Q&A with Jim Ward

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It’s a Multiverse Q&A with Jim Ward

It’s not every day that we get to enjoy seeing writer Jim Ward chime in on DEITIES & DEMIGODS and all things tabletop RPG, so let’s do this, with relish.

Q:  The fortieth anniversary year of 1st edition AD&D is nigh.  DEITIES & DEMIGODS was a big part of that edition’s success.  What was it like for you, being involved with the creation of a beloved book like that?

JW:  It was great fun and a great honor. When I suggested the idea to Gary he loved it. I got to do the work over summer vacation as I was teaching then. I wore out several local libraries in the research.

Q:  During this research, we’re sure that you learned many fascinating things (especially about the lesser-known pantheons.)  Which of the pantheons did you enjoy researching the most?

JW:  I’m a huge Viking fan.  Thor is my homey. I also loved the Egyptian pantheon.


Q:  Are you stoked for Neil Gaiman’s NORSE MYTHOLOGY book that’s coming out soon?

JW:  Lol, I have written five different mythology game books. I get excited about books written on topics that haven’t been done dozens of times. I’m sure Mr. Gaiman’s effort is very good.

Q:  What was it like for you, playing the Drawmij character, in those early days of the hobby?

JW:  I was so hooked on D&D and AD&D as Gary played it. He was a genius and did amazing role-playing things. Those days were golden to me as I raised my wizard up from first level to 14th.

Q:  Who was Drawmij’s greatest adversary?

JW:  I just used him during exploring Castle Greyhawk. We never met a specific character to hate. In those days it was just beat down the door, beat the monster, and love the treasure.

Q:  Favorite memory from Drawmij’s time exploring Castle Greyhawk?

JW:  Castle Greyhawk is three different towers and a central lower level with a huge wizard-locked gate. Getting into that gate for the first time was a real thrill.

Q:  What was it that Drawmij discovered beyond that huge wizard-locked gate?

JW:  In those days Gary was testing out many game design concepts. We were testing lots of new magic items. We tested out creatures and creature abilities. That central area was filled with (for the day) ultra-powerful monsters and extremely tough encounters. Even today, a generation + later, that area would be state-of-the-art today adventuring. I can distinctly remember a huge chamber filled with fire creatures. Our group ran from it several times, but finally we went in and fought it and won. That was a history making experience that I will remember always.

A draft map of the Castle Greyhawk surface ruins

A draft map of the Castle Greyhawk surface ruins

Q:  What was Drawmij’s greatest accomplishment?

JW:  Many spells in AD&D are Drawmij inspired.

Q:  How did idea for METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA originally come about?

JW:  I was playing in 1974 and loving the game. I was also a huge fan of science fiction novels. One day after a game I suggested to Gary that he write a science fiction version. Out of the blue, not knowing if I had any writing ability at all he said, “Jim I don’t have time right now. Why don’t you give it a try?” I had to do it as I loved role-playing so much. I’m just lucky I had good people backing me up and the product turned out well enough to still be played 40+ years later.

Jim says: "It was drawn by Jim Holloway, a fine former TSR artist. I was trying to get it used as a miniature, but it was too complex to make as a figure. It is used in several Goodman Games Metamorphosis Alpha products."

Jim says: “It was drawn by Jim Holloway, a fine former TSR artist. I was trying to get it used as a miniature, but it was too complex to make as a figure. It is used in several Goodman Games Metamorphosis Alpha products.”

Q:  Thanks for writing it.  During that period, when you were writing MA, which science fiction novels had a significant influence on your ideas that went into MA?

JW:   I always tell people Brian Aldiss and his STARSHIP inspired me the most.

Q:  How might you explain the craft of creative writing to an attentive class of eager freshmen in high school?

JW:  As a teacher in my sociology class, we had a monthly session of Empire of the Petal Throne. One of the interesting things about that class was how they treated the torch slaves they took along on their adventures. It turned out well I think.

Q:  EotPT in school?  That’s impressive.  How many participants from the student body partook in those monthly EotPT sessions?

JW:   I made the entire class of 30 take part. They were all farm kids so they did it kicking and screaming, but I kept them at it and most finally enjoyed the experience.

Q:  What does “Monty Haul” mean to you?

JW:  We don’t have enough pages to detail it all. I started being the original Monty Haul DM. In my mind it is impossible to give too many things to the players. The big companies talk about characters becoming godlike and how that destroys a game. I think that concept is just a lack of imagination and those DMs aren’t creating fun limiting encounters that handle that problem. I thinking giving lots of magic and gold out is great fun, and I encourage people to game that way. I’ve written several Monty products with that philosophy in mind.

Q:  Imagination is everything.  Letting the player characters find plenty of mundane items is great fun too, in addition to magic and treasure.  Players can impress referees in unexpected ways with, let’s say, a jar of pickled pork loins that they find in a crate.  Being a Monty Haul DM really does enhance the roleplay aspect of the game.  Will you be writing another Monty adventure soon?

JW:  I’m working on the third one right now. It’s a circus of horrors adventure in a dimension that is difficult to get out of.

Q:  Of all the character classes from the 1978 PHB, which are your three (3) favorites, and why?

JW:  Wizard, Wizard, and Wizard. I love magic users and played them most of the time. I did have a half-elf thief/wizard I was rather fond of but Gary sent him to the starship Warden forty years ago and I haven’t seen him since.

Q:  What was the name of that half-elf thief/wizard character?

JW:  Ren ‘o the Blade

Q:  What level was Ren ‘o the Bade?  How many Thief levels, and how many MU levels?

JW:  At the time of leaving he was a 9th level thief/ 10th level wizard. Now in MA 40 years later, he hasn’t advanced levels but he’s decked out in power armor with one arm shooting mini-missiles and the other arm shooting a laser cannon.

Q:  What can you tell our readers about the 77 LOST WORLDS, without giving too much away?

JW:  The concept is set far in mankind’s future. Humanity was exploring the stars. On a total of 77 different solar systems, settlements were growing the human empire. A special genetic designed feature allowed all of humanity to plug into micro-chips and instantly learn different arts and sciences. Up to three of these chips could be used at the same time. This feature was ushering a new wave of technology and creativity in all humans.

Up until this time there had been few discoveries of alien life in the Milky Way. However, aliens had been observing mankind and its quick spread to many worlds. This alarmed several powerful alien races so much they built huge armadas. These awesomely powerful military forces went to all of the 77 solar systems and the star lanes between those systems and attacked and attempted to destroy all of mankind on the same day.

Three massively powerful alien armadas charged into the Earth Prime system blowing away everything they encountered, until they reached Earth. Humanity’s space fortresses and totally automated S-ships were able to defend the solar system for awhile, but weren’t strong enough to stop the alien fleets from reaching the Earth. Three massive beams of energy started cutting up the surface of the planet while alien crafted DNA poisons fell to the earth. One way or another, the solar system was going to have all of its humans and technology removed.

A paranoid humanity had built a special program into the S-ships they sent to each new solar system to help defend that solar system. In the event that the artificial intelligence of the S-ship determined it could not defend the world, it was to retreat back to Earth Prime and defend that system to its last erg of energy. All at once 76 different S-ships in various states of damage came to the Earth Prime system and found the three already damaged alien armadas destroying the Earth. The S-ships attacked and turned every alien warship in those armadas to wrecks crashing down on Earth.

It was too late for the Earth and mankind was destroyed on the planet as well as every building in every city. Without instructions the S-ships clustered on the sun side of the Earth and awaited orders from humanity.

At the time of the attack, the Earth’s moon, over the centuries, had turned into the ultimate tourist center. There were three domes and tourists could come and enjoy themselves in the luxurious accommodations of ancient Egypt, King Arthur’s Camelot, and the roaring ‘20s of Chicago’s gangland. There were 40,000 humans in each of the domes when the aliens attacked. Three small shuttles with alien troops came to the domes to capture the last of humanity to be studied by the alien races. The nano-bot safety features of the domes stripped the aliens of their equipment. They were each driven to a bleak section of each dome and allowed to live and breed by the confused artificial intelligences controlling the domes. The spaceport was thought destroyed by the aliens. It was actually able to rebuild itself using the alien shuttles for resources, but it took 300 years.

In the next three hundred years, mankind lost their way. The A.I. of the domes started a human breeding program to produce the best in humanity. After three hundred years the lunar spaceport announced its ability to function. That announcement came just in time as there were several rare earth minerals that the domes needed from Earth to survive. Lunar shuttles were sent to the Earth crewed by humans from the domes. The artificial intelligences of the moon were strictly programmed never to return to the Earth.

Mankind started exploring the blasted Earth. They discovered the S-ships in orbit on the other side of the Earth. Eventually, they discovered that the Jupiter space-yards were still producing S-ships to defend the solar system from the alien fleets that came every 20 years.

Explorers learned that Mars was filled with intelligent robots with their own agenda. There were other places in the system that also had androids or robots controlling them. Eventually Jupiter’s space yards were controlled and the S-ships from Earth were repaired in preparation for the 20-year invasion of the solar system by the alien armada.

The next step for mankind was to explore the home worlds of the S-ships that came back to defend the Earth. What happened to those other 76 worlds is a complete mystery. Then there are all of the alien races that used their resources to build huge armadas to attack humanity. Some type of justice must be sought for those attacks.

That’s the set of conditions the player characters of the game find themselves dealing with on a daily basis. Check out firesidecreations.com.

Draw a card!


Q:  Three domes on the moon, with each one having its own theme, is very fertile soil for roleplay fun.  If you could introduce a fourth dome (in addition to ancient Egypt, King Arthur’s Camelot, and 20’s Gangland,) what would be the fourth theme?

JW:  Stephen and I have talked about that dome a lot. It would be a Disney style world with encounters that wouldn’t get Stephen and I sued into the stone age by Disney.

Q:  A dome of that style world on the moon, you say?  That’s extraordinary.  What might one’s PC encounter there?

JW:   It will be filled with princesses, very large animals of many types, and for sure a tea cup ride that will make riders dizzy.


Q:  Five dinner guests.  Which five writers (of any time period) would you invite to a dinner party?

JW:  Gary Gygax, Robert Heinlein, Rodger Zelazny, Chris Clark (he’s alive and my friend), and Leonardo Da Vinci. My tendency would be to invite some females, but I don’t know any lovely female writers.

Q:  What hasn’t really happened yet, in tabletop RPGs, that you would love to see happen next?

JW:  I would like more ease of audio mood sounds and music in gaming. I would like audio DMing so that players could play versus a CD referee. I would like gaming down at castles like MEDIEVAL TIMES but role-playing for the guests, sort of like “How To Host A Murder” for fantasy role-playing.

Q:  Technology has come so far since the 1970s, and yet it seems like audio DMing is still nowhere in sight.  Why do you suppose that is?

JW: It’s a lot of work to write that script.

Q:  Yeah, script for miles and miles.  There’s just no end to it, really.  Speaking of technology, what advancement would you love to see next in our world?

JW:  Replicators could be useful.

Q:  When the Jim Ward biopic gets greenlit by a major motion picture studio, who will portray you, and what will the film be called?

JW:  That isn’t going to happen. However, this is your set of questions. Bill Murray would be a fine me in some type of fantasy comedy where a poor boy makes good despite himself.  The movie could be called THE SECOND BEST ROLE-PLAYER but that’s a bit of hubris. I think I’ll settle for a little plaque in some hall somewhere that says:

Designed the first Science Fiction role-playing game in METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA

Designed the first apocalypse role-playing game in GAMMA WORLD

Designed a card deck role-playing game in 77 LOST WORLDS

Was known as the first Monty Haul Dungeon and Starship Master

It’s a tad long, but that’s all I need somewhere.

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  1. Avatar
    Dave Somesnowboarder

    so back when Deities and Demigods was written, very little was known about the Aztec and other South American Gods… over the last few decades so much has been learned about them, is there any chance he is working on them now?

      1. Avatar
        Timothy Connolly

        I was chatting with Jim and he said, “Think of me as a mechanic. I work for money. If I get an assignment to do Aztecs or Incas or elves, I’m there. I usually don’t take time to work on non-funded projects. However, I am 7 chapters into a modern day fantasy novel that I would really like to finish before that bucket gets kicked.”

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