My Fantasy Closet

While doing some (early) spring cleaning around the house, I decided to consolidate all of my gaming "stuff" into our only walk-in closet.   Even though the space is only about 30 sq feet, it has turned out to be a great decision.  Before, all the board games went in the linen closet, the RPGs went on the hallway bookshelf with my books, and my computer games were hidden in the entertainment center.  Now they are all displayed together, neatly, in a very accessible place where I can go at any time to access.

Using some leftover Christmas money, I went over to our local charity store and found the neat little book shelf.  It's the perfect size for the small closet space and easily fits my favorite computer games, fantasy novels and RPG books.  The wood and stain is in great condition and the "pillars" on the front look like something that could have come from the carpenters in Rivendell.

I also bought a small, cheap desk, an old elementary school desk chair, and a 15 inch CRT television for my next surprise.  Everything feels a little rustic and worn, but that's exactly how I wanted it; this is a room dedicated to not only fantasy, but old school fantasy.  I want to walk in here and feel like it's a room out of 1985, more or less.

Since this room connects to my sons' bedroom, this is also the place I have been running my Tenebrous campaign.  I have all of my notes, maps, dice and other tools here to run the game out of the closet while they sit on their beds or on the bedroom floor.  I can record sessions with my audio recorder from here, and I take care of all character sheets as well . The only thing they need to bring is their imagination.

Using the rest of the gift cards I had left over, I finally invested in something I had been wanting for a very long time: a Commodore 64, complete with the original manuals, 1541 disk drive and joystick.  I also got my hands on a few early C64 RPGs on Ebay: The Magic Candle, Deathlord, Pool of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds, and Age of Adventure.

Now, I was a little apprehensive about doing this at first.  I could have used the cash at Lulu or RPGNow and gone on a spending spree getting a metric ton of modules.  I could have also gone out and spent the money on a boatload of CRPGs on Steam or other digital download sites (that I'm sure would never have gotten played).  But after flipping on the C64 the first time and seeing the beautiful blinking cursor overlayed by the blue screen, and typing in a few BASIC commands, I knew I had made the right decision.

The C64 is a wondrous computer, before the days of GUIs like Windows and Mac OS and even high level command-line operating systems like DOS and Linux, there was a time when you were one with your computer.  These were the days when computers lived in the wild west, every idea was a new idea because there were really no "conventions" to hold onto like we have today.  An OS meant something very different back then.  The best way to describe it is like modern vs old cars.  Today, you jump in your seat, turn on your GPS, you speak to the car to get it to start, listen to your Itunes, and your auto-park and rear camera does all the work for you.  Your car today is almost an Artificial Intelligence, it knows more about itself than you do, the insides are full of microchips that do it all on their own.

An old car, like and old computer, wasn't driven, it was operated.  Back then when you said you were "good at computers", that really meant something.  Reverse engineering the thing wasn't just for those with the tickling fancy, it was designed to be done - and in many cases it had to be done.  The C64, in particular, was a machine that was clearly aimed at gaming too.  There is something amazing about a computer manual that introduces the machine by telling you how to write games, on the first page.  There were over 20,000 games made for this thing, both commercially, and independently.  Many games came as BASIC or MLX source code in magazines and books for typing into the computer.  This system is what you'd get if your computer and your gaming console had a baby.  There is truly nothing like it on the market today, it's clearly not for everyone, but for a tinkerer like me, it's digital heaven.

As stated above, I also picked up a few C64 RPGs (still have a lot on my list).  I'd like to get into some specific reviews of each one at a later date, but I have to say that these are some of the best RPGs ever made.  Yes, ever.  There are ideas and concepts in some of these games that have been completely lost in time, concepts that still blow modern RPGs out of the water.  These old RPGs provided a complete experience that occurred both in and out of actual game-play.  Most required note-taking and map-making which included hours upon hours of meta-game pondering and planning to complete.  They were really, really hard.  Hand-holding didn't exist, you were literally thrown into a fantasy world with little to go on.  The risk versus reward mechanisms were the bread and butter of these games and the satisfaction from finally conquering one was a memory you carried with you the rest of your life.

Another fantastic thing about the C64 is the sheer number of type-in games available.  Several magazine and book publications in the 80s included games and other software that you could enter into the computer memory as either BASIC or MLX (machine language).  I spent some time last week and typed-in a couple MLX entry programs and then a full "Space Invaders"-like game using said software.  Some of these games are trivial arcade time-wasters, but there are a few gems, including the Graphical Adventure Kit (GAK) and Stephen Blakemore's dungeon crawlers.  What games you can't find on Ebay, there are plenty more to choose from in the old magazine scans.

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