Timothy J. Kask is one of the original staff who worked with Gary Gygax on Dungeons & Dragons. He is best known as the first editor of Dragon Magazine from issue #1 to #36, and a contributor to the earliest Dungeons & Dragons works.

Kask is also the namesake of the Sword of Kas.

He is variously credited as Tim Kask and T.J. Kask, and under the alias Omar Kwalish.[1]

Life[edit | edit source]

Early life[edit | edit source]

Kask was born on Jan 14, 1949, in Moline, Illinois. He attended St. Mary's Catholic School.

He discovered an interest in simulation games in 1961, when a friend named Mike Gengler in sixth grade introduced him to Avalon Hill's board game D-Day, which he purchased at Carlson Brothers for $3.95 or $4.95. The two played this game for three years. Kask's gaming hobby waned in high school, when he pursued other interests.[2][3]

Military service[edit | edit source]

Kask served in the US Navy from 1967 to 1971.[4]

In his first year in the Navy, while stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Kask and fellow sailor Ed Studer purchased Avalon Hill's 1914 from a bookstore in Oak Harbor, Washington. The two played the game in marathon sessions on a table in the laundry room, which sometimes ran from 5:30pm Friday to 8am Monday, without sleep. The pair played at least six or seven complete games of what Kask described as "one of the longest, most tedious games ever devised". After a year, Studer was transferred somewhere else, and Kask did not play the game with anyon else.[2][3]

During 1969, Kask was stationed overseas in the Vietnam War, serving aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ranger for ten months. The crew played Avalon Hill's 1976 edition of Acquire, going through three sets. Kask also played Feudal.[2][3][5]

Kask reported sighting UFOs on three occasions, spotting fast-moving objects on radar which the crew were unable to get a lock, and which startled the Russian trawlers who were shadowing Kask's ship. However, he declined to speculate what they were, only to note that they did not resemble ball lightning.[6][7]

During his time in the Navy, he became an expert in changing M2 machine gun barrels and ammunition belts, and once survived a narrow miss when a piece of shrapnel impacted fourteen inches from his head. However, he has largely declined to tell his war stories. In his last year in the Navy, he married his wife Cheryl.[8]

College[edit | edit source]

Following his service in the Navy, Kask studied Communications at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and helped to grow the university's gaming group.[9]

Kask became interested in miniatures games, eventually acquiring a significant army of fantasy and ancient miniatures. In late 1973 or early 1974, Kask called Dungeons & Dragons creator Gary Gygax to ask about the Chainmail miniatures game, after finding his number by calling directory enquiries. The two talked for over an hour, and such calls became frequent. Gygax invited Kask to GenCon VII in 1974, at which Dungeons & Dragons was launched. Kask bought the original Dungeons & Dragons box set, and Gygax also suggested that he could offer Kask a position at TSR as an editor.[10][11][9]

Kask introduced Dungeons & Dragons to his college group at Carbondale, providing useful playtest feedback to TSR in monthly phonecalls. Around Christmas 1974, he started a new campaign titled the Ruins of Kwalishar, named for its villain Kwalish, best known as the namesake of the Apparatus of Kwalish.[12][10] At this time, Kask worked at a pinball arcade, where he met future TSR co-worker Gary Jaquet.[2][13]

In 1975, Kask was an immediate devotee of Ral Partha miniatures.[14]

While in college, Kask worked on magazines and newspapers. He described himself as an avid journalist, someone who always loved telling news.[15]

Career[edit | edit source]

TSR[edit | edit source]

Following his graduation from college in August 1975, Kask was the first full-time employee hired at Tactical Studies Rules, and then TSR Hobbies Inc., following the company's incorporation in July of that year.[16][17][13][10]

Kask served as TSR periodicals editor beginning with Strategic Review #4 (Winter 1975).[18] The foreword to Eldritch Wizardry, dated 23 April 1976, gives Kask as TSR Publications Editor.

In 1976, TSR acquired Gen Con. Kask, who had previously attended the convention in 1974 and 1975 as a regular attendee, was assigned to work at the convention Gen Con IX, which saw an increase from 900 to 1,300 attendees. However, Kask also noted that Gen Con would inflate its visitor numbers by counting total day ticket sales rather than the number of unique visitors, noting that "the other guys were doing it too".[11]

Kask worked as an editor on several of the earliest Dungeons & Dragons supplements: Blackmoor (Supplement 2) (1975), Eldritch Wizardry (1976), Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976), and Swords & Spells (1976). He is also thanked for various contributions to those books. He is acknowledged in the AD&D core rulebooks, including the Monster Manual (1e) (1977), Players Handbook (1e) (1978), and Dungeon Masters Guide (1e) (1979), and in the Basic Set (Holmes) (1977) and Basic Set (Moldvay) (1981). In 2017, Kask noted that in the early days of TSR, much work was done communally and it was difficult to attribute any particular innovation or idea to any one individual staff member.[19]

Kask made significant contributions to Eldritch Wizardry (1976), which he estimates to consist of 60% his own work. Kask's arduous task involved editing a basket of papers written by Dave Arneson, Gary Gygax and Rob Kuntz, containing rules which were confusing, contradictory, and incomplete. Kask threatened that he would quit if ever given such a task again.[10]

Kask worked with Gary Gygax on the division between Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and Basic Dungeons & Dragons which were published in 1977. Kask recalls that he and Gygax spent a week going over all Original D&D sourcebooks except the mass battle Swords & Spells (1976), and deciding which content was suitable for which edition of the game. The two made Advanced Dungeons & Dragons more challenging, and more codified for tournament play, which were profitable events for TSR; while Basic was made easier for children to play to avoid discouraging them - "that was just good marketing". Kask was responsible for the rule of magic missile automatically hitting, as a miss on a first-level character's only 1st-level spell would be demoralizing.[20]

Kask subsequently withdrew from the game design side of D&D to focus on editing Dragon at the periodicals division, although he took part in playtesting.[20] The druid Jaroo Ashstaff from T1 The Village of Hommlet (1979) was based on character of Kask's in the playtest, nicknamed "Tim the Lusty Druid" in a bawdy song created whenever he missed sessions due to family commitments.[21]

Dragon Magazine[edit | edit source]

Kask served as editor of Strategic Review from issue #5 in 1975 until the final issue. Kask takes credit for the decision to print the magazine in color.

Kask then served as the first editor of Strategic Review's successor, Dragon Magazine, from issue #1 (Jun 1976) to #36 (Apr 1980). Gygax's vision for Dragon magazine was to cover a variety of games, not just a "house organ" for TSR's own publications. Kask, an avid board and miniatures gamer, agreed with this vision. They shared a philosophy of "a rising tide lifts all boats". A second magazine, Little Wars, was dedicated to historical miniature games, but after twelve episodes folded into Dragon starting from Dragon #22.[9]

Kask's goal as editor was to enlighten the reader with enjoyable information. In 2018, Kask said, "With Dragon, I was telling people about good things. I didn't waste time telling people about bad things, or what I thought was bad." He also shared Gygax's habit of intentionally using obscure English words that required looking in a dictionary.[15]

Kask described suffering from a week of burnout after producing each issue of Dragon, a trait he would later discover that other editors and publishers have also suffered from.[20]

During his tenure as editor, Kask authored the article Civilizations: From High To Low, Dragon #31 (Nov 1979), p.4. Under the alias Omar Kwalish, he wrote What To Do When the Dog Eats Your Dice, Dragon #7 (Jun 1977), p.5.[22]

Departure from TSR[edit | edit source]

His departure from TSR and Dragon was announced in Dragon #37 (May 1980). According to that issue's editorial, Kask resigned for undisclosed reasons. He was replaced as magazine editor by Jake Jaquet.

In 2018, Kask described his reasons for leaving TSR as conflict with Brian Blume. He was also unhappy with the design direction he saw Dungeons & Dragons taking.[23]

Kask later founded a new magazine known as Adventure Gaming, which ran for 13 issues beginning in July 1981. In Dragon #54 (Oct 1981), p.2, artist JD Webster announced his decision to move the comic Fineous Fingers from Dragon to Adventure Gaming. Webster cited Kask's departure from Dragon as the reason. Kask would go on to describe his friendship with Webster in Curmudgeon in the Cellar YT5 (2017).

Kask was mentioned in Gen Con Miniature Open Winners, Dragon #68 (Dec 1982), p.11-13 as "Tim Kask of Adventure Gaming Magazine", describing an event at Gen Con XV where he awarded magazine subscriptions and a set of Fineous Fingers Figures to winners Steven Meyer Tony Toich.

After his departure, Kask was credited in the acknowledgements to various sourcebooks for his early contributions to D&D. They include the AD&D 2nd edition The Magic Encyclopedia Volume One (1992), Dungeon Master Guide (2e) (1989), Player's Handbook (2e) (1989), Basic Rules (BECMI) (1983), Master Rules (BECMI) (1985), and Rules Cyclopedia (1991).

Other works[edit | edit source]

Kask worked on the the Gamma World RPG in early development, but passed the project on to other writers as he was busy with other editing work.[13]

Later life[edit | edit source]

Following his departure from TSR, Kask became a teacher.

In 2008, Kask played D&D at the Tower of Gygax event at Gen Con 2008, his first time playing or DMing D&D in over twenty years. At this time, Kask also had not played D&D as a player since 1974, when he became his group's DM.[21]

Kask took part in various charity events, including playing in charity games. He describes himself as rarely playing spellcasters or clerics.[24]

In his retirement, Kask continued to game twice per month with friends. However, this was put on hiatus in 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[8]

Reception and influence[edit | edit source]

In Dragon #100 (Aug 1985), p.3, editor Kim Mohan recalled the first time he met then-editor Tim Kask upon applying to join TSR Periodicals around August 1979. Mohan was "scared stiff" at first, but within a month he had impressed Kask enough to become a full-time employee. Mohan retold the story again in the editorial to Dragon #200 (Dec 1993), and in the Silver Anniversary Collector's Edition (1999), p.22, where he recalled the magazine's early days fondly and expressed his gratitude.

In Dragon #107 (Mar 1986), p.62, art director Roger Raupp credited Kask with giving him his break into the RPG industry, after discovering his work by coincidence when his student magazine was printed in the same building Dragon used for photography.

Dragon #5 (Mar 1977), which Kask edited, was included in The Top 10 Issues of Dragon, Dragon #359 (Sep 2007), p.24, Dragon #5 (Mar 1977).

In RPG Interview with "Jake" Jaquet, Polyhedron #4 (1982), p.6, Gary Jaquet credited Kask with introducing him to the Dungeons & Dragons hobby after the two met by chance at a pinball arcade in 1974. Jaquet described himself as good friend of Kask, and became an assistant editor of Dragon, eventually replacing Kask as editor.

In 2007, Gary Gygax said of all the editors he had had, he missed Kask editing his writing the most.[10]

Links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The Curmudgeon in the Cellar XVI (2018). Tim Kask, YouTube. 25m 28s.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Strategic Review #5, p.8.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 The Curmudgeon in the Cellar LI (2019). Tim Kask, YouTube. 34m 42s.
  4. Curmudgeon in the Cellar 34 (2018). Tim Kask, YouTube. 10m 18s.
  5. Based on Wikipedia's description of the USS Ranger's service history, this may have been the vessel's deployment from 26 October 1968 through 17 May 1969, following three months of leave, upkeep and training.
  6. The Curmudgeon in the Cellar LXIII (2018). 10m 14s. Tim Kask, YouTube.
  7. "I don't know if they're aliens, or if they're space vehicles and drones that we don't know about yet. I don't care. I just know I've seen things in the sky that I can't explain. And I had a gentleman who suggests that I look at ball lightning, and I've seen ball lightning racing across the horizon, but I've not seen ball lightning being tracked at more than 600 miles an hour to an absolute right turn. It's always a little arc in there." Curmudgeon in the Cellar LXIV (2019). 16m 8s. Tim Kask, YouTube.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Curmudgeon in the Cellar LII (2018)
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Curmudgeon in the Cellar YT5 (2017). Tim Kask, YouTube. 23m 40s.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Interview: Tim Kask (Part I). Grognardia, 2018.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Curmudgeon in the Cellar 34 (2018). Tim Kask, YouTube. 14m 7s.
  12. The Curmudgeon in the Cellar XVI (2018). Tim Kask, YouTube. 25m 28s.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 RPG Interview with "Jake" Jaquet, Polyhedron #4 (1982), p.6-10.
  14. The Curmudgeon in the Cellar LI (2019). Tim Kask, YouTube. 3m 10s.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Curmudgeon in the Cellar 34 (2018). Tim Kask, YouTube. 21m 34s.
  16. Dragon #37 (May 1980), p.2.
  17. Silver Anniversary Collector's Edition (1999), p.8.
  18. The Hatchling Magazine, Dragon #146 (Jun 1989), p.43.
  19. "A lot of what we did back then was very communally done. Who did exactly what? Only in a few instances can I tell you that, because we all buffed each other's stuff." A private chat for proboarders (2017). Tim Kask, YouTube.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Curmudgeon in the Cellar YT5 (2017). Tim Kask, YouTube. 40m 50s.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Interview: Tim Kask (Part III). Grognardia, 2008.
  22. The Curmudgeon in the Cellar XVI (2018). Tim Kask, YouTube. 25m 28s.
  23. Curmudgeon in the Cellar LV (2018). Tim Kask, YouTube. 5m 4s.
  24. Curmudgeon in the Cellar 36 (2018). Tim Kask, YouTube. 8m 0s.
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