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Friday, 12 June 2009

My Life And Roleplaying: My First Dungeons & Dragons Character...


Technically Gordok Mantor wasn't my first Dungeons & Dragons character, but he was the first that I used for a game outside my own home (or Gublin's house), back in either late 1978 or early 1979.

Gordok was created for use at The Dark Tower - Tunbridge Wells' first (and only) role-playing game shop and club. Although I'd been taught the basics of Dungeons & Dragons before I ventured into The Dark Tower, that was the haven of geekiness that really fuelled my early love of this hobby.

Through rose-tinted glasses, the vague wisps of memory I have about the place make it appear as iconic as Weird Pete Ashton's Games Pit in Knights Of The Dinner Table. Sadly it didn't last that long, as might have been expected, and the area has been partially redeveloped now so you can't even see where it once stood.

Gordok failed to survive his first visit to The Dark Tower, as my first level, Lawful Good magic-user, somehow managed to get involved in an expedition to Tegel Manor, the massive haunted house module put out by Judge's Guild in 1977. As you can see from the scribbles on his character sheet he died by rapidly aging 50 years.

All his worldly goods (well, 95% of them) went to his nephew Glop, son of Gordok's brother Sam.

This was during my early Tolkien phase, as I was introduced to Lord Of The Rings around the same time as Dungeons & Dragons, and I was really enthralled by all the family trees in the back of The Return Of The King.

So, in these halycon days of gaming geekery, pretty much all my characters had family trees and many of them were related.

Glop The Grand fared slightly better (despite his awful name), but I didn't keep a record of where he adventured. He was a neutral cleric with a "sword of dexterity". 

Despite his 18 Dexterity (magically enhanced I suspect from my scribbles) and his plate mail armour, he was killed by an ogre - with no descendants to bequeath his treasures to.

Looking at Gordok and Glop's character sheets, this was certainly the Eric Holmes edition of Dungeons & Dragons we were playing (as that was the first I was introduced to), although there are some unexplained oddities like Gordok appearing to have two spells at first level and Glop, a cleric, wielding a magic sword.

Of course, I was only 12 at the time.

22 comments:

  1. Tunbridge Wells' first (and only) role-playing game shop

    I remember there being a roleplaying shop in Tunbridge Wells in the mid-90's, but I can't remember the name. I'm fairly sure it wasn't The Dark Tower though.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sweet! Thanks for sharing, especially the character sheet. I remember borrowing someones DMG about that time, and skipping school to type up the important tables!

    ReplyDelete
  3. My first-ever D&D character (back in the 1st Edition days) was a druid who actually had a pretty long lifespan. By the time my DM halted the campaign after several years, my PC was one of the top 3 druids on the continent. Yep, time to retire...!

    A few months ago, I played 1st Edition for the first time in about 20 years. Wow, what a difference. I kept thinking, "What, there's not a rule for that? We have to wing it?" :-) I prefer the newer editions of D&D, but there was something so pure and simple about the old system.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "I remember there being a roleplaying shop in Tunbridge Wells in the mid-90'"

    I've lived in and around Tunbridge Wells all my life, but don't recall another RPG shop.

    We've had comic shops that lasted a few weeks, a successful Games Workshop store, second hand shops that have dealt in the odd geeky thing, and book shops that also sold RPGs but not another pure RPG shop that I recall.

    Maybe if my good friend Nick reads this, he'll chime - his memory is less addled that mine - but I'm sure I wouldn't forget a games shop :-)

    There was Military & Myths/Black Knight Games in Sevenoaks for a couple of years, which sold 2nd hand RPGs (mainly mine!), but that was primarily a wargames/miniature figures shop.

    I'm pleased you're all finding this interesting, I was a bit concerned it might be seen as a bit "let me tell you about my character" and self-indulgent. I must warn you that on Saturday I will be publishing a magnum opus about my all-time favourite character though!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Nick has just reminded me that favourite model train shop, Ballards, used to sell RPGs back in the day, but also - and this might be what you were thinking of Kelvin, there was a short-lived RPG and comic shop in Tonbridge (actually quite near where I live now) called Ork's Drift.

    Sadly I think that stayed open for less time than The Dark Tower, although Nick did buy his first Europa game there (http://tinyurl.com/zpv33)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I remember Ballards and Ork's Drift (well, I remember trying to find Ork's Drift but it had already closed), but I also remember a shop which specialised in gaming products. I haven't been to Tunny in a few years now, so I don't recall where it was exactly, but it was very near a church. It was a very small shop, as I remember, with just about enough room for two people.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Having had a think about it, I wonder, did Ballards move at some point in the mid-90's? The tiny dusty shop I remember isn't the flashy place that now exists, but something at the back of my mind says they moved to larger premises, and in doing so, dropped the gaming stuff...

    ReplyDelete
  8. I think you've nailed it; and that tallies with something Nick said about a "second Ballards" that I knew nothing about.

    I suspect this was during my three years down in Bournemouth, at University, which is why I had no recollection of it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Ballards moved down Camden Road at some point for a few years, or at least the RPG stuff did, becoming Ballards 2, keeping all the modelling stuff in the original shop.

    I've still got some stuff floating around with their price stickers on.

    I never went in Dark Tower - I think that it was open in the early 80's - I remember wanting to go in, but my mum wouldn't let me.

    ReplyDelete
  10. It's odd that I have no recollection of Ballards 2 - especially as it was their RPG 'section'. All the RPG stuff I got from them was from the original shop... that happened to be halfway between my school and my bus stop at the time!

    For me, the Dark Tower was the definitive FLGS and we need one back round here (although I know, sadly, there wouldn't be the trade to support it... even if I did my level best to support it single-handed!)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hey Tim. I vaguely remember killing one of your characters in a completely unfair manner at The Dark Tower. Sorry!!!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Good grief, you must have an excellent memory :D What else do you recall...?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Must be a guilty conscience.

      I was there from the first meeting at the shop. That was my first experience of playing D&D. I think it was Tegel Manor.

      I lost touch with everybody many years ago although my wife worked with Dave Palmer's brother for a while.

      Delete
    2. Dave Palmer, there's a name I haven't heard in decades. He was the guy who ran the Dark Tower, right? is that where I know the name from?

      Delete
  13. Yep - bang on.

    And Colin Pennington was always the other leading light.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Another blast from the past - not that I could pick these people out in a line-up, but the names are certainly ringing faint bells. What I wouldn't give for a new games shop to open up in this area ;)

      Delete
    2. You mean Waterstones and Fenwicks aren't good enough?

      Delete
    3. If only they ran gaming clubs... and carried a decent stock of gaming materials ;)

      Delete
  14. Tell you what; if I win the EuroMillions jackpot I'll open a shop. Just don't tell my wife!!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Not to butt in. However, I got back from uni, where I caught the RPG bug and started looking for games in Tunbridge Wells.................. I was under the impression that they don't exist.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not butting in at all, glad to have you on board ;) It's not like the "good old days" when you couldn't throw a stone without hitting a gaming group, but they're still out there (just better concealed).

      One of my regrets (if you can call it that) was NOT investigating RPG potential when I was at university.

      Delete

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