TSR BURMANIA! Part 2: "Keep on Going!"

As the neutral DM I was positioned to see how the opposition to Bob Burman had manifested, especially among two primary players in my campaigns and games, James Goodfellow and Eric Shook. Where does this animus derive from? It can be narrowed down as a reaction to Bob’s philosophy (or lack thereof) embodied in his endlessly repeated phrase during almost all game situations: “Keep on Going!” No matter how simple or complex the problem before him appeared to be his rubric in every case, without rhyme, reason or plan, was just to push onward.

This had lead to catastrophic results in our team-play environment and to a corresponding chaos and resentment; and I truly believe this evolved a counter philosophy based upon the unspoken credo that there would be less pain with his PCs dead rather than alive during play. This then bred a festering mania when Bob was able to escape such surgical strikes (which, to the surprise of those striking, happened more often than they’d foreseen).

To dispel any doubt about how this mania had manifested do read the following story--a stark example of Bob’s gaming style.

The Dwarf King (Bob) vs. the Blue Dragons (Mid to Late 1975)

(NOTE: This was in James Goodfellow’s higher level D&D campaign. It was DMed by James with me waiting in the wings to take my turn at play, so I witnessed all of it. I fast forward past the greater campaign give and take between Bob and James and start, in position, when the Dwarf King and his retinue discover a large cave entrance in some major foothills...)

Bob reined in his followers--6 mid-level dwarven knights, 15 stout dwarven crossbowmen and 15 dwarven fighters--as they discovered a large cave entrance ahead.

Without pause, without a scouting foray, and without altering the packed column they were in, Bob informed James that they were immediately advancing to the entrance. James noted, as they did so, that the mail and plate armored retainers “clunked” up a steeply rising, rocky path to the cave mouth. James’ subtle warning was lost on Bob as he merely nodded in return.

As they reached the path’s mid-point a large (male) blue dragon appeared at the entrance (having been alerted by all the noise). Bob ordered his retainers forward against the saurian just as it breathed a lightning bolt. The bolt wiped out the right half of the packed column--3 knights (all missing their saves) and the 15 crossbowmen. The remaining fighters and knights followed their King as he fell upon the beast.

After several more dead dwarves and many wounds to Bob’s PC the dragon was finally dispatched. Bob was now left with himself (-50% hp), 3 slightly wounded knights and 10 unscathed fighters. With death and charred destruction everywhere, Bob leadss these faithful but severely shaken retainers into the cave...

...To soon enter the main cavern whereat they discover two more blues--a medium-sized female and its young hatchling. During the ensuing melee all of his remaining knights and fighters perished as the mother spewed bolt after bolt to its maximum allotment; and then Bob landed the killing stroke upon her.

The situation now stood as follows and as described by James: Bob has 4 hp remaining and the young blue is cowering in fear at the back of the cave...

“Victory” within his grasp, charred and blistered, but with a perpetual smile that denoted “I’m Winning,” the Dwarf King staggers towards the young wyrm, sword raised. The dragon reacts in kind and out of instinct--it breaths a sharp but short bolt at him as he approaches. It’s an 8 hp dragon. Even if Bob makes his save for half damage he dies. End of adventure... James merely shook his head and I could almost read his unspoken thought: “Burman.”

To be clear, the two stories I have recounted to this point only touch upon the outer fringe of Burmania. It goes much deeper; and perhaps Bob’s elemental nature can be better understood not only through his in-game demeanor but by a truly remarkable life story as well. Note the following.


James Goodfelllow and I had gamed into the late hours of a wintery night; It was around midnight and we were famished. Off to Hanny’s Cafe on Broad Street we went. Disposed there while enjoying our meals and chit-chat who should arrive to this near-empty cafe but... Bob Burman. We were immediately taken aback, for Bob entered Hanny’s on two crutches.

As he seated himself next to us we noted that his left leg was in a cast and he had a half body cast as well! We immediately plied him for the story of how he’d been injured. He recounted his tale, chit-chatted for a while like it was all nothing, and then departed. We bade him good night and wished him good luck.

James immediately turned to me and said, “Did you hear that!” He looked truly amazed and befuddled. I nodded, having understood and put into place everything Bob had recounted.

“It’s so... Burman!” James remarked.

James then listed Bob’s story particulars as I nodded at the imports.

--Bob is driving at 40 mph in Michigan during a blizzard. A semi-truck passes him but its trailer whacks his car’s front quarter causing it to slide and flip...

“He’s dead, right? No... He’s Burman...”

--His driver’s side door is popped open in the collision and since Bob was not wearing a seat belt he is jettisoned from the car...

“He’s dead this time, right? Nope. Burman...”

Bob lands in a large, recently plowed, snowbank which softens his impact.

“He’s safe, right? No way... Burman!”

--Bob’s airborne car lands on top of him!

“He’s dead, again, right? No, because, Burman...”

--The car doesn’t crush him completely but pushes him down into the snow bank where he is buried. He is later rescued and taken to the hospital.

James looked dead on at me like I was going to join in. I shrugged while thinking that if Hanny’s had had a menu item cure for Burmania I surely would have ordered it for him at that point.

I could only grin as James finished with his characteristic, “Burman”.
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Robert J. Kuntz

Robert J. Kuntz

TSR Veteran


--His driver’s side door is popped open in the collision and since Bob was not wearing a seat belt he is jettisoned from the car...

“He’s dead this time, right? Nope. Burman...”

Bob lands in a large, recently plowed, snowbank which softens his impact.

“He’s safe, right? No way... Burman!”

--Bob’s airborne car lands on top of him!

“He’s dead, again, right? No, because, Burman...”

--The car doesn’t crush him completely but pushes him down into the snow bank where he is buried. He is later rescued and taken to the hospital.
This is so unbelievable, yet believable, at the same time! This guy deserves his own sitcom!

Aaron L

Oh man, that was a great story! Thank you so much, Rob! :)

It sort of reminds me of my the campaign I played with my brother played back in the mid to late '90s. He was only 14 and was starting his first campaign, so one night after walking to the grocery store and discussing the possibilities we got back home and he rolled up his first ever D&D character for 1st Edition AD&D. He was hoping to be able to play a Paladin, and he decided on the name Lord (from Lord Bowler of The Adventures of Briscoe County, jr.) Well he made Paladin stats, alright; for his first ever character he rolled right in front of me an 18(88) Strength, 18 Charisma, and 16 Constitution! So he got his Paladin, and the character became Lord Whistlingwind, a descendant of an earlier Paladin PC who was now legendary in the campaign world, and Lord became part of a heroic legacy.

Almost as soon as he began playing, Lord became the defacto leader of the party, with him taking the lead and everyone else just following along... partly out of the sheer fact that he took the initiative and stepped forward to do things, but also because my brother has always been very charismatic... this all despite the fact that he was still only 14, while all the other players were 19 to 23. And he ended up leading us from one near-disaster to another, with most of the party barely making it out alive, and some dying... but Lord himself, always at the front leading the charge, always came out almost totally unscathed. Every single time. Again, he was only 14 and playing D&D for the first time. It was frustrating at first, but before very long it became hilarious, the way he would always just step up and charge forward and all the rest of us would just follow his lead without stopping to think about what we were doing; Lord absolutely had an 18 Charisma.

Lord Whistlingwind eventually ascended the throne of Aria (to become "King Lord,") the theocratic kingdom of the Lawful Good God of Storms, Ae'ar, and by that point he was so damn powerful and had so many Hit Points that a freight train hitting him dead-on would barely have made a dent in his armor (most of the party was around 18th level at this point.) By then a few years had passed and my brother had grown; he was about 17, and Lord was now a lot less reckless. But even so he would still sometimes manage to stumble the party into situations above our paygrade... situations that he himself could vanquish with minimal difficulty, but for the rest of our mere mortal PCs things were a lot less simple. (My PC, the Ranger Malachi, initially had a 16 Constitution, but by the time he got to 18th level he was down to an 8 from all the Raise Dead spells. Thank the gods for Resurrection!) We played those characters for 8 real life years, over the course of about 80 in-game years, and got them up to the mid-20 levels; Malachi was 116 years old and a 26th level Ranger the last time I played him, and Lord was a few levels higher, and about 30 years younger.

God that was fun.

We too had our own sort of 'Bob'. The particular personality was different, but some similar dynamics evolved. Actually he was a pretty decent kid and I believe he grew up to become a physician. Probably a good one too. He wasn't even a bad D&D player, he was just a tad impulsive and much younger than the other players, and, as you would expect, kind a geek with all that implies.
I would happily have him and all the rest back again for another campaign.

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