Take a look inside Dungeons and Dragons with featured writer Keith Parker.
Hi, my name is Keith and I collect D&D. That’s my confession, and I’m sticking to it. I spend my spare time perusing eBay, used bookstores, and thrift shops for ragtag copies of a game system that’s been out of print for thirty- or forty years. Yes, I need help.
Back in the day, in the dreary age of disco, a buddy of mine in high school told me about this great new game sweeping college campuses. It was called Dungeons & Dragons, and was published by TSR Hobbies in Lake Geneva, WI. As a long time science fiction fan I was actually wary at first; after all, Conan-like fighters and Gandalf-like wizards weren’t my thing. And yet… and yet…
Long before Internet play tests and skill checks and attacks of opportunity, there was a little white box (actually, it was wood grain box before that, but more on that next time). And that little white box contained three little brown books (LBBs). And these LBBs contained the not-so-complete rules of a game that allowed you to play a fighting man, magic user or cleric in a fantastic medieval setting. I looked at my friend’s copy of these digest-sized, amateurish booklets and I was hooked. I had to have a copy. Had to.
Oddly, those original LBBs were incomplete; you needed another set of TSR game rules, Chainmail; and also a game by another company, Avalon Hill’s Outdoor Survival, to actually play D&D back then. But the fact the rules were incomplete didn’t bother me at all. Just the opposite. It fascinated me. And I did everything I could to to decipher this mysterious, intriguing new game.
Being down here in the South I was unable to obtain my own copy of the LBBs because of cost and “parental units” wary of driving me to a big city to buy a game. So, as a hobby shop was going out of business I bought what I could from my lawn-mowing money: a copy of the Basic D&D set (the Holmes edition “blue box”); a copy of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) Monster Manual; a copy of Greyhawk, which was the first supplement to the LBBs (supplement, huh? What kind of game has a supplement? Does Monopoly or Clue have supplemental rules? How weird can you get?); and a copy of a science fiction role-playing game called Metamorphosis Alpha. Using this strange brew of partial rules sets, I created my own homemade RPG that was kinda, sorta, if-you-looked-at-it-sideways a version of D&D.
But the fact that the rules were incomplete was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I began collecting. I’d been a coin collector in my early years, so doing this wasn’t much of a stretch. There was something about the texture and look of these simple little booklets, many of them digest-sized, that compelled me to buy more, mostly by mail order, for two reasons: 1) to have a complete set of rules, and 2) just to have them to look at. Ooh, shiny.
Throughout high school and the first couple of years of college I continued building up a good library of D&D and AD&D with an eye toward completing the uncompletable (is that a word?).
Fast forward to 2005: I have a beautiful wife, two awesome kids, a good career while moonlighting as a SF writer, and D&D is just a pleasant image in the rear view mirror– until my mother got diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The shock of her affliction and the stress of taking care of her sent me scrambling for something, anything, that’d give me a good distraction. One day, looking in an old closet, I found many of my old D&D rules, modules, and magazines. And I knew right then that that was what I needed. With the help of the good folks at The Acaeum and Dragonsfoot, I reinvigorated my collecting. It’s an odd hobby, to be sure. You have to be cracked to pay $100 for a bunch of old papers stapled together. And I doubt I look the part. Folks say I resemble a banker more than a nerd, but few things in life are as emotionally rewarding as being a geek. My mother is now deceased, but my collection lives on. It’s become, in a way, an homage to her.
Next time, I’ll give tips on how to start a D&D collection, along with some more history from the game’s early days. Until then, peace and hair grease.