On an old friend…


Believe it or not this blog was intended to be place for me to talk about anything on my mind. The Table Top Terrain stuff just sort of dominated coming out the gate in January.

I thought today, I’d change gears and talk about something else.

My old friend, Kevin Siembieda of Palladium Books fame.

Now Kevin would be the first to acknowledge that he’s a polarizing figure in our industry. You either love him (and many thousands of fans do) or you hate him (yeah, the haters are out there).

I met virtually (via correspondence and phone calls) in 1990 when my wife and I were starting up Shadis Magazine. Kevin in fact has the distinction of giving me my first dollar as a ‘professional’ in the games industry. A check for $20.00 for an ad.

I got that check from Kevin along with a two page hand written letter, which was in reply to the copy of Shadis #1 I had sent him (unsolicited).

Twenty-five years later I still have that letter in my files (along with a xerox copy of the check).

Kevin spent a page and a half tearing the magazine apart. My choice of fonts (which admittedly were horrible), the layout, the choice of going with a digest size, etc. Basically he gave me some harsh, honest feedback.

But you know what? He ended the letter with, “That said, it was a great read and you have a real talent for pulling together content. Here’s a check for an ad.”

I took that advice to heart and if you’ve ever seen a copy of Shadis #1 and place it next to a copy of Shadis#2 the difference is night and day. Kevin was probably single handedly responsible for Shadis continuing for another five years (until I sold it in 1995) and the little self-published rag going prozine.

Kevin and I have been good friends ever since. We only see each other at summer conventions, the occasional side trek (He invited me to go on a cruise with him once – all expenses paid). About once every six months one of us will get the urge to talk to the other and pick up the phone. Phone calls that can stretch into an hour of catching up and just taking. We rarely talk shop. We talk life. We talk as two old friends would be expected to talk.

Kevin was there to have my back in a major way about 20 years ago. I won’t go into details but lifted me up from the ashes, brushed me off and helped me get back on my feet after I learned some folks I was in business didn’t exactly have my best interests at heart.

And on the morning of my daughter’s funeral — as my wife and I sat outside in our van with her ashes dreading to go inside…  Kevin called out of the blue — at that moment. What he said was exactly what we both needed to hear at the moment in time.

Recently, Kevin called me and asked me if I’d come to the Palladium Books Open House.

He had asked previous years but it seemed there was always a conflict that prevented me from going.  This year was no different. The Open house fell on the same weekend as ACEN – a local convention here that’s popular with HackMaster GMs/friends.

Just as I was about to tell Kevin of the conflict he said something that changed my mind.

“It would mean a lot to me in you and Barb could come…”

My reply was immediate.

“Kevin, we’re there.”

And boy am I glad we went.

2015 has been a year of celebration and looking back for Barb and I. The twenty first anniversary of both Shadis Magazine and Knights of the Dinner Table.  But also the 25th anniversary of several friendships that were forged that same year. Kevin Siembieda, Gary Gygax, George Vrbanic…

As I sat on a panel with Kevin last weekend (a very informal panel discussing our friendship and how we met), I realized I was supposed to be there. I NEEDED to be there.

Anyway, Kevin’s been on my mind all week.

For someone who has a reputation for being a ‘dick’ (lol) the guy has a big heart. I always come away with any time spent with Kevin feeling good about life in general. Such is the magic of a good friend.

He also has a knack for surrounding himself with good people. Every person I met at the Open House (from the staff to volunteers) were just wonderful. And the fans that should up seemed like family. We left with glad hearts feeling like our batteries had been recharged.

Anyway, my thoughts on an old friend. Just wanted to share that.


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