So today (or maybe yesterday) is the 50th anniversary of the release of Dungeons & Dragons, which I got into just about a year-and-a-half later after having heard about it at Gandalf’s Den Fantasy Gallery on the mall in central Eugene, where I would hang out after my freshman year at high school between buses.
I was obsessed with creating my D&D settings. Jon Pitchford and I had gone in halfsies on the D&D box (it was $10!) and we played as much as we could given we lived in different parts of town, with my part of town kind of way out of town. When Jon transferred to another high school, he found a crop of players (another Jon, Dave & Allison, and Tom) who ended up being our core for RPGs ranging from D&D to TRAVELLER, Gamma World, Bushido, Champions, and beyond, for about seven years, as the attraction of the armed services to kids without much money ate into our numbers.
I wrote what I thought at the time was a scathing satire about high school cliques my senior year, casting Jocks and Groupies as a monster class called Narcisstics, and sent it off to The Dragon magazine with both my name and Pitchford’s on it because it had grown out of a discussion we’d had. Something like 6 months later, it showed up in issue #24 and I ran over to Jon’s quad room at the University of Oregon. We hadn’t gotten any notice that ot had been accepted, and after a few weeks went by, I sent a message off asking if we were going to get paid; eventually we got a check for $9, which I split with Jon. That could buy us four-and-a-half copies of the magazine.
The spring of my senior year, Gandalf’s hired me to work in the book and game shop. It was a small shop, with usually just one staff member working at a time. For a lot of it, I was the only employee, with the other hours covered by Michael, the owner, and his wife, Lee. In addition to the retail side, Michael had early on made regional distribution deals with TSR, Game Designers’ Workshop, Flying Buffalo, and a variety of game-related companies that produced dice and miniatures, so I worked in their thriving wholesale operation in the basement, boxing up orders to be shipped all over the Northwest. I saw a lot of games, and I spent a lot of my meagre income on books and games.
I’ve written at length about my experience with Christian fundamentalists threatening to picket a talk I was asked to give at the Springfield Public Library here and here, so I’m not going to elaborate.
After most of the gang left town, eventually I did so myself, going back to college. I played games with a couple of guys I met there—though no RPGs—and when they left town, I sort of went down a freelance developer rabbit hole that didn’t lead me to meeting any more, so most of my games have been languishing in boxes for 40 years (it helps to not move for over 30 years), including my D&D stuff. On the other hand, they’re reasonably well-preserved! I did get a chance to play some D&D with one of my nephews a couple of years ago, as he tried his hand at DMing.
- Just a Box of Games, Box 1
- Just a Box of Games, Box 2
- Just a Box of Games, Box 3
- Just a Box of Games, Box 4
- Just a Box of Games, Box 5
- Just a Box of Games, Box 6
Almost forgot! I did (poorly) a little presentation for a live event here in Portland. The recorded version is a lot better.
Everybody’s showing their D&D books. These are my oldest ones.