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Rick Loomis, influential game designer and publisher, dies

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Rick Loomis at Gen Con Indy 2014
Rick Loomis at Gen Con Indy 2014 by BOZ [CC BY-SA 4.0] via WikiMedia Commons

Rick Loomis, a pioneer in tabletop roleplaying and card games, play by mail, computer gaming and solo game books, has died after an illness. He was 72.

He died Aug. 23, 2019 — a day before his 73rd birthday.

The U.S. Army veteran and Scottsdale, Arizona, resident created the wargame Nuclear Destruction, was a founding member and past president of the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and founder of Flying Buffalo, the publisher of Ken St. Andre’s Tunnels & Trolls roleplaying game.

When Loomis was hospitalized recently fighting cancer, friends and colleagues started a fundraising campaign and Bundle of Holding sale of Flying Buffalo’s Catalyst RPG book PDFs to help with Loomis’ expenses.

A new, Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls was Kickstarted and released in 2015.

Flying Buffalo also picked up the license for the popular Nuclear War card game and reissued it in 2016.

As with Catalyst, Rick Loomis produced content such as Grimtooth’s Traps and CityBooks that could be used with just about any RPG system.

Flying Buffalo’s card game Nuclear Escalation faced opposition in the United Kingdom when politicians there tried to ban war-related toys.

Rick Loomis is also credited with designing the play-by-post strategy and diplomacy game Starweb and the innovative Buffalo Castle solitaire Tunnels & Trolls gamebooks.

“My friend, my mentor and the man who started my career has passed away,” wrote Steve Crompton, an artist and designer who worked on many of Flying Buffalo’s products, on a closed Facebook Group for T&T players. “He was a guiding light to so many of us in so many ways, that my simple words cannot express the loss.

“GAMA, Flying Buffalo, Tunnels & Trolls, Nuclear War, Starweb and so much more,” Crompton continued. “I don’t think any of them would be here today without his tireless efforts. We will put out a more detailed announcement soon, but for now I wanted to let you know before the rumor mill took over.”

According to Shannon Appelcline’s 2011 book Designers & Dragons: A History of the Roleplaying Game Industry, Rick Loomis launched Nuclear Destruction in 1970, moderating play-by-mail multiplayer games and introducing a computer to help coordinate players while still serving in the military. After leaving the Army, he incorporated Flying Buffalo and acquired a computer to keep running postal games.

Until the mid-’80s there was a Flying Buffalo game store in Tempe, Ariz.

Appelcline noted that with the closure of original Dungeons & Dragons publisher TSR in 1997, Flying Buffalo became the world’s oldest publisher of pen-and-paper RPGs.

The Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls Team issued a statement: “‘Brave battle against cancer’ has come to be a cliche … but Rick faced his diagnosis and endured the miseries of treatment with humor, bravery, faith and optimism. Over the last days, Rick got to hear the outpouring of gratitude, thanks, and best wishes left by many of you on his GoFundMe page.

“Thank YOU for those messages, and for the contributions that will help Rick’s family deal with the bills, which sadly linger.”

The tributes to Rick Loomis are rolling in on social media, and likely will be for some time to come:

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