Kurt Lortz

Kurt Lortz
Kurt Lortz, a friend of mine for thirty years, died Monday.

Steve and Kurt Lortz are the brothers responsible for the now hard-to-find game Panzer Pranks and Kurt’s never-published Dark Worlds, which, after it was replaced, pursuant to a creative dispute with the publisher over certain details, by the moderately successful Call of Cthulhu, continued to be developed as a more generic (non-Lovecraftian) vampire-hunting roleplaying game. Back in 1976, Steve introduced a number of us to the role-playing-game concept; Dungeons and Dragons was a fairly new thing back then, and Steve knew the authors, or at least Dave Arneson, pretty well. So Steve taught us game mechanics and something of the basics of how to run an rpg, and has gone on to design more games and sculpt a lot of miniature figures, making him fairly well-known in gaming circles; whilst Kurt, his more flamboyant younger brother, did research into arcane background material, and with his flair for the dramatic could be counted on to create conditions for a dynamite (sometimes literally) interactive story. Many nights we spent, with various groups of unwashed geeks, into the wee hours and beyond, especially as we playtested the various iterations of that great project, Dark Worlds. But we might also be discussing the great questions of life, delving into spiritual truth or political untruth.

Some people you meet, and get along with, and spend time with pleasantly enough, because you happen to live nearby and have some common interests. Other people you choose, and keep in touch with no matter what the geography, and despite how interests may change. I’ve known Steve since the fall of 1968, and Kurt since 1976. We’ve kept in touch because we wanted to, and have become legends in one another’s lives. Locations, relationships, marriages, various jobs and responsibilities change over time; but friendship has remained a constant. So it was that this past March when I was in central Indiana for a day or so, I called Steve, and the two of us took a few hours and went to visit Kurt, who due to a series of deteriorating health conditions, was by then residing in a nursing home outside Indianapolis. For the past several years Kurt has been teaching in a private school, and had continued to do so until this most recent series of hospitaizations. He was absolutely devoted to his students. Last year he told me how he had, over the previous year, battled successfully against an agressive cancer, and consciously used his own situation as a teaching tool for those in his charge. He wanted them to learn how to face the realities of life, including suffering, with dignity and faith, and he was proud of how they had succeeded. Now the cancer was back, along with other issues. But he was still the same Kurt: deadly serious about facing reality head on, but full of humor, able to laugh at himself and evoke laughter, and at the same time able to make every situation into a larger-than-life story. He had a laptop computer in his room, on which he was composing music. Our visit together was like old times, though his body was failing him: confined to bed and wheelchair, painful sores on his body, his hands wrapped in bandages, periodic bouts of pain so severe that sometimes he would pass out from the pain. But in heart and spirit bouyant, the twinkle never leaving his eye, always full of gratitude to God for his grace. It was a good visit. I couldn’t help wonder if it might be the last.

Last night, Steve phoned to give me the news. There had been time enough for his family to gather, some from far away, and be with him in his final moments. Steve told me that when the moment came, strange to say, they felt like dancing, the way you would when a runner on your team breaks the tape at the finish line. I’m sure you just would have had to be there.

Kurt Lortz: a legend in my life, large in every way. A man of courage, and dignity, indomitable faith, and utmost loyalty.


7 thoughts on “Kurt Lortz

  1. I loved Kurt very much. He was one of the most important souls I encountered at Ball State (1979-1985). I lost touch with Kurt and his brother Steve over the years. But they both were so very important to this one in his “life of desperation.” Kurt’s humor was so unique and went deep into my heart.

    He had us having so much devious fun in the student government activities. Many a time he would send me up to the student senate meeting to call, “Quorum.” Just to torque everyone off because their was never a quorum of senators.

    Or the time he got us all to start a movement to incorporate the Daily News campus paper.

    I loved his intelligent playfulness. Way back when the “Iran Hostage Crisis” was upon us (1979) He and his brother steve took up a collection and we sent President Carter a telegram. President Carter was going to Canada for fishing. Under Kurt we sent a telegram wishing the President a nice fishing trip and, O yeah P.S. too bad about them hostages.

    He was amazing fun. I knew I was in trouble when Kurt would start the dialogue:

    “you’re my friend, aren’t you?”
    yes, I’d say.
    “and friends DO things for friends, DON’T They?”

    I huge part of my education was having had the joy of knowing Kurt Lortz. God Bless you Kurt Lortz where ever you are.


  2. Wow! It’s been a long long time and I am truly saddened to hear of Kurtz’s death. What a loss of creativity and wisdom. We used to call him “the emperor” at Ball State and the nicname fit. Love to all my old pals from the Tally. Smu said it best above!
    Vicki Rourke-Rooney

  3. My very first teaching job was at The Summit Academy and I had the pleasure of working with Kurt for half of one year and another full year after that. His devotion to his students inspired me, and continues to inspire me to put the needs of my students ahead of my own recognition. I asked myself “whatever happened to…” and found this post, and am grateful that I did. I shall look with eagerness to the day that I can once again enjoy this wonderful, Godly man’s company.

  4. I was sad to discover this post and learn Kurt had passed away, but happy to read about his life and be reminded of who he was. When I was a teenager, I worked with Kurt at The Game Preserve in Indianapolis for several years. He was unfailingly kind, warm, and patient with me as I learned the responsibilities of a paying job. I always hoped he was running the store when I came in for my shift because I enjoyed his company so much. I’m 42 now and my D&D books from childhood sit on my bookshelf. I will look through them and be reminded of what a good and decent man Kurt was. He is missed.

  5. I want to let you all know that Steve joined Kurt in the Kingdom of God last night. I am sure they are already rolling dice. Please share the news witb those who knew him. No arrangements are known at this time. Tha k you all for the years of friendship and support you provided both my father and Steve. Kurt’s daughter Aimee

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