Scanning Project: Where It All Began

As we trundle into the weekend, I thought I'd share something that has no other value than as fuel for my own personal nostalgia: my first role playing game character.

First, a little back story: I may have mentioned this in a previous post, but I more or less "backed into" Dungeons & Dragons. You see, by the end of the 70's, I was familiar with the game - probably from having seen it in KayBee Toys - and that was the extent of my knowledge of it. I was curious, but not enough to spend my hard(ly)-earned allowance on it. (That privilege was reserved for Star Wars merchandise, Micronauts, etc.) And I was cool with that.

For some reason I'll never fully comprehend, my demeanor toward the game changed drastically around 1980. With the simple discovery that a good friend's older brother played the game, I suddenly found my interest in the game blossoming. I imagine this was partially fueled by media hype surrounding D&D (the new "fad" was - it seemed - forever appearing in various news outlets back in the day), by the ever-growing line of products for the game, by the growing buzz surrounding the fantasy genre - and probably more than a little by my Hobbit-loving 8th-grade English teacher.

I'll cover all of this in more depth in my next "Growing Up Geeky" post, because there was an awful lot going on back in those days - and covering it all in detail is far beyond the scope of this post. Suffice to say, my interest in the game reached a zenith sometime during 1980 or 1981.

My first D&D product was not a set of rules, but a module: A3: Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords. This wasn't something I bought for myself - heck, it wasn't even something someone else bought for me. No, it was something my mother bought as a present for aforementioned friend's impending birthday. Knowing nothing about the game, neither of us knew what to purchase first. She brought the shrink-wrapped module home, and before wrapping it up she asked my nephew and I if we'd like to open it and see what it looked like inside.

Would we like to open it? Well, duh! Of course we would - and that's just what we did.

Again, I'll get to the details in a later post, but my friend never got that particular birthday present. We got him something else, and Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords became my gateway into D&D. Later, I would add Grenadier's "Specialists" boxed set of miniatures to my collection. More of the Grenadier sets would follow. And, on Christmas morning, 1981, I would finally own the game proper in the form of the Moldvay Basic set.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I did a lot of thinking about D&D before ever getting to actually play the game. I had some serious preconceptions as a result. I knew, for instance, just what the fantastic world of the game was like, driven by artwork I'd seen adorning covers of various D&D products, such as B1: In Search of the Unknown and Eldritch Wizardry. (I had a pretty solid mental picture of the world, so it was a good thing that D&D didn't come with a an in-built world setting - that may have turned out to be a deal-breaker.)

I also knew who my first character was: an elf prince by the name of "Moordow."

Inspired by the paladin in the "Specialists" set ("What the heck's a paladin? That's how my elf should look though.") Moordow was alive in my mind months before I pulled out my six-sider that day in late December of '81. And I swear, his stats were rolled as written. (Go ahead - prove I'm not telling the truth.)

. . . . .


  1. Chris,

    Thanks for this post. It jogged a few memories for me.

    I had been exposed through White Box glimpses in expensive hobby/toy stores; seen Holmes and wanted it pretty badly; and read the Bill Willingham comics-ads in OMNI and Heavy Metal magazines.

    But, I actually got involved through minis, and the Grenadier ones were a very large portion of my first batch.
    As a result, I remember picking up several of those Heritage Miniature mini-games, as well as a plastic one-piece dungeon with an Ogre in it as the main baddie.

    I think those mini-games gave me my first real intro to RPGs, before I received my hand-me-down Moldvay set for Christmas the year it came out.

    That Heritage Orgre ended up with the dragon wings drilled and glued to his back. You've been there, too.. ;)

    Cool columnar paper, too. Where does one find that?

  2. Just wanted to say thanks for the whole Scanning Project. Combined with one of my players who makes awesome maps, it has driven me to start mapping and posting my maps to my blog as I create them.

  3. PS: TWO 18's? You rolled up a monster!

  4. @Timeshadows: Thanks for sharing. :)

    I certainly recall gazing somewhat fondly at the original supplements in the local KayBee, but I thought at the time that the game was meant more for adults. I don't recall being exposed to any magazine ads prior to getting into the game, but if they were in Heavy Metal I definitely saw them. I do recall those appearing in whatever comics I was reading later (X-Men/ROM/Alpha Flight); in fact, I blame those ads on my long-running fascination with green slime. ("Forget the sword, Valerius. We've got to save Indel!") :P

    As for getting into the game once my interest was sparked, I found myself limited to what I had access to, for the most part. That meant the Grenadier sets at the local Garden and Toy shop. (Lawn tractors next to D&D minis. It was surreal.) As for converting minis? Now that's just crazy talk. ;)

    Oh, and the paper was from General Electric, IIRC. It appears to have been some sort of engineering paper. You can find a similar example here.

  5. @rpgcharacters: I'm really happy to have inspired you to do your own thing. Not only does it give me the warm and fuzzies, but it also gives me the chance to see other folks' cool stuff! :D

  6. @Dyson Logos: Straight rolls I tell ya! ;)

    ("He wouldn't lie - not at a time like this.")

    Bear in mind, I was only 15 - and the rulebook stated quite clearly that the rules therein were guidelines. :P

    BTW: Way to throw a guy off, changing your name between comments. :D


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