Sunday, April 6, 2014

Thank You, Brian Phillips

The "Thank You" series was inspired by my post to the late Aaron Allston, as well as the passing of industry greats Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. There were many things I needed to say to these men and never got the chance. I don't intend to let that happen again.


Though every post in this series is about people whose writing and art have touched me deeply, this particular thank you is very special to me.

I was, and am, a comic geek. Superheroes are my Greek myths. I learned to read on Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes. Batman and the Dick Grayson Robin helped shape my morality. I was there when Charles, Logan, Piotr and Ororo showed up on the Pryde's doorstep to recruit their daughter, Kitty, into the "School for Gifted Youngsters". Clark, Bruce, Diana, Barry, Hal, Arthur, J'onn, Dick, Ollie, Peter Parker, Steve Rogers, the Legion, the X-Men, they were more than simple pre-teen soap operas, they were family.

Check out Piotr and Logan
in the background.
I've already talked about my first roleplaying experience and the first game I ever bought for myself, but in 1981, 3 years after that sleep spell and 2 before I would discover Champions, my brother-in-law bought me a little game called The Official Superhero Adventure Game.

OSAG was an independent, small press game sold in a ziplock bag. It came with a rulebook and dozens of card stock pages filled with hand-drawn heroes and villains. These weren't DC or Marvel, they weren't any heroes I'd ever seen before, but it didn't take long before I realized they lived in as rich a world as those I grew up on.

At it's heart, OSAG was as advertised--an adventure game. Though it included basic roleplaying rules, RPGs were still in their infancy. OSAG had been born from miniatures skirmish games like all other roleplaying games. Whether or not it was designed to be an RPG was irrelevant to me and my friends. We had our favorite heroes, our most feared villains, and we created stories far outside the scenarios included in the game.

There are two very specific reasons this game holds such a special place in my heart.

1) Unlike Champions or D&D or Star Frontiers or any of the other big-name games, OSAG was mine. I talk a lot about the power of shared experiences and how they bring geeks together even if they've never meet before. OSAG had the opposite effect on me. OSAG felt personal. Thousands of others were there when Kitty Pryde joined the X-men, but a far more select group was there when Cepheus, Reaper of the Galactic Rim, tracked a Gem of the Infinite Way to Earth's moon and confronted the villain Black Angel before he could use it's power. Or when Spellbinder stole the Philosopher's Stone from Black Magic, leading to the first confrontation between the Freedom Federation and Pentagram on a remote island off the coast of Scotland.

2) Brian Phillips had created a mythos both unique and reflective of the stories I'd grown up reading. I even wrote him fan letters, telling him how much I loved the game; hand-written, snail mail letters, mind you. And he wrote me back. This was the first experience I had with the larger world of game design. When you live in a small town, all great places and all great things happen in the mythical world of "someplace else". California isn't a state, it's a place people go for vacation. It's the place where movies are made. They turn it on when they need it then flip off the lights and lock the doors when they're done. By responding to my letters, Brian broke that barrier for me. He opened my mind to the possibility that I, too, could create games, write stories, and share them with others.

Unfortunately, my original and only copy of OSAG was caught in the "Great Flood of '92". My parents garage roof leaked while I was away at college. Most of my games were stored in cardboard boxes under a weight of other things. They sat in an undiscovered pool of water in the back of the garage for weeks. By the time we realized what happened, my copy of OSAG, along with those letters, and numerous other game books were severely damaged. I dried them out the best I could and kept them far longer than I should have, but eventually the mold and damage was too much and they had to go.

While researching the "Playing it Forward" post a couple years ago, I came across a comment on a miniatures warfare website called The Miniatures Page referencing OSAG. Turns out the post was made by one of Brian's close friends. I was able to get in contact with him and through the kindness of strangers, he sent me an original copy, character cards and all! I can't describe how I felt opening that package. It transported me back to some of the best days of my childhood. It also reminded me of how badly I wanted to create games. OSAG's reappearance came at a time when numerous other events were putting me on the road to becoming a professional geek. The first piece I professionally edited released last month and this month will see the release of two original works from Rogue Genius Games.

It is very much a childhood dream come true and so much of it is thanks to Brian shining a light for me to follow.

So, thank you Brian Phillips, for creating a universe of heroes I adore to this day, for taking the time to return the letters of an impressionable young teen and for encouraging me to follow my dreams.

If we ever get a chance to meet, dinner's on me.


  1. Great article. Getting a physical copy of OSAG is on my bucket list.

    1. Thanks, Christian. It was fun seeing your own post and realizing that someone else in the land of the interwebs knew OSAG. Hard copies are almost non-existent as far as I know. It's possible that Brian or his friend will link over here and offer some alternatives.

    2. For those interested, Christian's blog article can be found here and is a great read if you're interested in the history of gaming:

  2. I'm glad that you enjoyed OSAG. I always liked to respond to the "fan-mail" and am happy to hear that it served to encourage you.
    Brian Phillips, Author of OSAG

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, and thanks to Kim for passing on the link. I'm glad to finally get my message to you after all these decades. It's been a pleasure.

    2. Hi Brian, I was actually trying to find you a while back, and just stumbled across this post from last year (today is 1/7/15). Hopefully you're set up to get emails when somebody responds to your comment. I wanted to talk to you about 2 things... 1) helping you re-publish the original version of OSAG, and possibly helping you publish the revised edition (I saw Kim mention a revised edition on a miniatures board a while back). If you see this, and you're interested, please email me at osag(at)newbigdragon(dot)com - Thanks!

  3. I suppose it would be redundant to say, "Yes. Please make this happen." I would also be happy to work on/get published a revised and modern OSAG universe.