In the worst section of the worst part of this town there was a battery factory. When the battery factory failed or moved away, Ral Partha moved in. The facility looked like it was built upon oil-stained lead shavings mixed with gravel. The warehouse/factory was a cinder-block hovel with a wood-frame ceiling. The executive offices and sculpting studio was a cramped house filled with the dreams, fantasy posters, miniatures and collectible oddities. A thin layer of industrial dust covered everything in the cramped messy house. Taken together, it was a vertigo inducing mixture that made the minds of game junkies and fantasy dreamers swoon.
Jack was a natural salesman, a down to earth guy and the type who would play a fighter in the RPG. You know the guy who just wants to roll dice and kill things. He “quit” smoking years ago, but he always reaked of nicotine and had yellow stained fingers. About once an hour he would steal away to the bathroom, which oddly enough, always smelled like tobacco. Along the same lines, he had one of the thickest manes of hair I’ve ever seen on a man over forty. The Cleric Brown (TM by Ral Partha Paints) hair on the top of his head seemed a shade lighter than the hair at his collar at the rear of his head. Jack had an infectuous smile and easy demeanor that quickly won him friends. Jack always bragged about how he was good with the money and how he was the only “business man” at Partha. Jack didn’t have much interest in games anymore and he didn’t really care about the product other than he wanted it to sell.
Chuck was brooding, critical and acerbic. At conventions he liked to dress like Henry VIII and he gave a pretty good likeness—except for the fact that I never pictured Henry VIII as so likable and easy-going as Chuck. (He was always in a better mood at conventions.) Chuck loved miniatures and games and game conventions. He came to life when discussing the difference between a stone troll and a river troll. Chuck’s office was in the factory and it was his job to oversee production and keep everything running smoothly. But Chuck didn’t do that. Chuck didn’t do much of anything. He didn’t like work and he hated Jack. He felt like Jack didn’t know the business because Jack not only didn’t know the difference between a river troll and a stone troll, Jack didn’t frankly give a shit what the difference was between a river troll and a stone troll.
This strategy meant that Mike was indispensable in Jack’s eyes, because Chuck was worthless. By the same token, Mike was always undermining Jack. Mike wanted nothing more than to depose Jack and set up Chuck as “king” because then Mike would really be running the show. Meanwhile, Mike was a hero of sorts to the marijuana-infested bikers who worked hot pewters in a cancer-causing carcass of industry.
To those bikers who made little more than minimum wage, he made himself out like he was their hero—a man of the people who wanted nothing more than to give them all raises (were it not for that damn Chuck and Jack holding him back). They loved Mike because he was the defender of the afternoon pot-break.
There were three other partners: a lawyer (who didn’t much care about the thing—I never met him), Tom Mieir, and Rich Smethurst (a postman who loved games nearly as much as Chuck). Three out of five of these partners put Jack in charge. Tom Mieir was bitter because in his opinion he had been screwed out of royalties by Partha.
Rich just wanted free lead. (He was the nicest guy and the best person I ever met who had anything to do with Partha.) I think Rich had it all figured out. He would deliver mail and occaisionally come to the factory to cast his own figures. If Partha made money that was just a bonus.
I don’t know the last pieces of this puzzle, but I think I know the characters well enough to guess how it played out. Mixing fact with conjecture, I’ll tell you how Mike Noe orchestrated the sale to FASA. TSR had recently been acquired by WotC and WotC was planning on pulling the licensing from Partha. This would take away at least 40% of Partha’s business. FASA counted for another 30% of Partha’s business and they knew they had Ral Partha over a barrel. If they took away the license, Partha wouldn’t be finished but they would be in deep trouble. So FASA both threatened to take the license away but also offered to buy the company.
Tom M. and the lawyer wanted out. They always voted to sell. Chuck and Jack were like some sort of brothers from literature—bound for life to the beast called Partha and a shared union with a woman. They would never vote to sell. Rich didn’t care if it made money or not. Why sell? He just wanted more figures.
This probably would make an interesting novel and this is only the half of it.
|About the Author — Will Nesbitt is the principal broker of Condo Alexandria / Nesbitt Realty. Will is a realtor who specializes in condos, townhouses and single family real estate in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax County, Crystal City, and Kingstowne. Will resides in Belle Haven Estates just outside Alexandria VA in Fairfax County.|