“The thing about these zines is that I don’t have anything to do with them. They came from the archives of the Cambridge University Roleplaying and Tabletop Society, formerly the Cambridge University Roleplaying Society, formerly the Cambridge University Dungeons and Dragons Society. I didn’t read them when they came out; I was 3 or at the time. A year or two ago, the society decided to get rid of the parts of its library that were not relevant to games that members actually played. Old games and books were sold off to raise funds to buy materials for more recent games. I bought a few books but also got given lots of old magazines that were just going to be thrown away. A lot of these were 80s White Dwarf and Imagine, which I added to my collection happily, but I also came away with these zines. They were among the oldest items in the magazines collection, a good few years before the bulk of the WDs I got.
I think the society’s decision is an interesting one: given that theyhave a limited amount of storage space and a limited budget, it makes sense that they’d choose to get rid of things that seldom get pulled from the collection. The old White Dwarfs had just become a white elephant, a bulky object passed between society librarians but never really read. The society’s members don’t play 1st ed. AD&D or Runequest or Traveller or whatever — they play 5E and story games and, well, I suppose they do still play Call of Cthulhu. So it makes sense that the society, which is, after all, devoted to *playing* games, should prioritise that over preserving its history.
For me, though, the zines are a fascinating piece of gaming history and one that I am glad to have had a chance to look at. Reading about the museum exhibits being prepared for this year’s GenCon, I wonder if there will some day be a museum (or just an exhibit) devoted to the history of RPGs — or even the British community specifically. It seems like there are a lot of interesting things to say about the way in which these fanzines represent an early community where games inspired people to create and share things and where there wasn’t a whole lot of differences between player and game designer.”
James Holloway – http://gonzohistorygaming.blogspot.co.uk/ – @gonzohistory (keep checking James’ blog for news of his podcast Monster Man – The Monster Manual monster by monster, from A-Z.)