My gaming life started in the early 1980s, when I was in the fifth grade. We lived in rural Washington State and for awhile, I had to ride the bus to school. Those rides were little pockets of Hell for the most part, but there were some advantages to being one of the last kids dropped home each night. There was almost a little fraternity between some of us and the driver. I didn’t understand it then, but it was one of my first experiences of being in the ‘cool group.’ After all, some of the others were High School Students.
One of my fellow riders was a young man named Al Willet. He and the bus driver discussed military history, naval tactics and the relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States. One day, for reasons I never really understood (perhaps he overheard me babbling on about Clash of the Titans or something), Al offered to let me look at some of his 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons books. I couldn’t really comprehend it, but it was blowing my mind. The Fiend Folio and Monster Manual II were the most accessible that I can remember. He probably showed the Player’s Handbook, but I can’t really remember. The character sheet he showed me was hand written, on college rule notebook paper, and the spot for hit points had been erased and re-erased so many times that a hole was worn through the paper.
D&D eventually lost favor in his group, because one day, Al showed me a different kind of gaming book: Fantasy Wargaming, compiled and edited by Bruce Galloway. Again, I was blown away. I was already struggling to figure out what gaming was about and how the rules fit together. The difference between D&D and AD&D caused all kinds of confusion with me and my other 5th grade friends. Fantasy Wargaming impressed me because it seemed to have everything all in one place. Combat, magic, character generation and role-playing all have homes within. It seemed, almost, more perfect than D&D.
The world moved on, my family changed houses and my friends started playing AD&D. I noticed copies of Fantasy Wargaming in book stores and game shops, but in that era of very low disposable income, I left it alone. Just this week, however, I ran across a copy of the book for $7, and I couldn’t resist.
In my next post, I’ll write more about what I found within that ancient tome’s covers.