Buried Treasure

In my youth, I thought he really did speak in word bubbles

Folks who regularly read my blog will recall my “timely reviews” of old games. I love old games (which reminds me – review of the Six Million Dollar Man coming soon), sometimes for the nostalgia, sometimes for the design, and sometimes for the discovery value. When it comes to buying old games, there are two different kinds of discovery.

The first, of course, is discovering a new system and new ideas about how to simulate whatever the game is trying to simulate. Even simple games meant for children can have clever ideas in them. The old game I just recently bought does not offer that kind of discovery, because it’s a game I used to own. Well, sorta.

Our old logo was a rip from the NFL Vikings – this is the new one

Back in 9th grade, in which I was technically a freshman at Valley High School (Valley Vikings Rule!), but was still being taught at Cannon Junior High (it was how they did things back then), there was a small corps of gamers (meaning role-playing gamers … everyone played video games back then, so they didn’t get a special designation) at the school, and we all knew each other. I remember a friend named Irfan who carried a briefcase to school so he could screen from the teacher that he was reading the AD&D Monster Manual in class – very smart guy, as well, got way better grades than me – so it was that sort of group.

At some point, a new kid in school discovered that I ran D&D games, and he wondered if I would run a game for him. The kid in question was new to town – I got the feeling that he moved around alot – so he didn’t have any friends in school. He lived close to the school, so I went over to his house one day to see the game he wanted me to run. It was something new.

It turned out to be the Marvel Superheroes RPG. Well, it also turned out that he had a big box full of old Playboys, which is another story, but this MSH game and the Secret Wars module he wanted me to run was the point of the visit and it was intriguing. Beyond the Spider-Man bits on the Electric Company, the Super Friends and Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, I knew nothing about comic books. I had a few war comics, but that was it. This was all very new to me.

The kid lent me the Secret Wars booklet, and I had my first introduction to the likes of Storm (in her 80’s punk phase, which is still my favorite) and a host of other characters. It got me interested in comic books, and I remember the next time we were at a 7-Eleven I convinced my dad to buy me a comic book – a slugfest between the Avengers and the Hulk, so it had tons of characters in it, and it made me a comic book fan. The same way D&D got me into readingĀ  the Lord of the Rings, the Marvel Superheroes game got me into comic books. I do everything back-assward!

My first ish – Hulk #316

Naturally, along with reading comic books, I also got my own copy of the game – the advanced version! The kid in question moved away before I could even give him back the Secret Wars booklet, so I had that for years in my own advanced game set. Some time in the late 1990’s I gave virtually all my RPG stuff away to some friends. When I got back into gaming later, it turned out they had kept most of it, and I got it back … but not the Marvel game. Somebody claimed that beauty.

Recently, my daughter, who digs the movies and has an interest in the comics, found out about the game and wanted to play it, so I went looking for a copy and … WOW! I made a huge mistake giving that sucker away – copies are so expensive these days! Fortunately, last week I found a copy of the basic game at a reasonable price and snapped it up. It arrived yesterday, and this is where the buried treasure comes in.

As I perused the contents, I found some old character sheets filled out by the previous owners. The first one was for Wolverine, but the next was for an original hero created using the game rules. I love that kind of find. It made me wonder who the old owner of the set was … and a few pages more, I found out. It turns out that the owner not only filled out the application for the RPG Association but never sent it in (me to), but also weote a letter asking some questions about how Wolverine’s powers worked, also never sent, with his name and address on it.

It was fun reading the letter, because it reminded me of myself back in the day – a wide-eyed geek trying to wrap his head around these games and things that were so new to me. Going back in time like this is nice. The times really weren’t any simpler then than now for adults, but my life was much simpler as a kid. I miss the people I’ve loved and have lost – friends and relatives – and although I cannot get them back, looking through old games and books and photographs sparks cherished memories of them and makes me happy … a bittersweet happiness, but happiness just the same.

Now, I present a forgotten superhero of the 1980’s, discovered in a beat-up old game box and created by a person whose name I will not reveal (but who I think I found with a search on LinkedIn) … Spazmo Joe! Maybe his creator will come across this, and it will bring back some happy times. I sure hope so!

SPAZMO JOE … of SHIELD!

Fighting: Excellent
Agility: Remarkable
Strength: Remarkable
Endurance: Amazing
Reason: Excellent
Intuition: Remarkable
Psyche: Good

Health: 130
Karma: 30

Known Powers: Extra attacks, Weather control (Amazing)

Talents: First aid, law enforcement, guns, special weapons, martial arts

Special Devices: Plasma gun, 30-cal machine gun, mandarin armor (at least, I think it says mandarin)

And yeah … there was art!

Is that a SHIELD-regulation haircut?

‘Nuff Said!

Back in My Day: HBO

Today I start a new series of reminisces about the times I grew up in. Because folks … they’re getting to be the “olden days”. There’s about as much time between now and those golden 1980’s in which I grew up as there was between the 1980’s and World War II when the ’80s were new. It’s a funny thing, the way things change slowly, gradually, so that you don’t even realize it until those changes pile up and you find yourself in a whole new world.

Our entry today is HBOThe Wonder of its Age (for boys who weren’t supposed to be watching it at our age!)

Before we get to HBO, though, I’d like to let folks know that Pen & Paper Baseball is now up for download on DriveThruRPG.com … and free to make up for the lack of Opening Day this year. It will stay free until the baseball season starts – so Play Ball!

Home Box Office! Movies at home … but newer than the movies of the week you got on normal TV … AND NO COMMERCIALS! You see, the awesome thing about cable TV was that since you had to pay for it, there were never going to be commercials! Can you believe it? Probably not, given how many damn commercials there are on cable TV now. That promise sure didn’t last very long.

Now, my family were never early adopters of new technologies. Be patient, let them produce better products at lower prices, and then jump in. I didn’t have HBO in my house as a kid, but my friend next door did. In fact, he was the only one of my circle who had it, so many an afternoon were spent at his house. He also had an Atari, so we’d waste some hours playing Pitfall and Pac-Man, and then catch a movie or two. Pretty sweet deal.

There are three movies in particular that I remember from those days, which I share with you now in no particular order …

1. Ice Pirates (1984)

This was one of those films we probably shouldn’t have been watching back then. I was 12 when it came out, so maybe 13 when it was on HBO. It stars Robert Urich, and the movie is about … well, ice pirates. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve seen it since I was a kid, so all I remember is that water is super valuable in the future, and there’s all this fighting over a big hunk of ice floating in space. Oh, and there was a joke about them being turned into eunuchs. Heck, it was mildly dirty and involved space ships, so it was a hit with my crowd. Honestly, I’m going to guess the movie is a LOT funnier when you’re 13 years old.

2. The Big Red One (1980)

Holy crap did we watch this movie a bunch. I was the World War II freak in my circle, and dragged the rest along with me into playing army. We all had plastic M-16s and grenades and would play war in the neighborhood like crazy. We even fought some kids who lived on the other side of the street once (and won!). They were led by another kid named Matt, and since he was big and we were as sensitive as you would expect as elementary school kids, he was known as Fat Matt. I was just Matt.

Anyhow, the movie follows the 1st Infantry Division in World War II, from North Africa, through Italy and into Germany. It stars Lee Marvin, who is just plain cool, and you even have some early post-Star Wars work by Mark Hammill. I don’t remember now, but I’m sure it freaked us out to see him be something other than Luke Skywalker.

Now, we dug the movie because it was a war movie, but also because it provided something that young fellas in those days were often in search of … bare boobs. Pre-internet, finding bare breasts was no easy task for a curious kid. In this movie, there is a split second – and I mean split second – of bare boobs that we could not believe we had seen when we first watched it. Super forbidden … and guaranteed to make the movie an instant classic for a bunch of 10 to 12 year old boys.

3. The Cannonball Run (1981)

Man, do I love this movie. Loved it when I was a kid, and I love it still. My daughter is a big fan as well. What more can you ask for in a film? Fast cars, beautiful women, Burt Reynolds, Dom Delouise, James Bond, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr and Jackie Chan! This was another movie that we knew we probably shouldn’t have been watching at our age, but there it was. I can still remember sitting in my friend’s living room, watching the movie while prepared to get scarce if his parents came home. I also remember us turning aerosol cans and lighters into makeshift flame throwers … God knows how we survived childhood. In our defense, we pretty quickly realized that playing was fire was a bad idea and cut it out. Even we weren’t that stupid. We did discover, though, that if you sprayed a fly with Lysol its wings would crystallize in mid-flight and it would fall from the sky.

So there’s a walk down memory lane from a kid who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, and then grew up some more in the 90’s, and then had a kid and grew up a lot more in the 2000’s.

I’m getting back to watching Charlie’s Angels and making hopping John … and Emergency is on at 3! … but if you have some favorite HBO memories from back in the day, go ahead and share them in the comments, and stay safe out there Nodians!