Thursday, August 21, 2014

Throwback Thursday - Gamer Style

 Or how it all started for grubnards....

Recently I was moving some boxes around in my basement and as I was going through them I found some old books and games that I still have in my possession from 30 some odd years ago. Like many of you out there, my lifestyle of gaming goes way back to my early teenage years. I was born in 1970 and growing up in the mid to late 70's really didn't have much to offer us kids, in terms of gaming, other than established board games like Monopoly, Stratego, Battleship, and of course Hungry Hungry Hippos. In my pre-teens and early teens I was captivated by anything Sci-fi or Fantasy. My favorite books at the time was the Lord of the Rings, Conan the Barbarian, the Dune series, and of course Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and Alien/Aliens rebooted the whole science fiction genre for a new generation. We used to visit a local book store in a nearby town that carried a huge selection of books, art supplies and gaming material. The book store was in a college town and that was probably the only reason they carried anything to do with gaming. Whenever I would visit the store I would spend some time looking over the novels but I always seemed to find my way wandering over to the gaming section and looking at all of the cool looking RPG game boxes, book covers, and miniatures.

I vividly remember walking in one day and seeing a display for the Red Box Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set and I begged my mom to buy it for me. At that time I've never really heard of the game but the artwork on the box and the description caught and held my attention.

I remember opening the box and flipping through the rule book and looking at all of the weird and wonderful artwork. Not only was the artwork exciting to look at but the maps included in each module grabbed my attention as well. I would spend countless hours pouring over the maps, and generating character sheets. Finally, here was a game that appealed to me on all levels, cool artwork, large maps, a sword and sorcery background that could all be played out in my head.

Yes, at some point I must have thought it would be cool to color the pictures.

A much loved weapons and equipment table

Ha, my version of Cliff Notes for remembering the rules.

At first I, finding someone to play with proved to be difficult as all my friends who did play lived far from my home but we managed to squeak out gaming sessions on various weekends plus during the summer we would have sleep overs and play outside on a picnic table into all hours of the night eating tons of M&M's and drinking massive amounts of coke. Between all of us we had most, if not all of the basic modules. Then a year later I ended up getting the Expert Set.

The basic set allowed you to create character classes for levels 1-3 but the expert set allowed you to run charcaters at levels 4-14. Plus they had more modules to go with the set.

Map from the Isle of Dread

The Desert Nomad series was one of our favorites as it opened up the adventure from a simple dungeon exploration to exploring whole new lands.

The Rock has nothing compared to this Scorpion King.

After the Expert Set came the Companion Set which allowed you to run characters from levels 15-25!

What I liked the most about this game was that it allowed me to run and create whole new worlds. No longer did I just have to read about characters in a book. I could now actually be a part of that world and explore strange new lands and monsters. Of course, just like I am addicted to plastic miniatures now, I was addicted to all of the modules they released for D&D.

The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan immersed the Aztec/Mayan world into the D&D universe.

One of my favorites was the Against the Giants series.

I always loved this drawing of the guy hiding in the fur capes.

The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth was another favorite of the group

For some reason the illustration of this guy getting turned to stone always disturbed me.

The above module was part 3 of a series. My buddy had 1 and 2 and I bought 3 but sadly we never got around to playing this book.

As I was nearing 11th grade the Dragonlance series hit.

What I liked about this series was that it was a whole new world unto itself and was run using pre-made characters that you could use. The artwork and maps in these books blew away the older style maps of flat dungeons. Now they started pushing 3-D looking maps and creating a rich background for the world.

See what I mean about the maps!

Awesome artwork that, for some reason, I felt compelled to color.

TSR even added music to the Dragonlance modules. How cool was that. Now, to be honest, I was never musically inclined so I have no idea how this would have sounded.

In this module they revealed the bad guy for the series. I imagine that he was based off of Darth Vader and I always envisioned him talking in James Earl Jone's voice.

Yup, more music

Above is a shot of the character cards include in the 3rd module on card stock. In the previous two they were printed on paper.(see below)

Here was the last book in the first series. Sadly I never collected any  more of the series as our thoughts turned towards girls, work, and applying for college.

Talk about maps!!! The above image is a giant fold out poster included with module 4.

Larry Elmore did a lot of illustrations for the Dungeons and Dragons universe and his drawings were hands down some of my favorite.

This is Sparta...whoops
WTF, a wedding song?1?!

I have more books and systems that I'll cover in future Throw Back Thursday posts but I am glad you have taken the time to look back with me and revisiting my first foray into my gaming experience. If it wasn't for Dungeons and Dragons kick starting my imagination and igniting my love for gaming who knows where I would be at today in regards to this hobby. Thank you Gary Gygax for creating this wonderful universe for all of us gamers. Let's hope you are still rolling d20's in the big gaming hall in the sky.

Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with what got you into gaming and look for future Throw Back Thursday gaming posts -- grubnards style -- in the near future.


  1. Very cool! Brings back some great memories.
    I started out with the Red Box Basic Set, then added the Blue Box Expert set.
    My first modules were bought from a Kay-Bee toy store out of a clearance bin. I think they were a dollar each. One was a basic module (King's Harvest), one was expert (Quest for the Heartstone), and one was Immortal level (Wrath of Olympus).
    My favorite thing to do was to draw pictures of what I thought the monsters looked like. I had this spiral n notebook in which I'd drawn my rendition of every monster from the Basic, and Expert books and all the modules.
    Eventually I ended up buying the Rules Cyclopedia, which was a hardback book that collected Basic through Master rules. My friend and I had a lot of fun with it until we graduated to AD&D.

    1. @Rhino,

      Good stuff! I have so many fun memories from playing D&D and eventually AD&D. The last series I played in was Ravenloft in the early 90's. It was a great series but during that time I met my future wife and role playing games sadly took a back seat.

  2. This is awesome!!! please do this more often. You are a lvl.8 Professor class with a proficiency in D&D history.

    1. @Koszka,

      I have at least 6-8 more articles planned for Throw Back Thursdays. I'll try to post them every other week.

  3. Kev I'd really love for you to write an article entitled Tacticia: Rust monster

    I'm also not sure what your group dynamic was but we always gave the DM an extremely hard time :)