Friday, January 18, 2013

Mike Pondsmith and Me


I first came into R. Talsorian Games' products in the mid-Eighties. There was a comic book store called Funny Business in Pomona, CA run by a gentleman named Joey. Joey was very big into anime - his store screened anime on Sundays (no subtitles, no dubbing, often a copy of a copy of a copy sent from Japan). He also stocked some roleplaying games, and one day he showed me this game called Mekton. I loved the first edition of the game, and scooped up Mekton II when it came out. When I found out Mike Pondsmith was going to be at one of the Strategicon conventions, I saved up every cent so I could go.

The demo he ran at the convention featured new systems and rules from the upcoming Mekton Technical System. The scenario was an Elaran unit trying to defend an installation in the middle of the map from Kargans. If the Kargans got into the installation, they won. If we held them off for x amount of time, we won. By virtue of my knowing the system very well, I was chosen as the Elaran leader. Mr. Pondsmith ran the demo with one other person, and it was a complete blast. His presence, style of running the game, and encouraging the other players added a lot to the experience.

For anyone wondering, the demo ended with my side losing even though only one Kargan unit remained. He was close to the installation but nearly finished (if I remember right, both of his mech's arms had been blown off). He announced he was going to self-destruct (a very Kargan thing to do, "Death before dishonor" and all) , so I ordered a full withdrawal for my remaining units (a very Elaran thing to do). The turn before the powerplant would have blown, the Kargan player miraculously made the TECH roll needed to stop the countdown. My units were already either off the map or too far away to do anything, so his unit limped into the facility and they won.

After the demo, Mike Pondsmith congratulated both of us. He commended my decision to withdraw, saying it was exactly what he would have done as a goody-two-shoes Elaran commander. Afterward, he stuck around and I talked with him for at least an hour about anime, mecha, gamemastering, movies and books. That talk stuck with me. He was so animated and such a compelling speaker, plus an all around great guy. I felt he genuinely wanted to talk to me - I don't recall him ever looking around desperately for an excuse to get away from me. I was very honored he took the time to talk to me.

When it was released, Listen Up, You Primitive Screwheads! became my bible for running more games than Cyberpunk 2020. I saw a lot of the general advice he had given me at the convention in the book, and "When in doubt, roll and shout!" became my motto. I played hundreds of hours of Cyberpunk 2020 and various editions of Mekton, probably more than any other RPG prior to my discovering them. I bought nearly every Cyberpunk 2020 supplement sight unseen, even from third parties like Atlas Games or Ianus Publications/Dream Pod 9, as well as Dream Park and Cybergeneration. I liked Ianus Publications' Cyberpunk 2020 supplements and Jovian Chronicles for Mekton II so much, I started keeping tabs on their products as well. That lead me to Heavy Gear, Jovian Chronicles and one of my favorite RPGs of all time, Tribe 8.

Mike Pondsmith, and R. Talsorian Games, have left a very deep mark on the games I play and how they play them and are responsible for some of my best gaming experiences (whether playing one of their games or someone else's). I'm very excited to experience Cyberpunk 2077 when it's released,  and for Mike Pondsmith who will get to see his creation come to life in a new medium.