I've always been a huge fan of the tactical miniatures game Car Wars
from Steve Jackson Games. In fact, when I was 15 or so (1984ish), I submitted a Car Wars event to Gen Con 18, hoping to run a game. It was to be called "lakeshore drive", and would have featured a running battle between cars and some boats. (I had made up my own rules for boats, since Boat Wars
would not be published until 1988). Alas, the fine folks at Gen Con, possibly taking my age into consideration, or possibly feeling that they had enough Car Wars events already, turned me down.
Imagine my surprise when they called me up weeks before the con, and asked if I could run a Car Wars event that another GM had submitted. The other GM had canceled, but the event was already in the prereg booklet. I agreed. From the vague description in the prereg booklet I cooked up a scenario. I decided to liven it up with 3D foldup ramps and jumps, which my father helped me to construct by showing me the joys of spray-on adhesive.
Gen Con rolled around, and lo, I was semi-prepared. I set up my table, and a bunch of grown-ups showed up to play. Things went, in my opinion, fairly well. I, however, was doing my best to contain my nervousness. The goal of the gamemaster in Car Wars is mostly to adjudicate player-to-player disputes over the rules. When he makes a ruling, it has to stick, otherwise the game can't get on. But everyone was older than me, and I was worried that someone would dispute my authority and the game would come to a screeching halt.
In addition, the game was visually interesting. In those days at Gen Con, a lot of the games weren't as visually striking as they are now, and mine, with its 3D ramps and jumps, had a certain style that wasn't usually being brought to Car Wars. As a result, I was attracting a lot
of spectators. Before too long, the spectators grew to outnumber the players, and everyone was having to yell to make themselves heard across the table.
It was at this point that I began to notice something odd. Every time I would make a ruling, some of the people at the table would look at one of the people in the audience. The guy didn't ever say anything to dispute my rulings, but they kept glancing at him anyway. I began to be a little annoyed. Who was this guy, the Grand High Poohbah of Car Wars Rulings? Finally, someone did the unthinkable. I issued a ruling on a particularly dicey point, and the player who had come out the worst for it turned to this guy in the audience and said "Is that right?"
The audience member, to my relief, backed me up, saying only "What the referee says goes." A little later, when we were taking a break, he approached me. I thanked him for supporting my ruling, and he introduced himself as Scott Haring, editor of Autoduel Quarterly
, the official Car Wars magazine. In addition to his other duties as editor, that made him responsible for writing answers to all Car Wars rules questions posed to SJ games. Ironically enough, he effectively was
the Grand High Poohbah of Car Wars Rulings.
He was interested in what I had done to build my 3D ramps and jumps, and asked me if I'd be willing to write an article about how I had done it. I eagerly accepted, wrote up a description of what I had done and the rules I had used, took photographs of my arena, and printed out exemplar ramps and jumps to be folded up, bundled it all together and submitted it. My submission was printed in Autoduel Quartery Volume 3, Issue 4, and I got a check for $72, which was a fair amount of money for my 15-year-old self. While ADQ3-4
has long been gone from the shelves, and even the version of Car Wars that I'm familiar with has gone out of print, it turns out that you can still buy a copy
(in PDF form) of my first ever published work.
What brings this story to mind right now, however, is that Scott Haring's name has come up on a blog (nothinggood
) and a webcomic (Dork Tower
) that I read because he was just involved in a serious auto accident on July 4th. He's apparently in the hospital, and his youngest son has died. I want to extend my condolences, and hope that he has a speedy and complete recovery. I don't really know him, our interaction was brief and professional, but his long-ago actions had a fairly positive and profound influence on my life whether he knew it or not, and I really want to wish him the best.Update:
A lot of people are sharing similar stories about how Mr. Haring has been influential on either their lives or careers. Clearly this accident has caused many to reflect on how he's affected them. Here's a few I've spotted in the blogosphere:
Kenneth Hite (has an address to send condolences).
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In muted good news, it sounds like Mr. Haring's required surgery was on his knee and he is in stable condition. I'm certainly pulling for him.