Archive for the ‘Steve Crompton’ Tag

Behind the Scenes with Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls   4 comments

This morning about 8 a.m. I went back to Complete Print Shop and picked up a proof copy of Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls. It is standard practice for a printer to show the publisher what he intends to print before the presses really start running. This is the last chance to correct any errors before the book actually gets printed.

In this case, I’m not the guy who would make or order corrections, but I am the guy who lives closest to the printer, so I get to do the legwork.  Around 8:30 I was talking to Dennis Dunn again, and he handed me what looked like a ream of typing paper and a big color wraparound version of the cover.  Of course I took some pictures.


So, I drove 20 miles to Scottsdale and delivered the package to my layout artist/editor/producer Steve Crompton.


This is the crucial document right here. Before they print, we have to check one of these boxes–we’ll go for the second one, as we found at least one problem–and where it says customer signature, Rick Loomis, CEO of Flying Buffalo, Inc. has to sign and authorize the printing.


This is the back cover. If you look in the center right at the bottom, you will see: PRINTED IN THE USA. It may cost a little more to print the books here, but we want the world to know Tunnels and Trolls is an American product.


This picture shows the major error that we found, and I’m the one who spotted it first. The spine, as planned, is not wide enough to hold all the pages in the book. It actually needs to be about half an inch wider to accommodate our contents. Steve measured the thickness of all the pages and compared it to the width of the spine. He will have to get back on his computer and redo the spine to make it wide enough for the book.


This should be a treat for fans of Liz Danforth’s art, a forgotten illustration from 1992 rescued and inserted into the rules.

KY7-15p10Portrait of an artist at work–not the fun part of the work drawing pictures, but the crucial part before publishing, making sure that the job is being done right–checking every detail. (Note: this doesn’t mean the book will be perfect from cover to cover–it’s amazing how many errors creep through, no matter how often you proofread something, but nothing major will be allowed to mar this work.)

I want to set the record straight here. Tunnels and Trolls is my game (and your game, too, players). None of this happens without me getting things started, stirring things up, running for over a decade, and gathering an amazing team of friends to help me with all this. I’m the one who first got Liz Danforth to do some illos for Tunnels and Trolls. I’m the one who brought Steve in on some T & T projects back in 2012 that resulted in us deciding to do a deluxe edition. I’m the one who thought up the saving roll system, the character attributes and layout, the use of talents, the numbers for the weapons and armor, the monster rating system. I did all that.

But this man, Steven S. Crompton, is the one who made the project happen. He’s the one with the master plan for the work. He’s the one who kept us on target over the course of more than two years. He’s the one who fixed the details, set the type, chose and approved the illustrations, dealt with printers and artists, created title pages, quietly fixed the small errors that popped up. Steve is the indispensable man for Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls. If I got it started, Steve made damn sure  it got finished. He is still working on that–making things come out right for fans and players, authors and publishers.

I don’t mean to downplay the prodigious efforts of editor/author/artist Liz Danforth. She worked harder and suffered more than any human being should ever to have to work on a book projects. Publisher Rick Loomis provided the business acumen that makes the project possible. My friend, James “Bear” Peters added color and interest and help with the weapons. It truly was a Fellowship for us. Without the five of us working together, Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls simply would not happen.

But, Steven S. Crompton, is the key figure in this project. If any of the others in the fellowship had dropped dead, they could have been replaced. Nobody could replace Steve’s contributions and dedication. (Side note: Steve has frequently been the magic that made Flying Buffalo publishing projects happen–he’s the one that finally finished Ace of Aces for FBI last  year, and he’s the main artistic force behind the 50th Anniversary Nuclear War project currently in the works.)  Steve is a gifted storyteller and artist in his own right, but I’m not going to talk about his stuff here. I just want the world to know that he is the go-to man for Deluxe, and a great friend/ally/asset to have when push comes to crunch and you have to get something finished.


This shows how thick Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls is really going to be.


Deluxe will combine the best features of the classic 5th edition and my 21st century update of the 7th edition.


And here you have at the end of the book one of the oldest existing jokes in fantasy role-playing gaming, the original illustration by Rob Carver, the first T & T artist, who did the “missed all my vital spots” cartoon showing a troll with an arrow through his head. This joke dates back to 1975 when T & T was first produced. I was running an adventure for Rob and Bear and some other friends one night, when a giant cave lion attacked the party. As it leaped into them Rob’s character shot it with a heavy arbalest and did 40 points of damage to it. But the cave lion had a monster rating of 100. It did not die. It attacked and mauled the party severely before they finished it off. Rob was upset. “I shoulda killed it before it ever touched us,” he argued. “You missed all its vital spots,” I answered. The next day Rob presented me with this cartoon.

So, I’m fairly satisfied with the day. I think it was a morning well spent, and you can see, dear reader, what actually goes on in the production of those game books you like so much.


If you’ve ever helped with the production of a book, why not leave a comment?


Going to Press   1 comment

About noon on July 13, 2015, my layout artist, Steve Crompton (creator of Demi the Demoness) arrived to pick me up and take me with him when we visited the printer and the binder for Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls. Exact details needed to be worked out. As author of the book, I went along just to observe. I took pictures, and served as navigator, because it’s my side of town, and I knew where these places are.


The tour started when we met with Dennis Dunn, who seems to be the boss at Complete Print Shop, located at 3433 W. Earll Drive in Phoenix, Arizona. This is a large print shop and does most of the production work for my publisher, Flying Buffalo, Inc. Dennis not only helped Steve work out the details of getting the job done, but also gave us a tour of the printing plant.


Mr. Dunn explains how things work to us.


Steve Crompton is the man in the blue flowered shirt, and he’s explaining things like book size, and paper weight, and the number to be printed. I just stood back and observed. The guy at the computer is apparently the master printer for the plant, but I didn’t catch his name.


This is a big printing job. They will make master copies of 16 pages at a time on giant signature sheets that look like this. My book will be 368 pages long plus covers and end pages.


This is the biggest press machine in the plant, and probably the one they will print my book on. It was hard ar work when I took this shot.


A workman always watches the press to make certain that nothing goes wrong while it is working. The press is moving at high speed, and printing and stacking huge sheets of paper faster than the eye can follow.


This will give some idea of the scale of the room where the real work of printing gets done.


When we see our books and newspapers, we really have no idea of how they are made. In this place mechanical magic is worked every day.


Steve and Dennis did all the talking and planning here.

When we finished at the print shop, we drove over to Roswell Bindery, about a mile away. Paperback books are all done at the print shop, but when you want to produce a hardback, and we want 900 hardbacks of Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls, you have to make separate arrangements to have those books bound.


We’re now at the front door of Roswell Bookbinding. The entrance is hidden just off to the left in this picture. A lot of Arizona businesses do like to beautify the front of the shop with trees and flowers.


Roswell has a big front office. I’m not sure why it needs to be so large. Maybe it’s just to provide them with wall space to hang all their awards. We had an appointment with a manager named Nancy. I did not get her last name, and she’s not this secretary/receptionist at the desk. This woman took us back to a big conference room lliterally crammed with hundreds of examples of work the bindery has done in the past.


I thought at first that this was a massive tome, a book on a heroic scale, but no, this is the box that the massive tome lives inside. My book also has a book box. It looks like this:


Heh! My box is a bit rougher than the beauty that Roswell has.


This is the book that was actually inside their box. Fancy!


Antique bookbinding machinery stored in the conference room . . . Somebody must know what this stuff was used for, but I have no clue.


Here’s my mad genius production manager Steve Crompton. The yellow book in front of him is an underground comix price guide that he put together for another publisher. He told me it took nearly four years to do that one. We also wanted to talk about slipcases for the hardback editions of Deluxe, so he brought an example. All together we talked about binding materials, gold stamping, a ribbon book mark, end pages, and coloring the edges of the book pages so they’re not just white.  We may not do all of that, but we examined all the options.  Took about an hour. I chose the color and style of the hardback skins and stamping. It will be a rich gold on a scaly black leatherette surface. Sweet! In another month or so, I will have a finished product to show.


After about two hours of technical book planning, Steve and I went to lunch. I had this delicious salad. He had a burger. Yum.


If you’ve ever arranged to have a book printed or bound, why not leave a comment?


King of Spades   4 comments

It all started with this email:

from: Rick Loomis

date: Mon, Feb 24, 2014 at 5:37 PM

subject: Famous Game Designers/Origins poker deck:

Important mainly because of the people in the conversation.

The votes are in, and you are one of the four kings this year. Sometime in the next month you need to send me a photo you’d like to use, and a list of the game design accomplishments you’d like to highlight. Also which king do you think is appropriate?
Flying Buffalo Inc
PO Box 8467, Scottsdale, AZ 85252

which left me going “What?”

And then another email showed me things were already moving.

from:  S Crompton
to:  Rick Loomis <>
cc:  “Ken St. Andre” <>,
Bear Peters <>,
Liz Danforth <>
date:  Tue, Feb 25, 2014 at 12:44 PM
subject:  Liz is the King of Hearts

Been working with Liz this morning  on her card for the Game Designer deck and we think it came out pretty cool.  I took this photo of her at my house the day we all did the photoshoot.  I added a new background and cleaned it up a bit and TA-DA – the Liz card.


Ken – your next!  We keed a good photo of you wearing your hat, maybe with the T&T Gm Screen in front of you with a dark background… Or whatever else we come up with.



[Note: I am showing these emails just the way they came to me, typos and all.]

When Rick Loomis of Flying Buffalo needs a graphic production of some sort, he turns to his main man, artist/writer/compositor Steve Crompton. Steve is our main man for the actual physical production of Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls also.

On the following day I called Rick and asked what was going on. Rick told me that I got the third most votes of the possible game designers to be in the deck. Reassured by that, because I was afraid that it was just going to be a bunch of Flying Buffalo people this year, and in that case, I didn’t want to be part of such naked self agrandizement, I agreed to participate. Rick told me that he had been voted in also, but that he felt that was too many Flying Buffalo people in one deck, and so took himself out of it.  So, I called Steve, and talked to him about it, and he told me to hurry up and send him some pictures and the rest of the info.  Here is my letter to Steve:

from:  Ken St. Andre
to:  S Crompton <>
date:  Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 4:43 PM
subject:  King of Spades

Hi, Steve,

     If I get my choice, I want to be King of Spades. The word spade comes from the latin: spada meaning sword. Swords and sorcery fantasy is my life. Furthermore, in Bridge and many other cards games, the spades are ranked as the highest suit. Therefore, my King of Spades would outrank Liz’s King of Hearts. And why isn’t she Queen of Hearts instead of King of Hearts?
[Too much honesty here, but I decided to narrate this event as it actually happened and let the chips fall where they may. Actually, this shows a petty side of me that I’m not proud of, but it’s there, and it’s me.]
I’m attaching a couple of pix you could use. Pick the one you think is best. My preferences are shown in the order of attachment.
Games to credit me with: Tunnels and Trolls, Monsters! Monsters! Stormbringer. Wasteland, the computer game.
If you have room on the card you might mention Griffin Feathers and Rose of Stormgaard.
P.S. That really isn’t the best picture of me from the photo shoot. I’m thinking you might pull out one of two from last spring–I can’t seem to find them any more, and pick one with a full face shot in it. But I like the one with the yott. I’m doing my wizard impersonation there, and it does have the Trollgod’s Hat.

[and I sent him these three pictures of me]

Ken with yott



from:  S Crompton
to:  “Ken St. Andre” <>
date:  Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 1:36 PM
subject:  Re: King of Spades Ready for you to approv
Ken here is your card!  It took me some work, but I used the big picture you sent and made you look like a mage casting a spell!  Hope you like
Be sure to read the text and edit as you see fit.  Just remember there isn’t much room.
and my reply:

Ken St. Andre

Feb 27 (1 day ago)

to S
Hi, Steve, I like it. Tis a stunning effect, but I think it could be better. How would it look if you took out the rather gloomy blue background and photoshopped in either an erupting volcano? emeral green flames? or a fantasy city-scape?  See attachments, please. I don’t know if any of those would work better, but I’m thinking the whole thing is too dark, and a lighter touch in the background might make it better.
You know me, hard to satisfy . . .
Note: you probably can’t legally use any of these images. I include them just to put different ideas in your head.
[Note: I am not going to show you the three images I sent back to him. I have no right to reproduce them, and I only sent them along as examples of things I would rather see in the background of my card. They showed an erupting volcano, an elven city, and emerald flames.]

Feb 27 (1 day ago)

to me
The idea is that you are in a classic dungeon, but I’ll see what else I migjt have that might work.

Ken St. Andre

Feb 27 (1 day ago)

to sscrompton
And the idea works, but I just don’t like that gloomy blue background very much. Give me something with some red in it, please.

S Crompton

Feb 27 (1 day ago)

to me
All right take a look now.
Don’t forget to read the text too.
14 K Spades

Ken St. Andre

6:20 PM (23 hours ago)

to S
It’s better, Steve. More symbolic, more evocative, more T & T.

Let’s talk about the text. It is not quite perfect.
The fact is that I was a co-designer on Stormbringer and Wasteland. I could make a case for being the primary designer, but other people were also involved and they were important.
So, if you’ve got the space, let’s change the last half of that credits sentence to something like: “and he was instrumental in designing Stormbringer (the RPG) and Wasteland (the computer  game).  That is probably too many words, but it is a more accurate reflection of the truth. Perhaps you can squeeze it all in by reducing the fontsize.
Or perhaps you could just say something different like:
Ken St. Andre, Credits: Tunnels & Trolls, 1975, Monsters! Monsters!, 1976, Stormbringer, 1981, Wasteland 1988, 2002, Tunnels & Trolls 7th edition, 2005, Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls 2014
and in tiny little  2 point type at the bottom “and lots of other crap”.
You know, when you actually look at the record, I’ve done a lot of stuff in my life/career.
or another approach: Credits: Tunnels & Trolls (all versions 1975-2014), Stormbringer, 1981, Wasteland 1988, 2002-
Thanks for being so careful with it. I want it to be the best Kings card ever.

S Crompton

8:31 PM (21 hours ago)

to me
Ok here is an updated version with new text.
Please proof

14 K Spades (2)

Ken St. Andre

9:27 PM (20 hours ago)

to S
That’s a great card, Steve. I am honored that you put so much time and work into it, and every other King in Origin deck history is gonna be so jealous. Thank you very much for all the effort you put into making this card.
[And that is the end of this story, dear Reader. I have given you a glimpse–the same glimpse that I’ve had–of what will be in the 2014 Flying Buffalo Origins Poker Deck. I’m very pleased to be included as a king, and shown you all what a pain I am to work with. heh!  I have no doubt that Steve remains hard at work finishing up the rest of the deck.  The man is the greatest workaholic I know.]
If you have ever obtained a Flying Buffalo poker deck at Origins, or if you’d like to get one of the older ones from me, or if you plan to come see Rick and me at Origins, why not leave a comment?

The Golden Age of Creativity   2 comments

I spent this morning having breakfast with my artist friend Steven S. Crompton. As part of our conversation, Steve presented me with this:

Grimtooth the Troll is having stern words with Alice Liddel while Demin the Domness flies by.

Grimtooth the Troll is having stern words with Alice Liddel while Demin the Domness flies by.

Among other things Steve is the prolific artist/writer of Demi the Demoness and the creator of Grimtooth the troll, who is a sort of mascot for Flying Buffalo and my Tunnels and Trolls game.  Recently he found some art of his that had never been published, or wasn’t seen much, and decided to bring it out as a book using as his publisher.  He finished the unfinished parts. edited, and published it.  In the past there was not sufficient justification for releasing this material, but now that print-on-demand is here, and anyone can self publish through sites like drivethru, Steve can offer his material to the world at last.  If only ten people see it and buy it, that’s  still 10 more than would have seen it before.

I have to say I was so pleased and honored to be given a copy that I bought him breakfast, so in a way, I bought his comic after all.  Looking inside, I see that this is number 3 of 100 that he had printed, and that I have his autograph.

I usually get a slightly fancier autograph than this.

I usually get a slightly fancier autograph than this.

Once upon a time we would try for an author’s autograph as a way of proving that we met the person, or of adding value to our purchase.  It’s a form of Magick.  The Law of Contagion states that things that were once connected are always connected, so if you have something that is signed by the creator, then you have a personal connection to that creator.

However, I have come to believe that autographs serve a different purpose now.  In this age of personal publishing, when most of us creators are very small fish in a big ocean of creativity, asking for and obtaining an autograph is a way for we consumers to acknowledge and thank the signer for the work they did in creating this work of art.  It’s a way for us to personally recognize and tell the creator that we are glad to have met him/her and we really appreciate the effort they made to create the book/art/object, and that it will be one of our treasures.

Having a Ken St. Andre, or a Steven S . Crompton, or a Roger Zelazny, or a Michael A. Stackpole autograph isn’t going to make this book/object particularly valuable.  The whole idea that putting someone’s name on something increases the value is kind of stupid, really.  We’re all of us human beings, and we all have equal value in the eyes of God and the Law.  But, the autograph is another kind of memorial–it is a record of personal contact between signer and receiver–a moment of good feeling between the two people–one that should make both of them feel better.

So, I have made efforts for years to get things signed when i buy them.  I would keep the autographed stuff to the very end, because those books, pictures, comics, games, and so forth mark some of the high points in my life–a time when I was able to connect with a creator and tell her/him that I think they’re special.

This blog is dedicated to my very good friend, Steven S . Crompton.  I appreciate what he has given me and the world, and I want to testify that he’s a special guy.


If you’ve ever collected autographs, or have any kind of special feeling about them, why not leave a comment?



Dwarves and Dragon   1 comment

I design games. It’s what I do. And not just role-playing games and scenarios. I can make any kind of game, out of virtually any kind of material. Before the end, I would like to show the world some of my other game designs.

Another TrollCon is coming up at the end of July.  20 or 30 people will get together in Scottsdale to play Tunnels and Trolls and other games and just have a good time.  I’ll be there.  This year I wanted to do something a little special for the people who come from other parts of the country to game with me.  So, I created this game.  I’ll give it to you if you come to the con. Otherwise, I’ll sell it to  you.

It's a simple game. Steal the dragon's gold!

It’s a simple game. Steal the dragon’s gold!

This one isn’t a complicated roleplaying game. It’s snatch and grab.  Cunning versus Power.  Would you like to try it out?  Are you clever enough, swift enough, to steal gold from a dragon?

The game will be available in pdf at the beginning of August.  In the meantime, if you’d like to have a hardcopy, send me an email.  The price will be $8 in the U.S.A, or $12 in any other country, and I’ll cover the postage and have it autographed by the artist and me.  Need a birthday present, or a Christmas gift for a gamer friend?  This could be a good option for you.

I’ll demo the game at GenCon, and we (meaning Flying Buffalo) will sell it there.  In the meantime, if you’d like a copy hot off the presses, send me an email:  Or just paypal some money to me at that address.

If you’ve ever tried to steal gold from a dragon, or if you think stealing is wrong, why not leave a comment?


Two days later, and I’m back from the post office. I’ve just sent off some 42 copies of Dwarves and Dragons to the first people who were kind enough to order it. Those who are close to me should get their copies tomorrow, further away by Saturday, and the rest of the world before the end of next week.

If this game came in a box from Z-man or some other good-sized game producer, I might have included some extra components.  The game needs 1D6 in order to play. I didn’t put it in.  Who out there doesn’t already own dice?  Now that production is done, and I have a chance to think about it, it could be fun to make a couple of custom D6s for it.  I could have a Dwarf Die with a pair of eyes on it where the one should be indicating invisibility for the Dwarf when he rolls a 1.  I could have a Dragon Die with a Dragon head on it instead of a six to indicate when the dragon is breathing fire.  You don’t need special dice for this, but it would be nice.

There’s another component I expect the players to provide on their own: coins.  Three or more pennies can serve as the dragon’s hoard. Everybody can produce a handful of copper or silver to use as treasure pieces.  Or I could have designed some cardboard gold coins.  It’s another non-essential that would have driven production costs up.  If the game becomes very popular, which I am not counting on, it would be fun to design some fantasy coins for it.

Miniature lovers, Dwarves and Dragons is the perfect opportunity to use your minis in play.  If you have dwarf minis, you should use them; if you have a dragon mini of about the right size, you should use it.  You could also use the transparent stones/counters used in Magic and other card games for the boulders in the cave instead of the cardstock counters that I provided.  By taking the game out of the realm of cardboard and cardstock, and pushing it into the realm of realia, players could get even more fun out of it.

It’s sort of like using a fancy chess set versus using a plain chess set.  The game is the same, no matter which set you use to play it.  The fancy set is kind of distractiong at first, and you might not play your best game when admiring  your crystal queens and rooks and things.  I’d like to see it fancy, but I’m happy to see the game as it is.  It’s a start!

My 50 signed and autographed copies are almost gone.  Don’t let that stop you from buying one from me.  If I need more copies of the game, I will get more.  And I’ll sign and number them for  you. However, this first release is special, and I’m making the price as low as I can to encourage people to get one, and to reward those who support me at the beginning,  When the first 50 are all gone, the price will go up to what it really ought to be.  So, it’s a case of EARLY BIRD GETTING WORM, or early buyer getting a deal.


Tunnels and Trolls Fantasy Calendar   10 comments

You can find many different races (called Kindreds in T & T) on Trollworld. Here are three of the less common: Minotaur, Youwarkee, and Hunding.

Fantasy art calendars are commonplace today and have been for decades, but, I believe that Tunnels and Trolls was the first role-playing game to produce a fantasy calendar.  Flying Buffalo did one in black and white way back in 1978.  At least I think it was 1978.  I don’t have that calendar any more, but it featured art by Liz Danforth, Rob Carver, and a few others whose names I have forgotten.

Well, everything old is new again.  In December I upgraded my  personal computer to a Macintosh.  The Mac comes with all sorts of nifty software bundled with it.  One of the programs, Iphoto, includes the option of making your own calendar.  Back in January this began to look like a really good idea to me, so I did it.  With the help of my artistic friends, I have created a brand new fantasy art calendar with a Tunnels and Trolls theme.  For example, it includes Trollish holidays like Longest Night (Dec. 21) and Trollgod’s Birthday (Apr. 28) and Sky Dragon eats Khazan (the moon) (June 4).

The new calendar runs from March 2012 through March 2013.  The idea is to update it with fresh art every 3 months, and to sell the dates to help finance it and pay the artists.  You can buy one day on the calendar for $8, two days for $15, and three days for $20.  After that the pricing starts over.  Want your birthday on a beautiful fantasy calendar?  This is your chance.  Dates are sold on a first-come basis, so if you want June 5, and somebody already has that date, too bad.  Interested, leave a comment and I will contact you.

Art in the current calendar comes from:

Steve Crompton

Liz Danforth

Ed Heil

Katje Romanov

Miika Spray

Christa St. Jean

Robin Stacey

David Ullery.

Some very strange beings can be found in this calendar. This is the demon Bel-Zaratak as imagined by Ken St. Andre and rendered by Christa St. Jean.

If you’ve ever done art for a calendar, created your own calendar, or wanted to be on a calendar, go ahead and leave a comment below.