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Subject: Geek of the Week: Steffan O'Sullivan (sos1) rss

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Clark D. Rodeffer
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Geek of the Week: Steffan O'Sullivan (sos1)
Profile: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/user/sos1

Not having closely followed previous Geek of the Week threads, I wasn't sure what to expect, how much time it would consume, or what would come of the whole process. As it turns out, it was more fun and took less time than I expected, and I happily made contact with an old friend from college. So I'm glad to have had the opportunity, and I sincerely thank Josh Adelson (MisterCranky) for choosing me. But all things must end, and it's time for me to bestow this geekly honor upon a worthy successor.

I first heard of Steffan O'Sullivan in the early 1990s when I was living as a slave on a graduate student stipend. I had recently gotten my first taste of role playing, but couldn't afford the expensive books necessary to play. So one day when I was reading rec.games.design on Usenet, I came across a free RPG called FUDGE. I didn't participate in the discussions, but I followed them closely. I was hooked.

A few years later, the university installed a new piece of software called Mosaic that allowed people to look at graphics files and text formated to look nice together. There were a few upgrades, and the university settled on something called Netscape. By that time, I had been exposed to German games, and wanted to find out if anyone had written anything about my new obsession. I soon stumbled across a site called Gameviews that soon included reviews of some of my favorites like Chase and Adel Verpflichtet, and also introduced me to a few other new games that would become favorites, like GOOTMU and The Awful Green Things from Outer Space. The author's name rang a bell.

And so, without further ado, may I present gamer extraordinaire, Steffan O'Sullivan. Here's what Steffan had to say when I asked him to be Geek of the Week:
sos1 wrote:
Steffan O'Sullivan's Autobiographical Notes

I'm a generalist, not a specialist. I tend to know a little about lots of things, but am not really an expert on anything. This is true in my work (I've held dozens of widely different jobs), my studies (I've studied dozens of widely different fields), my hobbies (same), my reading (etc.), and in my gaming (but read "hundreds" instead of "dozens").

I'm from Detroit, which is why I now live in rural NH - I've seen the dark side of cities way too much to enjoy them. I'm still a Detroit Tigers baseball fan, though - that's my link to my roots, and I'll never forget the 1968 season until Alzheimer's sets in. Mind you, I don't follow current baseball, but am an amateur baseball historian. (Actually, I've received money for lecturing on baseball history, so I suppose I've lost my amateur status ... but remember, am still no expert.)

At any rate, I've lived in ten different states in the US and travelled to all 50. I lived as a migrant worker for about a year on the European continent. I also lived for a year and a half in Ireland, doing odd jobs and street performing. The only Asian country I've been to is Malaysia, which I enjoyed very much. Aside from many trips to Canada and one to some Caribbean countries, that's the extent of my travels.

As far as gaming goes, I'm very eclectic. I like lots of different types of games, and am very much a mood gamer. People often ask me what's my favorite game, and I'm always puzzled by the question: it depends on my mood, the company I'm with, how much time we have, and so on. Isn't this true for everyone?

I'm older than most (but not all!) of the folk on BGG, and I don't have a problem with that. For those reading this, though, it simply means you don't get to experience me when I was in my prime. I'm a lot less exciting than I used to be. (Well, at least in my image of what I used to be...) For gaming, this simply means that I'm sometimes taken aback by things I read here, such as, "we all started with Settlers ..." No, we didn't. Some of us started decades before that.

We played a lot of board and cards games growing up in the '50s. I learned Chess at age seven, and played a lot the next twenty years, even in some local championships. (Now I only play Knightmare Chess.) I discovered AH games in 1960 or '61, and played them all through junior high school, high school, and college. In college, though, it was mostly card games: lots of Bridge, Hearts, Pinochle, Euchre, and Bid Whist (I'm from Detroit, remember - if you know Bid Whist, that will make sense). I had a gaming hiatus throughout much of the '70s. I was being a migrant worker (though still playing card games) and then wooing and then married to a woman who didn't like my playing games with other people, but only liked Jotto herself, so that's all I played for a few years. Good game, fortunately! After my divorce in the late '70s, I went back to gaming as a way to reconnect with who I am, and have been an avid gamer since then without any breaks.

I attended the large US conventions, GenCon and Origins, for ten years from the mid-'80s to the mid-'90s, my way being paid by one publisher or another in exchange for running demo games. I burnt out on the big cons, though, and have only been back once since 1996. I prefer smaller conventions and gatherings, which I still attend regularly - every couple of months, on the average. I've never been to the Essen Spiele event, as I have almost no tolerance for tobacco smoke. "It's not that bad," say people, but I'm really sensitive to it.

I've written lots of game reviews - aside from my web page, I was published in 3-4 different print magazines in the '80s and '90s. (I had one of the first printed reviews of Settlers in a US print magazine in July, 1995.) I haven't done much reviewing this millenium, though - work is very draining, alas, and my health isn't what it used to be. I still play lots of games, though!
Everyone, give it up for Steffan O'Sullivan!

As a footnote, I think I'm supposed to say that Geek of the Week is intended to be a friendly and open forum where we can all get to know one another, and in particular one particular BGG member. Or something like that. I think that I'm also supposed to start the questions by asking the new Geek of the Week to tell us three things about himself, two of which are true and the other one a lie. At the end of the week, let us know which one was the lie. So, take it away, Steffan!

Clark Rodeffer
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Steffan O'Sullivan
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Thanks, Clark! I'm flattered and honored to be chosen.

For those of Clark's friends wondering why he wouldn't choose them, a GoW is supposed to choose someone he doesn't know. So those of you who know me shouldn't be offended if I don't choose you at the end of the week.

Speaking of which, I'm going to cut it a day short, as I'm leaving town early Saturday April 8. So I'll be turning this over to a new Geek of the Week on Friday.

I've been expecting the "two truths and a lie" question, so have had some time to think up some tough ones (meaning multi-part, at least something is true in all three, but only two of them are completely true):

1. I've had respectable-length conversations with Immanuel Velikovsky, Fritz Lang, Andre Norton, Johnny Weissmuller, Baba Olatunji and Ursula Le Guin. (But not in that order.)

2. While hitchhiking in Belgium after midnight, hundreds of rabbits streamed across the road right in front of me. I was then picked up by Surrealist painter Paul Delvaux, who took me all the way to Paris and brought me in as a guest to an exhibit of Belgian Surrealist paintings that was just opening that day there. It's actually exactly where I was headed to begin with...

3. I went to clown school because of a vivid dream I had. A volcano visible from my window became active the same night as the dream, and was spewing smoke when I awoke.

I have no excuse for being so tough on you, sorry (you may have to google some names - they shouldn't be hard to find, though). Hit me with some hard questions to restore the balance in the universe.

Thanks again, Clark, for choosing me.
-Steffan
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Randy Cox
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OK, Steffan, I'll ask some, but they won't be all that difficult.

1) OK, wise ol' man, just how old do you think you are? I bet there are plenty of older geeks here (though I'm not one of them).

2) Hurray for you dissing smokers (though you didn't really do that, it was just in my mind). That's not a questions, but is even more important.

3) What was the professional talk about concerning baseball history?

4) So, why are you leaving a day early and not fulfilling your entire GotW obligation? Hmmm?

5) Before Chris Palermo (lemur) gets a chance, I'll save him the trouble. Do you ever read INDEPTH Magazine?

6) You will never forget drug-head Denny's Tiger team, but what about the '84 Tigers?

7) Now, you're obviously of Ethiopian descent but you choose to live in NH. I don't know for sure, but from the few posts I can recall (I know I've read hundreds of yours, yet I remember very little these days it seems) I'd say you are a hippie. Why aren't you living across the border in Vermont, like your peers?

8) And the most important question (I think I know the answer): Ever play Sports Illustrated's All-Time All-Star Baseball game (as opposed to that pitiful condensed version named Superstar Baseball)? You indicate that you're surely old enough to have played it when it cost $5.99.

9) Not a question, but an answer. I say that the lie is the clown school thing. The rest is just too weird to not be true.

10) What's the last couple of games you have played and what do you hope will be the first two you play, say, next Saturday?
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Steffan O'Sullivan
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Randy Cox wrote:
OK, Steffan, I'll ask some, but they won't be all that difficult.

Hi Randy, good to hear from you. As you guessed, see you soon!

Quote:
1) OK, wise ol' man, just how old do you think you are? I bet there are plenty of older geeks here (though I'm not one of them).

Whoa! Wise I've never claimed to be! There are at least three people older than I am on the geek. But I'm older than Alan Moon, Pitt Crandlemire, and Bob Scherer-Hoock - I was born closer to the 19th century than to the 21st.

Quote:
2) Hurray for you dissing smokers (though you didn't really do that, it was just in my mind). That's not a questions, but is even more important.

I actually don't diss smokers - I feel sorry for them. I can't be around their smoke, but I feel more sympathy for them than disdain. It can't be easy being addicted to a habit that makes some people ill and others annoyed with you. I do wish they could find the will power to quit, but I don't look down on them.

Quote:
3) What was the professional talk about concerning baseball history?

The sad, amazing, and funny tale of Rube Waddell.

Quote:
4) So, why are you leaving a day early and not fulfilling your entire GotW obligation? Hmmm?

I'll be driving west that day, and part of Sunday.

Quote:
5) Before Chris Palermo (lemur) gets a chance, I'll save him the trouble. Do you ever read INDEPTH Magazine?

No, can't say as I have. I don't know it at all - but I don't read magazines, to be honest.

Quote:
6) You will never forget drug-head Denny's Tiger team, but what about the '84 Tigers?

Denny McLain was nowhere near my favorite on that team - I never cared for the man much, even that year. Al Kaline was my life-long hero, and who could not love Norm Cash? Bill Freehan, Mickey Stanley, Gates Brown, Willie Horton, Mickey Lolich, Jim Northrup - that was a wonderful year. I worked in a factory that summer and talked baseball every single day...

1984: I'd sold my TV in 1975 (haven't owned one since), so didn't follow baseball much that year. I did go over to a friend's house to watch the whole post-season, and there were some good and even admirable players on that team, no doubt. I didn't really know any of them, though. Still, since I live in Red Sox country now, it's useful to be able to say that MY team has won the World Series twice in my lifetime ...

I haven't really followed baseball that much since 1971, to be honest. I did watch the entire 2004 Red Sox/Yankees post season series, but nothing else that year or since then. Oh, wait - a couple of Cubs post-season games that year, too. *sigh* I so wanted a Cubs-Red Sox World Series that year. No matter who won, half the whining in baseball would end. Turned out okay, though.

Quote:
7) Now, you're obviously of Ethiopian descent but you choose to live in NH. I don't know for sure, but from the few posts I can recall (I know I've read hundreds of yours, yet I remember very little these days it seems) I'd say you are a hippie. Why aren't you living across the border in Vermont, like your peers?

I suppose I'm still a hippie at heart, though with short hair and a pot-belly these days. I've never understood the Vermont/New Hampshire rivalry thing at all. I could live happily in either, but fell in love with Plymouth NH when coming out of the White Mountains one time in 1981. A small college town between the mountains and the lakes region - it's the first time I've ever felt something was "home."

Quote:
8) And the most important question (I think I know the answer): Ever play Sports Illustrated's All-Time All-Star Baseball game (as opposed to that pitiful condensed version named Superstar Baseball)? You indicate that you're surely old enough to have played it when it cost $5.99.

I played it a few times in the old days, yes. But remember, I'm not really interested in contemporary baseball. I vastly prefer to create a team with Walter Johnson, Rube Waddell, Sam Crawford, Honus Wagner, Al Kaline, etc. Interested in such a game next week? I could bring either Superstar or PTP.

Quote:
9) Not a question, but an answer. I say that the lie is the clown school thing. The rest is just too weird to not be true.

Noted. I'll let you know at the end of the week ...

Quote:
10) What's the last couple of games you have played and what do you hope will be the first two you play, say, next Saturday?

I won't be playing on Saturday, I'll be driving. Hmmm - Sunday is our usual game day here, and I haven't yet played anything today as it's early here. So last week, we played (consults session report): Abbott's Confusion, Mesopotamia, and Odin's Ravens. Today I'll be playing my weekly Scrabble game with my friends Pierce and Kay (who are 86 and 79 respectively - last week I lost by 110 points!) and after that Prestonisnormal (geek IDs are not always accurate ) will be surprising me with a game neither one of us has ever played, so I don't know what that is. As for next week, I don't have anything in mind - I like to try new things, but will happily teach others some of my favorites.
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Mark Johnson
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I first "met" you online on the old Steve Jackson Games BBS in the late '80s, where you were probably THE most active user. And this was pre-Internet for most of us, requiring a toll phone call from your modem in NH to TX. Wow! You were heavily involved in the GURPS user community, playtesting, and ultimately writing a number of GURPS books. Swashbucklers, I know for sure, and at least one fantasy supplement. Fill us in on your professional ludography, please!

So it makes me wonder if you've got those same creative juices flowing for boardgames. Ever design some of your own, or have aspirations for a published game?

-Mark

P.S. Someone in my local game group now owns Scoozie, so you're no longer my only access to that odd but appealing game!
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Brian Bankler
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Hi Steffan,

Some random questions, mainly just to give the others some more food for thought (which isn't to say that I know the answers, but I know enough about you to ask novel questions).

1) Have you been kicked out of any countries besides switzerland?
2) You say you aren't an expert in anything, but surely your knowledge of Commedia dell'arte counts? Are you more like Pedrolino, Arlecchino, or Scaramouche? Have you ever thought about this before I asked?
3) If filthy lucre weren't a concern, what would be doing these days?
4) What are you reading these days? Do you still takes classes at the college you work at? Teach any?
5) I just picked up the Best of Gurps, Vol 1 since I noticed that you wrote one of the articles. What do you think of the RPG work you did lo these many years ago (pre-Fudge)?
6) So, any more jaw dropping runs of luck during recent gaming?
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Steffan O'Sullivan
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MarkEJohnson wrote:
I first "met" you online on the old Steve Jackson Games BBS in the late '80s, where you were probably THE most active user. And this was pre-Internet for most of us, requiring a toll phone call from your modem in NH to TX.

Hi Mark, good to hear from you. Yes, it's true - Creede Lambard, the sysop, verified that I was indeed the #1 user for, I think, two years in a row. Too much fun!

Quote:
You were heavily involved in the GURPS user community, playtesting, and ultimately writing a number of GURPS books. Swashbucklers, I know for sure, and at least one fantasy supplement. Fill us in on your professional ludography, please!

It's pretty brief, actually. In order: Four GURPS books (Bestiary, Swashbucklers, Fantasy Bestiary, Bunnies & Burrows), then Fudge, then Sherpa. That's it, though I have contributed to many other GURPS books. Probably 10% of the spells in Magic and the Improv magic system and half the alchemy, for example. And Steve kept stealing my Swashbucklers Ads and Disads and putting them in the 3rd Edition, which he was writing as I was writing Swashers. And I had more articles than anyone else except SJ in the old SJG Roleplayer magazine, most of which made it into the 3rd Edition Compendia and possibly 4th edition...

Quote:
So it makes me wonder if you've got those same creative juices flowing for boardgames. Ever design some of your own, or have aspirations for a published game?

I've tried to design five, but all of them stalled, alas. Some I saw the flaws in myself, and others playtesters found. If I didn't have to work for a living, I'd try to salvage at least two of those designs, but I just don't have the energy, alas.

Quote:
P.S. Someone in my local game group now owns Scoozie, so you're no longer my only access to that odd but appealing game!

That's a great description of Scoozie, thanks!
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Hi Steffan,

great that some one is now "Geek of the week" with one the best websites about boardgames. It was a pleasure to meet you at the GoF 2001 and the following years.

I just want to know the answer to one question:

How can a vegetarian survive in the USA?

Anything else I want to say 'SOS' = simply ingenious

See you next year

Tom

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What a humble man Steffan is. I just came back from gaming at his home and I find out he is geek of the week.

And above that, he won his first very first game of Carribean.

One question (three parts). You once told me that you were Taoist (or at least studied it), how did that come to formation? With your Ethiopian connection, have you ever found meaning in rastafarianism? Is there any game that you find reflects the tenets of Taoism? If any of this is to personal please don't feel you have to answer it.

(I am a campus minister so I am always excited to hear about people's spiritual journeys)

By the way, Steffan has the most wonderful game room with an incredible view of New England woods and a splashing brook that runs through it.
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Steffan, like so many others in the hobby, I've been reading your posts since I figured out how to use email. Like you, I've got my feet firmly in at least two camps of the hobby. So, I'll start my questioning there.

1) What are the qualities in consims that keep you coming back, and what are the qualities in Euros that made you move over?

2) Is there one old Avalon Hill title that you think deserves moderinization? What is it?

3) If you were to create a frankenstein monster using the worst of wargaming and euro gaming, what two games would you choose?

4) You list Scrabble as one of your top 10 games. Are you a competitive Scrabble player and have you seen the Documentary Word Wars?

5) You list Mark Twain as one of your favorite authors, have you been to Hannibal, MO and out of curiosity, Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer?

6) What's the deal with the Rasta Farians? Are you a Rasta Farian? I note only for the record that Bob Marley is notably absent from your list of favorite music.

7) Do you think that Stan and Ollie are as good in sound as they were silent?

8) You seem to be something of an outlier on CDG's on the one hand you have given Wilderness War and Napoleonic Wars a 10, and Path's of Glory a 2. What are the distinguishing qualities in your mind between a successful and unsuccessful CDG, and how do these games exemplify those qualities?

9) Is LCR worse than Yatzee?

10) You obviously are no great fan of Dr. Knizia. Are there any designers whom you find design reliably to your taste?

Congratulations on your well-deserved nomination. I will take my answers off line.

Jason
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Steffan O'Sullivan
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Bankler wrote:
Hi Steffan,

Hi Brian, thanks for posting!

Quote:
1) Have you been kicked out of any countries besides switzerland?

No, just Switzerland. I'm rather astonished the number is so low.

Quote:
2) You say you aren't an expert in anything, but surely your knowledge of Commedia dell'arte counts? Are you more like Pedrolino, Arlecchino, or Scaramouche? Have you ever thought about this before I asked?

Well, see, that's part of being a generalist. If I'd stayed with Commedia I could indeed have become an expert. And I suppose compared to most people I am, simply because it's largely an unknown subject. But I'll never know as much as the real experts, such as my late teacher, Carlo Mazzone-Clementi. Of the characters you list, I'm more like Scaramouche, though my best character was Capitano. As I age, I'm more like Pantalone. No, I hadn't thought about that before you asked.

Quote:
3) If filthy lucre weren't a concern, what would be doing these days?

I'd try to design a board game, really focus on it. And I'd play my concertina more. And if I could afford it, I'd probably check myself into a yoga camp to try clean up my act (lack of exercise and poor diet - I have no excuse).

Quote:
4) What are you reading these days? Do you still takes classes at the college you work at? Teach any?

My reading is mostly prep work for the class I'll be teaching in the fall: Critical Thinking and Taoism. (Yes, that's one class. It's really a First Year Seminar, in which every teacher is supposed to teach Critical Thinking skills around a subject of their choice. Taoism is my choice of subject, and it should be interesting as it's not really amenable to critical thinking!) I haven't taken a class here in a while, no. I'd like to learn to draw someday. I may also go back to teaching the theatre course I taught the last two years, Stage Movement, but am now on hiatus from.

Quote:
5) I just picked up the Best of Gurps, Vol 1 since I noticed that you wrote one of the articles. What do you think of the RPG work you did lo these many years ago (pre-Fudge)?

Uh ... I don't know, I haven't looked at it in years! In my memory I'm pretty pleased with my GURPS work, and I guess I don't want to disturb those memories by really checking that out!

Quote:
6) So, any more jaw dropping runs of luck during recent gaming?

Always, and it's usually bad. We played Jenseits von Theben a couple of weeks ago. Mike (whom you met when he visited me in NC) drew 6 good tiles out of 8 draws. I drew 0 of 8, then tried again with my fake permit, and drew 1 out of 9: I was 1 for 17 as the first digger at a site, and even that one was general knowledge! Ah well, at least the boys laughed a lot that game...

Take care, love to Jacqui and the kids,
-Steffan
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montsegur wrote:
great that some one is now "Geek of the week" with one the best websites about boardgames. It was a pleasure to meet you at the GoF 2001 and the following years.

Hi Tom, good to hear from you! I've enjoyed your company, too.

Quote:
I just want to know the answer to one question:

How can a vegetarian survive in the USA?

By avoiding fast food restaurants, mostly. Unfortunately, my diet's been very bad lately - way too much sugar and refined flour. Trying to fix it now.

Thanks, Tom, take care,
-Steffan
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Prestonisnormal wrote:
What a humble man Steffan is. I just came back from gaming at his home and I find out he is geek of the week.

And above that he won fist very first game of Carribean.

Ha! Who's humble? Who won the first two games today and didn't mention it in this post when he had the chance? Preston, that's who! I am pretty proud of my come-from-behind Caribbean victory, though!
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JasonMatthews wrote:
1) What are the qualities in consims that keep you coming back, and what are the qualities in Euros that made you move over?

Hi Jason, thanks for the kind words. Tough question for someone who doesn't like to examine why he likes something, just knows that he does! I'll try, though. The consims that I like these days are mostly the card-driven games (CDGs), especially those that use a single deck that's not broken into different phases. I like the chaos generated by a single deck of cards, even though it erodes the historical aspects of a game. I still like the block games, too, but I've never quite taken to the mechanic they're using these days, found in Hammer, Liberty, Crusader Rex, etc. I think EastFront marks the height of block games, and I wish they'd do another game with that HQ system - sheer genius! As for what brings me back to a consim at all, it's the very history aspect which I admit I don't mind eroding. My BA is in History, and I often read history and historical fiction for entertainment, and consim gaming is just another way to plunge myself into it. So really it comes down to theme, even though I'm a pacifist at heart.

The quality in Euros: elegance. Hard to define, but for me it's most depth of game play with least rules overhead. Oddly, though, that can be carried too far, such as in Go, which I don't care for at all. I like some pretence at theme ...

Quote:
2) Is there one old Avalon Hill title that you think deserves moderinization? What is it?

Given that I love CDGs the best, and given that that model doesn't work for all scales, I'd have to say I'd love to see something like Blitzkrieg done with cards. That's the scale CDGs work best with. A middling old AH title that I'd love to see translated to English is, no surprise, Up Front.

Quote:
3) If you were to create a frankenstein monster using the worst of wargaming and euro gaming, what two games would you choose?

Hmmmm - the worst wargames for me those that had too much detail, so I'd have to go with Campaign for North Africa for that half. The worst Euros are those that are tediously repetitious with no real point, so I'd have to go with Knizia's Spy. I can't even imagine what such a game would look like, though! Turning over cards until you have enough water to cook pasta for the Italians?

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4) You list Scrabble as one of your top 10 games. Are you a competitive Scrabble player and have you seen the Documentary Word Wars?

No and no. I don't really play Scrabble as it's written, you must understand. I play almost every week with some very close friends who are a generation older than I am, and we play by our own house rules: we have all four editions of the Scrabble dictionaries and are allowed to search through the books to find words before we play! It's a very different game, and I probably would not be very good playing by the real rules.

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5) You list Mark Twain as one of your favorite authors, have you been to Hannibal, MO and out of curiosity, Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer?

I've been to Hannibal MO, yes, but more frequently to Twain's house in Hartford CT, which is wonderful to visit. So much of what he mentions in his Autobiography are there, I love it. Huck Finn, for sure!

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6) What's the deal with the Rasta Farians? Are you a Rasta Farian? I note only for the record that Bob Marley is notably absent from your list of favorite music.

I'm not a Rastafarian, no. Politically, I'm close, but I'm not into the ganja or even the music that much. I think it's an oversight that I didn't list Marley and Tosh among my music loves, I'll probably add them. At any rate, I very much support the Rasta ideals, though I'm more a Taoist.

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7) Do you think that Stan and Ollie are as good in sound as they were silent?

More so than any other silent comedians, that's for sure! It's true they were in their primes during the silent era, but my favorite movies of theirs, Fra Diavolo and Way Out West, are talkies. It wasn't until the late '30s and '40s that their movies turned bad, so they lasted quite a while.

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8) You seem to be something of an outlier on CDG's on the one hand you have given Wilderness War and Napoleonic Wars a 10, and Path's of Glory a 2. What are the distinguishing qualities in your mind between a successful and unsuccessful CDG, and how do these games exemplify those qualities?

So far it's the way the deck(s) are constructed. I love the single-deck games; I dislike the multi-deck or multi-phases-of-decks games.

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9) Is LCR worse than Yatzee?

Yes.

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10) You obviously are no great fan of Dr. Knizia. Are there any designers whom you find design reliably to your taste?

Actually, I love some of Dr. Knizia's games. Medici is brilliant, Honeybears cute and fun, Lord of the Rings tense, En Garde, Tigris, Flinke Pinke, Titan the Arena - these are great games. That's more games I enjoy than from some designers that have a higher percentage of appealing to my taste.

I like a somewhat higher percentage of Kramer, but there are some of his games I don't care for, either. I like Wrede, Besinque is pure gold, Teuber has lots of titles I like (and lots I don't, true), Wallace can be good, Moon (alone and with codesigners) has some strong hits, Dirk Henn can deliver, Dorn, Dorra, Nestel, Delonges - lots of good designers out there!

Thanks for the questions, take care,
-Steffan
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I suppose I'm still a hippie at heart, though with short hair and a pot-belly these days. I've never understood the Vermont/New Hampshire rivalry thing at all. I could live happily in either, but fell in love with Plymouth NH when coming out of the White Mountains one time in 1981. A small college town between the mountains and the lakes region - it's the first time I've ever felt something was "home."


I have to agree not entirely getting the concept of the rivalry. I'm finding in practice that it isn't really there anyway. Just stay north and pick a college town to spend time in.

On to my questions:

> Given that you have done so much roleplaying development over the years, how much of that material have you had a chance to use in your own games?

> I am glad to say that FUDGE formed the foundation of a weekly roleplaying campaign I played with two friends using IRC over the course of three years. Do your roleplaying campaigns tend to be long lived or shorter and more episodic?

> Often folks who have had many hobbies or life experiences adopt them sequentially, having a "shooting star" approach of total immersion followed by burn-out. How have you kept the gaming hobby fresh for yourself?

> Do you believe the gaming hobby has had one or more golden ages, and if so when?

> Do you find any less satisfaction in new games that do familiar things well, as opposed to games that introduce an entirely new mechanic?

> Have any of your jobs or travels provided the basis for game designs you have worked on?

I guess that's enough to get things rolling.
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Greetings,

I own most of the GURPS stuff you wrote and have enjoyed your work. I'm grateful to anyone who had a hand in GURPS, the game I have (easily) spent the most time playing. If you add in the time I spent on The Fantasy Trip, Melee and Wizard, Steve Jackson has been personally responsible for the games that occupied the majority of my gaming time--very happy time, I must add.

There certainly are some strong feelings about Mr. Jackson on this site, and I am not interested in that debate right now. But I am curious to know what it was like working with Mr. Jackson. And do you play and enjoy any of his games (new or old)?

Oh, and I thought the improvised magic system was an extremely interesting idea. I had in fact independently toyed with the notion of an improvised magical combat system myself--still toy with it, every so often, when I'm really bored, though I don't really have a good reason for doing so.

Thanks for being GOTW!

-Aaron
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Hi Steffan,

About 5 years ago at GenCon I was wandering the dealer hall and couldn't find any boardgame I really wanted to buy.... I traditionally try to walk away with something at least, so I picked up FUDGE. I dont roleplay anymore, but still pick stuff up to read occasionally, and was really glad I got FUDGE. It is too bad that this game had not been around when I was young; we would have dropped AD&D quickly.

If you could, explain FUDGE in a nutshell for anyone who doesn't know what it is.

What made you decide to design an RPG? Was it because you are a storyteller?
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Steffan,
Two quick requests from me.
Can you tell us the story behind getting thrown out of Switzerland?
Can you show us a photo of your beutiful view from the games room?

More later.
Happy Geek of the Week week geek
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Walter OHara
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Congratulations on this singular honor, Steffan. I know you primarily from the old GENIE days (which loom large in my memory as a more tight-knight insular group than this big sprawling World Wide Web, and were strangely more enjoyable). I've never actually played GURPS (except MAN TO MAN) but have bought the occassional sourcebook over the years just for inspiration, and I consider SWASHBUCKLER to be up there in the top five of all time. I've also enjoyed reading the gazillion reviews you've had on your website.

Hmmm.. three truths and a lie. I'm floundering here. The list of luminaries you've met seems improbable, but a little checking would indicate that it's at least chronologically possible. So I'm going to say the Clown College dream might be the falsehood.. it just seems the most surreal.

V/R

Walter O'Hara
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Hi Steffan!

I have a couple of quick questions for you:

1) Which of the myriad Three Musketeers movies do you like the best?

2) What draws you to Ras Tafari?

As a youngster I would lie awake under the covers listening to Ernie Harwell broadcast Detroit Tiger ballgames over the radio. I was in Detroit last year and stopped by their new field. What a place to watch the Tigers play! Of course, Comerica Park is not Tiger Stadium but it's a worthy replacement.

Take Care,
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PghArch wrote:
> Given that you have done so much roleplaying development over the years, how much of that material have you had a chance to use in your own games?

Hi Brian, nice to hear from another Northern New Englander. I have a friend who talks about driving anywhere in the US outside Vermont, New Hampshire, or Maine as "visiting the lower 45." (And she's never driven to Alaska or Hawaii, so doesn't include them ...)

Roleplaying: I do very little these days. I now play in a year what I used to play every week: about two sessions! But I've used everything I've ever written about in a game at some point, almost always before writing it up, in fact.

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> I am glad to say that FUDGE formed the foundation of a weekly roleplaying campaign I played with two friends using IRC over the course of three years. Do your roleplaying campaigns tend to be long lived or shorter and more episodic?

It evolved over the years. Early on they were major campaigns that lasted for years. Then they became shorter adventures that lasted a few sessions. Finally, they've all been one-shots for the last seven years or so.

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> Often folks who have had many hobbies or life experiences adopt them sequentially, having a "shooting star" approach of total immersion followed by burn-out. How have you kept the gaming hobby fresh for yourself?

Well, I wasn't able to do that for roleplaying! Boardgaming - I guess it's all the new games that constantly come out, as well as the wide variety of types of boardgames. I still play old favorites, but don't pull them out very often, which keeps them fresh.

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> Do you believe the gaming hobby has had one or more golden ages, and if so when?

Now!

Quote:
> Do you find any less satisfaction in new games that do familiar things well, as opposed to games that introduce an entirely new mechanic?

Not at all. I'm really enjoying Mesopotamia, for example, which has very little, if anything, new. It's just well done and it works and plays in an hour - good combination. While it's nice to see new mechanicisms, simply introducing one for the sake of being new doesn't necessarily work.

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> Have any of your jobs or travels provided the basis for game designs you have worked on?

Much of my RPG work is drawn from real life, yes. For instance, the Acrobatic Maneuvers in GURPS is drawn from my experiences at Dell'Arte school, and the falling example in Fudge is drawn from me falling out of an upper story barn door ...
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Steffan O'Sullivan
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mistermarino wrote:
There certainly are some strong feelings about Mr. Jackson on this site, and I am not interested in that debate right now. But I am curious to know what it was like working with Mr. Jackson. And do you play and enjoy any of his games (new or old)?

Steve has been far too good to me for me to say anything bad about him. He's always been generous, entertaining, witty, and forgiving of my transgressions. I've been the bad guy in our relationship (failing to meet deadlines and worse) and he's never held it against me or even mentioned it ever again.

In fact, the "worse" deserves expanding. I once had the contract to write GURPS Faerie. I worked on it for almost a year before coming to the conclusion that I couldn't do it in GURPS - the system didn't seem appropriate for a setting that included widely diveregent PC scales and shifting "laws" of physics. I told Steve and his managing editor at the time at GenCon that I wanted to break the contract. They were unhappy, but agreed. The managing editor, meeting alone with me, then requested I turn over all my research so they could use it. (I worked in a library in those days, and they knew I was a thorough researcher.) I refused, saying I thought I could use it in a generic book later. He got very mad at me.

The next day, Steve met with me and asked me the same thing, except offering to buy the research beyond what they'd paid me as an advance - I assume he'd already talked with his managing editor, so knew what to expect. When I again refused, Steve didn't get mad. Instead he sighed, and then asked me, "Well, what do you want to write for me?" I said the only thing that my heart was set on was translating Bunnies & Burrows to GURPS. Steve had already tried twice in the previous five years to get the license for me to do that book, mind you - but he said he'd try again. The next week he called me at home and said, "Start writing - we got the license!" And this for a book he knew wouldn't be a big seller. "Sometimes you've just got to do one for the love of the hobby," he said.

Steve's game designing goals have changed over time. For years he tried to get *D&D players to switch to GURPS. He finally realized it didn't appeal to that type of roleplayer. So he decided to create board/card games that he could sell to *D&Ders. Hence Munchkin and similar games. Now I don't much care for these games, but last year at GenCon I watched scores of people enjoying them for hours. They really are aimed at that crowd, not the BGG crowd, so I don't take BGG criticism too seriously. Think about it: D&Ders play for hours with characters and magic items, never worrying about "ending" the game. Munchkin is the perfect card game for such players. And it's a win/win situation: these people were really enjoying the game, not pretending to, and Steve finally figured out a way to get money from D&D players.

As for me, aside from GURPS, I've played and enjoyed most of his older boardgame designs.

Thanks for your kind words,
-Steffan
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wargamer66 wrote:
About 5 years ago at GenCon I was wandering the dealer hall and couldn't find any boardgame I really wanted to buy.... I traditionally try to walk away with something at least, so I picked up FUDGE. I dont roleplay anymore, but still pick stuff up to read occasionally, and was really glad I got FUDGE. It is too bad that this game had not been around when I was young; we would have dropped AD&D quickly.

Hi Steve, thanks! Makes all the work worth it to read things like that.

Quote:
If you could, explain FUDGE in a nutshell for anyone who doesn't know what it is.

What made you decide to design an RPG? Was it because you are a storyteller?


Hmmm - seems like I've already written a lot about that and RPGs in general. This is a boardgame site, after all. Tell you what, I'll give you two links:

My designer's notes for Fudge: http://www.panix.com/~sos/rpg/fud-des.html

and

An interview I did for Fudge Factor: http://www.fudgefactor.org/2004/04/01/sos_interview.html

If you still have questions after reading those, I'll answer them, but try those first, please!
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Critical Mass wrote:
Steffan,
Two quick requests from me.
Can you tell us the story behind getting thrown out of Switzerland?

Hi Andrew, good to hear from you. Thanks for starting the Geek of the Week feature!

It's not much of a story, really. I was a young migrant worker and had very little money. Switzerland had (may still have, for all I know) a law that any foreigners had to have a certain amount of money or be classified as a vagrant. I was hitchhiking, a police car stopped, asked to see my funds, and told me I didn't have enough money to stay in Switzerland. They took me to the Austrian border, where the Austrian guard offered me a beer, and we spent the next hour making fun of Swiss police.

Quote:
Can you show us a photo of your beutiful view from the games room?

I'm a lousy photographer, sorry. Aside from that it's "mud season" here in NH. (Northern New England has six seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Barren, Winter, Mud. Scenes change dramatically from one season to the next. It's beautiful here in all but Mud season.)

Tell you what, though. I'll eventually do this, putting up photos on my web page for each of the pretty seasons.

-Steffan
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Steffan O'Sullivan
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hotspur wrote:
Congratulations on this singular honor, Steffan. I know you primarily from the old GENIE days (which loom large in my memory as a more tight-knight insular group than this big sprawling World Wide Web, and were strangely more enjoyable). I've never actually played GURPS (except MAN TO MAN) but have bought the occassional sourcebook over the years just for inspiration, and I consider SWASHBUCKLER to be up there in the top five of all time. I've also enjoyed reading the gazillion reviews you've had on your website.

Hmmm.. three truths and a lie. I'm floundering here. The list of luminaries you've met seems improbable, but a little checking would indicate that it's at least chronologically possible. So I'm going to say the Clown College dream might be the falsehood.. it just seems the most surreal.

V/R

Walter O'Hara

Hi Walter, good to hear from you. Yes, I remember your posts, also. Thanks for the compliments!

The dream the most surreal? Have you ever seen Paul Delvaux's paintings?!?
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