Mercenary, Merchant, Thief: Michael Mornard on the Roots of RPGs

Michael Mornard at the Adventurer Conqueror King celebration in NYC, 1/5/12. Photo courtesy of Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary.

The parties around the Dungeons and Dragons: On & Ever Onward show at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art attracted a number of people who are culture-heroes of the RPG world, from Dwarven Forge sculptor Stefan Pokorny to Burning Wheel designer Luke Crane to Wizards of the Coast founder Peter Adkison. As cool as it was to see all those folks, the person I was most excited to meet was Michael Mornard. After I posted about Thursday's celebration of the Adventurer Conqueror King distribution deal with Game Salute to the OD&D Facebook page, Mike sent me a message introducing himself:
 I was one of Gary Gygax' original gaming group, I was part of Dave Arneson's Blackmoor group, and I taught MAR Barker to play D&D and was part of his first EPT group. I have credits in Greyhawk and the 1st Ed AD&D PHB. I'm living here in NY and I'm interested in the event. I also have brought to NYC my LBB set, my dice including a circa 1972 d20, and my AD&D 1E DMG autographed and personalized by Gary Gygax. I'm looking forward to seeing the event and maybe rolling some dice. I'd also be happy to talk about "Ye Olde Dayse" if anybody's interested.
For someone as fascinated by Ye Olde Dayse as myself and the rest of the Autarch crew, Mike - aka RPG.net's "Old Geezer" - needs no introduction; I've been trying to meet him ever since learning he was moving to NYC. It nearly drove me mad with frustration that having already committed to run Erol Otus's Island Town for ACKS meant I wouldn't get to play in Mike's game at the party; reading others' stories about it is small consolation. At the end of the night, however, I did get a chance to talk with Mike, armed with a copy of the Adventurer Conqueror King pre-print we had at Gen Con. On the page where we thanked our Kickstarter backers, I added a thanks to him for helping create the foundations of everything we've done as designers, writers, players, and gamers. Mike reported that the evening's game - an expedition into a kobold mine - went well, and that he was looking forward to playing again. It would be easy to continue the adventure another night, he said, because its setup included all his standard hooks:
Over here a mercenary company is hiring, over there a caravan is about to depart for distant lands, and here we've got a rumor of a fantastic golden idol in a temple just waiting to be stolen.
Intent on remembering this original sandbox formula, I recited "mercenary, merchant, thief" to myself to make sure it was set in my mind; unfortunately the details of where the mercenaries were going, the caravan's exotic cargo, and the name of the the temple's god - the things that made it an evocative window into Mike's world - were lost, at least until I manage to get a recording of him telling about all this stuff. It was a real pleasure to give Mike Adventurer Conqueror King and say "We made sure all those things are in here! I can't wait for you to check out the system for hiring and equipping mercenaries, and doing mercantile trading, and sending spies and robbers from your thieves' guild to prepare for a heist. We've done our best to piece together this stuff that you guys knew how to do from the fragments of what's been written down. It's been tremendous fun to put this back in the game, thanks for discovering it in the first place!"

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