Niche Collections & Childhood Memories

I’ll be turning 40 this year. Next month in fact.

Over the last five years, I’ve found myself reminiscing about my childhood more and more. I feel it’s perfectly natural, and assume that a lot of people go through this at my age. No regrets or lamentations, mind you. Oh no, these are very fond memories.

Stimulating a lot of those memories is the acquisition of items associated with my youth. Aside from ‘Big Box’ PC games from the 80’s, I also collect adventure game books. Can we talk about adventure game books on ATGN? I think we can. Felicity certainly did, so I think I’m safe here; great piece by the way. I remember playing the books with friends of mine back in primary school and it’s great to see people enjoying the books still today. It’s basically a role-playing game with the book as the Games Master, and while they were originally designed for just one player, they are still heaps of fun with a friend. What’s even more exciting is that despite all our current video game technology, we can still find the time to enjoy something as simple as an adventure game book.

Dad’s Fighting Fantasy Books. Still on my bookshelf.

My hobby didn’t begin with me though. A lot of the pieces in my collection actually belonged to my father. Much like our beloved Gary Gygax, my father was an Englishman with a strong disposition for early war gaming, with entire armies of painted lead figures ranging from Egyptian to Napoleonic to World War II. In the early 80’s, his attentions drifted to fantasy gaming; primarily in the form of Dungeons & Dragons, but also in the form of Fighting Fantasy adventure game books.

And while my fathers interest in such things waned as I grew into a young man, it was still him who led me through my very first game of Dungeons & Dragons at the age of 10, and introduced me to the world of tabletop gaming. While he sadly passed away some 14 years ago, I’ve still got in my collection adventure game books, role-playing books, and even quests and character sheets that belonged to or where made by him.

One of Dad’s character sheets. Circa ~’81.

How many people can say they have character sheets that their parents used at a dinner party / Dungeons & Dragons sessions from when they were only a toddler?

As such, a large part of my collection is selective. If you were to ask some people which Dungeons & Dragons books they own, they might simply reply “All.” I am not such a person. A lot of my collection consists of things I have an childhood connection with in some way.

For instance, take the original Keep on the Borderlands, arguably one of the most iconic Dungeons & Dragons modules ever. It was bundled in Dad’s Basic Core Box and as such it was the first module I attempted to play with friends. Ergo, I have a soft spot for it and fond memories of long and lazy summer school holidays rolling dice with friends when your biggest concern was beating the next level in a video game or wondering if a girl had a crush on you.

Iconic. Also Dad’s original copy.

As a result, I picked up the Keep on the Borderlands 25th Anniversary Edition some while back. Not to play (I don’t play 2nd Edition) but to read, enjoy and savour. Likewise, I picked up a paperback novel based on the modules as well. Were it to be revised for 5th Edition, I’d probably pick that up as well – despite not owning any 5th Edition books myself, as I have such a strong connection with the original module and the story. It’s kind of like going to the cinema to see the remake of a film you loved as a child, I guess.

Dad may have started the family Fighting Fantasy collection, but I certainly continued it. Once a month or so, my family would make a trip down to the local bookstore, and I was always encouraged to pickup a book. I don’t recall ever buying a regular book. It was always a “how to make origami,” “party tricks with friends,” or an adventure game book. Sometimes a “Pick-A-Path,” sometimes a Fighting Fantasy, often a “Wizards Warriors & You.” While I only ever owned two Wizards Warriors & You books as a child, as an adult I’ve acquired almost the entire series. I don’t play any of them though. It’s the thrill of the hunt. The completion of the collection – in this instance – that I enjoy.

My two original copies of Wizards Warriors & You. Circa ~’86

Collecting these things, especially at a bargain price is often more of a thrill than actually owning the item itself. I’ve happily spend entire afternoons browsing through thrift stores or book fairs at the local scout hall. Nothing is more satisfying than picking up a Joe Dever Lone Wolf adventure book for 50c and then discovering it’s worth about $40 on eBay.

Thankfully, with the rise of the internet and social media, at least tracking down gaps in collections has become a little easier. For those of you who are partial to adventure game books like myself, point your browser at the following Facebook Groups –

Fighting Fantasy (And Other Gamebooks) – Discussion

Fighting Fantasy, Lone Wolf and Other Gamebooks – Buy & Sell

If role-playing is more your thing, take a look at our own Facebook Group –

Australian Role-Playing Guild

I think I’m a bit of a rarity, though, in some cases. A lot of people I speak with have gone back and collected books and games from their youth which they did own at one point, and then either gave them away or lost them later in life. I’m lucky that a lot of what I have on my collection bookcase are things that either my father bought or I bought as a child and still have to this day. Including my complete, boxed copy of the much loved HeroQuest board game from Milton Bradley. Sure, I picked up a second copy later on eBay because it was cheap and I wanted extra doors (I was always running out of doors when making my own missions), but there is an even greater sense of empathic link with these things when it’s the very original you owned as a child still in your collection. I even went so far as to acquire a copy of Advanced HeroQuest, but I’ll admit that one was more out of a desire to own something niche rather than any sense of attachment to my childhood. Although, I do recall wanting a copy of Advanced HeroQuest as a teenager and simply not being able to find or afford a copy.

A map my father made for my very first Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Circa ~’87

As gaming and pop culture grow in status every year (not to mention stuff is just getting older and a lot of it has become damaged or lost), prices keep going up. Completing collections gets harder and harder. Finding bargains gets more and more difficult.

I recently advised my teenage daughter not to throw out her collection of Littlest Pet Shop toys because I know she’ll want to collect them all again in 30 years time. Sadly, my advice fell on deaf ears. Hopefully, though, anyone reading this who might be under the age of 20 will heed my advice. Don’t throw out your childhood collections!

So, what tabletop gaming do you collect? Why? And what are some tips you can offer others also looking to build (or rebuild) a collection?

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One Comment
  1. Don
    September 11, 2017 | Reply

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