First, a quick disclaimer — James over at the Underdark Gazette got the impression I’ve actually run FW as an ongoing game. Actually, when I said this is the first game I ever DMed, that was definitely true, but it was just one session. My brother has run this game to some extent too, but honestly I don’t think we ever ran a continuing campaign. I did a lot of planning when I was in junior high & high school, drawing up monsters and treasures in FW terms, and even compiling hit location charts for non-humanoid monsters and animals, but that was all just “in theory.”
I’m going to start with what catalogers call the chief source of information for books, the title page.*
Although the cover precedes the title with “The highest level of all,” this isn’t on the title page, so the title proper, from a bibliographic point of view, is actually just Fantasy wargaming. The editor/compiler is given as Bruce Galloway.
I’m reading the American book club edition, which was published in1982 by Day & Stein, an independent book publisher that went bankrupt around 1987 or 1988, selling off all their back titles at that time. I’ve seen people mention the book being in various mainstream bookstores for pretty much the entire decade of the 1980s and I imagine that this explains why… decent distribution by a regular book publisher, and then all the remaining stock sold off in 1988 or so, making it available for bargain bins. The “book club edition” seems to have identical content to the larger format but they definitely redid the layout, so the page numbers do not really correspond very well. Given that this is book is indexed, and the text makes a lot references to other sections or charts by page number, that seems like a lot of extra work to make a “book club” (i.e. quick & cheap) edition… maybe this is part of why Stein & Day went under. Nowadays book club editions use the same layout and just print on cheap paper with cheap bindings.
Anyway the copyright is actually held by five people, according to the back of the title leaf**: Bruce Galloway, Mike Hodson-Smith, Nick Lowe, Bruce Quarrie, and Paul Sturman.
Bruce Quarrie is immediately recognizable as a well-known writer on history and especially wargaming. I don’t recognize the others; presumably they are all part of the Napoleanic wargame club that designed the FW game.
Nick Lowe <update> found. See later posts. If you can identify any of the others, or have any information on them, please let me know in the comments!
The illustrations at the front of each chapter (which I think are quite good, especially by the standards of games of the time) are by Lawrence Heath. I presume he also did the cover painting. No credit is given for the other illustrations, although many are signed “MW” or something similar, and others appear to be tracings or adaptations of period illustrations. At least one image in the bestiary clearly attempts to reproduce a “medieval woodcut” style and is also signed with the “MW” glyph. Does anyone know who did these?
<Update: MW is Margaret Welbank. See this post>
Regarding the lead editor: I’m trying to confirm this with the University of Cambridge library, but my surmission is that Bruce Galloway is the Bruce Roderick Galloway who wrote a Ph.D. at Cambridge in history, and also wrote or edited several books on English history, hiking in Anglia and the environs, and on gay civil rights. If this is correct, he was born 1952, and died in 1986. He seems to have signed some of books Bruce Galloway and others Bruce R. Galloway, perhaps in part to keep his projects separate? Only the Ph.D. spells out his full name; another Cambridge record lists a speculative death year as 1986, and the British (National) Library lists his year of birth as 1952.
I could find no works by Galloway published after 1985, so the 1986 death date seems likely, especially in light of the fact that his productive years as a writer seem confined to 1981-1985 and he still managed to write or edit a considerable number of books. <see comment below; his death was in 1984. In my real job as a librarian I’ve corrected & consolidated the headings for Bruce Galloway in the Library of Congress catalog and OCLC bibliographic utility, so it is more clear which works are his>
Anyway, I’m a little sad to find out he died so young, and the hatred and scorn that is heaped on him by internet trolls (e.g. this asshat) is particularly bothersome, since the “modern” reviews you’ll find online are so stultifying and ignorant. So, this series is hereby dedicated to the memory of an unsung pioneer in RPG history. (Why I consider this book to be important to RPGs in general will be more clear as we continue reading).
*Damn you straight to hell, Amazon.com, for never including title pages in the “Search inside” feature! Can’t tell you how many times my day job would be made easier if I could just see the freaking title pages online. Grrr.
**Title leaf verso, in cataloger speak, or Title page verso, although a page is one side of a leaf. A leaf is the entire piece of paper.