Novelist and game designer Aaron Allston has died in Branson, Missouri, age 53. Cause of death is currently unknown, but Aaron suffered a major 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. 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 best works on the development and maintenance of a long-term campaign. He wrote from experience, having spent years refereeing three separate Hero campaigns that had months-long waiting lists.
Equally well known for his extensive contributions to BECMI-series Dungeons & Dragons,
Aaron wrote hugely for the Known World, (later renamed "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 many 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 known best 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 the 1980s Aaron turned to novels with Web of Danger,
a tie-in for TSR's Top Secret S.I.
RPG line. 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 book editor as a likely candidate to continue writing the series. After Mike and the Bantam 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 a new novel, Wraith Squadron,
and then wrote the book on a tremendously tight deadline. He went on to write a dozen more.
Aaron enjoyed a high reputation among connoisseurs of Star Wars
fiction. He once told me he seemed to be everyone's third-favorite Star Wars
author -- every reader had one or two top faves, always different, but they all had Aaron in the #3 spot.
Aaron's non-licensed books 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.
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 filming, 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.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Allston