Archive for the 'D&D Portraits' Category

Dungeons & Dragons Club, 1980

D&D Club 1980

I found this one at the Judges Guild Game Company’s Facebook page. The note reads:

In the 70’s and 80’s, JG founded and supplied Dungeons and Dragons clubs in Decatur, Illinois high schools. This is the 1980 MacArthur D&D Club, as pictured in the yearbook.

I would pay real money for an autographed 8×10, especially if Van Halen guy signs with a silver metallic Sharpie. My crush on Kathy Kirby is immediate and all-consuming. As soon as I get my hands on a functioning flux capacitor, I’m going back in time to ask her to the prom.

Judges Guild, by the way, is a fantasy game publisher founded in 1975 by Bob Bledsaw and Bill Owen. In 1976, Bledsaw and Owen got approval from Dave Arneson to create game supplements for D&D, which were successfully introduced at Gen Con IX in August of the same year.

Over the next several years, Judges Guild released some 250 products—for use with D&D as well as RuneQuest, Traveller, and other notable games—and played an influential role in the formative years of tabletop RPGs. The Judges Guild website is here.


On a separate but related note, I want to thank Al at Beyond the Black Gate for saying some nice things about 2 Warps to Neptune. Al is an old school gamer and game developer who has written extensively about the genre, Judges Guild included.

Anyone interested in the hobby and its history—hell, anyone who digs fantasy art and literature—should check out his blog. Start with his two-part cliffhanger, “Evolution of an Old-School Gamer.”

It’s Not a Fantasy: Dungeons & Dragons Camp, 1981 – 1985

Shippensburg 1981


Shippensburg 1982


Shippensburg 1983


Shippensburg 1984, week 1


Shippenburg 1985


Shippenburg 1985


Shippensburg Adventure Game Camp really existed. It was held during the summer at the Shippensburg College campus in southern Pennsylvania. Ben Robbins, who is currently developing an RPG called Kingdom, attended all five years. The photos come from his Flickr set, at this point an indispensable historical document.

In a must-read interview at Gaming Brouhaha, he boils down the experience: “Take the normal magic of summer camp and then ratchet it up a few notches for sharing a rare and misunderstood subculture.” I can only imagine.

He explains the structure of the camp and how the groups were broken up, talks about the campaigns, tells stories  (for instance: going to see Clash of the Titans with all the geeks in the group). Every morning there were lectures on gaming, he says:

One of the best sections (back each year by popular demand) was audience suggestions for improv roleplaying. The councilors would all act as players, and the audience would come up with situations and characters for them and they’d roleplay it out. There wasn’t any fighting or rules — if the situation started to devolve into combat they stopped and moved to a new one. It may seem unimpressive now, but demonstrating roleplaying as a game in itself was a powerful example back in the early 80′s.

This recalls Dirk Malcolm on the “leap of faith it took in the early days “to move from Monopoly to playing mind-games with dice.”

The first 1985 photo is my favorite. The Ratt t-shirt is a classic (what’s he holding?). I also see Rush and Dio shirts. Houston Oilers hat and check Vans in the second row (are those guys twins?). All the studs in their shades and feathered back hair. Sad kid sighting: front row, second from the right. Girl sighting: smack in the middle of the pile.

The camp was cruelly canceled before the 1986 season. I posted the letter last year.

Thanks, Ben.

A Portrait of Young Geeks Playing D&D (1982)

D&D geeks

No, you’re not mistaken. The dude sitting furthest back really is wearing a unicorn shirt with a rolled-brim Busch Beer hat. Got a problem?

And that’s the original 1978 Player’s Handbook with the David Trampier cover that scared the shit out of all the people who believed Satan was taking over the Earth one polyhedral die roll at a time.

If you haven’t already, check out my D&D Portrait series.

(Photo via Mojo Yugen/Flickr)

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.

Dungeons & Dragons Club, 1983

1983 Dungeons and Dragons club

Presumably this shot comes from the Menlo School Yearbook of 1983. Menlo is a middle and high school in Atherton, California. I love the dragon, but shouldn’t he be holding a polyhedral die?

What do we think is playing on that boombox (top left)? Thriller?

(Photo via Menlo Photo Bank/Flickr)

A Portrait of Young Geeks Playing D&D (1982)

D&D Tourney 82

March 31, 1982. (Keith Graham/Miami Herald)

The caption:

At the Dungeons and Dragons tourney each table had a dragon master and six players. This is one of the intermediate groups. There were three divisions: beginners, intermediate and advanced players.

The “dragon” master’s shirt is awesome. I bet he still has it.

(Photo via Vintage Photos 2012)

A Portrait of Young (and Older) Geeks Playing D&D

Geeks Playing D&D

Geeks Playing D&D-2

These are both from a nice Gary Gygax tribute at A Dark and Sinister Force for Good. The first shot shows the lads back in the day—late ’70s, it looks like. Check out that awesome Batman glass.

In the second shot we see the lads circa 2008. The Batman glass has been replaced by Diet Coke and booze.

The dice never stop rolling.

A Portrait of Young Geeks Playing D&D

D&D Portrait 1981-2

Via J.R. Jenks/Flickr, circa 1981. On the top left of the bookshelves I see two board games, Snoopy Come Home and Space Hop. I remember the first one, but not the second. Here’s a shot of the back of Space Hop.

I’m intrigued, but apparently the game was designed for very young kids, and the data is very much out of date.

Portrait of a Young Geek Painting D&D Miniatures (1982)

November 4, 1982. (Ricardo Ferro/St. Petersburg Times)

(Via Arpten’s Photo Memories)

A Portrait of Young Geeks Playing D&D: Special Video Edition

From Ethan Gilsdorf, author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, comes this Super 8 video of a Friday night D&D session in Lee, New Hampshire, 1981.

I am literally spellbound. (No, really, can anyone hit me with a Dispel Magic?)

(Source: Ethan’s YouTube Channel)

EDIT (1/28/13): I just found a Wired article Ethan wrote about the video. Go to it.




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