Dungeons & Dragons #6
I was recently on a plane that had been directed to idle on the tarmac for an unspeakable amount of time. Together, a few hundred strangers and I shared the same claustrophobic, humid, and increasingly smelly environment. Thankfully, the flight attendant allowed us to use our electronic devices while we waited.
As I turned on my phone, about to dig in to Whitley Streiber novel (Wolfen) on my Samsung, a loud, booming voice began to emanate from the passenger diagonal from me. An overweight fellow in a muscle shirt was talking on his cell phone. I was instantly annoyed... but my annoyance turned to rabid interest as I listened to his conversation. He was talking rather enthusiastically about an upcoming game of Dungeons and Dragons.
...and he was talking about it like he was trading cattle futures on the floor of the stock exchange. It was loud and it was proud. This guy was the Dungeon Master, and by the time our plane powered back up, I was an expert in his campaign. I knew about the temple and the creatures that populated his imaginary world. I wanted to tap this fat pasty fellow and the shoulder and say, "I've got a 20 sided die. What say you and me make this plane trip one for The Ages. Let's do this."
But I didn't have a 20 sided die, actually. Haven't had one since I was a wee lad. But his enthusiasm inspired me to break out some old White Dwarf magazines and walk down memory lane.... or should I say, explore the magical realm of yesteryear.
Herein lie scans from that wonderful fantasy role playing magazine from the 1980s. Let's get started.
There was, of course, a lot more than Dungeons & Dragons. D&D is the TSR brand of fantasy RPGs, but there was a whole host of other varieties: HP Lovecraft, Judge Dredd, Star Trek... you name it.
To give you an idea how long long it's been since I've played D&D - I played before TSR released the popular DragonLance stuff. This ad is from 1984.
I recently listened to a Nerdist Podcast where the host interviewed George R. R. Martin. (Game of Thrones). Martin was going on and on about his days playing RPGs, in particular this super heroes game. I thought that was pretty amazing - that the indisputable heir to Tolkein had his start playing stuff like this. These games really do force your imagination into hyperdrive, so I guess it shouldn't be too surprising.
Does this look even remotely fun to you? This ain't Grand Theft Auto, folks. You've got to be a particular type of person to get enjoyment from something like this. On the one hand, it's immersive and only limited by your imagination... on the other, it's so full of rules, it'll make your head explode.
Back in the day, the two big names in gaming were Gary Gygax (creator of Dungeons & Dragons) and Steve Jackson, creator of all sorts of crazy shit. That's Steve in the picture below (on left).
Most of these games couldn't be found at your local B. Dalton's. You had to go ta an actual gaming store. I lived in Dayton, OH during my D&D days, and we had a couple such places. They were manned by Prestige Level 55 Nerds that wouldn't presume to speak to a stupid gradeschooler. Your comic shop douche-bags of today have nothing on those guys.
IMHO all fantasy, whether it be gaming or reading, has been steeped in Tolkein until George R. R. Martin rolled in with his series. It was inescapable. They'd try to maybe put a new spin on dwarves, or elves, or whateverthefuck... but it always had that Tolkein ring to it (pardon the pun).
Of course, Tolkein borrowed the mythology himself, so I'm not criticizing. Suffice it to say, a lot of RPG campaigns began with a bunch of dwarves banging on a "halfling's" humble door.
I never really got into the science fiction based RPG's. For some reason, it was fantasy that cornered the market. Something about that genre just harmonized well with role playing.
Never heard of Sorcerer's Cave or Talisman. In fact, as I page through these old White Dwarf magazines, I see that there were shit ton of RPGs that I've never heard of. Screw Skyrim - give me something to immerse in, and most of all enjoy doing with friends. Fantasy gaming was not a lonely endeavor. It was a nerdy endeavor, but it was not a solitary activity.
There was a library of books you had to own as well. Any Dungeon Master worth his salt had a collection (I say "his" because there has never been a reported case of a female dungeon master). The Monster Manual, The Fiend Folio, Deities and Demi-gods, The Dungeon Master's Guide, etc.
Holy crap. I had that Vampyre "mini module". I'd love to have a look inside for old time's sake.
Well, I'll leave you with this. Why? Because those of you who have no interest in D&D have stuck it out to the end should be rewarded.
Oh, and a message to the fat Dungeon Master on the plane: You keep rollin' those dice, brother. Roll 'em till you can't roll no more.