Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Scott Thorne remembers Rick Loomis, who passed away over the weekend (see "R.I.P. Rick Loomis").

It was only a few weeks ago that Game Industry mainstays Bill Jaffe, James Mathe, Lee Garvin, and Steve Creech passed away (see "Rolling for Initiative--RIP Bill S. Jaffe and James Mathe").

On Saturday, notice arrived that Rick Loomis, owner of Flying Buffalo Games and publisher of the Tunnels and Trolls RPG and Nuclear War card game, passed away after a lengthy struggle with lymphatic cancer.  Loomis was a major figure in the Game Industry dating back to 1970, when while serving at Fort Shafter in Hawaii, he first picked up a copy of Avalon Hill’s Gettysburg.  Finding himself fascinated by the game, he soon developed his own game, Nuclear Destruction, one of the earliest, if not the earliest board games to feature hidden movement.  Offering to moderate play-by-mail games of Nuclear Destruction with fellow soldiers, he soon had  some 200 servicemen signed up to play.

This led Loomis to ask his friend and  fellow soldier Steve MacGregor to write a computer program to moderate play. When this proved successful, Loomis and MacGregor founded Flying Buffalo Inc. in 1972 to run play-by-mail games as a for-profit operation, making Loomis, as far as he knew, the first person to ever purchase a computer solely for gaming.  Loomis also acquired the rights to Nuclear War, which I remember owning as a white-boxed game back in the early 1990s, and it became one of the company’s best selling products, with multiple expansions, including a randomized set of 40 cards released during the first TCG craze in 1995.

In 1975, Ken St. Andre approached Loomis with the new RPG he had developed:  Tunnels and Trolls. Roleplaying games were still very new then, with Dungeons & Dragons being the only published one.  While the rules for D&D fell under copyright protection, the concept of roleplaying was not and Tunnels and Trolls, or T&T as players soon shortened it to, approached the genre with a much looser feel and more clearly written rules, making it the second published RPG.  Loomis took 40 copies of the game to the Origins Game Fair and sold every copy, leading him to acquire the rights to T&T and bring a second edition of the game out under the FBI imprint.  Loomis then wrote Buffalo Castle using the T&T rules, arguably the first solo RPG adventure, even pre-dating the Choose your own Adventure books.  FBI’s newsletter SuperNova contained some of artist  Liz Danforth’s first work in the gaming field (FBI printed three magazines over time. The third, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, is still one of my favorites).  In 1981, Loomis published the first of the Grimtooth’s Traps books, one of the first RPG sourcebooks not tied to a specific system.

In 1978, the Association of Game Manufacturers formed. It was soon renamed the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA), and elected Rick temporary president and treasurer.  He went on to serve as GAMA President for a number of terms, then moving to the President-Emeritus position, regularly attending board meetings.  Loomis and Flying Buffalo Inc. were fixtures at both national and regional gaming conventions, setting up for decades in dealer and exhibit halls at Origins, Gen Con, Essen Game Fair, and the GAMA Trade Show to name a few.  After I got to know Rick, I learned we shared a fondness for Diet Mountain Dew, so if I knew he would have a booth at a convention, I made it a point to always bring in a couple of twelve packs of Diet Dew and drop them off at his booth.

Even with his veteran’s benefits, the family’s medical bills will run in the tens of thousands. If you are of a mind, you can contribute to the Go Fund Me campaign or purchase a Catalyst Bundle of Holding.

During the decades he spent in the Industry, I never heard him speak a bad word about anyone and never heard anyone say anything negative about him.  Thanks for everything Rick.  The world is a better place because you were in it.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of