Dungeons and Dragons
Saturday morning, September 17th, 1983. One week before my 11th birthday and only a few weeks after I’d first played Dungeons and Dragons, CBS aired the first 30 minutes of the greatest saturday morning adventure ever. Every weekend for the next three years would include this half hour animated Dungeons and Dragons animated series.
27 episodes of following Hank the ranger, Eric the cavalier, Sheila, the thief, Diana the acrobat, Presto the magician, Bobby the barbarian, and Uni, the baby unicorn, as they searched the realm for a way home to our world after being magically transported via a Dungeons and Dragons roller coaster at an amusement park.
Dungeon Master served as a sort of guide and impetus to the group, dropping clues and instigating adventures and investigations along the way.
The June post was supposed to be about the classic 1984 Marvel Super Heroes RPG from TSR.
Only this isn’t June, and this post isn’t about Marvel Super Heroes.
See, I’m several weeks late in writing about games, because I’ve been too busy playing. Normally I’ll host a game night and run a one shot scenario of whatever game I want to write about next. I’ll dust off the old rulebook, reread the system, write a short
scenario and make some characters, and that was going to happen in early June.
Only it didn’t.
“Boot Hill is full of fellows who pulled their triggers without aiming”
It was early 1988, I was staying over at my friend Dan’s house for the night. Normally we would spend the entire night trying to rescue Princess Zelda, but this time was different. Dan and I had played D&D before but he wasn’t part of my regular group of D&D friends and we usually only played nintendo together. Dan and I were friends because our moms were friends and he went to a different school, so we really only hung out when our moms did. Continue reading
“Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars — Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.”
— The Nemedian Chronicles.
January 22nd 1906 in the small community of Peaster Texas, Robert E. Howard was born. While his career, and his life, would be short, his impact would be immeasurable.
During his brief but prolific career Howard created many memorable characters, from Kull the Atlantean, Solomon Kane the Puritan, Bran Mak Morn the King of the Picts, and merchant marine / prize fighter Sailor Steve Costigan. But none would have the impact of his black maned Cimmerian Barbarian who would rise to be King of Aquilonia.
In 1932 Weird Tales Magazine published the first Conan story “the Pheonix and the Sword” and the legend was born. Howard would write twenty more Conan stories (16 of wich would be published in his lifetime), one poem “Cimmeria”, and an essay “The Hyborian Age” before is death in 1936. L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter would publish 9 more based on pieced together fragments, notes and outlines. And in the 80 years since Howards suicide, more than 50 novels and dozens of short stories by various authors have been published. Continue reading
A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, West End Games produced the original Star Wars RPG. First published in 1987, fresh on the heels of the award winning Ghostbusters RPG, West End Games (WEG) created one of the most entertaining and simple RPGs ever.
The Star Wars RPG perfectly immerses the player into the well known and well loved universe of Star Wars. Complete with images from the movie and full color fake advertisements from the Imperial Navy and Galaxy Tours’ Four Week Grand Galactic Tour. This hard cover book contains everything you need to join the Rebel Alliance against the forces of darkness and defeat the Empire. Everything except a few 6 sided dice that is. An elegant system, for a more civilized age, the conflict resolution system is entirely D6 based so you can simply pilfer the Yahtzee set and you’re ready to go. The resistance based system sets difficulty points for various tasks and the dice pool stats and skills determine the characters abilities. The system is smooth and painless for even the greenest game master with only the slightest of prep time. It would later evolve into the WEG core D6 system released as a stand alone universal RPG a decade later. Continue reading
It’s that time of year, and odds are you’re thinking about gifts. Either gifts to buy for that special geek in your life or you’re rounding off that wish list for the fat guy with the beard. Either way, I’ve got the perfect collection of high end gaming accessories for the distinguished nerd.
Whether you’re upgrading your existing game room or going for the full medieval remodel you’ll need a few basic items for a great game session.
In the mid 90’s I watched with horror as the hobby I had devoted half my life to at that time, died a slow painful death by attrition.
Twice a month we were meeting at Mike’s, who was our dungeon master in those days. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition wasn’t new, and some could argue that it was already starting to wither, with the re-releases and reprints of the same material since ’89, the game was set for something dramatic to happen, good or bad. But we were die-hards who’d bought every supplement and new edition or revision since the early 80’s.
That’s when I started to notice it.
The creeping infection grew like a brown mold, feeding on the warmth, and leaving nothing but cold in its wake.
A new game was taking the hobby industry by storm in those days, a fantasy genre card game that was inexpensive and fast to learn and even faster to set up. We were, admittedly, fantasy junkies. We would devour anything in our genre, no matter how cheesy or ridiculous. So it came as no surprise that this game would be a hit. Since it only needed 2 players, and everyone had some of the cards, it became the #1 pastime for the early arrivers to each game night. With the first couple of players throwing down a quick round before the rest of the party showed up.
If only that had been the end of it, I wouldn’t be writing this today.
Slowly, the card game players became less inclined to wrap it up once everyone was there, and the later arriving players became more inclined to just join in the card game. And so the dice bags and monster manuals sat, unopened and neglected, with increasing frequency. It wasn’t long from there that the campaign began to dwindle and eventually stall out. I was, to say the least, disappointed. The group continued to get together to play cards, eventually getting involved in tournaments at the local comic book shop. The company behind that card game became a huge success, and the company that made my beloved Dungeons and Dragons began to collapse. The end was near.
In 1984 Chick Publications released the Dark Dungeons comic pamphlet. Chick had been in business for 10 years at this point making religious themed comic strips with 22 panels on various subjects, intent on helping the reader avoid damnation. The comic pamphlets were known as Chick Tracts and covered all manner of threats from Rock and Roll to LSD use. Dark Dungeons was intent on protecting us from the dangers of Role Playing Games and the secret agenda to initiate the players into the world of Satanism via D&D. The fake game in the comic is Dark Dungeons, although the characters refer to it as D&D, waving away the possible confusion of the real subject while still avoiding a lawsuit. Younger readers may not realize this but, once upon a time, playing fantasy role playing games was considered evil and dangerous, an invitation to Satanism, drug use and suicide. With daytime talk shows devoting episode after episode to the subject and even “serious” news programs like 60 Minutes getting in the act. CBS even aired a made for TV movie starring a young Tom Hanks called Mazes and Monsters.
Summer break 1983, a 10 year old boy sits at a card table in a basement. His mace does only 1D6 points of damage, but if he can kill these kobolds, hopefully the other boys, some of them in high school, will invite him back to play next week. The basement in question belongs to the parents of 13 year old Craig Brown. The game on the card table is the 1983 edition of the red box basic Dungeons and Dragons game. The kobolds in the Caves of Chaos have been harassing the good people of the Keep on the Borderlands. The 10 year old boy is me.