Back around 1992 (or so), I published a role-playing game called Gatecrasher. This was back in the day when RPGs were on paper, and used all sorts of weird dice.
In retrospect, Gatecrasher was a triumph of vision over skill. The main design goal was “use all the dice.” But if you wanted to do something like “Spaceships and Sorcery,” playing an angel in enchanted chain mail wielding a propane-powered flaming sword and struggling to scrounge up spaceship fuel in time to make the Mars-Jupiter Hohmann transfer window, you could.
We did the main book and a single supplement, Believe It Or Else!, before the company folded, in the first of my many educational failures.
There’s not much on Gatecrasher on today’s Internet, but I did find one of the reviews of Believe It Or Else!
Around 1998-ish, I had moved on. My career in RPGs was dead, and I had focused on writing fiction, with occasional forays into writing tech articles for Sys Admin magazine. There wasn’t any future in writing tech stuff, but it was nice getting my name in print now and then.
One day I came home from work to find a Gatecrasher fan letter. On paper. Handwritten by a 12-year-old boy. He absolutely gushed about how he loved the game, but couldn’t find a copy of the supplement. He hoped I could tell him where to buy it.
I had no idea where to buy it.
Well, what can you say to that? I wrote him a polite letter back, thanking him, and sent him a signed copy of the second book. By “signed,” I mean “I scribbled a whole bunch of lunatic stuff on the inside cover including, if I recall correctly, the lyrics to ‘Mr. Reaper’ sung to the tune of ‘Mr. Sandman.'”
And that was it.
Occasionally I wondered if I’d scribbled too much daftness in that book and scared the poor kid’s parents so badly that they confiscated the book, but mostly it was just a bright spot in my ever-growing past.
I got an email from that same kid. Okay, not kid. Ex-kid. Adult. Whatever they call thirty-year-olds these days.
At the time he wrote that letter, his home life sucked. Playing Gatecrasher with his friends helped him survive adolescence and grow up into a successful adult, with a career in IT and a spouse.
This is the most amazing, wonderful, heart-wrenching fan letter I have ever received.
If you’re a fan of something, tell the creator. Even if it was something from decades ago. They’ll love to hear from you. Especially if it’s something obscure, that the rest of the world has forgotten.
I still have a terrible time saying “thank you” when someone says nice things about my work. But it’s important that us creative sorts do that. Those fans might just come back two decades later…