Monday, January 21, 2013

Lynn Willis, RIP

On Friday afternoon the notices began to circulate in gamer social media that designer and publisher Lynn Willis had passed away.

Ken Hite wrote a short yet moving overview of Willis' legacy, including work on BRP, co-designing the Ghostbusters RPG, and the dice pools of Shadowrun and Storyteller. I was struck at this observation:
Every Call of Cthulhu product you've ever loved from the first edition to 1999 exists because Lynn Willis made sure its text was coherent, made sure its gameplay was sound, and made sure it got to print. And there's a strong possibility that the thing you like best about it was added or correctly shaped by Lynn, not by the credited author.
This was a surprise to me. I didn't know. The hows and whys of publishing are still a mystery to me sometimes. If asked about my favorite published role playing game, the most likely answer is "Call of Cthulhu" (with Basic D&D hovering close by). Call of Cthulhu 5th Edition is my own favorite version of almost any RPG, being one of the best examples of great rules, tone, layout and production I know. I did not realize that Lynn Willis was the person to thank for how good it is.

It is a reminder to me that if I love a game/book/song/movie, it is important to thank the creative person behind it before it's too late. As it happens, I'm running a Call of Cthulhu 5th ed. adventure on Saturday, and I can think of no better tribute.

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