How I started collecting role-playing games

Scott's picture
Moldvay Dungeon Module X2: Castle Amber

It's 1984.

Dad's in the Navy; receives his orders for where he is to be stationed after our two years in Antigua, and we fly to Orlando, arrange to drive to the Pacific coast in order to catch an international flight to Tokyo International, Japan. Our final destination: Yokota Air Force Base.

In spite of some faulty memories, I'd yet to encounter roleplaying games of any kind, and the most sophisticated game I'd played up to then was probably Risk or Stratego.

But I'd met someone at school who would introduce me to the 1980 Basic D&D and Dungeon Module B2: The Keep on the Borderlands

(Dennis Yates, my first DM, if you're out there, drop me a line sometime. Sorry I got bored at the first session. Sometimes it takes me a few months to get into things.)

That first session didn't really take. I found myself becoming tired, and I was admittedly more fascinated by my host's Commodore 64 at the time. Later, Star Frontiers would capture more of my attention (SF, then as now, help more of my attention than fantasy, though fantasy would soon come to consume at least as much of my subsequent attention). Eventually, I started using the computer as a support device for my hobbies, which at that time including writing, fantasy roleplaying, and writing games and my own modules/adventures.

There were no game stores on base.

The closest thing we had was the Stars and Stripes Bookstore and the base exchange, which, I would later come to learn, possessed a quirk of distribution which meant then-old stock remained available through 1985/86.

This included a lot of the gamebooks and modules for AD&D, Star Frontiers, and other games (like Dawn Patrol) which remained available on the shelves. G1-2-3, the D series, A series, all of them displayed front out on the rack, still sealed, for my perusal.

I think I remember the prices very well. A Basic or Expert rulebook alone cost $6. A boxed set of rules and dice was $15. Most of the AD&D books were $15, except for the Dungeon Masters Guide, which ran $18. Modules, $5.50 each, except for G1-2-3, which was something like $6.95.

These were pricey for someone with my budget. Like many kids, I had to earn money via chores, mowing others' lawns, or other duties. In 1985 I took my first ever job, administrating paperwork in the orderly room on base. 

In spite of this, I wound up purchasing nearly all my materials used from other folk.

I was on my way to being a collector. I think my first purchase was brand new from the store: Dungeon Module X2: Castle Amber, a great purchase even if I didn't have anything else in the way of rulebooks or even dice yet. I still have that copy of X2—it's absolutely tattered, but I wouldn't part with it for any money.

Rulebooks (all used) followed shortly thereafter; I acquired materials very slowly. Not all of this remains with me—I was too dense a person in the early months of 2004 to appreciate what I had, and surrendered many modules (N1, U1-3, a first printing of S1 in cellophane) and almost all of my AD&D books (yellow spines, all), except for my 4th print of the Monster Manual, which I bought in, of all places, Edmonton, Canada during a drive en route to Adak in 1987, my Fiend Folio, and my copy of Deities and Demigods—a later printing which omitted the Cthulhu and Melnibonean mythos—which was even-steven traded straight up for an earlier print which included the Cthulhu mythos &c. (thank you Cathy Scott), which I still possess. I replaced nearly everything else from used bookstores, so much so that I've somehow wound up with three copies of the Dungeon Masters Guide (all Sutherland covers) and the Players Handbook (all Trampier covers).

In spite of all these details, recounted here I've recovered some of what I traded away or sold. There's still a bunch of things on my want list, but I can be patient. N1 and U1-3 in particular are hard to get because of their current value. N1 cost me a dollar. The three U-series modules were a $1.25 each at a Half Price Books in Tacoma. 

I regret those losses, but I remain on the lookout for what I regard as missing materials.