Monday, April 19, 2010

Some Personal Gaming History

When I was a kid, probably about 9 or 10, my cousin and I had heard about D&D and wanted to play but didn’t have any money to buy it. We’d both played enough to get the basics, and I actually went about writing up my own rules - really just a bunch of charts, with weapon damage, equipment costs, etc. He did the same or used mine, and we only had six sided dice. The games all took place in the neighborhood - that is, the map I used was just a rough sketch of a bunch of houses and woods nearby. I populated them them monsters - in retrospect, they were basically psychotic people with knives (John Carpenter's Halloween was probably making an impression), ghosts, and vampires. There might have been an ogre or a few goblins too (orcs?)… We had a lot of fun, and that Christmas we both received the Moldvay Red Box. In a flurry, we soon both had the Expert Set, then a slew of AD&D books, modules, miniatures. We went crazy for the stuff, and there wasn’t anything that TSR could release that we weren’t drooling over if not immediately buying.

In the sixth grade I met Rich - even more of a player and collector, and we became great friends. His basement grew to become stuffed with every game imaginable. Eventually his collection seemed larger than even the local game store’s… I benefited by being able to play many more RPGs and suspect I was often the only willing volunteer he could find.

Rich was much more into war gaming than myself - being brilliant at math and tactics, and having played so many games and read so many rules, it was difficult for him to find peers that were a decent match. He became interested in conventions, and the two of us went to the only one I’ve ever attended (maybe the first or second Simcon at the University of Rochester in New York). I distinctly remember playing Mayfair Games’ I.C.B.M. there. Rich was kind enough to usually allow me to play the “Evil Empire” with its greater number of targets and missiles, although of course the game was really un-winnable by anyone. The first time I ever heard of Sun Tzu's Art of War was of course from Rich, who I saw carrying it around. In junior high we played D&D during lunch period with groups of up to a dozen (we could hardly fit around the tables) with Rich usually DM’ing, and then sometimes again after school until our parents picked us up.

Eventually, I started drifting away from the gaming table - I became more interested in music and my Pink Floyd experiments. Rich went on to join ROTC, eventually becoming a military intelligence officer (specializing in the Korean peninsula if I remember correctly). After he left the Army, between jobs he wrote up a card game that received some attention in the mainstream press. We fell out of touch a number of years ago, but he’s definitely the person I’m most indebted to in terms of my interest in role playing games to this day.


Aaron E. Steele said...

ICBM. Yea! I showed this, along with the Frankie goes to hollywood "two tribes" video to my son and daughter. The cold war is definitely history.

ze bulette said...

There was a lot of propaganda in the US about the Soviet Union and its capabilities. My god, what was that Patrick Swayze movie where the Russians invaded by way of Cuba? Really. I ate a lot of it up too, probably until I was about 14, not that I was really politically conscious - I just knew who the bad guys were in the war games we played. The Germans, Japanese, and Russians!

In fact, I was 10 years old when I visited the World Trade Center building. When we exited onto the street, a news crew approached my family and wanted to ask the kids (my sister and I) about how we felt about the Olympics boycott due to the Soviet invasion of Afganistan. Strange to think that the next time I ever really thought much about the WTC was 21 years later when a former US trained anti-Soviet guerrilla was being blamed for masterminding its destruction.

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