Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ten Things I Wish I Bought Back Then So I Could Have Them Now

Since it’s the time for holiday wish lists and general greed, I’ve been thinking about what I really wish I could have as gifts this year. These presents are not realistic by any means, but since I’m a simple man and all I really want is the new Social Distortion album and for somebody to destroy Mumford & Sons so I never have to hear “Little Lion Man” ever again, it’ll take a theoretical flight of fancy to finish stuffing my stocking.

Limiting myself to 10 items for 2010, they are, in no specific order, the gifts that I wish I had bought for myself back before they went out of print or became incredibly expensive to procure. Almost all of them are pure nostalgia fodder. I’ve specifically left role-playing game books and other supplements off the list as they represent an entire category of their own, one considerably longer than ten items.

10) A set of official Wraith: The Oblivion Dice. When it comes to role-playing games, I’m not a completionist except for two titles: Gamma World and Wraith: The Oblivion. I’ve mentioned that I own every Gamma World edition since its debut. I also have the majority of W:tO stuff. Nevertheless, the dice set never made its way into my possession. I think most of the run of these ended up in a landfill somewhere because they‘re impossible to find, even in the dark alleys of the internet.

9) A Dragonbone: We used to mock this thing mercilessly back in the day, not only because of the adolescent hilarity found in anything called a “Dragonbone,” but because we figured how lame were you if you couldn’t be bothered to actually throw some dice? (An opinion I still have.) Now I want one for simple nostalgia sake and to be able to “whip out my Dragonbone” the next time I’m at a convention and the guy next to me is using a friggin’ iPhone app instead of real dice. I’d show him some hard-core, old school boneage!

8) A Gryphon Games Miniature Case: Another cool product from the back pages of Dragon. I couldn’t paint worth a damn back then, but the idea of having what I imagined to be a massive treasure chest to keep them in was too cool to not want. These things didn’t leave so much as an electronic ripple on the Web, making me think that their plywood construction and brown leatherette covering failed to hold up to the passage of time.

7) A few pads of Armory 1/10” x 1/20” Graph Paper: I posted about this stuff back in October. I haven’t got much of it left, but if I had known then how much this stuff still instills me with a sense of pleasant nostalgia and memories of happy afternoons drawing dungeon maps, I would have bought a pallet of the stuff back in the mid-1980s.

6) Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game: I remember playing this as a kid and I wasn’t all that impressed with it after a few rounds with it, but I never had one of my own: a fact my friend Greg used to lord over me. Alas, that hole in my psyche can never be healed and this is just a vain attempt to fill that emptiness.

6) Kenner’s Alien board game: I actually owned this as a kid and it probably contributed to the irrational fear of xenomorphs that still plagues me to this day. The fact that there was a children’s board game published that was based on an R-rated move with a rape subtext still boggles my mind. Blame the Star Wars merchandising machine for this one. I’d love to have this in my closet again—even though the idea of an actual Alien in my closet makes me lose bladder control.

5) A carton of assorted Presto Magix transfers: Only tentatively gaming-related as some were historical or science-fiction in nature. I can’t even guess as to how many of these I bought at the corner variety store in my youth. Each came with a fold-out background the depicted some exotic vista and a sheet of color transfers that you rubbed over with a pencil to affix to the background. It allowed any kid, even the ones like me who couldn’t draw worth a damn, to create cool action scenes, provided you didn’t mind them not actually performing any actions.

4) A complete set of the Gregg Press Fafhrd and Grey Mouser books: I mentioned in a previous post that this edition was my introduction to Leiber’s famous twain. I own scattered editions of more recent vintage, but to have the orange cover books from the 1970s on my shelf would make me a happy man.

3) All of the Grenadier AD&D miniatures boxed sets: Grenadier’s D&D minis and this game will forever be entwined together in my brain. I owned only a few single pieces in my youth, but each time I saw an advert for them in Dragon or encountered someone who owed these pieces, usually exquisitely painted, made me think I wasn’t getting the full D&D experience. I started refurbishing some of my old miniatures just before the “Out of the Box” game and was reminded that, as clunky and chunky as Grenadier’s early work was, those pieces remain the epitome of game miniatures to me.

2) A vintage set of Crossbows and Catapults: True story—In 1983, my brother and I were playing a game of “Crossbows and Catapults” on our bedroom floor. At the precise moment one of our walls (I forget whose) went crumbling down under a fired disc, a tremendous explosion rocked the neighborhood. Although we initially believed we had somehow unleashed Armageddon by means of a siege warfare game, our father quickly (and somewhat disappointingly) informed us that the Grucci Fireworks Co., located in the next town over, had exploded. That remains one of weirdest moments of synchronicity I've ever experienced in my life and I’d like to have a set again so that my brother and I could possibly destroy other local landmarks.

1) My true #1 is something I’d rather keep to myself. Suffice to say it would require a little bit of time-travel and whole lot of “I wish I knew then what I know now.” The best things in life aren’t things, you know. Barring that, however, how about a complete run of original ROM the Space Knight comic book series? I'm sure it wouldn't stand up to my memories of it, but I remember the Dire Wraiths as being pretty bad ass, largely due to the fact that they regularly killed folks, which was pretty radical for a comic book at that time. I never owned the ROM action figure, but the books had a big impact on my development...which probably isn't a good thing to reveal.

20 comments:

5stonegames said...

Had some of the Grenadier sets back in the day. They are tiny by modern standards (being true 25MM instead of tall 28mm) but the sculpts were quite good.

I think I have some armory hex paper somewhere as well.

Joseph said...

I've still got my Dragonbone from 25+ years ago, and it still works great. I use it when I need to take one of the players aside for a moment, and might not have a place to roll dice handy. Or when I want to roll secretly, without the awesome clatter of my solid pewter dice...

Carter Soles said...

Ah! Crossbows and Catapults! How I LOVED that game! Though I cannot top (or even match) your explosion story, not by a long shot.

Porky said...

Cool post. Captures the magic of Christmas as a child without being Christmassy. I don't remember wanting any of these back then, but I have more of a hankering now than I did before I started reading...

Kilsern said...

I still have the electronic D&D game stored away at my parents' house in PA, along with a good portion of my comics collection from the 80's. For Christmas this year, I'd like to fly to PA and get a coupon for unlimited shipping. Of course, my wife will be upset to find out that tossed one of the children out to make room for comics and games.

James said...

I had the Rhom Action Figure! No idea what happened to it. Disappeared, along with my 12" IG-88 I suppose...

Lumrunner said...

I've got the D&D Electronic Game in sitting on a shelf. I think it still work, but haven't fired it up since I was a kid.

Lumrunner said...

I wish my Dark Tower game still worked. But it died a the death of old electronics.

scottsz said...

Incredible post.

I was lucky enough to have a 'prototype' ROM doll. My father helped design the IC's in it, so he would come home with leftover prototypes, and some other goodies from those efforts.

I didn't know they had an Alien boardgame!

Anonymous said...

I actually had a Presto Magix (or similar brand, same kind of thing) that was of the D&D cartoon.

Joseph said...

Hey Lumrunner, check this out:

http://www.gamepart.com/towerrepair.htm

Taxonomer_X said...

The very first comic I was ever given was Rom Space Knight #1. It started a horrible need to collect. Crossbows and Catapults was probably my first introduction to war games. what a great game!

Marjasall said...

First time commenting here. I currently have several complete sets of the Grenadiers. Crossbows and Catapults I had as a kid and it was a fun game - funny about blowing up landmarks (that made me chuckle - great story). The game has been long gone from my possession for a couple of decades now. I had a D&D Presto Magix set when I was a kid - the transfers were the actual illustrations from the 1E MM, except they were all in color. I don't remember what all of them were, but I do remember a Roper and an Umber Hulk in the pack. I looked for the electronic D&D game on eBay not long ago (just to see if they were out there somewhere), but the only thing I found listed at that timewere parts to the game -- wall pieces, the metal game pieces, etc. I also found one listing for just the board, but it said the board didn't work. Great post - it brings back some cool memories.

Kaptain Kobold said...

Perhaps now's the time to consider how much I should sell my 'Rom' collection for.

Not actually sure it's complete; I haven't looked at it in ages, because I suspect that 25 years has turned something that was 'cool' into something 'cringeworthy' :)

Nilonim said...

If you are really interested in the leiber, there are several complete sets available ranging from $600 (all first editions) to $300 (mix of first and later) at abebooks.com

Booberry said...

All the ROM issues can be had pretty cheaply these days. Floating World Comics in Portland has a recurring ROM tribute show, which is pretty badass. Here's some of the work from this year's show:

http://romspacenite.blogspot.com/

Tons of comics people participate and all the proceeds go to help alleviate some of the medical costs of the comic's author Bill Mantlo, who was gravely injured in a hit-and-run accident in 1992.

And I resent the fact that this post has me headed to ebay in search of Crossbows and Catapults. Dammit!

Marjasall said...

"And I resent the fact that this post has me headed to ebay in search of Crossbows and Catapults. Dammit!"

hehe - toys that hurl projectiles are always winners.

rcade said...

In 1988 I sold my entire comic book collection (lots of Claremont/Byrne X-Men, early Cerebus, early indies) to visit my girlfriend in Mexico. I kept one entire run of a series because I couldn't bear to part with everything. So I still have my complete run of ROM Spaceknight.

Lumrunner said...

Thanks Joseph!

Jay said...

I had Crossbows and Catapults and it was one of my favorites for the longest time. It broke my geek heart when I'd learned my mom had garage saled it while I was away at school.

I bought the updated version a few years ago, but it pales in comparison.

Also loved Presto Magix. Still have an unopened Return of the Jedi somewhere. Not sure why those haven't made a comeback!