Thirty years ago, in the autumn of 1982, I read an article in Space Voyager magazine called "Science Fiction and Fantasy Games ... an alternative reality?", by a gentleman called Steve Jackson (the British one). It started off like this:
What was that? I had lots of ideas (most of which turned out to be wrong), but one thing I knew - I had to get one of these Role-Playing Fantasy games! It happened there was an order form in the magazine with a special offer on what were allegedly the three best such games: Traveller, RuneQuest and Dungeons & Dragons. I traded in a year's worth of goodwill, chores, birthday and Christmas presents for a cheque, and off it went ..."... And as I raced down the corridor with the Goblin pack hot on my heels, I turned around a corner and dicked through a small doorway. Panting against the closed door I looked round to see a small room with miniature furniture, all covered in a metallic dust. Glaring at me from a small chair in the far corner was an old man about three feet tall. As I looked closer I could see that his right eye was, in fact, a sparkling jewel which became brighter as he stared. His eye flashed towards a coffin-shaped box to his right. Suddenly a large black shape reared into the air and, with a mind of its own, whisped towards me. I scrambled for the door handle but the door was firmly locked ..."
No, that was not an exerpt from an HP Lovecraft tale, but part of an adventure from a Role-Playing Fantasy game.
... to be impounded by the customs & excise swine! I could have turned Oliver Tobias right there and then. However, the evil tax extortionists were spared my youthful vengeance because a few days later while Christmas shopping, what should I see but a magenta box with weird and crazy Erol Otus art on the lid - sorry, siblings, your presents were about to be sacrificed for the greater good.
That was the 22nd of December, and the Caves of Chaos were about to be conquered! There were three of us, counting the DM. My magic-user Cedric Catweasle walked around a corner into a room full of goblins, threw his dagger and missed. The goblins threw their spears, and one magic-ser and his thiefly companion ... died. Headscratching and rule reading followed - surely this couldn't be right? No, it was right. Well, we didn't let that stop us, and my next character, an elf, almost made it to second level. Now, many years later, I have lost count of the characters that fell by the wayside, but some have stood out and remain with me still. I have never forgotten poor Catweasel, nor his successor Siegfried Säbelbein with his magic sword "Elend".
The best bit is, I got to play again on 22 December 2012. And this time, on the 30th anniversary of my first game, as pure chance would have it - a randomly encountered longboat of goblins didn't fare quite so well against Cap'n "Cattail" Clavier!
Merry Christmas, all you sundries!