxes in which it packaged Chez Geek and Illuminati. Today, those games, and others, come in boxes the size of the Munchkin box, the easier to stand out on the shelf.

The packaging also should sell the product to the consumer. Tell them why they should buy it, why they are going to have fun playing it, how play works. While the FLGS probably has someone who can tell the customer about the product, if a game makes it to the shelf of a Target or B&N, no staffer there will work to sell it.  The poor game package is on its own. Bland doesn’t attract attention, bright and attention getting does.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Chemistry Fluxx

Looney Labs released Math Fluxx a couple of weeks ago, now here comes Chemistry Fluxx. Fun and educational at the same time.

Pre-release Playmants

We ordered playmats for the upcoming Magic and Pokemon Pre-releases from Nested Egg Games. They arrived today and we are pretty happy with the results. If you play in all 4 of the Magic pre-releases this weekend, you get the Magic playmat for free. If you prepay for the Pokemon pre-release by April 26, you get the Pokemon playmat for free.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Green Ronin Contest

This week's ICV2 rolling for Initiative column looks at Green Ronin's contest looking for a female writer for their new Lost Citadel RPG

Monday, April 10, 2017

Fireside Games

This week's ICV2 column looks at why a store should stock Fireside Games' product line.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Redesigned Game Areas

Caroline and Brian spent several hours on Thursday re laying out the Munchkin and Twilight Creations sections of the store. Very nice job, don't you think?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Blast from the Past from Goodman Games

Under license/ agreement from/with WOTC, Goodman Games will rerelease a number of classic first edition D&D/AD&D materials, both in the original format and updated for 5th edition play. This comes on the heels of the announced oversized reprint of the first 14 or so issues of the Judges' Guild Journal along with 3 early Judges' Guild adventures:  Tegel Manor, Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor and one other that I do not recall.  Price point on the JGJ reprint is $100. It was supposed to hit shelves later this month but due to some printing problems went back to the printer

Monday, April 3, 2017

Gloomhaven Pricing

This week's ICV2 column looks at the pricing on Gloomhaven.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

This Week from Games Workshop

According to Games Workshop, this is what we can expect this week:

This week we release Shadow War Armageddon, a standalone skirmish game set in the labyrinthine levels of a hive world.  Also this week, worshipers of the Blood God get a whole new Battletome: Blades of Khorne, as well as Warscroll Cards.  Finally Black Library author David Annandale weaves a tale of titanic destruction in Warlord: Fury of the God Machine.