Hail and well met! I’m Sophie, and I’ve been invited to contribute to this esteemed community. I know — big deal. So, let me tell you my qualifications. Well, to start with, I’ve been playing hobby and tabletop roleplaying games since 1977. I started Dungeons & Dragons with the basic “blue box” edition back in 1978. That means I have dice older than some of you. Probably most. However, it’s not just that I’m older than the Nerdarchy guys, I also spent 13 years working in the gaming community.
To introduce myself
In 1991 I was hired by Chessex Game Distributors, which, at the time was the largest distributor of hobby games in the United States (as well as the best dice for gaming. They still make amazing dice.).
That was a dream job for a time, and is a story for another column. In late April 1992, after a long weekend away I proposed to my girlfriend, who accepted. We returned to my apartment, where I found a letter from TSR Hobbies, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I’d been hired as a freelance editor.
Back to the beginning: I started playing D&D in 1978. I played through until my junior year of high school when everyone in the group became too busy working and going to school to play. I didn’t play again until my third year of college (my first year of Penn State) when I played until graduation then after with several groups. First edition became second edition. One day, while looking through Dragon Magazine, I saw an ad: TSR was hiring freelance editors!
What was TSR? Tactical Studies Rules, a company started by Gary Gygax and Don Kaye to publish a game Gygax and Dave Arneson created: Dungeons & Dragons. Books have been written about the history of this company, and I won’t summarize it here. By 1992, it was THE power in gaming. This was before the release of Magic: The Gathering by Wizards of the Coast, and gaming was a far different animal back then.
Anyway, I answered the ad (sending something called a “letter” and a resume which I put in an envelope and physically mailed). A couple of weeks later I received a return letter with an editing test and instructions. For someone with editing experience, the format and grammatical errors were easy to spot. As someone who’d been playing AD&D for over a decade, the subtle rules errors were easily spotted as well. Some of the errors would’ve been correct in first edition, but this was now 2E AD&D. I checked it. Rechecked it. Checked it again. Then… sent it back to Lake Geneva. In late April, I was hired.
My boss was Bruce Heard. As my first assignment I was given half of a basic D&D book: the first Poor Wizard’s Almanac by Aaron Allston. I was splitting it with Newton Ewell. Essentially, it was a fact book about the basic D&D known world, Mystara. TSR sent me source material like the new Rules Cyclopedia and the Hollow World setting to check rules and facts. It was really dry material, essentially, well, an almanac. It took me two weeks of work after work to finish my bit.
The way they did it was they sent me discs for my old Mac classic as well as a printed copy of the rough manuscript. I did the actual editing on paper then did the corrections on the discs. After I made all the corrections I mailed the papers and the discs (plural) to TSR. They sent me a very nice check, a lot of which went to student loans.
I did three other pieces. Next was GA1: Murky Deep written by Norman Ritchie. It was for 2E AD&D and was generic setting. I think he was a southerner by the way he phrased things. The module took a lot of work to make it neutral in tone but it was well written with a wonderful hook.
After that was GA2: Swamplight by Jean Rabe. This was another generic setting novel and I really enjoyed it. Obviously it was a swamp based adventure, but its encounters were incredible, and in a sandbox. The cover was credited to a legend in the gaming community, Jennell Jaquays, creator of the module Dark Tower as well as Central Casting and a ton of other things. We became friends many years later.
My last piece was Black Spine, which was a multi-book campaign module for the Dark Sun setting. My part was book two. The difference here was this module was written on an IBM compatible, and I had a Mac. The translation from format to format destroyed all the, well, formatting. Both ways. I wasn’t happy, and neither was my boss.
In any case, not long after I left Chessex and was hired by Games Workshop US in Maryland. GW had a no competition clause in its rules, so I had to leave TSR.
While working for Chessex I went to conferences in Chicago and… um… I forget where the other one was. Maybe Milwaukee? I met many TSR people at these conferences, and also at the GAMA shows in Vegas and Reno, as well as Gen Con in Milwaukee.
A few years after I left TSR it was bought by Wizards of the Coast. Later, WotC was bought by Hasbro. Some of the old TSR people are now at WotC, but most aren’t. Some, like me, are out of the gaming industry completely. (GW and I parted ways in 2003.)
I didn’t play D&D for over 15 years. My gaming stuff moldered in storage. I sold a lot of the board games I’d collected in my gaming career, and 90% of my GW minis. My life changed radically in 2008, then again in 2013 and 2014.
But that’s a story for a different column.
I’ve played a little in the past year. I got involved with Nerdarchy early this year in one of Nerdarchist Ted’s campaigns — my first time playing 5E D&D. In August I moved to State College, Pa. to begin work on my PhD in Education. I’ve been gaming remotely with them since then. I’m trying to start a 2E AD&D group up here, but no one is interested — they all want to play 5E D&D.
In any case, here I am. If you have things you want me to write about, please let me know in the comments. Otherwise, I’ll write whatever I want!
“Pleased to meet you! Hope you guessed my name!”