"The greatest Christmas gift I had ever received, or would ever receive"

Christmas Day, 35 years ago - 1981. I imagine there were more gifts than the three I recall clearly - most likely a variety of Star Wars toys, very few of the origins of which I can mentally track due to the sheer volume I've collected over the years. But these items were the big three that year, two of them still see semi-regular use to this day, and the first one is the greatest Christmas gift I've ever had the good fortune to be given:

The D&D Basic Set ("Moldvay" Basic)
Where it all started for me. This was my introduction to the rules of the game, and will forever be what first comes to mind when I think of D&D. Clean and concise, easy to understand, and oozing with character, the Moldvay Basic rule book is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of D&D evolution. I'm sure that opinion is based upon a good amount of nostalgic bias, but you have to at least agree that the "red book" is a worthy entry into the game's pantheon of rule books. Every time I play another form of the game, no matter how much I'm enjoying it - be it AD&D, the Rules Cyclopedia, 3.x, 5E, or even one of the retro-clones - I find myself occasionally having to suppress the urge to ditch what I'm doing and pull out that beloved red book...

Grenadier's "Denizens of the Swamp" Set
Prior to Christmas that year, I'd discovered that a local store carried a small variety of Grenadier's AD&D miniatures. I'd never seen game miniatures before and - being in the early stages of D&D mania - found myself coveting each and every set in stock. I managed somehow - I've since forgotten how - to score a set called "Specialists" before Christmas. As the holiday approached, I recognized the need to provide opponents for the heroes in said set, and that's how "Denizens" ended up on my Christmas list. Out of the box, one of the lizard men refused to stand, the basilisk's horn was broken off, and I thought the troll was too goofy for words - but I loved the set, nonetheless; especially the gnoll with the cross-dagger! Alas, I parted with many of these minis several years ago, but I still recall them fondly.

Milton Bradley's Dark Tower
What can I say? Dark Tower rocked, plain and simple. I recall suffering near unbearable angst as my brothers attempted to repair the game Christmas morning; it didn't work out of the box. This was a recurring theme for my childhood Christmases and birthdays, so by 1981 I was more or less used to this scenario. Fortunately, they successfully repaired it. (Much more successfully than earlier Christmases, where such repair efforts often left toys scarred or barely functioning, and less than enjoyable to play with.) When our first attempt to play D&D resulted in a boring session of murdering and looting the bodies of residents of the Keep on the Borderlands, this was the game that we turned to. It was - and still is, when I can get it to function - an immensely enjoyable way to pass the time with friends and family. (And the game's artwork still inspires me.)

I've had the good fortune to have enjoyed many good Christmases as a child, but none seem to stand out so clearly as this one - the "D&D Christmas" of 1981...
. . . . .

(Last photo borrowed from gamehermit.com)

Here's hoping your holiday marks as wonderful a beginning for you, as well.

. . . . .


  1. Fantastic - I wrote a similar post to this, but it was for Easter! :) http://daddyrolleda1.blogspot.com/2011/04/happy-easter-28-years-ago-todayish.html

    Cheers - hope you had a great Christmas!

  2. That is exactly what I got to for For Christmas is 1981. I had just read Andre Norton's Quag Keep and was very interested in Dungeon and Dragons. My wife got me the basic set with the Keep on the BoarderLands and she got me B1 In Search of the Unknown. Plus both Dungeon master's guide and Players handbook. She had my family get the Greyhawk Gazetteer for me. It was the best Christmas I could ever Remember. I spent the holidays going over the DM and player's guide. I had 2 nephews and a neighbor who wanted to play a game.. I had also got some miniatures that we painted. I ran B1 and it was so fun. I enjoyed springing traps on the players. But luckily no one got killed even though 2 came close to death. I made a Staff that had belong to the Wizard. It had 3 spells like Shield and Armor that could be cast 3 times a Day. It had 16 charges left and could cast Sleep, burning Hands, and hold which cost charges. The Wizard Character was over joyed to get the Staff. It was his prized possession for several gaming years. It kept him alive in several dungeon Adventures. I was in my early 20's then and it is a memory of I will never forget.

    1. That is totally awesome - thanks for sharing! (And your wife should be commended for her efforts!) Do you still play?


Post a Comment