In Memory of Ford Ivey (1948-2021)
Ford Ivey, the founder of Legacy Game Systems and the Grandfather of NERO, was an incredible and creative man who affected the lives of hundreds (dare we say thousands) of people.
His Powerful Imagination
At the age of 72, he was an accomplished game designer recognized in the live action role playing community as a innovative visionary. He was the founder of many games, including: NERO, Duel Arcanum, Tales of the Wanderer, Shandlin's Ferry, Wildlands, The Isles, a live version of Call of Cthulhu, and The Osiris Sanction.
Ford is also the recipient and namesake of the LARPY Lifetime Achievement award, and was the LARP Guest of Honor at Origins Game Fair in July 2007.
"I started working with Ford, March of 2014," says Legacy Game Systems Manager Matthew Graham. "As I think back through the years, the one defining thing that I can say about him was his ability to see beyond limitation. Ford had the ability to pull from his imagination and build a grand vision, then turn that vision into reality. Where most people see limitation, Ford saw opportunity. That was his gift to the world and to me."
Immersion was his main focus when creating a game, which is what eventually led him to create Legacy Game Systems! His goal was to create a system that would completely revolutionize how people play games.
"Back when he was creating his first LARP game the idea was to create the most immersive game possible," says Graham. "Not to have it feel like people were playing a game, but that they are a different person, in a different place playing a character in their own story. This system is part of that disbelief. It allows players to just do, instead of shouting what they are doing."
Many consider Ford to be a talented inventor for his creations, but according to his wife, he didn't see himself that way.
"He never believed he was an inventor, because he wasn't an engineer," says Sidney Fisher, Ford's wife of X years. "But he understood what the engineers did well enough to see the possibilities. He could pull together the bits and pieces, then call or write the guys, almost always starting with, 'What if...'. By the time he finished his 'What if...' the engineers would be saying, 'Yeah, that would work...' and a new process or piece of equipment would be born."
Ford was born in Honolulu, HI, but he lived most of his life in Texas and then in Massachusetts, where he began a role playing game that would later become NERO, a game that now spans across the United States.
The first gatherings were held under the name "Weekend Warriors" in 1986. Within the the Duchy of Ravenholt, Ford used to oversee feasts and celebrations in the role of Duke Basil.
"Live role-playing started in England, where there are a lot of medieval reenactment societies," said Ford about NERO, "but what we do is a fantasy game."
In September 1991, Issue #173 of Dragon magazine published an article about NERO. This exposure allowed the LARPing organization to grow to over 5,000 members, eventually expanding to chapters in New Jersey and Atlanta.
"When I met Ford Ivey in 1998, NERO was in full swing," says Sidney Fisher. "When I attended my first event with him, probably in '99, I enjoyed watching his interaction with the players and his staff. He was the most patient and diplomatic boss I ever met, but the amazing thing was how he wove his magic with the players. When he took on the mantle of a role, he lived it! And the players around him, in that moment, believed."
"At a Ford Ivey game, it was always possible to fail," Fisher continues, reminscing with a small smile. "It was possible to die. The fear was as real as it could get. When they succeeded, they were elated, but when they failed? The last day of my first event, I heard one player ask another, 'How did it go this weekend?' The other one answered, 'It was fantastic! I died three times!' It took me a long time to understand why that would be fun. I'll never be a gamer, but I'll always appreciate the magic Ford created, and the joy it brought to so many lives."
LARP was Ford's passion. He always had a new game idea rolling around in his head! He worked constantly on skill spreadsheets, balancing mana and damage points, writing up descriptions, and corresponding with collaborators. He pulled ideas from everywhere and everyone, and had an astounding capacity to deal with disappointment and disaster with absolute calmness...
The staff member left the NERO character cards at the office, and we're halfway to the camp? Calmly turn around and get them! The kid at Origins who was trying to defuse the bomb ripped out the electronics rather than cutting the colored wires? We had a backup bomb! The players ignored the prop that took the staff many hours to make, so that it no longer fit and had to be removed? Ford rewrote the plot on the fly -- and the players had a wonderful time and never knew! The moment he became aware of a problem, he focused on solutions, never got angry, and just fixed it.
Continuing His Legacy
Ford inspired us at Legacy Game Systems to reach for new, bigger, better ways of gaming. Because of his vision, we are near the end of developing an immersive and innovative gaming system that will completely change how you play a game: you will live the game!
We are so lucky to have had a guy like Ford on this project. His drive and enthusiasm pushed us during the times we weren't sure if our hardware would work--but he had a dream, and he encouraged us all.
"When Ford first approached me about marketing his new immersive gaming system, I had a lot of doubts," says communications coordinator Kristin Story. "I only saw the challenges and the potential risks--but Ford's determination was contagious. I feel like he made it a personal mission to convince me to join the team...and now I've been along for the ride since 2015, because I believe so strongly in it!"
Always the optimist, Ford saw possibilities and worked through the problems to make things happen. He believed in this project so fiercely that it was hard not to get excited when you were around him.
"I'll never forget when we ran a game using the first Legacy technology at Origins," says Sidney Fisher. "The first group of players put on their equipment and sat expectantly around the table with Ford. Until that moment they were just 20-somethings out for a lark. Then Ford began to speak. He was completely in character, deadly serious, outlining the mission and their objective, and warning them of the dangers. Their faces changed in that moment. They were staring at him, and some of them actually looked scared. By the time they lined up at the door to go into the module, they were tense from head to toe, and they were all either terrified or excited and full of adrenaline.
"When they came out, they were laughing, shouting, and bouncing off the walls! They were talking about getting their friends together so they could do it again and even set up games of their own. If only we hadn't been using discontinued Hasbro ray guns - if only we had then the technology we have now!"
Before he died, he gathered all of us into a virtual meeting and told us he wanted us to continue the legacy he started. We've been privileged over the years to hear all the plans and dreams he had for this project, and now we continue on in his memory.
"I was honored when Ford asked me to become a manager of the Legacy project," says Matthew Graham. "The first thing I thought was, how do I carry that vision and tenacity in the way that he did? It was something I envy and strive to emulate. It's something that will be on my mind as we continue his legacy."
It will be a challenge to match Ford's determination, and he will be so very missed by all of us at Legacy Game Systems.
He Will Be Missed By Many
Ford was an honorable man. He said he was an agnostic - I guess he has his answers now. He didn't need religion, though, to believe in justice, fairness, and equality. He cared about suffering world-wide, followed politics and did what he could to make things better, but most of all, he cared about his family and friends. Ford had a warm, kind, generous heart. He quietly helped when his friends were in trouble. And he loved them all.Sidney Fisher
A great man who impacted so many people’s lives. You will be missed but never forgotten.Matthew Graham
I've known Ford for many years, having first played with him at LARP games, and later working with him to produce his vision of taking the "Live Action" of LARPing to the next level. His youthful nature, larger than life dreams, and insightful thinking is what keeps our team pushing for excellence. I will miss his humor, his quirky ideas, and his genuine compassion for people. His team is steadfastly dedicated to continuing his ideas and his Legacy.Dawn Graham
Rest Well my friend,
You brought so much into other’s lives.
You will be missed but not forgotten.Christopher Herbert
his impact has literally made a new world, or 2, with it’s own people…And now the children of those people, and their grandchildren exist because of him. GodSpeed Friend, Pioneer, Storyteller…Matthew Graybeal
I will miss you so much. I never told you how much light you brought me and how thoughtful you always were. May your memory and legacy forever be a light and bring people together in friendship and happiness.Tato Williams
I have never met Ford in person though i have spoken to him over the years on the phone and through the internet on LARP related means. There is no summary that can encompass all the ways in which this one person changed the course of my life. If we look to the butterfly flapping it’s wings and creating such ripples of change around it, Ford was akin to a mothman. In strange ways the people i have met, the relationships i have made, the places i have lived… even the children i have had, were all set in motion by Ford Ivy… my life would be indescribably different if not for the contributions he has made to this world and to me. I have had both the best and worst times in the fated hands of NERO. RIP and have a wonderful time on your next adventure.Mira Rose
Fords vision led to the creation of my community in GA. His life’s positive impact on tens of thousands of people in the southeast is overwhelming. May his memory be a blessing.Jay Schneider
Ford and NERO significantly changed my life from where it was when I started. I had an entirely different career than what I thought because of NERO. I’ve met many lifelong friends, and gone on many a journey because of Ford’s work. Thank you your majesty and RIP.Ed Macauley