I was 7 years old in the fall of 1977. It had been a big year already with the release of Star Wars during the past spring. The summer had been spent running around the neighborhood, shooting imaginary Storm Troopers and debating the fate of Darth Vader.
It was around Thanksgiving when I became aware of a new animated TV Special. The Hobbit was coming to television. Now, for those of you much younger than I, you must understand that the late 70s were a much different time. We had cartoons every Saturday morning, without fail. However, aside from the annual Charlie Brown specials and perhaps Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, animated specials were almost unheard of.
Rumors had spread through my school like wildfire. The Hobbit was something totally different. Not only was this a new animated special, but it was a story of wizards, dwarves, elves, and even a dragon! Truly, this was something not to be missed.
I’m not sure what I did wrong. Perhaps I had knocked the gravy over and into my Aunt’s lap during Thanksgiving dinner. At any rate, as luck would have it, I found myself quite grounded for the world television premier of The Hobbit. It was devastating! I was certain that quite possibly; nothing good could come of my life from that day forward. You see, in 1977, there were no DVRs (or VCRs for that matter). As a matter of fact, there was a great likelihood that if you missed a show on TV or even a movie in the theater, that it would be gone forever.
During the following week, I was forced to listen to my young friends tells stories about The Hobbit. They would go on and on about the goblins, the spiders, and even some strange thing that they referred to as “Gollum”. I was devastated. First, I had been told that I was too young to have a poster of Farrah Fawcett in my bedroom and now I had missed The Hobbit!
Then, a wonderful thing happened. I came home from school one day to find a paperback book lying on my bed. My parents had purchased me a copy of the novel (truth be told, at 7 years old, I had not even realized that The Hobbit was originally a novel). While it was certainly quite a bit larger than any book I had read thus far, I was intrigued by the maps and “strange writing” which I found just inside the front cover. I set about reading it right away.
I was hooked immediately. Shortly after finishing The Hobbit, I moved on to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. By the time that these were all finished, I was clearly a fantasy junkie. I would devour new fantasy novels as fast as they would come.
During the summer of 1979, a strange thing occurred. I bumped into a friend of mine while playing tag in my back yard. He was incredibly excited about something but was having trouble explaining it. Apparently, he had been playing some game, with the older kids who lived on the next road over. He said that it was a game that had Hobbits in it but that it wasn’t a game about The Hobbit.
The whole thing was terribly confusing and made no sense to me at all. When I asked him about the board, he said there was no board. When I asked if there were cards, he said there were no cards. I was a 9 year old skeptic, to say the least. Certainly if a “Hobbit game” or “game that had Hobbits in it” existed, it would have to be listed within the pages of the J.C. Penney Christmas catalog (everything worth having as a 9 year old child was!). It was not.
Then, one day, my friend and I happened to accompany my mother on a trip to Scrantom’s (a local card & stationary store). As we were checking out, I saw a curious looking box, sitting behind the counter. The box was adorned with a picture of a large dragon, sitting on a huge pile of treasure. The words “Dungeons & Dragons” were printed across the top of the box.
“That’s it!” yelled my friend, “that’s the game!”
I received that very box for my birthday, that following January. Like a blind man who has never seen, I immediately understood about games without boards. Indeed, it wasn’t a game about Hobbits, though the Halflings mentioned were certainly similar. It was like nothing I had ever dreamed of. Suddenly, I had the ability to do more than just read fantasy stories; I could create them and watch them unfold before my eyes. The years to follow were filled with all kinds of great gaming memories.