So there I was, back in 1983, all set to start Wargaming by building up a collection of lovely Prince August Napoleonics. I’d just left College and got a job working in the local Dole office so was earning the tidy sum of £4000 a year! Within about 6 months I’d paid off all my student debts, those were the days. Then again mobile phones hadn’t been invented yet and there was no internet either really so how the hell did I manage to get a degree without those? In fact I had to use my girlfriends typewriter to type up my dissertation. Curiously when it was her turn to hand hers in two years later she insisted that it could only be done on a Word processor. Funny that. So off we trotted and spent £500 on this…
Now 500 quid was expensive at the time but bear in mind that in the UK if you wanted an IBM PC XT (4.77mhz cpu and 64kb RAM) then you would be talking about £2k or more back then so Amstrad really did sell a lot of these as not only did you get the PC you got a workable printer too. A standard dot matrix printer would have sold for at least another £200 back then. In fact I didn’t get my first proper PC until 1988 and I had to steal that. Ahem.
Back to the plot. So there I was working in the Dole office making friends with some of the staff there when one fateful day one of the chaps furtively whispered to me ‘Have you ever fancied playing D&D?’. Whether I’d already broadcast my obvious nerd-dom via my love for Tolkein, Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, the sort of music I liked (Prog obviously) and the movies I watched (The Beastmaster, Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings, Hawk the Slayer, the Conan movies) then he clearly believed I’d be well up for that sort of clandestine, behind closed doors activity. And of course he was completely correct.
Dungeons and Dragons
So there it began with me buying some metal figures of Dwarves, a magic user, a Cleric and some Fighters to begin with and started some pitiful attempts at painting them. After about a year we met some other guys and started a regular D&D club and swapped tips on painting. That was when I was shown how to dry brush and do washes which was as if some arcane spell had been passed on to me. You just didn’t read about that sort of thing anywhere. Of course the hobby was in it’s infancy in the UK so we had to buy Dragon Magazine that was imported from the States and supplied by the local toy shop that was beginning to expand it’s range of D&D related products.
It was in that Toy shop that I managed to get my own rule sets as they were released
and it also started supply the excellent White Dwarf Magazine
So after a couple of years I’d built up quite a collection of Character figures plus some Kobolds, Orcs, a Dragon, a Minotaur, a Hydra, some elves and a few others. Some of which I still have, others, sadly, are long gone. Left behind in a mad scramble to leave an ex-wife.
My favourite magazine at the time was called ‘Imagine’ ( basically the UK version of Dragon magazine, produced by TSR but always ran at a loss)and I managed to get every copy of it’s all too brief run. Driven out of business by what was fast becoming the all powerful Games Workshop in the UK market.
This mag was eagerly anticipated round my way in 1983 and so much so it was the first magazine I ever subscribed to hence I have every copy ever produced. I also started subscribing to White Dwarf so have a fair few of those too. But this was by far my fave as it had absolutely everything in it and never mentioned that bloody awful Warhammer or Blood Bowl. Sadly I was almost sitting looking at the letter box in the mornings waiting for this one to arrive in my keenness to read it. So throughout 1983 up to 1987 I was D&D mad. 4 of the happiest years of my life. Unfortunately we were essentially evicted from our council flat so rather than rent somewhere else we decided to buy a flat together instead and managed to get a 2 bedroom flat in Tottenham for the massive sum of £47k leaving behind my D&D chums for ever and that essentially killed the hobby stone dead for me for the next 27 years! Blimey. Not one figure painted or terrain made or scenarios written.