Synnibarr: A History

Synnibarr: A History

In Which we Learn About the History of the Development of Synnibarr From the Author Himself


Have you ever wondered exactly HOW Synnibarr came to be?

The official history says development on the game began in 1977 -- written by hand, then typed, by the way -- with the first edition being released in 1980, and the second mass market release taking place in 1993.

... but actually, the beginnings of Synnibarr go back further than that ... all the way back to 1976, when Raven was 14 ...


"It's nineteen seventy six. I'm a young man at my first convention in Seattle, just exposed to a new type of game, a role-playing system called Metamorphosis Alpha. I'm in the 8th grade, and staying on my own for the first time, without an adult, at a hotel. The very first day of the convention, I sit at the table and play the demo ... to say my life was suddenly changed would be a very small understatement.

"From that point on, I began to design worlds. Starting with simple sketches concerning artificial centrifugal gravity systems, to staging environments in physical proximity for maximum efficiency of power usages, on and on, my dreams began to take shape. This interest led me to the study -- which is still ongoing-- of disciplines such as astronomy, geology, vulcanology, meteorology, botany, biology, zoology, anthropology and on and on to philosophy, metaphysics and religions ... culminating with the harder sciences (physics, chemistry, etc.) and mechanical engineering. (It takes a lot of homework to "play god?!" ;o)

The time: The summer of 1979.

The place: Jacksonville, Florida, where a bit more happened on the trail that would ultimately lead to Synnibarr, and we find Raven at yet another convention, playing another demo ... this time of something called, "Dungeons and Dragons:"

"Unlike Metamorphosis Alpha, where my character had wings and could fly, in D&D my magic user could not carry a sword and got only one spell per day: Web."

"Then one day, in a little trendy cafe called the Last Exit, I met a lad -- I can't remember his name; however, I do remember him describing his character."

"Mind you, I had not started creating Synnibarr as of yet."

"This young man said he had a character that was a samurai. That was cool I thought -- my magic user could now cast two spells a day; we would work well together."

"Then he went on to say, 'I have a pair of katana; when I draw them, I can grow to fifteen feet tall!' He smiled at me, and I got FURIOUS!"

"At this point, my 'mighty' magic user could only cast two spells! This eclipsing of my now pitiful character actually hurt my feelings, my ego; he had crushed my entire fantasy life with a simple statement."

"This wound was deep, and at the next game, it reared its head."

"To make a long story short, the referee had given my character a crystal ball. I hid it within the coil of my rope padded in my pack. During the adventure, my character somehow leaned against a tree and broke the artifact! I was finished! No lasers, no powers, and yet that other kid's character could grow to fifteen feet tall! Something had to be done ..."

Influenced by Marvel Comics, the works of J.R.R. Tolkin, Jack Vance, Stephen R. Donaldson, and Frank Herbert, Raven got to work.

Somewhere along the way to what was to become Synnibarr, there was a bit of a dust-up between Raven and D&D co-creator, Gary Gygax.

Apparently, Dungeon Master Gary didn't think Raven's character needed a sword at one point in the game they were playing, and offered instead the choice of dagger, rock, or staff.

"I wanted a magic user like Dr. Strange ... with the powers of Superman on the bridge of a starship!!!"

"In those days characters were low powered. I wanted POWER ... so I invented POWER GAMING ... mu-hu-hu-ha-ha-ha!!

... and that's when he first got the basic idea for Synnibarr.

(to be continued)