Saturday, December 11, 2010

Back on a Roll

The further back I look, the harder it gets to find my first encounter with the phenomenon of Dungeons and Dragons. Likely I saw pictures of the game and read about it in books just as I was exiting childhood and entering adolescence, but it might be earlier than that. I had an issue of the Star Wars comic (actually I had two and that’s the sum of my collection!) which had an enticing cartoon advertising the game, and it’s possible that that same issue was also advertising the Ralph Bakshi Lord of the Rings movie, such was its infiltration into popular media of the time. In 1982 the movie ET attempted to show a game in progress (further discussion on that here.)

The Greatest American Hero even pitched in on the trend working in a (very silly) story connected to early misbegotten LARPing games in real life, and later still TSR in relaunching the set for an 80s audience ran a serial advertisement in UK comics (2000AD in my case) to continue the marketing push. All of this served less to explain the game to me than promote more confusion, but with that, it did increase its mystique. It was simply a game I HAD to find out more about! So the advertising worked, due in no small part to my overactive imagination. By my 14th birthday my brother and I had a set – the red ‘Basic’ box rather than the older Advanced D&D rules (they really didn’t name things these well, did they?) and we set to, armed with a couple of handy independent guidebooks to help us on our way. This was the best of the bunch – British in origin and approach, and full of really useful insight into a game our parents were absolutely dumbfounded by and just didn’t understand. Which, in its own way, was rather cool; it made the game all the more ‘ours’, though it didn’t help me accrue many more associated books, modules and game aids because of the fact.

From that age I played the game with school friends, as did my brother with his, and for two or three years it featured quite heavily in my extracurricular life, fitting somewhere between youth group, scouts and venturers, and (thankfully) girlfriends. My characters came and went, as did my playmates, and eventually so did the game – revived over a couple of university summers mainly to recapture some of the old magic when Paul M, one of the old group, returned home from the Navy for the holidays. Things eventually went really quiet; Paul and I moved away for good, we found spouses and he even moved overseas. Before making that move though we had one ‘last’ game, with a few local friends and his brother – Jamas has it blogged here. It went okay – being as we are all grown up with less free time the games were rushed and business-like. For the most part they were okay – some of the old magic was there, albeit framed by adult duties responsibilities – that’s life.

This weekend Paul’s back for a limited time. We have one day set aside to return to the mines of Barbigazl and undo the wrongs committed in the first place. Will righteousness prevail? Can the heroes see it through and triumph? More to the point, can we fit this in over one Sunday before the inevitable call to come home for dinner? We wait to see!


  1. I'm sure I remember in E.T. (though it must've been the book - a (long?) discussion about the merits of a portable hole...?

  2. yeah I remember that too, although maybe more from the novelisation (I think the mum overhears it and wishes to herself that she had one or something)

    Mind you, Spielberg might have cut it out - like the mysterious missing cigarettes from the scene...