Friday, February 24, 2012

Q&A

Posted at Mystara on Facebook


Q: Ehm...I realized only now one thing...Bruce are you THAT Bruce? Andrea Ciceri
Bruce Heard on Wikipedia 

A: Sounds like it. ;)

Q: Bruce, in Brazil we didnt have the culture of playing wargames. I've read a lot how Gygax an so many other North American wargames played Napoleonics. Is this true in France too? -- Rafael Beltrame

A: (...) a lot more now than back in 80's. I also noticed a lot re-enactors getting together more recently, WW1 and medieval for the most part.  The first tabletop wargame I ever played was in France, and it was about... the US Civil War. Of course, I got stuck with Quantrill's "Dark Command" It didn't fare well, as I recall.  The funny thing, when I came back from my first long-term stay in the US, I went looking for a wargame club in Paris.  I found one, Rue d'Ulm (for those who know what I'm referring to), but I was told they ran one warrior at a time (not a regiment or a division)... I was confused, but went along. That was my first game of D&D. And it was pretty cool. 

Q:  Bruce Heard can you, please, tell us the story of the publishing of the gazetter of Glantri? Pleeeease!-- Andrea Ciceri 

A: Well, I was able to negotiate a freelance arrangement with TSR (although I was employed there) to write Glantri.  It was fortunate that my boss at the time (Michael Dobson IIRC) didn't mind me tackling a 96-page project.  So far, my past experience had been with 32-pagers. I do still appreciate his trust to this day.  Back then, these were seen as "monster" projects (ha! ha!)
          I took a long, hard look at the first two Gazetteers and thought 64-pages just weren't sufficient to do the job right. Then afterward came many hours of work, all on top of full workdays or during weekends, trying to conceive a relatively new format and style.  At the time at TSR, cutting-edge design resided in early DragonLance accessories.  Aside from those, TSR products were relatively simple in their design and execution.  Things changed very quickly at that point.
          I remember Jeff Grubb once referring to D&D Gazetteers as "gold bar" projects, not so much for revenues they generated, but for contents offered (and probably production costs as well).
         One big advantage of being a staffer was the opportunity of brainstorming with the two primary "mappers" assigned to the Gazetteers.  The map style was well established by then, but I could really get into details of the GAZ3 map because Dave Sutherland and Dennis Kauth were excited with the Gazetteers' direction, and allowed me to sit with them to help out (doing such things as pre-positioning map tags to simplify their work).  That was just awesome.  Mapping was all manual cut-and-paste on multiple acetate layers that had to be scanned to produce blues and chromes... O Joy!
         Launching a product like this was almost like firing off a rocket.  You were never entirely certain what the end result was going to be, and whether the thing would blow up on ignition.  The smoke cleared, and GAZ3 went on its merry way.  I think it did okay. ;)
         I also had the pleasure of working with Stephen Fabian who took on interior illustrations, and Clyde Caldwell for the outside covers. There's no explaining how that feels. It's just pure joy when everything comes in and looks wonderful.  I'm very happy I had the opportunity and privilege of working there, doing the things I did.


Q: Bruce , I ask how exactly you got to do Glantri. I mean, you have not invented the name Glantri, right? So, your boss came to you and said "Bruce, we need a new GAZ, and its about Glantri." So, was there previous history about Glantri, and you have to follow those lines, or you had total liberty to write Glantri? -- Rafael Beltrame

A: The name Glantri already existed as part of the Expert Set's Known World.  As the leading creative for Mystara, I came up with the list of Gazetteers and D&D accessories, their intended contents and style, and the order in which they would be published.  Once that was approved, I had complete creative liberty to do whatever I wanted.  It was absolutely ideal!
         Working with Mystara had pros and cons.  One problem was that just about nobody on staff was the least bit interested in Basic D&D or Mystara, especially early on.  On the other hand, this meant I could pretty much do whatever I wanted with these products.  The other key factor was that I also ran TSR's freelance acquisitions, allowing me to contract whoever I wanted for whatever project.  Naturally, I secured some darn good writers (you bet!) for D&D accessories. Strategically, I was in a total sweet spot!

Q:  Were you exposed to the Known World prior to being placed in charge of the classic D&D line? -- Roger Girtman

A: Yes, through modules I purchased when I lived in in France, and later when I translated D&D material into French on behalf of TSR. I learned my stuff about the "future" Mystara mostly through BECM sets. I wasn't actually "placed in charge." It sort of happened by default.

No one in house (at least when I was hired by TSR in '83) was really interested in BECMI products other than Frank Menzter. This meant that all adventures and supplements other than rulesets had to be freelanced. I ran TSR's freelance acquisitions, so by definition I became the creative lead for Mystara. The success of the Mystara line made that function official.

Q: What direction/instruction did you provide your team and writers when you began the transition from an "example wilderness" to a full-fledged and proper campaign setting? --
Roger Girtman

A: Very specific in some ways, but in others I remained very liberal. My instructions concerned essentially the structure of the products (what and how much of it), while the creative end was open-ended.  I did provide general ideas for design features and direction.  On the other hand, I was in frequent contact with my freelancers to brainstorm and provide support.

This work style was somewhat "counter-current" to how other teams operated. Part of the reason it worked is that I tended to select mature and experienced writers, used them as consistently as possible, and followed their products in house throughout editing and production very, very closely.

Q: I understand your writers had significant roles in developing their own respective nations & adventures. --
Roger Girtman

A. Yes, of course. That's what I hired them for! I wanted my freelancers to be a part of a creative team rather than merely execute instructions. It was risky, but the payoff was worth it in the long run. I had to be careful about who I worked with, and I sometimes made some necessary adjustments.

Q: How much was under the direction of your "unified vision"? --
Roger Girtman

A: All of Mystara products and the RC remained under my responsibility and leadership, as I explained earlier.


Q: Bruce, I remember you extended the Poor Wizard's Almanac way past AC 1030. How far out did you extend [it]? -- Brian Caraway
 
A. [...] there are real answers to your question. If what you're looking for wasn't published, odds are overwhelming that nothing was written about it.

Part of the reason for this is that Mystara wasn't someone's established campaign world, like Forgotten Realms for example, which already had a wealth of accumulated information. The Known World, and Mystara in general, was the result of a very sketchy embryo of a game world introduced in Basic & Expert.

        The other thing was that I, as the lead creative and product manager, did not have time enough to design various aspects of Mystara for its own sake. My job at TSR was to manage freelance acquisitions for TSR's game division, which started out as a full-time job. Directing Mystara kind of grafted itself by default onto my job description. Sure, I liked it, but it came at a cost. Not long afterward, I also had to manage all of TSR's production planning. That was a huge piece of work and a massive headache. The end result was that my time came at a premium -- I could only handle what was absolutely needed, short of burning out.
         Did I have other ideas for TSR besides modules and accessories? You bet. And these took the form of Voyage of the Princess Ark and various other articles in Dragon Magazine, which were produced outside of my regular job. If there was something that I wanted to do with Mystara, it either became an accessory or a feature in the magazine. In other words, what you have in print is what we had in mind. There is nothing else out there beyond what was published. Sorry -- no secret files, special insights, hidden knowledge, or behind-the-curtains plans, including the infamous swamp-gas products that once appeared as titles in catalogs but never saw print. I don't keep old stuff in my garage, simply because there was no such thing.
         [...] This sort of question comes up often on various sites, which is why I'm giving you a lengthy response. So, if you find a sketchy area in Mystara, it was either by design (i.e. it's open for anyone to flesh out as they see fit), or it should have benefited from a later treatment (which never happened with TSR's untimely demise).