Tag Archives: 1980s

My RPG DNA, Part 1: The Texas Years

The Chatty DM has been running a series on his RPG history.  In short:

Which is somewhat similar to my RPG history in some respects, though my history’s different enough it got me to thinking, and thence to share with you!

Part 1: The Texas Years

My first RPG wasn’t D&D.  Shocking, I know.  I was a science fiction fan back in my youth.  I was eleven, and I went into a game store at the mall and purchased a little tactical chit game called Attack Force that caught my eye.  It was put out by a company I’d never heard of named TSR.  I enjoyed it, and went back to the store looking for other stuff by that same company, and came across Star Frontiers.  It was a science fiction game, where you could play humans or insectoid aliens or blobs or glider monkeys and shoot each other with lasers or needler weapons or gyrojet guns…  I had never seen a role-playing game before (well, maybe the D&D playing scene in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) and it blew my mind.  I read it, got a couple friends together, and started to play.  The most notable thing about this (besides that I understood that D&D isn’t the only RPG in the world, a revelation that still escapes many gamers) is that I didn’t require an established gaming group to introduce me to gaming.  Many games have punted on being approachable at all on the grounds that “everyone learns gaming from a preexisting group of gamers,” and I’m not at ALL sure that’s true.  Also, playing a non-D&D game first, and a reasonably realistic science fiction game at that, formed a lot of my gaming preconceptions.

I was introduced to D&D by Dragon Magazine, which I bought occasionally off the newsstand when they had one of their “Ares” science fiction columns.  I was mildly griped about having to buy a full magazine that had like one article I could use; I remember reading some of the others and thinking “What the hell is a Hit Dice?”  It took me a while to give it a try – I’ll be honest, I had a bit of a prejudice against the fantasy genre.  Science fiction was for intellectuals, fantasy was escapist trash.  I liked the Hobbit and all, but…  Then I played in a pickup game of D&D run in the cars on the way to Boy Scout camp – no dice, just the DM making calls; everyone had Blackrazor or Whelm or a crossbow (oddly, the crossbow was the most powerful) and most scenes ended up with the characters doing each other in to get all the loot.  (So my first D&D experience was both diceless and PvP, two things that people nowadays don’t believe can happen or is wicked and evil…)  It was vaguely entertaining, and I had all the Star Frontiers stuff they had put out, so I got the D&D Red Box soon after it came out and decided I loved it as well!  So during junior high, I would always DM and I’d have one or two guys over to play either D&D or Star Frontiers.

High School

With high school, I graduated to AD&D; moving to the more complex rules and grittier world of all those lovely 1e adventures just seemed natural.  Got all the books, ran most of the modules.  A lot of the time it would be just one player and some NPCs – I remember my friend Johnny’s character Kuroth the Barbarian (courtesy of Unearthed Arcana) – he went through I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City and got a magic broadsword sword that could do a heal once a week, giving himself a virtual pool of nearly 200 hit points!  He was a god among men at only like seventh level.  Good times.  Oddly, I had other friends I’d run games for but it seemed natural to run separate solo games most of the time.  I was also a computer gamer (Commodore 64, bitches!) and ran all the way through Pool of Radiance – though for fantasy games, my money’s still on Ultima IV for best ever.  And I read something in the neighborhood of a thousand science fiction and fantasy novels over the course of those years – I was always a terrifyingly fast reader; in the summer I’d go to the library and get 14 books (you could check them out for two weeks, so that was one a day) and grind through them.


Then I went to college, and gaming mostly stopped.  Electrical engineering at Rice U. didn’t leave a lot of fiddling around time, and spare time was spent doing all kinds of random college type stuff with friends.  I ran a night or two of Basic for the gang one year for kicks, but that was about it, all my 1e books gathered dust back home in the bookcase.

My gaming days could have been over…  But it was not to be!  Tune in next time for Part 2: The Memphis Years!

Fantastic Fest – House of the Devil

The House of the Devil, by Ti West (Cabin Fever 2, The Wicked), is a homage to late ’70’s/early ’80’s horror movies and does a great job of slavishly reproducing the look and feel of movies from that time, from the lead actress’ feathered hair to the cinematography, title and credits, everything.

The lead, Samantha (Jocelyn Donahue) is a poor college student trying to make enough money to get a place of her own, and takes a babysitting job at a big house out of the city to that end and OH GOD SATANISTS!  The plot is the usual chick chased around a big house thing.  Donahue does a good job and the movie is suspenseful, it gets you with a couple good scares.   It resembles a film made in 1982 in just about every respect – story, effects, score, characters.  (With the welcome exception that the lighting work didn’t suck as bad as it did in the older movies, always a pet peeve of mine.)

That’s a cool and interesting accomplishment, and I enjoyed my time watching House of the Devil enough, but I didn’t think it was all that interesting once you got past the ’80’s reproduction thing.  It was a little bit too much Halloween meets Rosemary’s Baby; I liked the ’80’s tone but wanted the plot to be a little more than a retread.  It was gripping, though, and would be somewhere in the top 30% of 1980s horror movies.  Which, come to think of it, puts it above about 90% of the crap put out in the last year or so, thus I guess in the end analysis House of the Devil is pretty good.