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Novelist and game designer Aaron Allston has died in Branson, Missouri, age 53. Cause of death is currently unknown, but Aaron suffered a massive heart attack in March 2009 and bouts of poor health thereafter. Aaron was an endlessly inventive creator, one of the best roleplaying gamemasters ever, a mordant authority on bad films, and a rare wit.

Though he later became well known for his many licensed tie-in novels for Star Wars, Terminator, and other franchises, Aaron started in the plantation fields of gaming, editing Space Gamer magazine for Steve Jackson Games and writing a lot for Car Wars. He achieved early stardom in roleplaying games with his standout work for Champions and the Hero System. His Lands of Mystery lost-worlds supplement for Justice Inc. pioneered the idea of tailoring rules and setting to match genre conventions. Aaron's Strike Force remains, after decades, one of the most engaging and thoroughly grounded treatises on the development and maintenance of a long-term campaign. He wrote from experience, having refereed three different years-long Hero campaigns with months-long waitlists.

Recognized for his extensive contributions to BECMI-series Dungeons & Dragons, Aaron wrote hugely for the Known World (later christened "Mystara"), and he edited the fondly remembered Rules Cyclopedia. His AD&D Dungeon Master's Design Kit was an amazing toolbox, one of the first of its kind, and his Complete Fighter's Handbook set the tone for the long-running AD&D 2e "Player's Handbook Reference" series.

Aaron also contributed to several computer RPGs from Origin Systems, including the "Worlds of Ultima" games Savage Empire and the primordial steampunk precursor Martian Dreams. He brought his highly developed sense of genre conventions to a company best known for open-ended worlds. The combination was an artistic success but a financial disappointment. Though he worked intermittently in computer games throughout the '90s, Aaron seldom played them himself and never really warmed to the field.

In 1988 Aaron turned to novels with Web of Danger, a tie-in for TSR's Top Secret S.I. RPG line. A decade later he started writing for the Star Wars X-Wing novel line almost by accident. His X-Wing predecessor, Michael A. Stackpole, recommended Aaron to his Bantam Books editor as a likely candidate to continue writing the series. After Mike and the editor both left the line, the next editor saw Aaron's name and assumed he had already been chosen. Months later the new editor called Aaron's agent and asked "How's Aaron coming along on the new X-Wing book?" Huh, whah? In two days Aaron put together an outline for his seventh novel, Wraith Squadron, and then wrote the book at speed against a ferocious deadline. He went on to write a dozen more, for the X-WIng series and also for New Jedi Order, Legacy of the Force, and Fate of the Jedi.

Aaron enjoyed a high reputation among connoisseurs of Star Wars fiction for his well-drawn characters, adroit plotting, and especially for his evocation of the original films' humor. He once told me he seemed to be everyone's third-favorite Star Wars author -- every reader had two top faves, always different, but they all had Aaron in the #3 spot.

Aaron's non-licensed novels include Galatea in 2-D and a delightful pulp-faerie mashup, Doc Sidhe. (The sequel is Sidhe-Devil.) In recent years Aaron had turned to short fiction and was excited with the success he'd found contributing to several high-profile small-press anthologies. He self-published a massive nonfiction treatise, Plotting: A Novelist's Workout Guide.

A lifelong lover of genre film, Aaron made a foray into screenwriting and directing in 2005 with the zombie rom-com Deadbacks. He assembled dozens of friends and local actors as a full-on low-budget indie production company, and they filmed for a couple of months of weekends on a friend's farmland in Lockhart, Texas. He completed production, but the project died in editing. It would be nice to think that fun and funny film, like its ever-hopeful undead farmhand characters, might rise again. It is so sad Aaron won't.
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Thanks so much for writing this, sir.
Dammit. Aaron was a great and talented person. I'm proud to have known him.
One of the most creative minds I ever met.
Aaron was an amazing fellow. I will remember his wonderful laugh, devastating wit, and amazing talent. We are all richer for having known him and poorer for his passing.
My condolences to all those who knew him and loved him. 
Humza K
Oh no.

Allen, thank you for writing this. Aaron's work was always a joy to read, whether Doc Sidhe, the Rules Cyclopedia, or the Wraiths. I wish I had gotten to meet him.
Doc Sidhe and Sidhe Devil were two brilliant genre mash-ups and I always hoped he would have the chance to publish more.  What a terrible loss for his family and friends, and a great loss to all the rest of us who were his fans, or who were going to discover that they were his fans.  Thank you for writing this.
RIP.  Strike Force is one of my all time favorite gaming supplements.
A true genius and a genuine pleasure to work with. In all my years as a Producer, there were only a few I worked with who were both.
So sorry to hear this. Aaron was the first gaming professional I ever met, and my first realization that the people who made the games I love were more than just the names on the book covers.
Aaron's writing and game design work has been an inspiration to me since I first encountered his work with the Champions game system. His work told stories that appealed to me on a deep level, something few others have managed on such a scale.

Despite only having met him a few times, I will sincerely miss him.
Thank you for writing this Allen.  I never had a bull session with Aaron that left me anything but smiling.  That's the third writer I've known that has died in 2014.  That's about 3 too many. 
My deepest sympathies to Aaron's friends and family. I will always remember him for he authored one of my favorite RPG books of all time, The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, which set the bar so high for the other books of its kind, and remains today a model to all. Thank you for the dreams, Aaron. Your talents and creativity will be missed.

Benoist Poire
GP Adventures
I was at his lunch at GenCon 92 and saw him there in 93. I hope to do him justice in my own writing. So far I'm not even close.
I did not have the honor of ever meeting Mr. Allston in person; I knew him through his writing. Deepest sympathies to his friends and family, and the many of us unrelated who he influenced with his words and ideas. 
Aaron Allston went right back to the very beginning of this silly hobby of ours. I first saw his name on the masthead of Space Gamer magazine, before I became aware of his gaming work. I never got to meet the man personally, but he was well-regarded by all. Another Great Old One has left us. 

Pause to remember. Pause to respect.
Only knew him through his amazing work, and an email or two.  The passing of people that worked to enrich my life imessurably, really saddens me.  Way to young to pass on.
I was a bit saddened by the passing of Aaron Allston. He will always be remembered by me as a good friend to Car Wars. And I had also read a few of his Star Wars books and been suitably impressed. Even though I did not know him well, and never met him, I shall miss him.
RIP Aaron.  Your creations have been very inspiring over the years.  Several of them are still in my collection.      
His Grand Duchy of Karameikos set the tone for intelligent expansion of BECMI based upon roleplaying and not rules. It typified why I loved and still love D&D over AD&D and began my love of all things Allston. Sad he is gone, very glad he was here.
Even though I only knew the name and not the man, I am saddened by his passing.

Allen, very good biography.
Shan G
Aaron was my good friend's brother. This is heartbreaking for Zo and his family. RIP.
Wonderfully written.  If I didn't say it earlier.  Thx.
I haven't read his published works, unfortunately (some day I will!), but Aaron was one of my classmates in junior high and high school in Denton, Texas. In high school honors world history class he would write, in addition to the regular assignments, papers by a character named "Norman Zwyfumber" which were always hilarious answers to the same questions in class. I'm sure the teacher got a good kick out of them. (Did Norman show up in any of his novels?) He wrote a little skit we did in 8th grade speech class that four of us performed.  I last saw him in March of 2003 when I met him and his housemates for dinner after I finished attending a conference in Austin.
This is distressing news to me. I live in Columbia, MO, and cannot remember running into Aaron at any of the fan events I've been to in this state, but he was and remains one of the most influential writers in my formative years. Strike Force inspired me to spin up grandiose campaign worlds when a single isolated city would do, and often that was useful to me in the long term in any campaign I've run in the past. His work on Original Dungeons & Dragons sparked the era I'm most fond of, and it has always been one of my favorite Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. Even when I would have a fit with whatever rules TSR/WOTC had just dropped in my lap, I never found fault with the setting. I also thank you for this retrospective and reminder of how someone can touch your life.
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