Steve Abrams was an enthusiastic wargamer and was regularly attending the Triton Wargaming Club at the University of California at San Diego (where he was a graduate student). There he met Jon Everson and Conan Lamot (yes Conan is his real name). As well as being into wargames, Conan one day (in 1975) returned from a trip to Los Angeles and returned with this 'neat new game' - Dungeons and Dragons, the original 3 book, boxed set put out by a new company called Tactical Studies Review (TSR). It was an appendix to a set of medieval miniatures called Chainmail and provided rules within that context for fantasy interations such as the casting of spells and new character types.
It wasn't really playable as a stand-alone set of rules and the rules themselves were clearly based on miniatures (e.g. all the spell distances were in inches) but Conan had copied a number of relevant tables out of the books and produced a mini players guide which he had titled - The Tome of Midkemia. Being frustrated actors at heart, we took to this new game concept like ducks to water. But there was a fly in the sugar -- it rapdily became obvious that because of the outline nature of the original game rules, the direction the local games were taking was oriented heavily to bash and crash and building giant characters (that only could be threatened by fighting their own dopplegangers -- don't laugh, it really happened). This didn't particularly appeal to a group of us, so we split off from the main-stream D&D crowd and began writing our own rules set based on our collectie knowledge of medieval history, fantasy literature, and our experiences recreating medieval fighting in the Society for Creative Anachronism.
This was the beginning of the 'Thursday Nighters', which later became the 'Friday Nighters' as everyone's schedules changed. During a particularly extended mult-night, miniatures oriented scenario (i.e. The Battle of Here - 12 players with the map taking up most of the living room), we were introduced to a friend of a friend, named Raymond Feist. At that time Ray was a 'poor starving student' at UCSD like the rest of us. Having trudged down the path of building all these rules up into a playable game, Jon Everson and Steve Abrams decided that they might as well start a company and produce gaming products for the burgeoning Fantasy Role playing (FRP) market. Thinking the name was really trick, they checked with Conan, who originally coined the name and got permission from him to use the name Midkemia for 'all future time'.
And so it was that Midkemia Press was born in 1979 (still formally known as Abrams & Everson) and produced their first (and arguably their best) product, the book CITIES. This book, continuously in print since its initial publication, is usable with any FRP game system and and most role playing games in general. It provides tables for generating encounters when running games in city environments, tables for realistically populating your own 'historical' town or city, and a set of rules for running 'character catch-up' - sort of a solo adventure that your character had while waiting for the next game. Typed completely on a rented IBM selectric typewriter, with artwork done by friends Mary Coman, Richard Spahl, Ray Feist (yes Ray even thought he could draw...) and April Apperson, the product was a real success for what at that time was still pretty much a cottage industry. It became obvious that April and Anita Everson were really part of the company and Ray was also brought in as a partner.
The second product was Midkemia's first fully populated role-playing city, The City of Carse. Based on a revised map of medieval Carnarevon in Wales (it's amazing how many people told us "a 'real' city would never look like that!"). Here was the first look at the whimsical capabilities of Ray. Steve and April had blocked out the city in terms of who was where and left Ray typing over the weekend on our new, powerful, Apple II (not II+, not IIe - the original Apple II), SuperText word processor, and a case of beer. For a real peek into those early days, I recommend reading the sections on the 'Bazaar' in Carse.
Carse was followed over the next several years by: The City of Jonril; Tulan of the Isles; Towns of the Outlands; The Black Tower; The Heart of the Sunken Lands, Thieves World (for Chaosium), (an aborted city project for Simulations publications Inc. [SPI] Dragonquest game) and (for Sorcerer's Apprentice magazine) The Village of Hoxely. During this time, Ray became a world famous author, writing novels of Midkemia's history and formally parted company with Midkemia Press to clarify the respective ownership rights regarding the game materials and novels. Midkemia products have been licensed and printed in German and have until recently been in print through Chaosium Inc. The CITIES product, in particular, has been most recently in print as Avalon Hill's RuneQuest Cities.
Today, Midkemia press, is principally a license holder to Midkemia game products, which we share with Ray Feist. The future looks to be oriented toward computer and on-line gaming products. The first computer game set in Midkemia, was Betrayal at Krondor, by Dynamix, Inc. The second computer game had a difficult birthing, first being handled by 7th Level, then pyrotechnics and finally back to Sierra (Dynamix). Return to Krondor, while not the ground-breaking game that Betrayl was has enjoyed moderate success and spawned several new books by Ray.
Discussions continue off and on with various publishers regarding the publishing of the entire game system for the Tome of Midkemia, including the original modules and various new modules. At this time there is no date set. Additionally, Midkemia press is working on play-by-email games based in the Midkemian universe. Look for more information on this web site as that project nears completion.