Location #1 on the map of the Town of Cross Tree is the Cross Tree Inn. I will list the pertinent information about the inn and the people who work there below. As previously mentioned, I’m trying to keep this as system neutral as possible. There won’t be any in-game stats for the inhabitants of the town. Instead, I will focus on their personalities and what you would need to know to run them as NPCs.
#1 The Cross Tree Inn
The inn is both the geographical and social center of the village. Especially during the evening, it is likely some of the other residents will be found in the common room, enjoying a meal or tankard of ale.
The proprietor is a stout man named Killian Merric. At 50 years of age, Killian was raised in a large city but relocated to Cross Tree and inherited the Inn from his uncle Tobyn. That was 20 years ago and Killian has been running the place ever since.
Killian stands 6’2” tall and weighs roughly 280lbs. His dark hair, beard, and bushy eyebrows. are starting to give way to a good deal of gray. The large man dresses simply, wearing cotton breeches and a simple tunic, On most days he’ll also be wearing an apron, adorned with splashes and dashes of whatever happens to be on the menu that day.
Nearly always sporting a grin, the innkeeper is nothing if not hospitable. Killian will greet guests warmly and take an interest in their adventures. He knows a fair bit about the local area and is generally willing to share information with travelers, if he feels that they have good intentions. For information he may lack, Killian is certainly well acquainted with the citizens of Cross Tree and able to suggest someone else who may be able to help.
The innkeeper loves a good tune. Any customer who happens to break out in song or play an instrument while visiting the inn is likely to be rewarded with a complimentary meal. If it’s particularly good, it wouldn’t be unheard of for Killian to take off his apron and dance a little jig in the middle of the dining room.
Despite being a fairly large fellow, Killian has no practical combat experience.
Killian keeps a simple room for himself at the inn. While he has had various employees over the years, his niece Karia is currently his only employee.
Karia Merric is a young woman of 25. After the passing of her mother, two years ago, she relocated to Cross Tree and has been helping her uncle Killian manage the inn.
A no-nonsense woman, Karia usually keeps her blonde hair pulled back and wears simple, woolen dresses.
While she adores her uncle, Karia was also interested in relocated to Cross Tree due to it being nestled in the wilderness. She has been studying herbalism for a number of years and her move has allowed her to pursue this passion. When not serving drinks or helping out at the inn, Karia spends her time collecting specimens in the forest and furthering her studies.
Like her uncle, Karia is quite friendly. However, her mind is often occupied, thinking about different tinctures and ointments. She may not be outwardly chatty, though if any travelers come by with obvious wounds or ailments, she will immediately offer to help. Depending on the rules system you are using, I would allow Karia to at least provide some basic healing to injured party members.
If any travelers happen to come through town and mention having a background in herbalism or another similar skill, Karia will be fascinated and try to gain as much knowledge from them as possible.
Food, Drink, & Lodging
You can assume that pricing for food, drink, and lodging will run on the lower end of what is typical in your game system. Killian is a wonderful cook and accommodating host but this is a modest operation.
Highlights of the inn’s menu include flapjacks with locally made maple syrup, a fabulous “restoring” stew, and roasted potato wedges.
Killian has 4 modest rooms for rent. Three of these have a single bed, while one has two. However, a simple sleeping cot can be added to any of the single rooms if it becomes necessary to house more guests. While he wouldn’t rent out his own 2nd floor room, on occasion Killian will allow cots in the common areas upstairs, to accommodate extra guests. Obviously, this would be offered at a reduced rate.
As the Cross Tree Inn is the first stop for weary travelers, Killian will often be asked about the name of the town. On such occasions, he will be more than happy to pull up a chair and share the tale.
Whether there is anything to this legend or whether it is a simple folktale is up to you. Go with what works for your game. However, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to drop in little bits to keep your players on edge. The inn is an old building, so there will certainly be strange creaks from the floorboards or the occasional cold draft.
*See location #2 once I have posted it
Plot Hooks & Encounters
If you already have plans for future adventures, it should be easy enough to drop in any plot hooks while the PCs are visiting the Cross Tree Inn. There is a message board in the common room and Killian, Karia, or any of the other townsfolk could be used to reach out to the party and ask for their assistance.
Left to their own, both Killian & Karia have a few tasks that they might approach a party of travelers for help with.
Killian might offer the party a fair price to go on a hunt for a day and try to bring back a stag or wild boar.
Karia might hire the party to help her locate certain herbs or mushrooms, only available in the deepest part of the forest.
It’s rare that the innkeeper the ability to make the trip to a city. If Killian gets to know the party well or they stop at the inn frequently, he may hire them to bring back certain spices or ingredients.
Thanks for taking the time to stop by. If you’re taking the time to read this, I hope you have a good week.
Every adventure needs a place to start. The maps in this post feature the town of Cross Tree, from a fantasy setting. Moving forward I plan to flesh the place out a bit. I will post a about what can be found within the town, its citizens, and the area at large.
For the time being I think I will try to keep much of what I post as system agnostic as possible. These days, I am most likely to be playing 5e Dungeons & Dragons but I’d like to put content out there that would be useful to just about everyone. I’d be curious to hear what fantasy system you’re playing.
Where possible, I’ll try to post stuff that would be equally useful for D&D, Pathfinder, WFRP,Savage Worlds, or whatever you may be into. Whether you put your players through their paces in the Forgotten Realms, Golarion, or some other campaign setting, I hope to make it easy enough to file off the numbers and make things as useful as I can.
In case anyone is curious, I created these using the Cities of Schley Symbol Set from Campaign Cartographer. I have included a version with just the title, one with labels, and also one with labels & a grid. Feel free to use these as you like for your own games or simply as inspiration for something more grand.
As of this writing, I have not had the time to explore the world of virtual table-top gaming. I know that it has become quite popular and that the pandemic has only increased its popularity. The thought occurred to me to do some investigating and include maps that would easily import into the popular VTT platforms. However, since part of my purpose in undertaking this endeavor was to interact with people, I decided against it.
If you are a VTT game master and you stumble onto something of mine that would be useful to you, if only it were scaled differently, had a different grid, or certain tweaks, please leave a comment. I can’t swear to it but I would certainly do my best to make an edit and get you what you need.
For today’s post, I have put together 50 odd occurrences to toss at your PCs while they are traveling from point A to point B.
Sometimes you don’t want the day to pass uneventfully but a wandering monster would burn too much precious time. Even if you’re largely handwaving their journey it can be nice to have something interesting happen along the way, so roll a d100 and see where the fates take you.
Each of these could be nothing more than what they appear at face value. Alternately, with a few tweaks you could easily expand them into a full blown encounter, or even an adventure hook.
01-02: Party stumbles on a patch of incredibly large mushrooms. Are they edible? Toxic?
03-04: After breaking camp for the morning strange tracks can be seen all around the perimeter of the camp. These weren’t present the night before and nobody noticed anything during the night.
05-06: A pair of rough looking men step out of the brush carrying a large, spiked collar. They claim they are looking for their lost dog.
07-08: Party finds a white stag trapped in a snare.
09-10: Over the course of a two mile stretch, various items of clothing are found by the roadside.
11-12: Having passed a simple traveler walking along the road on the previous day, the party encounters the same fellow on the following day. However, he is headed in the same direction as he was the day before and claims to have no knowledge of meeting the party.
13-14: The smell of smoke increases throughout the day until the party realizes that their path forward has been blocked by a forest fire.
15-16: Party comes across the shed skin of a monstrous snake.
17-18: A bountiful berry patch lines the side of the road, allowing the party a delicious snack.
19-20: Colorful birds are seen in the trees. Knowledgeable party members will be able to identify these as only coming from warmer climes.
21-22: A patch of small flowering plants are discovered. Knowledgeable party members will be able to identify these as an effective insect repellent. May be burned or used topically.
23-24: Pleasantly fragrant plants are found. Knowledgeable party members will be able to identify these as being used by locals in the region to mask scent from predators in the wild.
25-26: Is that bullfrog singing? Surely that bullfrog can’t be singing.
27-28: Party finds a smoking crater where a meteor has landed.
29-30: Party comes to a clearing. There are a number of toy dolls hanging from the trees all around the edges of the clearing.
31-32: An alabaster monument juts up out if the ground in the middle of the forest. It bears a plaque but the language is foreign to all of the party.
33-34: Party hears the occasional sound of crying. However, the sound ceases whenever they stop to listen closely.
35-36: A possum pops out of the brush briefly before running back into the woods. If followed, it leads the party to a sinkhole where three racoons are trapped.
37-38: Party encounters a simple traveler who offers to share a meal with them before heading on the way. Upon reaching their destination, the party sees a wanted posted for a notorious highwayman and the description matches that of the traveler.
39-40: Mosquitos plague the day’s travel, making everyone uncomfortable and causing them to appear afflicted with the pox for d4 days after.
41-42: Party passes a small caravan owned by a showman who display oddities and curiosities at festivals throughout the realm.
43-44: Wild boars are about! If there is anyone capable of hunting within the party, it will be an easy hunt.
45-46: A freshwater spring yields tasty trout, to anyone with the skill to fish them out.
47-48: The rhythmic beating of drums can be heard in the distance. It seems to be getting closer toward nightfall.
49-50: Party encounters strange formations of sticks bound together with twine.
51-52: An abandoned cottage is found. It appears that other parties have passed through and used this as a shelter recently. What appears to be a map is drawn on the wall with charcoal.
53-54: A large fish lays flopping in the path. The party is not aware of any water nearby.
55-56: Party passes a caravan of prisoners being lead from on settlement to another. The party members recognize one of the prisoners.
57-58: A trail of pieces of bread leads off into the forest.
59-60: Party comes upon a disheveled man who has amnesia.
61-62: An onyx statue of a bull is found deep within the forest.
63-64: A loud buzzing sound leads the party to a beehive the size of a man.
65-66: 3 wooden barrels of rum are found, poorly hidden within the forest.
67-68: Party encounters a religious zealot and his entourage, traveling from one settlement to another. They encourage the party to throw down their arms and join them.
69-70: Without warning, the forest fills with cicadas. Their song drowns out all other noise, to the point on being nearly deafening. This lets up within an hour, without explanation.
71-72: Party encounters a man wearing wrist and leg irons. He claims that he was falsely imprisoned and barely escaped with his life. Is he telling the truth?
73-74: An abandoned campsite is found, neatly laid out. There is a tent, modest belongings, and prepared campfire. However, there are no signs of who left it.
75-76: An incredibly large, winged beast can be seen circling above the canopy of the forest.
77-78: Deep within the forest, the party finds 3 incredibly lifelike statues who are all posed as if shielding their eyes in horror.
79-80: A stone altar it found, topped with the carcass of some woodland beast.
81-82: Strange tracks end up leading to a massive hollowed out tree. However, upon arrival there is no trace of whatever made the tracks.
83-84: A raucous band of revelers, celebrating some religious festival pass the party. Party members are encouraged to throw down their weapons and join them.
85-86: The party comes upon a coach that has thrown a wheel. An obnoxious noble verbally abuses the coachman and demands that he fixes it quickly. Will the party assist?
87-88: A blight has taken over the portion of forest that the party is traveling through. All vegetation has died, with no apparent reason.
89-90: Deep in the forest, the party discover what appears to be a shrine built for a deity that none of them are familiar with. Small offerings are scattered about.
91-92: A circle of tall standing stones are covered in moss. Standing within the circle, party members can feel a steady vibration.
93-94: A shaft of sunlight shines down through the canopy. Figures can be seen dancing in the sunbeam.
95-96: A massive tree stump have pooled with water. Characters looking down into the water see bizarre images.
97-98: A magpie attempts to snatch a small trinket from the party’s camp. If successful, it flies up and deposits it in a nearby tree. If the tree is investigated, a small cache of other treasures will be found.
99-100: A short, cactus-like bush is found along the trail. Knowledgeable party members will be able to identify these as having limited healing properties.
Over the following years, I began to take a special interest in the game convention listings within Dragon magazine. I really had no idea of what a gaming convention consisted of but the concept was appealing to me. My folks were great about encouraging my new hobby and in the spring of 1983, we made the jaunt from Rochester, NY up to St. Catherine’s, Ontario, for the Niagara Gamefest & Computer Show.
It was the most amazing thing in the world to me. I had played D&D (perhaps AD&D by now) with my neighborhood friends for a few years by this time. However, we were a very isolated group and at times it seemed like we were the only ones out there. This small, weekend convention opened my eyes to how popular this hobby indeed was.
Everywhere I looked, there were new RPGs that I had never even heard of. On top of that were the wargames. I had been familiar with miniatures from the tiny gaming store (Campaign HQ) which existed in downtown Rochester. Despite this, I had never seen anything on the level of the massive miniature armies that were on display at the wargame section of the convention.
Probably more important to me than the sensory overload was the reaction that I received from other (mostly older) gamers. Here I was, a 12-year-old kid, and everybody treated me as an equal. It was the most welcoming environment that I had ever been in. It didn’t matter whether I was in a Car Warsevent with college kids or trying my hand at Napoleonics with guys who were in their 50s, it was all good. I was hooked.
Later that year, we traveled to the grandaddy of them all. Gen Con was held at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside that summer. If my first convention had amazed me, this simply blew my mind. It was everything that I had experienced before, times 10!
The campus was in a rural setting, near Racine, so my folks felt comfortable dropping me off in the morning and then picking me up at then end of the day. I had been late in registering so I only had tickets for a couple of events. It didn’t matter, as the concourse of the of the campus was filled with open gaming events that anyone could play.
I don’t think I had a spare minute the whole time that I was there. Groups would literally, just huddle up on the floor and break out with a session of some game. People would be playing Ogrejust a few feet from a group running Champions, while across the hall, a couple were engaged in Ace of Aces. Again, it didn’t matter that I was just a kid. All I had to do was stand around for a few moments and somebody would be asking me if I’d like to join a game.
The miniatures battles that took place in the wargaming area were immense. The largest of these was a multi-day recreation of one of the crusades. I literally watched for hours, fascinated with the detail of the models and terrain.
The dealer’s room at Gen Con was massive. Games, dice, miniatures, apparel, and every other possibly gaming-related item were on sale. I would just walk from booth to booth and listen to everyone pitch their products.
Often vendors would have “mini-games” set up to let folks try out their system so this filled a bit of time as well. I was lucky enough to meet Mark Acres & Tracy Hickman, while playing a demo for Gangbusters. Mark had helped design the game and Tracy would go on to co-author the successful Dragonlance series.
I have very fond memories of my first gaming conventions. I returned to Gen Con the following year and Originsthe year after that. Gaming is a hobby which has always had a certain, social stigma attached to it. I’ve always found the shared experience of a large gaming convention to be very refreshing.
I find myself living in Indiana these days. As such, I can often be found roaming the halls at Gen Con in Indianapolis. Things don’t feel quite the same to me but I’m still drawn to return, year after year. Returning to the hobby after so many years, I’m happy to see how diverse things have become.
How about you? If you’re reading this, something caused you to land here. Have you experienced game conventions? If so, which ones? What did you enjoy? Please share in the comments.
I’ve mentioned previously that I use Campaign Cartographerto make maps for my games. I had a bit of free time mid-week and stumbled onto this tutorial. The following post is the result of a bit of doodling, along with some prep for my group.
The name of the titular character comes from my dear friend Mike’s Fantasy Hero campaign from the early 1990s. As was often the case with that game, certain elements have stuck with me over the years.
My group has been doing quite a bit of river travel of late. I’m not big on completely random encounters but sometimes I need an interesting little drop-in, to keep everyone entertained. This was the case with The Final Rest of Grondo Ri.
At the end of last session, the PCs completed an objective. I’m not entirely sure where they will head off to. However, I’m fairly certain that they’ll be traveling by riverboat. I also know that wherever they head will be a journey of at least a couple of days. Rather than just handwave the travel, I decided to have something interesting for them to encounter.
Hard to say whether they take the bait or not. It’s possibly that they will pass right on by. That said, I’ve found that if I keep a few encounters like this on hand, I tend to be more prepared for things coming at me out of the blue.
As I have mentioned previously, my intention for this blog is to provide GMs bite-sized source material. Hopefully some of you will find something that you can plug into your game and run with. These will likely never be full scenarios, just enough to get the juices flowing and set you on the path to adventure.
Grondo-Ri was an orc shaman who lived roughly 100 years ago. He was cruel, even by orc standards, and lead his tribe with an iron fist. The brute was infamous for leading raids against the dwarves of Khared Draz and even successfully moved his people into some former dwarven territories.
It’s unlikely that the PCs will have ever heard of this fellow prior to this encounter. However, he was fairly notorious in the region. It should be relatively easy to dig up lore about him after the fact.
While historical accounts of Grondo-Ri exist. There is no mention of whatever became of him or his tribe. Lost to the sands of time is the fact that the orc was killed by his own people.
The tribe had taken up residence in an abandoned dwarven outpost near Dhag Ladur. Intoxicated by frequent victories, most of the tribe followed the shaman blindly. However, there were some among them who felt that a change was needed. Tribal elders disagreed with the acts of cruelty they had witnessed and felt that the spirits of their ancestors demanded a change.
Following a skirmish with a band of mercenaries from the human settlement of Sarburg, Grondo-Ri received minor wounds. Seeing this as their opportunity, the elders poisoned the poultices used to treat the shaman and allowed him to die.
The mummified body of the tyrant was entombed in the southwestern corner of the complex. They then completed their coup by convincing the rest of the tribe that they could communicate with the shaman from beyond the grave. Holding elaborate rituals around a large brazier, the elders would claim to receive direction from the fallen leader. They had succeeded in wresting control of the tribe.
However, something unforeseen happened. One day, whether by pure coincidence or spurred on by the restless soul of the shaman, the earth shook. Despite having been expertly crafted by dwarves, the subterranean complex started to collapse. Pillars crumbled and ceilings failed, until the entirety of the orcish tribe lay dead and buried. There, in the dust and rubble, the mummified body of Grondo-Ri awoke.
1. The Shore
The shore is indeed muddy here. PCs will have difficulty walking anywhere on the beach proper and until they make their way into one of the cavern passages.
Various bits of junk have washed up along this stretch and you should tell the players that they can make out the shape of items just under the mud. For any characters wishing to dig through the mud to investigate, roll a d10 and consult the following table to tell them what they’ve found:
1. A Bottle of Rum
2. Purse with d10 gold coins
3. Broken Necklace
4. A Lone Sock
5. Table Leg
7. Piece of Chalk
8. Broken Lute
9. 10’ Pole
A giant freshwater crab has been using the stretch of beach to hunt and is lurking in the water nearby. If the party spends more than 5 minutes on the beach, the creature will attack. Adjust the crab’s difficulty (or possibly add other crabs) as you see fit, depending on your party and their capabilities. Due to the mud, the beach area should be considered difficult terrain for the PCs to move around in. The crab will experience no such hindrance.
Should the party defeat the crab, close inspection of its carcass with reveal a silver dagger with a pearled handle that had been buried in its shell during some previous encounter.
2. Pool Cavern
This pool is fed by a freshwater stream and is considerably more clear than the water back in the river. It is roughly 20’ deep.
The item in the pool is actually a jewel encrusted goblet that once belonged to a dwarven clan leader. It was looted by the orcs under the leadership of Grondo-Ri and came to rest at the bottom of the pool after the collapse of the complex.
The goblet is worth a substantial amount of money but would require someone to strip down and fetch it unless the PCs can come up with another means of retrieval.
3. Mushroom Cavern
There is nothing of note in the cavern aside from the mushrooms. Despite the odor, they are edible and tasty. If harvested, the large mushrooms will effectively produce the same amount of light as a single torch.
Once removed from the cavern, the mushrooms will lose their glow and edible properties within 1 day.
4. Meeting Room
Before the collapse, the orcish tribal elders would use this room as a secret meeting place. After concluding their ceremonies in the shrine, they would access this room via the hallway and secret door (location #5). The bones in the room are actually the remains of two of the elders who happened to be here at the time of the collapse.
Since the water level dropped, two carrion crawlers have been exploring the caverns. Hearing the approach of the party, they have retreated to area #5. However, they are hungry and will immediately attack any party member who comes within 5’ of the fallen door.
If thoroughly searched, the room will yield the following items.
2d20 gold coins
1d10 silver coins
An antique bullseye lantern
4 assorted gemstone
The entrance to this hallway was nearly blocked off by the collapse. However, if party members can squeeze through the first 5 feet, the remainder of the hall is in relatively good shape.
It should be clear to PCs that unlike the caverns, this passageway has been dug intentionally. Characters who would have such knowledge will recognize this as dwarven construction.
A set of stairs leads downward for 10’, before coming to an apparent dead end. The secret door leading into area #6 should be quite easy to find, as it was intended only to be a secret to those who were inside area #6.
6. The Shrine of Grondo-Ri
This is the room were Grondo-Ri was buried. The elders would perform their pseudo rituals here in order to convince the rest of the tribe that they were receiving guidance from their departed leader.
The jars and pots in the room contains all manner of herbs and concoctions. All of these are long past their usefulness. The bits of the shaman that were removed during the mummification process were also stored in these containers. However, they have long since turned to putrefied liquid and evaporated.
The sarcophagus is indeed lacking its inhabitant. However, an ornately designed staff is held within. The Staff of Grondo-Riis a roughly 6” tall iron-shod oak staff. It is topped off with the head of a horned beast. The staff will radiate magic if any party members happen to attempt to detect such things.
The exact properties of the staff are up to you and what would work for your game. However, I will give you some further lore about the item to help you make your decision.
The shaman was quite charismatic and was never without his staff. One might speculate that they was something about the staff that made him seem larger than life to his followers.
He was said to have wielded elemental magics; this was thought to be an ability imparted to him by the spirits of his ancestors but it’s certainly possible that some of this came from the staff.
It is also possible that the staff itself was cursed. This could account for his turn to cruelty and brutality.
Grondo-Ri’s undead corpse has aimlessly wandered rooms #6 & #7 for decades. It is currently in room #7 and will attack in 1d4 rounds after the PCs enter room #6.
I’ve mentioned that Grondo-Ri was mummified after his death and I have also mentioned that he awakened in undeath after the collapse. All of that aside, it’s entirely up to you to decide what exactly he has become.
Since I’ve put this together without knowledge of what system you are playing or what power level your players possess, it’s impossible for me to fully define this encounter. In my game, I’m running this as a fairly low-level one-shot, though I think you could scale things up easily enough.
My suggestion would be to make him be a unique creature, so as to best keep your PCs on their toes. He cannot speak but he will approach the party with unbridled rage and make horrible guttural sounds as he attacks.
If you need to flesh things out a bit, I suppose you could mention the lifeless skeletons of some of the departed elders lying about the room. Then, at a certain point in the combat, Grondo-Ri could cause them to rise and fight. Whatever you like. Just have fun with it.
The contents of the coffers, sack, and books I will also leave up to you. My suggestion would be to make these rewards commiserate with the level of difficulty of the Grondo-Ri fight. One thought would be to have one of the books contain a couple spells that would be useful for one of the party members. The other could be a history book pertaining to something in your campaign setting, thereby setting you up for more adventures down the road.
Beyond the double doors to the north, the hallway is completely caved in. No amount of digging by the PCs will allow them to continue further.
How you use this is entirely up to you. I am merely trying to plant some interesting seeds for you to run with.
Straight: You could run this as a straight random one-shot with no ties to any other part of your story. In this case, the party stumbles onto the cave complex, explores it and ultimately deals with the undead version of Grondo-Ri. Making their way out with whatever treasure they find; the party never looks back.
Research: Perhaps the party was quested by some interested party to uncover whatever became of Grondo-Ri.
Find the MacGuffin:Someone wants something located within the complex. It could be the Staff of Grondo-Ri, the jewel encrusted goblet in the pool, or some other item that you have decided to place there.
Knowledge is Power: If word gets out of the party’s discovery after the fact, it could open doors to other adventure threads. A mysterious sage may wish to investigate the complex and uncover the embalming methods used on the orc shaman. Dwarves may travel to reclaim the lost settlement. A superstitious young orc leader may seek to reclaim the remains of Grondo-Ri, as a manner of ascending to power within his tribe.
Cursed!: Rather than a straight fight, perhaps the undead orc places a terrible curse on the party, requiring them to go on yet another adventure in order to cleanse it.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by and read. If you find any use in all of this, please take a minute, and drop me a note. Until the next post. Good Gaming!
Over the following years, I graduated from that original D&D boxed set to the hardcover AD&D books. I also acquired my first set of polyhedral dice (while they were included in later versions of the boxed set, mine merely came with laminated “chits” which you had to cut out and select randomly).
I was loosely aware that there were other products made by TSR Hobbies, because of the ads in the back of some of my rulebooks. As I recall, “Boot Hill”, “Dawn Patrol”, & “Gamma World” were all featured. Despite living in a decent sized city (Rochester, NY), I had never come across any of these products in any of the few bookstores where I had been able to find gaming products.
I am not certain when it opened but at some point in the early 80s, my parents took me to visit “Campaign Headquarters”. It was an actual, dedicated gaming store and was quite eye-opening. I was like a kid in a candy-store, just filled with wonder. Thinking back, it was just a single, dimly-lit room but it was fascinating, nonetheless.
The walls were covered with blister packs of lead miniatures. Most of these were of the historical sort, though I believe there were some Grenadier fantasy miniatures as well. It was clear at that point that there were far more role-playing, and wargaming games than I had ever imagined.
While I certainly could have spent days in the store, my parents were ready to roll shortly after our arrival. I ended up using my allowance to purchase Dragon Magazine #55. It was the first time that I had seen the publication and it was very exciting to me at the time.
I was 7 years old in the fall of 1977. It had been a big year already, with the release of Star Wars during the past spring. The summer had been spent running around the neighborhood, shooting imaginary Storm Troopers, and debating the fate of Darth Vader.
It was around Thanksgiving when I became aware of a new animated TV Special. The Hobbit was coming to television. Now, for those of you much younger than I, you must understand that the late 70s were a much different time. We had cartoons every Saturday morning, without fail. However, aside from the annual Charlie Brown specials and perhaps Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, animated specials were almost unheard of.
Rumors had spread through my school like wildfire. The Hobbit was something totally different. Not only was this a new animated special, but it was a story of wizards, dwarves, elves, and even a dragon! Truly, this was something not to be missed.
I’m not sure what I did wrong. Perhaps I had knocked the gravy over and into my Aunt’s lap during Thanksgiving dinner. At any rate, as luck would have it, I found myself quite grounded for the world television premier of The Hobbit. It was devastating! I was certain that quite possibly; nothing good could come of my life from that day forward. You see, in 1977, there were no DVRs (or VCRs for that matter). As a matter of fact, there was a great likelihood that if you missed a show on TV or even a movie in the theater, that it would be gone forever.
During the following week, I was forced to listen to my young friends tells stories about The Hobbit. They would go on and on about the goblins, the spiders, and even some strange thing that they referred to as “Gollum”. I was devastated. Within the span of one year I had been told that I was too young to have a poster of Farrah Fawcett in my bedroom and now I had missed The Hobbit! Things were not looking good.
Then, a wonderful thing happened. I came home from school one day to find a paperback book lying on my bed. My parents had purchased me a copy of the novel (truth be told, at 7 years old, I had not even realized that The Hobbit was originally a novel). While it was certainly quite a bit larger than any book I had read thus far, I was intrigued by the maps and “strange writing” which I found just inside the front cover. I set about reading it right away.
I was hooked immediately. Shortly after finishing The Hobbit, I moved on to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. By the time that these were all finished, I was clearly a fantasy junkie. I would devour new fantasy novels as fast as they would come.
During the summer of 1979, a strange thing occurred. I bumped into a friend of mine while playing tag in my back yard. He was incredibly excited about something but was having trouble explaining it. Apparently, he had been playing some game, with the older kids who lived on the next road over. He said that it was a game that had Hobbits in it but that it wasn’t a game about The Hobbit.
The whole thing was terribly confusing and made no sense to me at all. When I asked him about the board, he said there was no board. When I asked if there were cards, he said there were no cards. I was a 9 year old skeptic, to say the least. Certainly if a “Hobbit game” or “game that had Hobbits in it” existed, it would have to be listed within the pages of the J.C. Penney Christmas catalog (everything worth having as a 9 year old child was!) It was not.
Then, one day, my friend and I happened to accompany my mother on a trip to Scrantom’s (a local card & stationary store in Rochester, NY). As we were checking out, I saw a curious looking box, sitting behind the counter. The box was adorned with a picture of a large dragon, sitting on a huge pile of treasure. The words “Dungeons & Dragons” were printed across the top of the box.
“That’s it!” yelled my friend, “that’s the game!”
I received that very box for my birthday, that following January. Like a blind man who has never seen, I immediately understood about games without boards. Indeed, it wasn’t a game about Hobbits, though the Halflings mentioned were certainly similar. It was like nothing I had ever dreamed of. Suddenly, I had the ability to do more than just read fantasy stories; I could create them and watch them unfold before my eyes. The years to follow were filled with all kinds of great gaming memories.