Rick Loomis is an American game designer, and has been officially part of the games industry since 1972 when he co-founded his company Flying buffalo to publish Nuclear War. He went on to publish Tunnels and Trolls the second modern RPG shortly after Dungeons & Dragons was released and wrote the first solo adventure book Buffalo Castle.
Legendgerry had a chat with him at Spoel ’13 in Essen, Germany last october.
FTN: What got you into Games?
R.L: I’ve always been interested in games, I play games, I make up my own games.When I was in high school I invented a game that I played with my friends but I had to be the referee, When I was in the army in ’70 through ’72 I came up with some more ideas about this game and I decided that I wanted to try it out but the only way I could do it was by mail. So I got people to play it by mail so I could try out my game.
It became real popular and by the time I came out of the army I had 200 people playing by postal mail, so I thought, well, maybe I can make a business out of this and it just kind of grew from there.
FTN: Tunnels and Trolls came out just after Dungeons and Dragons, was there a sense of competition between you?
R.L: I’d like to think so but I suspect the Dungeons and Dragons people barely noticed us, Tunnels and Trolls has been popular, we’ve sold a lot of copies over the years, we’ve sold a lot of translations in different languages but it was never anywhere near as big as Dungeons and Dragons.
FTN: When Dungeons and Dragons became popular it got a lot of flak from religious groups. Did you ever have any problems with groups like B.A.D.D. (Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons) or other groups claiming roleplaying was evil?
R.L: No actually we haven’t, most of those people went after the big companies, like TSR (D&D’s early publishers) and mostly ignored us, though we did have one guy who claimed that one of our expansion sets for Nuclear War was a role playing game, which it isn’t and it was evil, which it isn’t,but that didn’t get very far.
FTN: How did the first Tunnels and Trolls book come about?
R.L: Ken St. Andre is the guy who wrote Tunnels and Trolls, he came over to my house on a game night and borrowed a copy of D&D from a friend of mine. He read through it once and said “I can’t play this, I don’t even understand it, there must be an easier way!”.
So he went home and wrote his own game.
Then he printed up a hundred copies and sold them to his friends and played it with his friends, then he came to me with his last 44 copies and said take this with you to the game convention you’re going to and sell it for me.
I’d never heard of role playing games, I thought it was a silly idea, it has no board, you don’t have a winner, what kind of game is this? nobodies going to like it, but Ken was a friend so I thought I’d take them, put them on the corner of my table, nobody would buy them and when I got home I’d give them back to him and say “Sorry Ken, no one was interested”.
I sold all 44 copies.
So I said “Hmm maybe roleplaying is something” and that was the beginning of it, I reprinted his book.
FTN: How did the Solitaire adventure books come about
R.L: We came up with the idea of the solitaire adventures. One of Ken St. Andre’s friends suggested somebody oughta do an adventure for a role playing game where the book is the adventure and so I said “Yeah, that’s a good idea” So I wrote Buffalo Castle and then we ended up publishing over 30 different adventures, where the book is the game master.
They were the first solo game for a roleplaying game ever, they were out long before any of those choose your own adventure books.
FTN: How did people react initially to the idea of a chose your own adventure book?
R.L: It became very popular, we had a lot of customers that did not have a group to play with, they were kinda by themselves, so a game they could play alone really appealed to them.
That became Tunnels and Trolls niche, even though it was originally designed as a group role playing game, just like all the others where you have a game master and 5 or 6 players, we had a lot of customers that just played it solitaire.
FTN: What do you think of new platforms like Kickstarter and so on?
R.L: The systems that are there now do make it easier but it’s harder now to get noticed. It’s easier to publish something you’ve invented or written because you can make fewer copies, you don’t have to take out a second mortgage on the house to print out 5,000 copies and then find out you can only sell 110! That’s the sort of thing that used to happen.
We didn’t make too many serious errors like that in the past, we made a couple..
FTN: On that note, what advice would you give to people starting out?
R.L: Research what everyone else is doing, pay attention to the mistakes that others make, make sure you know what’s out there and don’t spend to much money before you find out.
FTN: What’s next up for Flying Buffalo?
R.L: Well right now we’re working on the newest edition of Tunnels and Trolls, the basic rules and calling it the deluxe edition, we did a kickstarter for it in January (2013), which was very successful and we hope to have that published and available to the public by the end of this year. (2013)
Then after that I’m planning on doing a new City book. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the city books, but that’s a roleplaying supplement that’s generic and suitable for any fantasy role playing system. We did seven different city books in the past and we’re going to do city book eight next year.
It will be edited by Jennell Jaquays the well known artist and we hope to have that out early in 2014