A Portrait of Young Geeks Playing D&D (1980)

D&D portrait 1980

D&D portrait 1980-2

D&D portrait 1980-3

These are from the 1980 Libertyville (a northern suburb of Chicago) High School Yearbook, courtesy of edenpictures/Flickr. John Olson’s explanation of the game on the first page may be the best one I’ve ever heard.

Interesting how they’re referred to as the Dungeons and Dragons people. Why not players? Or fans? Maybe because no one really understood them. They were those people. They were Goonies.

And what about the crux of the blurb: “The game provides its participants with the action, battle, and adventure they may never find in real life”? Isn’t the act of pretending a real life event? If I imagine that I’m swinging a sword at a red dragon while rolling a d20, am I not finding adventure in real life? It’s a less physical experience than running between the tackles on a football field, but it’s no less real.

Look closely at these kids. They were themselves, and they probably took a lot of shit for it. They were geeks before geeks were cool.

9 Responses to “A Portrait of Young Geeks Playing D&D (1980)”


  1. 1 leftylimbo April 16, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Wow, totally looks like the kids I hung out with that year, although I was only in 4th Grade. Dang! “..one game takes about half a day” …that means my buddies who played it at recess were just having like, tiny mini-adventures!

    • 2 leftylimbo April 16, 2013 at 5:45 pm

      I vividly remember my friends having their backpacks loaded with their D&D requisites…Fiend Folios, die, pencils, and a folder with their character(s) bio sheets/stats and tons of graph paper for mapping out new dungeons.

  2. 3 2W2N April 16, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    You could run pieces of a campaign during recess, or you could just talk shop, roll a character, work out a dungeon sequence. A lot of kids liked the planning/rules aspect just as much or more than actually playing.

    • 4 Anon April 18, 2013 at 4:07 am

      I believe you are referring to yourself. I feel like there were a lot of dungeons created that had no plan of ever being played.

  3. 5 leftylimbo April 16, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    You’ve been uncovering a lot of D&D folk pics…wouldn’t it be awesome to find some old character sheets and grid-mapped dungeons from back in the day?

    Oh yeah, there were times where the kids were hard at work drawing their character(s). It was interesting to see the different renditions of elves, archers and paladins. Then there was also a go-to guy who knew how to draw really well (even if he wasn’t associated with the D&D crowd), he’d get a bunch of requests for character drawings.

  4. 6 2W2N April 17, 2013 at 2:54 am

    Oh, I’ve got some amazing handmade D&D modules coming soon… You will die.

  5. 7 nuny@business.com January 28, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    That’s Tom Morrello – guitarist of Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, Nightwatchman and the E Street Band on tour – in the top row.

  6. 9 Forrest Aguirre June 22, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    Look at all those poor saps in the pictures above them that didn’t play D&D. Sad, really, that they missed out.


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