Thursday, September 3, 2015


A year ago today, my business partner at Bedrock Games, Bill Butler, passed away. It is hard to believe a whole year has gone by since then and I didn't want to let the anniversary pass without saying some words about my co-designers and good friend. 

Operating Bedrock Games in Bill's absence has been somewhat of a lonely effort. I am used to working with Bill on projects and going over ideas with him daily, so it is an odd feeling to work without hearing his input or complaints. Folks in my game group, who are really just an extension of Bedrock, have stepped in to lend a hand and Dan Orcutt has been a huge help by taking on a fair share of design duties. But without Bill the whole operation feels quite different. 

I miss the daily calls from Bill where he would besiege me with ideas for a game. Ninety percent of the time we were just designing on a theoretical basis with no real intention of turning it into anything. But we must have built 100 different systems in those conversations over the years, including an OSR variation of Network that we never got to. Bill even made a board game at one point that was play tested several times and revised, but the big hurdle was we didn't have the set-up to do boardgames. When we worked on games it was much the same thing. Daily calls about how Survival Skill rolls and encounters should work in Sertorius or debates over how to balance The Splintering of Yaum spell. Bill lived and breathed games. He was in multiple D&D groups every week (at least three that I know of, but possibly more). He had also been gaming longer than me by a few years and had an encyclopedic knowledge of existing systems. This meant I always learned a great deal in our conversations. Many of the games I love today, Bill introduced me to. I never would have known about Harn for example if he hadn't used it in one of his campaigns and then explained to me in incredible detail why 100 Bushels of Rye was one of the best modules he'd ever read. 

Bill running Sertorius
I also miss watching movies with Bill. We would usually watch relevant movies while working on a project. For example I showed Bill Agora while we were making Sertorius. I don't like watching films with other people, I prefer to view them alone and Bill is one of a handful of folks I didn't mind watching a movie with. If you were into something he was curious and courteous about it. He never pretended to know more than he actually did. So if he didn't have much experience with a genre he'd ask you questions. When we were working on Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate it was one of the rare moments where I had more experience with a geek genre than he did. I ended up showing him several movies: Come Drink With Me, One Armed Swordsman, Sorcerer and the White Snake, Lady Hermit, Painted SkinFlying Swords of Dragon Gate, etc. 

Bill was a stand-up guy. I've heard horror stories from people who partnered in business and I never had to worry about anything like that with Bill. He always had my back and was upfront about all his concerns. When I got sick, he took on the role of running demos and going to events. These were always a big success and people seemed get on great with him. One of the events he particularly liked was Boston Game Day. 

When Bill died it was very unexpected. I think everyone was surprised. I knew he didn't have the best diet in the world and could stand to lose a few pounds but he was only his mid-40s and didn't seem sick. I definitely urge my fellow gamers to cut down on the snacks and fatty foods, get regular physicals and try to keep a healthy weight if they can. His passing really showed me how important these kinds of things are. I think among gamers especially. Our group used to order pizza or Chinese food every session. Now, aside from small snacks people bring on their own, ordering food never comes up. 

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