As I write this the sun has set on the shortest day of the year — Winter Solstice. (For my friends of the Goddess: have a peaceful solstice.) My semester finally ended with a flurry of papers (the last being thirty pages long.) Now it’s a waiting game. So now, what to write about? Hmm. Last year I wrote about the Deities & Demigods book I received for Christmas decades ago. Shall I write about the many different ways St. Nick has been adapted for D&D? Been done. No, instead I’ll write about April Fool’s day.
Halloween: my favorite holiday! Those who know me know I have a healthy death obsession and when it comes to roleplaying games (and Warhammer) I’m all about the undead. I don’t think I have to define what this is — those who were dead but now walk upon us.
So, Dungeon Master, your party just defeated the Tarrasque (again!) and are bored with the yet another campaign against the evil archlich Evil McBadguy. They’re so powerful they yawn at any monster you throw at them and you can only use so many two headed, tentacled T-rexes. What to do? My first answer is play an edition of Dungeons & Dragons where the characters aren’t superheroes at 1st level but that’s just me. Get off my lawn.
One of the reasons I’m writing for Nerdarchy is bribes… I mean, because I worked within the gaming industry for 13 years — at Chessex Game Distributors, TSR Hobbies and Games Workshop US. I’ve had people on Facebook groups ask me about my time at various employers. Today I’m putting pen to paper (I write out everything longhand before typing) to write about my time at Chessex Game Distributors (CGD). My facts about this are from online resources and my own memories. Any errors are my own — after all, it’s been almost thirty years — and no harm is meant by any mistakes, which I’d happily correct if informed.
Miniatures have been part of Dungeons & Dragons since before it began. In fact, D&D started as a miniatures game! It’s true! Originally it was a fantasy miniature wargame written by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson called Chainmail. Eventually spells and heroes were added and a way for those heroes to improve and it became the basic D&D of the mid 1970s, which has evolved into the game we all know today. Miniature war gaming goes back to at least 1913 when H.G. Wells published a book called Little Wars. They were his rules for playing miniature wargames. This post is going to be about miniatures, but not a history per se and not a how to or anything. This column is about what it was like for a preteen to discover miniatures via D&D and how the tabletop roleplaying game, miniatures and kid grew up together. There will be a bit of history in this piece so my primary sources are DnD Lead (a great resource for the early stuff) and Lost Minis Wiki, which has a lot more pictures and not as much history. Those sources are listed at the end. Yes, grad school has made me paranoid about citations.
In my last piece I wrote about one of the modules I wrote back in the Mesozoic era. “After all our 12 year old minds, while imaginative, couldn’t spin a coherent narrative. I still have a dungeon I wrote back then called Torth. It’s… um… well, the Plan 9 of modules. Made no sense.” Within hours, the stalwart and suffering editor sent to me “I am curious about Torth! Although my opinion of Plan 9 is colored by Ed Wood, which I’ve seen several more times than the actual Plan 9 haha.” [NERDITOR’S NOTE: That’s me!] However, by that point the semester was concluding, work was piling up, and I couldn’t do it. Now the semester is done (I earned 2 A’s and an A-) and here I am sitting on the couch writing about something I wrote some 40 plus years ago. Get off my lawn.
Today as I write this, it’s Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31). I thought about writing something about gender in gaming, but as my last piece mentioned women (lack thereof in the old days) and the reaction I got on Facebook was clutching of pearls, maybe not. I will say my favorite comments (aside from “SJW!” and “don’t get political” when I wasn’t aware I had been, was “I has no problem with women after all I married one I just don’t want them at my table.” Direct quote.) So today I put quill to parchment to spin another tale of old — of Dungeons & Dragons back in the 1970s. Yes, come with me now to the Days Of Legend: a time of no internet, when phones were attached to walls or in booths, when there were less than 10 channels on TV, and when research meant questing in a mystical location called a “library.”
Group identity is important to tabletop roleplaying games. Heck, it’s important to any group of people. We as gamers see ourselves as a community. Whether they admit it or not, people need community. “Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human,” Aristotle wrote in Politics. The lone wolf is actually quite a rare phenomenon. Now, if you want I can go deep into scholarly literature about collective identity and start quoting research, but I won’t. After all, while I may be working toward my PhD, such academic stuff isn’t everyone’s cup of meat.
Your stalwart old lady grognard finished her first fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign last night! And my character survived!
First, a little backstory. A little more than a year ago, I read about Nerdarchy on Facebook and watched some of their videos. I learned they were right across the river in New Jersey! At the time, I hadn’t played (as a player) a D&D game in decades, and I’d never played 5E D&D. However, the popularity (it seemed everyone was playing it) and my desire to play D&D again caused me to reach out to the Nerdarchy guys. But how to make myself stand out from the thousands of emails, comments and fan mail they received each day? Hmmm. I know! I’ll rattle off my gaming resume! (TSR, GW, etc.) And they responded!
Gaming was far different in the era before the internet. A person needed to actually be in the same room to play an roleplaying game or card game. There were play by mail games (Diplomacy was huge for this) but many players didn’t want to wait a week to hear the result of a move.
The gaming business was also vastly different. When I joined the gaming industry in 1991 there was a three-tier distribution system (I think it still sort of is, but I don’t know). Manufacturers would sell their games to distributors and the distributors would then sell them to the retail shops as well as the few mail order outlets. The stores would call distributors who would ship them their orders. When I started with Chessex Game Distributors in ’91, there were also still traveling reps who would go from store to store selling games on behalf of a distributor, but they were becoming a dying breed.
Twas the week of Christmas/Hanukkah and all through the… Oh, Hell, I can’t think of a fun rhyme. In any case, this time of year many gamers have visions of dice rolling through their heads. Hopefully you all avoid rolling 1’s (unless you’re playing Squad Leader).
My spouse is not a gamer, so my holidays were practically game free. As I’m an old grognard, I was around for first edition Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons by TSR. One Christmas I received an amazing (for me) Christmas gift I didn’t expect. This is that story, so gather around the fire with your eggnog or whatever (I’ll have a Glenmorangie, please) and I’ll tell it.
Hail and well met! I’m Sophie, and I’ve been invited to contribute to this esteemed community. I know — big deal. So, let me tell you my qualifications. Well, to start with, I’ve been playing hobby and tabletop roleplaying games since 1977. I started Dungeons & Dragons with the basic “blue box” edition back in 1978. That means I have dice older than some of you. Probably most. However, it’s not just that I’m older than the Nerdarchy guys, I also spent 13 years working in the gaming community.