Autobiography - Lewis Pulsipher.    Wikipedia has an entry for me that is less detailed.

Born 1951, Detroit, MI. I lived in Detroit for a short time, then in Ohio until 1962, then Michigan; grad school in Durham, NC, until heading off the London for three years (1976-79) to do doctoral research, after which I lived in Durham until 1982, and since then in or near Fayetteville, NC.

I designed games for myself from a very young age, using whatever pieces I had available, at first in the form of "toy soldiers" games, later as boardgames. I recall using the wooden Stratego pieces for walls for one game, for example.

At about age 12 I discovered Avalon Hill Games, especially Stalingrad, Afrika Korps, and Tactics II, but also D-Day, Bulge, and so forth. My brother and I were avid players, and at one time were the league champions in the "Michigan Organized Wargamers" team competition along with a friend.

I recall corresponding with Gary Gygax in 1966, long before D&D, when he was an officer of the "International Federation of Wargamers". National game clubs were a subject of interest way back when.

I was a bookish type (went to college and especially graduate school on academic scholarships), though I also played high school sports thanks to an outlandishly large stature (6'7").  

I recall as a teenager spending many hours playing a massive (but simple) space wargame I devised. I played it as though "fog of war" applied, though in fact I had to apply this in mind because I had no mechanism for it, and was playing solitaire in any case.

In 1969 I got a Diplomacy set, and became quite active in postal Diplomacy fandom, publishing a couple fanzines (Blood and Iron, Ragnarok), being the second "Miller Number" (variant designation) custodian, and designing a great many Dipvariants, probably more than anyone ever. This indulged my love of history in general and military history in particular. So my first published games were Diplomacy variants, and I occasionally ask myself why I didnít do standalone commercial versions of some for publication, but I never really tried. The one exception was Lord of the Rings, I recall proposing a LOTR Diplomacy to the head of Games Research (who published Diplomacy) at one of the DipCons. But nothing happened there, rights too expensive if nothing else.

I went to college in Albion, Michigan, and played lots of postal Diplomacy during that time.

I published a science fiction game fanzine, Supernova, and in conjunction with that I remember receiving a letter from Dave Arneson describing his original fantasy campaign that ultimately became Dungeons and Dragons. This was "miniatures warfare with individuals added on", as I recall, not the individuals-only game that D&D became.

As part of getting a Ph.D. in military history from Duke University, I spent three years in London, UK. researching my doctorate in military and diplomatic history ("Aircraft and the Royal Navy, 1908-1919").

While I was in Britain, I worked with the Game Workshop guys (Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson), and with H. P. Gibsons, and had several games published there. Britannia was actually the last, published well after Iíd bowed out of boardgaming.

I also wrote many articles for "White Dwarf" magazine (and also "Imagine"), and continued to write for magazines such as "Dragon" (TSR) until they decided to buy all rights, rather than first serial rights. I donít sell away my rights (barring a very large lump-sum payment). So to the end of Dragonís days, I never contributed another thing because I wouldnít sell full rights. Altogether I had something like 150 articles published in various professional and semi-professional magazines. Iím still amused when someone Iíve come into contact with fairly recently, after Iíve known them for a while, says they were looking through D&D articles they saved and realized that Iíd written many of them (yes, this has happened more than once).

But I always said, back then, "I hate dice games", so when I first saw D&D, I wasnít much interested. However, I was introduced to it at a convention in Detroit in 1975, and it became my favorite game. It is (in first edition, at least) a microcosm of life, where you try to avoid having to rely on the dice to save you from disaster.

 

Not liking the "publish of perish" mentality of universities, where teaching is very much secondary in importance to research, I didnít pursue a teaching position in history. I tried freelancing games for a while, and at one point thought about moving to Texas to work full time for a game company, but in the end I decided I had to make a living more conventionally. Although I had several games published, Swords & Wizardry ("Stratego-like"), Valley of the Four Winds (based on a short story that was based on a set of miniatures!), Diplomacy Games & Variants, Dragon Rage, and finally Britannia, this was insufficient. Believing that role-playing games and especially computer games would lead to the end of boardgaming as a practical business, I went about teaching myself computers, later teaching Continuing Education at Fayetteville Technical Community College, then working as programmer and networking chief at Womack Army Medical Center for more than nine years before going back to teaching curriculum classes at Central Carolina Community College.

So for about 20 years I paid no attention to the game hobby, and did not even read the rules of Britannia when it was finally published Ė I did not actually see it played until 2004, 18 years after publication in Britain. (The people who were there, at PrezCon 2004, remember how I saw Jutes floating at sea long after their homeland disappeared and exclaimed "no way!". There was a misunderstanding of the rules by H. P. Gibsons, and the British and then AH editions included the distinction between "settlers" and "raiders" that let the "raiders" float at sea long after their homeland no longer existed, which never should have happened. It has been "fixed", put back to the intended way, in the FantasyFlight version.)

I didnít stop designing during those 20 years, but all of it was variations for and adventures ("level design") for Dungeons and Dragons (First Edition). I frequently played D&D during this time, and played strategic video games such as Empire Deluxe, Total Annihilation, Heroes of Might and Magic II and III, and Civilization II and III, but no boardgames.

Around 2003-2004 I had a choice, to write textbooks about computing, or to go back into game design. Iíd discovered that even though Britannia was out of print, there were still fans (the Eurobrit Yahoo Group, the Britannia tournament at the World Boardgaming Convention).  And it seemed to have become a minor classic.  The more I learned, the more I realized that the thing I have done that brought more pleasure to more people was game design, especially Britannia. And as it was becoming clear that students donít read textbooks any more, I chose to revise Brit to get it republished. This was done with the help of the Eurobrit guys and many other fans all over the world, and took three years from the time I decided to do it, to publication by Fantasy Flight.

 

For a few years I taught game design in college (I had been teaching computer networking and some Web development), which was very interesting. Iím not sure itís as practical as teaching computer networking, but it helped me for a while escape the continuing dumbing-down of American society, where you are not regarded as an expert in something if you donít have a degree in that particular topic. (Iíve taught graduate classes for 21 years, and have about 17,000 classroom hours of experience, and I know that having a degree does NOT indicate that you really know much about the subject!) The game industry is still a meritocracy, the computer industry is rapidly losing that description. 

Unfortunately, the various diseases that are destroying our schools caught up with me, as I have neither a networking degree (which didnít exist until recently) nor any technical degree, nor a game degree (which are very recent innovations).  Colleges are terrified of the accreditation people, who are all academics.  And (protecting their jobs, of course) they strongly promote the idea that if you donít have a degree in something, youíre not competent to teach it.  The worst example I know of, heard from a college president, was a person with a Ph.D. in zoology who was deemed not competent to teach freshman biology.  (Biology has two parts, botany (plants) and zoology (animals).)  The worst part is that the college didnít fight for the instructor, they just terminated him.

So I retired.  And finished the game design book Iíd been working on, which was published in late July 2012.  I have three more books that publishers are interested in.  And now that Britannia has gone out of print, I have new versions of that to deal with, as well as other designs.

I recently looked into online teaching, though I am a strong critic of online education for a degree because you donít know whoís doing the work, and because most online classes are memorization and regurgitation, the same thing thatís ruined K12.  After taking a 40 hour instructorsí class with them I learned that one of the universities that is trying to do the right thing, did not want teachers, they wanted cheerleaders and robotic judges (for grading according to ridiculously general rubrics Ė the same set of rubrics for ALL classes!).   They wanted uniformity, automation in effect, which is one of the great criticisms of online education, that itís ďautomatic teachingĒ as Ian Schreiber calls it.  So now (September 2013) Iím creating online audio-visual, not text-based, classes for Udemy.com.  These will suit people who donít want to read non-fiction books, which is a larger and larger fraction of our population.

I often speak about game design at tabletop conventions (and sometimes at the East Coast Game Conference in Raleigh, a video game gathering).  I was pleased to be an ďIndustry Insider Guest of HonorĒ at GenCon in 2013.

Unlike most people, I can tell you what my favorite game was at any time, and I list only four over the course of 45 years, first Stalingrad, then Diplomacy, then D&D, and now (I suppose) Britannia, since Iíve stopped playing D&D.  Really, my favorite "game" is the game of designing games. The "interesting non-trivial challenges" that Sid Meier talks about are not part of a formal game, but are part of designing games.

--Lew

Web site: pulsiphergames.com

My blogs:

http://pulsiphergamedesign.blogspot.com/

http://teachgamedesign.blogspot.com

I am on myspace and facebook.  I am on twitter (lewpuls) but don't post; to me it is a publicity vehicle, and I don't have much to publicize.

Oddities: Alan R. Moon, well-known designer of Ticket to Ride and others, was one of Avalon Hillís playtesters for their version of Britannia. And Bruce Shelley, famous for his collaboration with Sid Meier on the original Civilization, and for his Age of Empires, was the "developer" of that version.

References:

List of my articles http://index.rpg.net/display-search.phtml?key=contributor&value=Lewis+Pulsipher

white dwarf index:  http://www.gamehobby.net/white_dwarf_magazine/white_dwarf_001.html

Wikipedia entry for Britannia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Britannia_%28board_game%29

Author of "Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish", August 2012     http://www.mcfarlandpub.com/book-2.php?id=978-0-7864-6952-9; electronic versions also available at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Books-a-Million

Brief free audio-visual class in game design: https://www.udemy.com/brief-free-introduction-to-game-design/   Other classes forthcoming (though they will not be free).

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