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TSR BURMANIA! Part 1: Check Your Sanity at the Door

Every game club or group has one. A person who stands out from the rest mostly due to some recurring oddity, a facet of their unchanging personality if you will, and their sublime belief in their own invincibility in life as well as at the game table. Add to this a penchant for vocalizing the above as well as an energy reserve bordering on the superhuman and you have what others could view, and often did view in my group’s case, as a phenomena equal to Frankenstein running amok--but in a nice way, for it was only “gaming” after all. But it doesn’t take long for the competitive and sometimes contentious side of gaming, in concert with such a phenomena, to pump up the meters of those exposed to it to the red zone level. Like a radioactive isotope this is indeed what our game group’s compatriot, who was always welcome at my games, accomplished by just being himself: Bob Burman.

By 1975 the LGTSA was still a functioning part of the gaming sphere in Lake Geneva and I was still its president. But with many of its major members working at TSR (like Gary, myself, Terry Kuntz) Gary had stopped becoming available for gaming at the Center Street location. The Greyhawk campaign was now fluctuating because of the shift from gaming for fun and “testing” to gaming for the company’s releases. We still played miniatures games and board games at the Dungeon Hobby Shop and some miniatures plus Greyhawk/Kalibruhn RPG sessions at my residence, but upon Don Kaye’s death all sand table games had ended at his Sage Street location. This left my abode, which had been previously used off and on when gaming occurred away from the sand table or from Gary’s. With all of these changes my residence at 334 Madison Street became the primary gathering point for older and newer players, this as the word about TSR and D&D spread like wildfire locally (helped along by my brother running numerous games at Badger High School, at the Dungeon Hobby Shop (a mix of LGTSA sponsored and DHS demos), and by word of mouth).

Among the new adherents at my locale was Bob Burman. Bob was a relation of Bud Appel, in fact rumored to be Bud’s adopted son. Bud was the owner/operator of Graphic Printing Company on Broad Street and had published TSR”s first titles: Cavaliers and Roundheads (Perren and Gygax), D&D (Gygax and Arneson) as well as Greyhawk (Gygax and Kuntz). I had met and dealt with Bud on numerous occasions. As for Bob...well, he just materialized on my doorstep one day (as he often did from that point forward) and I welcomed him to join the fun. What follows is what I refer to as the Burmania resulting from this fun; and I only touch upon a choice episode for Part 1...

A Greyhawk Outdoor Adventure (on The Outdoor Survival Map,1975) involving Ezekiel the Necromancer (James F. Goodfellow) and “Bob”

(Bob’s PC names were always nondescript like “Frank,” “John,” etc. Whenever I pressed Bob for a character name he blurted out one like the above... So “Bob” will suffice in most cases.)

The adventure lead the twain into a cave complex whereat they defeated its randomly determined occupants (the latter which I do not recall).

While assessing the aftermath of their victory James noted that he was going to finish off Bob’s severely wounded PC (unfailingly a fighter in every campaign, mine or others). Ezekiel (a mage) accomplished this quite handedly with an unused magic missile spell. As “Bob” died, however, he called upon his god to help him (Odin). I rolled the % dice to see if Odin (usually aloof in such situations) would even take note. The roll was 100! This I interpreted as Odin being aware but not, as yet, determined to take action. I motioned Bob to follow me into my bedroom/workroom where we could continue in secret.

This triggered Goodfellow and Bob but in different ways, of course. James had a consternated look as he began grumbling to warm up for his “Fudgin’ Judgin’” denunciations; whereas Bob was grinning ear to ear and had started winding a weird laugh, now at a subdued level, but do note hereafter.

Disposed at my desk and with Bob hovering nearby I told him that Odin was watching but that the next roll would determine whether he acted or not. I rolled a 99! Bob went berserk! He leaned against the thin wall separating my room from the kitchen and, I kid you not, started banging his head against it, eyes bulging, tongue hanging out the right side of his mouth, while emitting a more than weird air-in and air-out laugh! I was later able to match his noises to those made by Sloth in the film, The Goonies... As I stood there momentarily transfixed by this spectacle I could hear Goodfellow in the kitchen (who had obviously heard Bob’s deranged but ecstatic reaction), exclaim over and over in rising volume, “Fudgey Judgey!! Rip-Rip-Rip-OFF!” and similar... Talk about stereophonic Bizarro world!

#2Sloth.jpg


And it was not over... As Bob (sort of) regained his composure I made my final DM play. I would now determine what degree of action Odin would take; and so I informed him. I then rolled (you guessed it) another 100! Bob returned to the wall to repeat ‘Scene II’ of deranged outbursts; and Goodfellow responded in kind.

BUT! As much as the dice had been the first arbiter on all of the above I finally could be the last. I rolled some more confirmation dice rolls for what I presumed Odin might do with Bob. Satisfied with these I requested his character sheet while informing Bob that he’d been resurrected in Odin’s presence and was now part of the einherjar in Valhalla; and that, on occasion, Odin would use him as a minor messenger. I told Bob that we could deal with this in separate adventuring acts when he liked but for all intents and purposes he was removed from “earthly” play and would need to roll a new PC. We then returned to the kitchen and to a (now) very silent Ezekiel... (NOTE: Be looking for the Norse version of Bob, servant of Odin, in one of my upcoming works!)

#3Walhall_by_Emil_Doepler.jpg


James was quietly livid when I informed him that Bob’s body had suddenly disappeared. Bob just smiled as James shook his head. Had karma prevailed? Maybe. Maybe not. I hazard to say that it instead solidified with James the very mania that was building within him and that had prompted him to “Kill Burman” to begin with. This mania would take upon many twists and turns, more of which you will be able to note in Part 2 of this saga.

© 2019. Robert K. Kuntz. All Rights Reserved.
 
Robert J. Kuntz

Robert J. Kuntz

TSR Veteran


Von Ether

Adventurer
Could you be more specific?

I'm guessing the type of player that basement dwelling stereotype is based on. For a long time, I've a lot of Bobs in my own gaming circle.

Being an outcast myself, I followed a "I was judged, therefore I will not judge," creed in those days of my youth. It also didn't help that being a rural community in the 80s and 90s meant you had to take it or leave it with the players you could find. Or so I thought.

That slowly became, "That's just Bob. He's just that way." But just a year before 3e came out, I was left with nothing but Bobs in a remote town and decided it was best to have no gaming that gaming that was becoming toxic with all of the weird personalities in play that wouldn't, frankly, refused to grow up a little. The original Diablo helped a little by siphoning off the really one-note players.

By 3e, I was living near a major metro, D&D was blossoming and I felt safe enough to pick and choose. I was already raising a child and wanted them to see my fellow players as potential role-models. The Bobs either had to settle down or bathe or leave my game.

My games and players improved quite a bit after that.
 

I'm guessing the type of player that basement dwelling stereotype is based on. For a long time, I've a lot of Bobs in my own gaming circle.

Being an outcast myself, I followed a "I was judged, therefore I will not judge," creed in those days of my youth. It also didn't help that being a rural community in the 80s and 90s meant you had to take it or leave it with the players you could find. Or so I thought.

That slowly became, "That's just Bob. He's just that way." But just a year before 3e came out, I was left with nothing but Bobs in a remote town and decided it was best to have no gaming that gaming that was becoming toxic with all of the weird personalities in play that wouldn't, frankly, refused to grow up a little. The original Diablo helped a little by siphoning off the really one-note players.

By 3e, I was living near a major metro, D&D was blossoming and I felt safe enough to pick and choose. I was already raising a child and wanted them to see my fellow players as potential role-models. The Bobs either had to settle down or bathe or leave my game.

My games and players improved quite a bit after that.
🤔
 

Orcishnature

Explorer
Could you be more specific?

I suppose now it would be seen as a clash of playing styles not particularly a judgement on socially awkward people. To be more specific:
  • players attacking other players' characters
  • calling characters 'Bob' or 'Darth' etc etc, for me it breaks any kind of thematic immersion in the 'world'
  • cheating players
admittedly not all represented in the story but it brought back bad rpg memories, and I think experiencing groups like that cost the hobby players, I abandoned D&D for years...
 




Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
I'm guessing the type of player that basement dwelling stereotype is based on. For a long time, I've a lot of Bobs in my own gaming circle.

Being an outcast myself, I followed a "I was judged, therefore I will not judge," creed in those days of my youth. It also didn't help that being a rural community in the 80s and 90s meant you had to take it or leave it with the players you could find. Or so I thought.

That slowly became, "That's just Bob. He's just that way." But just a year before 3e came out, I was left with nothing but Bobs in a remote town and decided it was best to have no gaming that gaming that was becoming toxic with all of the weird personalities in play that wouldn't, frankly, refused to grow up a little. The original Diablo helped a little by siphoning off the really one-note players.

By 3e, I was living near a major metro, D&D was blossoming and I felt safe enough to pick and choose. I was already raising a child and wanted them to see my fellow players as potential role-models. The Bobs either had to settle down or bathe or leave my game.

My games and players improved quite a bit after that.
We (Gary and myself) usually commanded respect and sobriety while encouraging the fun; and this lead to (mostly) orderly games. Bob and the reactions to him by some specific personalities was the exception not the rule. And do note part 2.
 

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