Bear Peters Interviewed in 2008
Reproduced by kind permission of Robert S. Lotze and Bear Peters
Bear Peters was involved with Tunnels & Trolls at the very beginning. He was a party to its creation and part of its growth.
His resume is quite impressive. Not only is he a founding-father of Tunnels & Trolls – immortalized in the Peters-McAllister chart – but he was a cartographer and contributor for Monsters! Monsters! Role Playing Game; and has credits on many publications including:
- Legionnaire the Roleplay Game published by FASA and created by Michael Stackpole
- Citybook II, Citybook III, Citybook VI, Citybook VII and Maps: Cities for the Catalyst System by Flying Buffalo
- Taking Care of Business (Mugshots 2) for the Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes RPG
- Complete Ranger’s Handbook for 2nd edition AD&D
- Creator of Grimtooth’s Dungeon of Doom (though only credited as the Editor, as Grimtooth supposedly wrote it), Catacombs of the Bear Cult and the infamous Dungeon of the Bear
- Author of two short stories for the Battletech anthology Shrapnel: Fragments from the Inner Sphere; and of Where There’s a Wizard There’s a Way in the Tunnels & Trolls anthology Mage’s Blood & Old Bones.
Now he is a regular attendee at the annual Tunnels & Trolls convention, (affectionately known as “TrollCon”). This afforded me the opportunity for an interview with ‘the man called Bear’.
Grob: Bear, what’s the deal with Grimtooth claiming authorship of the Dungeon of Doom?
Bear: I’m never going to live this one down, that little Goblin, over a pot of ale, says, “Hey kid, no one ever reads the credits, lets say instead of written by Bear Peters, we say it was written by me! You could feature prominently, right below, something like Special Assistant to Mr. Grimtooth. Wha’d you think, kid? Great gag, hunh?” Never drink ale with a trap-making Troll!
Seriously, there are a few traps brought in from other sources, Wayne West in particular added a couple, but most of this baby was written and created by yours truly. (Take that you annoying trapster!!! Set me up, Grimtooth indeed, I don’t think the little rat can write in English, the truth will out!)
Grob: In addition to your gaming resume above, is there anything I missed?
Bear: In what was possibly the best issue of Sorcerer’s Apprentice (#3) I had an article of which I am particularly proud, Know your Foes 101: Dragons a Specific Overview a scholarly treatise on Dragons, with all known information, at the time!
Grob: I’m sure people are curious about where you got the name “Bear” from. Would you mind telling?
Bear: The true answer to this question goes back a long way, to my senior year in high school. It would almost be easier to say, “the answer is lost in the mists of time!”
There was an eclectic group of us who hung out together, and as a group we decided to join the SCA, (Society for Creative Anachronism), for the uninitiated this is a Medieval Re-enactors group. I was interested because I wanted to go about bashing other folks with medieval weaponry and coincidentally act like the lord of the manor. At any rate, we felt called upon to invent suitably medieval names, mine was Bjorn of the Broad Ax. This was shortened in very short order to simply, Bjorn. Allegedly Bjorn is Nordic for Bear. This went on through the year and into the interregnum between High School, and my brief stint in College.
The name Bear evolved when the interest in the SCA faded. Most of my closer friends started calling me Bear, simply because Bjorn is more inconvenient to pronounce. It didn’t come into common usage until I hooked onto a summer job.
I was working at a magnesium and aluminum foundry with the brother of one of my friends, 3 or 4 reprobate hippies, and about 25 guys who, if they weren’t illegal, were at least English challenged. Fred, (my friends brother), who got me the job, introduced me as Bjorn, but that lasted about “naught point two seconds” as the pronunciation problem grew. Fred said: “Just call him Bear.” and I have been “The Man Called Bear” ever since.
As an aside, my wife didn’t know my given name until we had known each other for three years, in fact I think it was when we were applying for our marriage license.
Grob: Were you into playing games while growing up? When and how did you first get into gaming?
Bear: Was I into games and gaming growing up? Indeed! You must remember that I predate every stand-alone roll playing game now known. Ours was the world of cops & robbers, and cowboys & Indians. We weren’t separated from the Second World War by that much, so playing soldiers was fairly common. The late 50’s, and early 60’s, was the era of advancing science, so there were plans laid for extraterrestrial explorations in our backyards. Make believe was our roll playing and, boy-oh-boy, did I have a rich fantasy life.
Add to this that my mom taught me chess at 8. That taught me about board games and rules. I discovered Risk a few years later, and immediately set about trying to make my own Risk board and games.
If you factor in the rich fantasy life, and a love of board games, my march toward Role Playing Games was inexorable!
Grob: You say that you had a rich fantasy life when growing up. Does anything in particular still stick out in your mind?
Bear: How’s this for a flight of fantasy. A nine year old boy convenes all his friends in his bed room, to outline a carefully conceived plan, complete with charts and design art, to fly a space ship through the SUN! This would be 1962!
We also had detailed plans, for how to “take out” every movie monster from Frankenstein to Godzilla, in the unlikely event they should attack our neighborhood. Civil Defense had nothing on us.
Grob: How did you originally get involved with Tunnels & Trolls?
Bear: It was Ken. He’s contagious. In point of fact, the lot of us, Ken, Liz and Steve McAllister all belonged to a loose association of Science Fiction readers and Fantasy fans. Most of us had some level of creative background, and or medieval re-creationist bent. When Ken created T&T, (in a weekend, seriously, like Athena sprung from the head of Zeus!), we were there to be the first play testers, (aka. Victims), so you could safely say I have been in on this thing from the beginning!
Grob: In an interview, Ken St. Andre credited you with coming up with the name “Tunnels & Trolls”. Is this true, and if so, how did you come up with the name?
Bear: Creative alliteration. It’s a natural, Dragons were already taken, and “Orcs and Oubliettes” is a tad obscure. Seriously though, while I appreciate Ken’s credit it was more a product of our brainstorming session before, during, and after getting our first batch of characters killed off. I may have been the first to say it, but it was inevitable.
Grob: So truly, who was Grimtooth? You? Liz? Rick? Who?
Bear: Honestly, Grimtooth was/is who ever is currently acting as editor/creator of the latest “Traps” product. To me Steve Crompton, (Who, by the way would make an interesting interview!), is the “soul” of Grimtooth; he put a face on the little Rat! I like to think I captured the essence of Grimtooth’s nature, in Dungeon of Doom, but “I stood on the shoulders of Giants”.
Grob: Paul Ryan O’Connor wrote some fictionalized adventures about you that got turned into a short film called “The Man Called Bear: Hero At Large!” created by Mike Sortino, (who now goes by the name M.C. Brennan). You even played a starring role. Can you tell us a bit about these stories and the film?
Bear: Man, has this story grown out of all proportions. Every time some one looks Me, (The Man Called Bear), up on the internet this fable pops up.
Let me see if I can sort out the historical back ground.
For several years I ran a bookstore. During that time a number of young creative fantasy and science fiction readers came through the doors. One of those was a young man named Mike Sortino. He was a Star Trek fan at a time when there was only one Star Trek series. Given our work on a variety of fantasy role playing, and superhero gaming stuff we redirected a portion of that enthusiasm to other areas of interest. In particular a superhero game called Villains & Vigilantes.
Meanwhile, and for some time before that, I had been corresponding with Paul O’Connor, who had gotten involved with Ken in a massive multiplayer interactive role playing game based in Roger Zelazny’s “Amber”. (This is another Story!!!) There was no other Amber game before this one, and we even had the author as an active consultant, including a fairly large amount of correspondence!!! After the Amber Game ended Paul stayed in contact and also got involved in Superhero Role Playing as well as writing for Flying Buffalo, and eventually computer game design.
As a counterpoise to my character, (oddly enough called The Man Called Bear), he invented a character called The Insidious Doctor Wang!!! This, in fact was the title of the “Book” that young Mike Sortino read that contained The Man Called Bear’s Adventures. Mike went on to write a sequel called “The Man Called Bear: Largest Detective in the World!!!” Anyway young Mike was very enthusiastic, and along with his pal Eric he got involved in a number schemes, most involving Radio at the time.
Eventually he came up with the idea of making a movie for a project, relating to his media interests. At the time video recorders were prohibitively expensive, but I had in my possession a very old, hand held, hand wound, super-8 movie camera that my family had used to take vacation movies. I gave the old camera to Mike and told him to “knock himself out”, but to remember that he’d have to find someone to develop the film! Apparently he did! I know that the only footage of me that he shot is of me ambling out of the entrance of my store looking gruff, and some footage of me sprinting out of the same store and getting into my truck. But I know of no one who has seen the finished film.
How’s that for a long answer to a short question?
Grob: You’re still a gamer today. What kinds of games do you play?
Bear: Yes, without a doubt. We were playing Champions over the weekend!
In the last year I have been in A Deadlands campaign, and Exalted campaign, of course at the Tunnels & Trolls Con I ran a T&T demo.
As a side note my personal favorite, (excluding T&T of course), is Deadlands – I like the opportunity to use all the dice in the box, and the twisted character creation that always seems to leave at least one flaw to overcome, or develop out of.
I’ve at least sampled almost every roll playing game system that I have encountered, from Chivalry & Sorcery, and Runequest to Exalted and Spy Craft. A few notables that I missed were Empire of the Petal Throne, (because at the time it cost too much), and Hackmaster, (too much of a pain in the ass.)
Then there are board games. We get together at least once a month for a session at the store of an old and dear friend, and former business partner, Dave Petit – The Game Depot in Tempe Arizona. Dave closes down at 7:00 p.m. on the third Saturday of the month, and reopens for invited guests until the last game is finished, or Dave’s wife Patty breaks it up, usually before 1:00am, that is unless the game she’s in isn’t done! We also play Friday nights at another friend’s a couple of times a month. Current favorites are Shadows Over Camelot, and Arkham Horror, but we play everything from Acquire, Blockus, Can’t Stop and Hero Scape, to Poison, Princes of Florence, Union Pacific, and Unspeakable Words and everything in between.
Grob: According to a post Liz Danforth made on the internet, in the early days of T&T you worked in the back room of Flying Buffalo spiral-binding books that were printed on an in-house press that was little more than a fancy mimeograph machine. I’m certain that people would love to hear about those early and primitive days of not only Tunnels & Trolls, but of the RPG world in general. Do you have any facts, stories, or anecdotes you’d be willing to share?
Bear: Most of the folks that worked for Buffalo, worked at binding, collating, or assembling almost anything Buffalo produced. There was never a spectacular amount of “Job Snobbishness” there. Some of us were more gifted at writing and editing like Liz and Pat Muller, and others of us were more gifted at manning the presses. Jim Cooper was particularly gifted at keeping the old press running.
I was a jack-of-all-trades; I ran the press (badly), bound, assembled and stored stuff. I was very good at shipping!
My longest stint “in the back room” was after I opened my bookstore. I was in business for a year when tax time rolled around. In all my previous jobs someone else had been responsible for with holding the taxes and silly me, I thought I got to keep all the money I had made. When my accountant told me what I owed, I went to Rick to see if he had any part time work! Hence late night shipping, in the back room!
An interesting little Buffalo Back Room story was the time I went to Rick to get paid for Dungeon of The Bear Level Two, (or maybe it was Three, I’m not sure), at any rate, I knew it was done being printed, and so I figured, what the hey? Well, Rick said he couldn’t pay on the product until it had met the outstanding orders – in short until it had been shipped! So I went into the back room and began to work furiously, on the binder, and the shipping book. About two in the morning I walked into Rick’s office, (he has a tendency to burn a lot of midnight oil – especially in those days), and proudly said, “O.K. it’s been shipped!”. He cut me a check then and there, and I got paid for the hours worked. Not bad.
Grob: At least in the early days of T&T, you seemed to be partial to diabolical traps, including large mechanical teddy-bears. Did you find that your fellow gamers were being scared off by your diabolical ways, or did they look forward to your adventures, wondering what kind of horrors were in store for them? What would you consider your favorite trap?
Bear: The Teddy Bear had nothing to do with me! That was the only time Mike Stackpole and I nearly came to blows over a creative difference. Mike included it and I felt it wasn’t in keeping with the idea I was working toward with the First Level of what at the time was to be another 3 level dungeon complex. This is not to say that it was not memorable, but it wasn’t what I had in mind. So credit where credit is due, that one ain’t mine!
I’ll still never forgive the producers of the first Indiana Jones movie, I thought of the giant stone ball trap first!!! It’s right there in the entrance of Dungeon of the Bear. (The original Dungeon, not the reprinted collection, with Castle Ward Grafted on top of it, Grrr! Another time I wanted to poke Mike in the nose. A haunted house on top of a true Dungeon Classic, sometimes I don’t know what they were thinking!!!)
I really like most of the traps in Dungeon of Doom, not a lot of magic to give things away, and many hydraulically powered! The best, and one of my favorites, is the simplest: a room half filled with finest milled flour, and a darkened crawl way that forces delvers with torches to tumble into the room stirring it up. Think grain silo explosion! (Anyone still in the crawl space… large caliber musket!)
My real favorites though, are the ones that alter the shape of the dungeon behind the party like the hall to left of the entrance in Dungeon of the Bear. It releases confined monsters, alters the return path, reveals new tunnels and confuses the most capable mapmakers. There is a lot of stuff like that that didn’t make it into the final cut. For example there was the room of many doors, which had 8 exits from a 20 x 15 foot room. For the T&T Con I was looking for odds and ends, and found the original maps, level three folds out to 5 or 6 pages!!! A lot of this never made it into the Final product, but enough did to show what I mean by morphing the floor plans.
Most delvers were not put off by the traps; they were largely detectable, using a combination of observation, and magic. Once detected, most of the traps could usually be tripped “fairly” safely. What the heck, they knew the job was dangerous when they took it.
A footnote: The Dungeon of the Bear, as run by me, had a 4% kill rate. Grimtooth’s Dungeon of Doom on the other hand was never meant to be run as a set piece, (except by a psychotic troll who shall remain nameless). While it was artistically arranged to appear as a dungeon, Game Masters were meant to pick and choose traps from throughout it. To my present knowledge no one has ever gone through it successfully.
Grob: Outside of gaming, what other interests do you have?
Bear: Hiking, traveling, driving, and adventuring – in short, going anywhere I’ve never been, or returning to the many beautiful and intriguing places that my travels have taken me.
I also like going to plays, (I like Shakespeare, but haven’t seen much lately), and musicals, (lately Sweeny Todd, The Music Man, and by far the very best recently was Jekyll & Hyde, with Nick Dalton in the title role. Arizona Broadway Theatre did a brilliant job of staging, and Dalton captured the schizophrenic nature of the man!!!) I also enjoy watching and listening to Taiko drumming.
I like fencing, although that is largely academic nowadays due to the expense of keeping up, and the condition of my knees. “Trust me kids it’s not the years, it’s the mileage.” I also spend time following The Arizona Rattlers, (Arena Football) The Buffalo Bills, The Air Force Academy Football, and The Buffalo Sabers Hockey Team.
Lastly because I like eating, I also like cooking. I have no pretensions, but if you give me decent ingredients, you will not starve!
Grob: Khosht is “your” city. What’s the relationship between Khosht and the city of Knor, Liz Danforth’s city that’s sitting nearly on the back step of Khosht? How about between Khosht and Khazan?
Bear: What are you a tax collector from Lerotra’hh? Seriously, Khosht is the gathering place for trade, agriculture, timber, livestock, gold, loot and general booty for the entire plains below The Escarpment. That being said, Knor is the beating heart of that trade. While Khosht, a wide-open place where even monsters come to trade, serves to concentrate all these commodities, Knor receives and transports them to the rest of the world. What Khosht lacks from its bucolic trade, its wealth can import from, or through, Knor. Their relationship is symbiotic. Each thrives because of the other.
Khazan, now that is a different matter. It is the seat of imperial power, and the throne city for a great portion of the world. It has passed through a phase of relatively severe dictatorship. It once possessed the greatest standing army the Dragon continent had ever seen. Now, however, it is in a state of flux.
The Reign of the Death Godess has seen the Army and Navy ebb. Cities on the fringes of the empire are flexing their muscles. Knor has 100-foot wide sea walls, well perhaps only 20 foot wide at the top, but they are formidable when viewed from without the city! Khosht has no similar defense, although it too is walled, but it is arguably the greatest hive of freelance magical talent assembled in one place since the Great Wizard’s war. Khazan sends down Tax Collectors, and they are generally ignored, often for years at a time, then Khazan readies an expeditionary force to descend The Escarpment, and a group of High Level Characters, rich business men, and freelance wizards take up a collection and pay “protection”. The space between payments has been growing.
Grob: How much of the city of Khosht is known to you? Would you say that you’ve mapped out the entire city or just a small percentage of it? Well, maybe that’s two questions…
Bear: All of Khosht is “known” to me, I have mapped out every street, and alleyway. Up to, and including, the outskirts and environs. I’ve run adventures in the city for years, and most of my current adventures start there.
I was in the first Monsters! Monsters! Game run there, after Ken mapped out the city center, (about 1/8th of the current city plan), and after we nearly burned it to the ground, Ken washed his hands of the smoking ruin. In fairness we only destroyed 1/4th of the Old City, but Ken felt it was ruined! I knew fire and destruction are only part of the evolution of a city, and in the hands of one of my player characters it underwent a renaissance!
Now, do I have a name for every street, no! There are streets that no player character has ever gone down, portions of the infrastructure that have gone undeveloped. Even some parts players have gone to remain incomplete. This city is still evolving, maturing, and growing! But the delineated map exists!
Grob: What would you call the “main hub” of Khosht for players? A park? An Inn? Can you tell us a bit about it?
Bear: Without question it is The Old Khooti Inn! And Yes It has a map too. I know because I drew it!! As for telling you about it, it has a storied history over 33 years in the making, it is a place that has to be visited, experienced, to be understood. Ah, the stories those smoky old walls could tell… Suffice it to say, for something so simple as an Inn, it is… complicated.
Recently, however, I have been starting things in The Silver Swan, an inn Liz drew for Khosht years ago. It has a more spacious and cabaret-like atmosphere, the proprietress is friendlier, and the atmosphere safer for lower level characters
For most folks the city can orbit around the Bazaar, the water front, the temples of the many Gods, (as opposed to the Temple of the Many Gods), the Wizard’s Quarter, (as opposed to the Wizard’s Guild), the Jewelers Quarter, and of course Potterman’s!
Grob: There’s a lot of talk, and some debate, about the state of the pen & paper gaming industry. The thought generally is that young kids like computers, therefore they’ll choose computers over pen & paper games. Therefore the industry is shrinking, and it will eventually die. And yet, on the other hand, today there are thousands of small-press RPGs available, instead of the 30 or so available in ‘yesteryear’ from only a few gaming companies. As a gamer, and one of the pioneers of the pen & paper RPG gaming scene, what would you consider the state of the industry and where do you think it is going?
Bear: You have hit a major hot button with this one. First you may take it for granted that I am some kind of serious throwback curmudgeon. I have not, and do not, regularly play any video game of any kind. Not MMORPGs, or first person shooters, or treasure quests, or any of them, and Pen and Paper Games and Adventuring are the reason why. This is not to say I am unaware of them or their popularity, quite the contrary I have large numbers of friends who take endless delight in thrusting the newest ones in my face, in flagrant attempts to tempt me. In the end all the electronic games fall short.
They all fail at least one crucial test.
Let’s say you are walking down a hall and your character turns a corner and there is the world’s largest, meanest, scariest, intelligent dragon you have ever seen. In a video game he kills you in any of a variety of mildly interesting ways, you reset and start over.
Now in my scenario you round the corner, and… “Oh My Gods and Little Fishes, Just the Dragon I was looking for! I was beginning to think I’d never find you.” The dragon who had been about to destroy the character in any of the aforementioned ways, pauses, and cocks its head to the side. “Hunh?” A whiff of quizzical smoke wafts from his nostrils, he can’t for a minute imagine what you have in mind, but you have bought yourself time. So you dance a little side-step, and sell him on the idea that there is a gang of plump rich, delvers, merchants, orcs, whatever, just down the hall and if he will just head off in that direction you’ll be glad to give him all the gold coins, if he will just let you have the nasty old armour. Show me a video game that will let you pull off that stunt, and maybe I’ll be interested.
There is a second test, but it involves mercantile property development, and a fellow named Potterman who is a legend in his own time. (Ask old T&T players about Potterman, and you will know why, in spite himself, Steve McAllister is a legend!)
I can tell that at least among my friends and acquaintances the pen & paper crowd is getting older. To a degree I think this has more to do with the decline in reading, and general literacy. When we developed T&T the average American read 2 books a year, now it is below ½ a book a year. I don’t know about you but a substantial part of my creativity came from the imagination required to read and enjoy books. Online and in video games the imagination is easy, it comes pre-digested. (Sounds kinda like a grumpy old curmudgeon doesn’t it?)
Keep in mind: Pen & paper games have always been a guerrilla market. Imaginative, creative, intelligent people have always been “out there”. There are over 300 million potential consumers, in the U.S. if even 1/10th of one percent played Pen & Paper Games that’s over 300 thousand players, and they will be the most creative, literate, and motivated ones, we will survive!
Grob: Being a contributor to Legionnaire, a game that seems to have missed the spotlight, and with it still being available used from Amazon.com, is there anything about the game you’d like to say that might convince people to go check it out?
Bear: Again my part in it has somehow been exaggerated, but I contributed to it in many subtle ways. I am a World Smith, I create worlds to order. It all started with “Ralph”, The Dragon Continent, and parts of Trollworld. In the case of Legionnaire I created a world to order for Mike Stackpole. At any rate, the game had very little real world support, and it was going up against some fairly heavy hitters, Star Wars the RPG, that venerable old timer Traveler, and even its own manufacturer had an easier time supporting Battletech than this very creative universe of Neo-Roman Space War. It deserved a better fate.
Grob: Recently you attended the first annual T&T Convention – affectionately known as “TrollCon”. You even GMd a game or two. How was the experience and how did it feel rubbing shoulders with fans of a game that you helped create over thirty years ago?
Bear: Stunning, humbling, amazing, I didn’t realize the staying power the Old Girl had. I knew Ken had been holding the “world” together, but I had thought it had shrunk down to about 20 people world wide, and most of those in a monastery in Finland! To find a fair sized group of people, all unfailingly intelligent, crediting us with changing their lives, I was embarrassed, a bit.
I love role-playing games, but I have a little trouble seeing myself as “larger-than-life”. Seriously, I’ve seen Ken changing diapers, I helped Liz move in two beat up old Volkswagens, and an even more beat up Opel station wagon, for a couple of months Mike Stackpole slept on my sofa, for crying out loud, it is hard to see us as anything other than “regular” people. Now my definition of “regular” may be a little looser than some folks. Ask Liz to tell you about the time she and “Ugly John” Carver fixed a radiator leak with nothing but stone tools that Liz crafted on the spot!
Seriously, I hope Rick does this again. We could use the momentum.
Bear: Aieeee! Every one of your questions defies a simple answer, but in this case let me try. This was one of two types of Monsters! Monsters! 2.0 “Pre-release” T-Shirts Rick had made for Origins in San Jose in ’94, (I hope it was ’94!) The re-release bogged down, due to a number of reasons. Not to speak ill of the dead, (not people, just the product), suffice it to say all I got out of it was the T-shirt; and some really good ideas still bumping around in my empty head.
Grob: There seems to be some confusion. What is the difference between your T&T world, Liz’s T&T world, Trollworld or Ken’s World of Ralph? Can you elaborate on the differences?
Bear: Which came first? They are all inextricably linked, and, in the finest T&T fashion all entirely separate. An explanation will follow:
First came the Dungeons, we all had them, some more elaborate than others. And then we needed a place to put them! (The Plains below The Escarpment.) And a city to buy supplies, and spend the loot in! (Khosht. And since Khosht, at the time, was more like a stockade on the frontier: Knor, because Liz really does know how ancient cities were made!)
As things progressed Ken tried to reassert Imperial dominance, and needed a place to put Khazan! (The Dragon Continent was borne. [“What shall we name it?” says Ken. “Call it Ralph!” says I. Ever had one of those moments you wish you could go back and revisit with a mallet?] “Ralph”? (Which also is the name of a magic sword, I think from The Dragon & The George by Dickson, but I could be wrong.)
Now the story gets a little more complicated. I begin to have less and less to do with the day-to-day operations of the world, sort of. For the fifth edition Liz creates a “world map” it is reduced to about the size of one of last years Star Wars postage stamps. (About 1 ½ inch, by 2 inches). On It are the Dragon, a Unicorn Continent, (which I am trying to commandeer), a large island that is either, in my particular order of preference, a Wolfs Head, or a pinwheel, or lastly an undifferentiated blob due to reproduction errors. There are a number of island chains, and one large island called The Claw. There is some debate as to the shape of the polar continent, I say it looks like an eagle, and I’m sticking to it! (But it is largely covered in ice and snow, so who really knows.)
Now Ken has been almost single handedly perpetuating the mythos, but he has been operating largely unrestrained, so at this point the “worlds” will tend to diverge. My world is largely a pen & paper construct, kept quietly in my little cartographers shop in the Bear Cave, an intellectual endeavor. The world it is attached to is mostly in my imagination. I will let it out upon request, but until recently there have been very few requests. Ken’s world has gone off and gotten beat up, stolen a few cars, and gotten a tattoo or two. In short his went on in the world of hard knocks and had the heck evolved out of it.
So you see even the child’s parents have two vastly differing views of what is what, and where is who.
Grob: Who actually drew the first T&T world map?
Bear: The Dragon Continent, me, the whole world, Liz. Enlargements and elaborations have been made, but the “original” is still available on Page 3.1.2 of Tunnels and Trolls 5th Edition. She even created a globe of it, but that was a little hard to print!
Grob: Would you ever be open to writing a T&T GM Dungeon for The Hobbit Hole magazine?
Bear: Sure, but you have witnessed my writing speed. And what edition, would you want to use. I live in a 5th edition world, but if this were to happen, we might be made to serve 7th Edition masters! Keep one thing in mind I have in my possession an antique (30 plus years old) unused section of the Third Level Of the Dungeon of The Bear lying around, but that was written in 1st edition!
Grob: Would you ever consider publishing your unpublished T&T items?
Bear: With the exception of the above mentioned dungeon material, and a few towns. I have no “unpublished” material. All my” unpublished” works are locked in my imagination, and currently eroding away in my dusty old cerebellum.
Grob: What published T&T item would you consider is your favorite, whether it be yours or by someone else?
Bear: Would it be selfish of me to say Dungeon of Doom? I really loved almost all of the City Books, but they were meant to be generic, so they don’t rightly count. As silly as it sounds, how about the Fifth Edition Rule Book, without who’s existence the “empire” could never have existed.
Grob: What long lost T&T item would you like to see return to print?
Bear: How about an edited and updated collection of the Best of Sorcerer’s Apprentice? There were a lot of good ideas that were never really advanced in those pages.
Grob: Did you ever write deeper levels for Dungeon of the Bear?
Bear: Well, as mentioned there is a lot of level 3 that never saw the light of torch! There are some good notes for more in the Catacombs of the Bear cult too, not to mention MY ideas on how the “real world” evolved, from the unpublished Monsters! Monsters! release. But that, as the Goblins from Goblin Lake would say, “Is another kettle of fish!”
Grob: Why do you think that FBI has let T&T languish for so long with no support?
Bear: This is a loaded question. I maintain that T&T hasn’t truly “Languished” but continues to thrive in the community that supports it today. The “battlefield” is littered with games that sparked once for a small time and have succumbed to the vicissitudes of time, and financial depredation. The pen & ink role playing industry has never been financially rewarding, and only a lucky few have managed to keep their initial driving forces in tact in the face of persistent financial demands. That T&T is still even on the battlefield at all, after all this time is spectacular.
T&T is literally the first “ground up” fantasy roll playing game. D&D hit the market first, and sparked the entire genre, but no one who went out and purchased the “little white box” could miss the fact that this was anything but a miniatures game with RPG rules, in their natal form, grafted on. Meanwhile, T&T was designed and created, only a few short weeks later, from the very on set to be an RPG! That makes T&T one of the evolutionary forerunners, and oldest in its field.
Ken St. Andre has never left the patient’s side through thick and thin, but he has a “day job” that enables him to operate independently of financial imperative, (and draws what small but steady royalties the T&T engine generates), and seemingly can sustain himself on the attention, and adulation of others. But over the years an amazing array of creative talent has been eroded away by the demands of careers, and “a real, steady salary”.
- Rob Carver
- Pat Muller
- Larry Di Tillio
- Paul O’Conner
- Daniel “Ugly John” Carver
- Mike Stackpole
- Liz Danforth
- Steve “The Gentleman Pornographer” Crompton
- Bear Peters
All of these people at one time drew a full time salary from T&T, but the market would not sustain the creative empire that made this possible.
T&T is just strong enough to captivate a small but steady audience but not enough to sustain the evolutionary, design and marketing power necessary to dominate. We exist like the small mammals in the age of the dinosaurs, adaptable and plucky, lying in wait for the coming asteroid to destroy all the giants… a noble place, a storied place, but not a large, or prepossessing place.
A huge fan of Jeff Freels art before ever meeting the man, and now a fan of the man himself.
Jeff Freels – Olympia’s Blind Cartoonist
Jim “Bear” Peters – The Man Called Bear
Flying Buffalo Inc – Games for the Intensive Gamer ™