Wednesday, February 17, 2010

[Red Box Memories] It Was 20 Years Ago Today...

Well, okay. I don't know if it was 20 years ago today precisely. All I know is that sometime early on in 1990 I took the plunge and bought a copy of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules, known in Internet parlance as the "Mentzer Red Box"--so named for the set's editor/compiler, Frank Mentzer.

I expect that over the coming weeks and possibly months I'll be doing quite a bit of thinking about the last two decades, both in terms of the gaming hobby overall and in terms of my own journey through the hobby, and so with this post I'm inaugurating a series called "Red Box Memories" in honor of that fateful purchase. (And, frankly, because I think the Mentzer Red Box, being a sort of the unappreciated cousin of the Red Box that preceded it, the so-called "Moldvay/Cook" Basic Set, upon which the retro-clone Labyrinth Lord is patterned, could use a little bit of a shout-out.)

My thoughts on that Tale of Two Red Boxes definitely deserve a post of their own. For now, I'll just say that it's strangely appropriate that I'll be relocating back to Santa Fe 20 years after getting into the gaming hobby. I was living in Santa Fe at the time of my purchase of the Mentzer Basic Set--which I picked up from the gone-but-not-forgotten Wargames West in Albuquerque, of which I've blogged about a bit in the past--and moved away shortly thereafter.

Packing up my gaming collection, which is fairly lean compared to earlier iterations, I was nonetheless struck by an interesting comparison. All told, my RPG books alone fill up five--or six?--banker's boxes. That's not counting miniatures, terrain, or my various binders of print-outs and paperwork, nor is it counting non-gaming books purchased directly in support of RPG or miniatures gaming. When I moved away from Santa Fe (about a year-and-a-half after buying the D&D Basic Set), I was able to fit all my gaming material--all of it--into a single banker's box.

I remember this well, because my mom--who, for those of you who are astrologically inclined, is a Virgo incarnate--suggested organizing my stuff in the box utilizing hanging files. So I had my Red Box tucked into one folder, my Third Edition GURPS Basic Set in another, my copy of I.C.E.'s Robin Hood "Giant Outlaw Campaign" (purchased for use with GURPS after seeing Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves--hey, I was 12) in another, and whatever character sheets, dungeons, and other assorted paperwork I'd managed to generate in the previous 18-odd months in a fourth and final folder. And that was it as far as RPGs went. All my miniatures stuff, including paints and brushes, fit inside my Fantasy Warriors box. It's quite funny to reflect on that single banker's box and game box multiplying into the boxes and boxes of stuff I'm carting back now. And my collection, as I said, has been winnowed over the course of several moves in the last decade and compared to some of the gamer's shelves I've seen around the 'Net is positively anemic! Such is the way of the hobby, I suppose. I could probably narrow my whole book collection down to a single shelf of essentials...but where's the fun in that?
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