I recently moved into a new home office, trading spaces with my three-year-old’s baby room. It was a good excuse for a spring cleaning session, getting rid of some clutter, donating away some books, and taking an inventory of my stuff. I took advantage of the move to not only paint my new office but to also grab some on-sale bookcases to finally get bits of my growing library off the floor. I’ve got entire shelves devoted to certain topics/subjects such as steampunk, DIY and electronics, and more. One of those shelves is what I call my Nostalgia Shelf. I intentionally limited myself to one shelf because, honestly… I could probably dedicate half or more of an entire bookcase to all the games, modules, and reference books I’ve collected over the years. While much of my early geek collection is boxed up and stored away, I did manage to grab a few items (that weren’t already in my old office) that I’ve now got just a few feet away and always within view. And man, do they bring back some great memories.
Probably a bit too predictable but still quite relevant to my history are the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Player’s Handbook, and the Monster Manual. A bit worn (but still with the laminate covers I applied years ago to protect the cover images), but these books do have some serious miles on them. Staring at these books I quickly realize, however, that these weren’t the start. I had two very cool parents who surprised me for my 6th grade birthday with a boxed edition of the basic Dungeons & Dragons (blue cover). The box may be falling apart, but I’ll never part with it. My RPG origin story, so to speak.
D&D and AD&D were my gaming world in middle school, and I had a great bunch of buddies who all enjoyed playing as often as we could get together. But in 8th grade, FASA released the Star Trek RPG and I spent a dozen weeks or so mowing and raking lawns in my neighborhood to buy that boxed set (which I still own). It was Original Series Star Trek, and the set came with some amazing blueprints of the Enterprise and a Klingon ship. This game also had ship combat, with players taking the roles and using chits and these awesome bi-fold “stations.” The engineer, for example, could allocate power to weapons, shields, and more. I introduced my buddies to it, and I found myself most often playing referee and running missions. I have a LOT of FASA ST stuff, but the one item I keep on my new shelf to remind me of those days is a module that was released in book format. I have fond memories of running that mission where the crew encountered an abandoned space station. Tucked inside the center of the book is a fold out set of space station blueprints, and I remember my players being very spooked at such a large and empty station to explore.
It’s interesting that so many of my gaming memories are related to the grade I was in at the time. In 9th grade, I found three little black boxes at my favorite gaming store (Koby’s Hallmark Store, Pensacola, FL — yes, the owner actually had a gaming section!) and my 9th grade gaming year took a serious turn as I fell into Car Wars. Steve Jackson Games released these games in these thin little black boxes (well, the first game was Car Wars and the others were expansions) and it came with straight road sections and paper chits with images of cars in both undamaged and damaged conditions. Car Wars was, hands down, one of my favorite gaming experiences growing up. I remember spending LOTS of time trying to come up with the right mix of weapons and armors for my custom car that, the first time in battle, rolled and burned when my buddy Mark targeted my front tire (a long shot!), actually hit it, and then my result roll of 1 put me into an immediate skid and rolled a dozen times before coming to a rest upside down. My shelf holds two small books that bring me a smile — the first issue of AutoDuel Quarterly and the very first Uncle Albert catalog. (Special Note: Steve Jackson Games is going to release a collector’s edition of Car Wars via Kickstarter sometime at the end of this year. I was grinning ear to ear when that announcement was made on SJG’s OGRE Kickstarter last year.)
My high school freshman year also had me introducing a new game to my friends — Paranoia. I think my friends truly thought I was out of my mind the first time I had them roll up characters and explained the rules. Yeah, this was a long shot of a game to try and get them to play, and we did play a few modules together… but it never held up. The game’s reference material frequently made me laugh out loud — this was a dark and humorous game that I really believe may have been slightly ahead of its time. Still, I keep the boxed set (with modules inside) on the shelf because it reminds me that we (my gamer friends) still enjoyed trying new games out.
I loved Infocom games, and I’ve got the original folder containing Infidel sitting there, along with the documents that Infocom was famous for including — map, pencil rubbing of the artifact that helps you find the buried pyramid, and the True Tales of Adventure magazine. (And tucked inside the folder were a few items that really made me smile — hand-drawn map of my exploration of the pyramid and my translations of the ASCII hieroglyphics that you had to figure out as you explored the pyramid. Infocom truly was a company of geniuses.)
My Nostalgia Shelf is full. I’ve got my absolute favorite AD&D module I ever ran — Pharaoh. I remember my players had a blast, and it cemented my position as DM forever in their minds. There’s a lot more on that shelf, but I think you get the idea. These things are important to me. It’s not just the great memories, but also the influence — who I am today, my job, my interests, my hobbies… all influenced, I’m certain, by the creativity that games required of me.
When I’m sitting at my computer, working on a chapter or trying to come up with a new angle on a project, I often get writer’s block and worry that I’ve simply run out of creativity. My Nostalgia Shelf is to my right, six feet away, and at eye level when I’m seated. That wasn’t by accident. I’ve always wanted a reminder of my early gaming days, when creative endeavors were so easy. Staring at these items on the shelf inspires me. It makes me smile and briefly takes my mind away from whatever issue I’m stuck on. It’s working so well that I may actually clear off the shelf below it and go digging in my boxes. I seem to recall having a boxed set of Top Secret buried somewhere… 7th grade. Good times.
What is (or would be) on your Nostalgia Shelf?