Those halcyon days of yore…

Finally, you can all relax… It is time for the long awaited follow-up to my Freaky Freaks post of a year and a half ago! This was actually brought on though by the news at that this is Play A New RPG Month!

And, yes, this topic is actually something that I do ponder occasionally… My history with (non-computer) role-playing games. Like many of my um, well, peers?, RPG’s played an enormous role in my teen years. Unfortunately, with all my games being in storage and with the many years have passed since the events have occurred, I can not wholly vouch of the accuracy of some of these statements.

It all started sometime in 1981 when Matt Ward gave me a brief introduction to the game at the landing at the top of the NE stairway at school.. After(?) that, my mother got me the red box set of D&D Basic and I was hooked!

I still remember the moment that I came up with the name of my first character, and I put him and his gang of cronies through the included Keep On The Borderlands module over and over, until I just couldn’t take it anymore… Which I doubt took long. From there I hopped straight into buying the “Players Handbook, Monster Manual, DM’s Guide, Deities and Demigods” quartet of Advanced Dungeon’s and Dragon’s books.

This land was to be my primary home for the next few years. While I am not quite certain what years these were, I know I have the 1981 revised Basic Box and that when I switched to AD&D I ended up with the original edition of Deities and Demigods (according to wikipedia The Cthulhu and Melnibonéan mythologies were removed from the 1981 edition, but they were quite present in the edition that I had), so all of this might well have happened in 1981. The Dieties and Demigods was (and is) a big issue to me, as I was (and am) a big fan of all three of the literary mythologies that were included: Lovecraft’s Cthulhu, Moorcock’s Melnibonéan and Leiber’s Newhonian (from the Fafhrd and Mouser stories).

I am pretty sure that I spent most of the summer of 1982 doing nothing but playing AD&D. By myself… in my room. Primarily using the Random Dungeon Generator in the DMG. The key moment of early obsession that I can remember is the purchase of Dragon magazine issue 62 (May 1982). That magazine really helped to turn it from an overplayed hobby into a near obsession. At that point I would head to the local game store, Endgames, everyday after school and hang out. My allowance was just enough to afford 1-2 modules and that month’s new issue of Dragon Magazine, so that is where it all went.

But, regardless of lack of certainly around the events of 1981, I can unequivocally state that I did little in my spare time but RPG from the summer of 1982 through the summer of 1986 (except, of course, for when I was playing Dig Dug and Robotron 2084 at the arcade). I even took the Dungeon’s and Dragon’s elective at school (the after lunch period on Friday’s), when a good number of us would hang out in the cafeteria for a couple of hours. I don’t recall that elective being offered for very long… Though I mainly played solo, I did have other times when I played with people. The summer of 1983 I played continually with my friend Kevin and my girlfriend in 1985-1986 was RPG-friendly so I would play with her and/or some of our friends in that period. But gaming was primarily a solo pursuit for me.

Though it does sound like I did nothing but AD&D, I actually did branch out, probably in 1982-1983, whenever I got extra money. I got TSR’s Top Secret (pub. 1980), the game of international espionage (probably the game that I most enjoyed actually playing), Chaosium’s Stormbringer (pub. 1981) (which I rarely played, but needed because I loved the Elric books) and GDW’s Traveller (pub. around 1981). Traveller was the best fit for my personality… because you never actually had to play it. You could spend hours and hours creating spaceships, characters and designing solar systems… Just preparing to play the game was a heady task and, with all of the math needed to put the solar systems together, I remember feeling like my mind had never been as sharp as it was then.

AD&D, Top Secret and Traveller consumed the lion’s share (probably 98%+) of my RPG time over the years. But my love for the games lead me to continually buy and try out new ones…

The greatest of those was the Rolemaster series from Iron Crown Enterprises (pub. 1980-1982). What I usually call the best RPG ever made. The vast number of rules and attention to detail made the game, maybe not the most playable, but certainly the most impressive. Though I was never much one to play with spells, the Spell Law book is most fascinating in its depth and breadth. And after playing within D&D’s rather basic experience system, I found the system laid out in Character Law to be very involving and inspiring!

I also played some of FASA’s Star Trek the Role Playing Game (pub. 1982), an awesome game with a fantastic selection of game supplements (the ship construction and Klingon ones are must-have’s!) and I even got the obscure Fantasy Wargaming book (1981-1982), which I never tried to do anything with, but was quite fun to browse.

After that most of it was silly accumulation. I bought West End’s Paranoia (pub. 1984), a humorous game of living in a future dystopian city, Palladium’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (pub. 1985) (’nuff said), FASA’s Mechwarrior (pub. 1986) (along with Battletech), West End’s awesome Star Wars the Role-Playing Game (pub. 1987) and GDW’s Megatraveller (pub. 1987, the much modified new version of Traveller). Of these, the first two were basically ignored, I spent many hours browsing the Mechwarrior stuff, but Megatraveller was the only one I devoted any actual playing time to.

Since then, I haven’t paid RPG’s any mind. I missed all of the future editions of Dungeon’s and Dragon’s, missed the entire d20 thing… Basically stopped cold-turkey towards the end of the 1980’s. Recently though, I have bought two more games, ICE’s Spacemaster and Spaceship Zero from Green Ronin. Neither of these have I done much more than open up and look at.

Kudos to Wayne’s Books for their fantastic collection of RPG reference information! I find it all very tempting. One thing I never understood was why I never tried Call of Cthulhu. I got into Lovecraft in the heyday of my role-playing years, and it should have been an obvious addition to my collection. But, though I certainly saw them around (especially well remembered is the Shadows of Yog-Sothoth cover), I never once tried them out. I suspect that I may rectify that… If I can find some reasonabley priced stuff from the early 80’s editions. Anyway, who knows if I will ever again trod those glorious pathways of pen and paper gaming. But well…

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