post). I think they may have wanted me to get into a hobby that might stimulate my intellect somewhat, as there was some concern I was going to flunk my Common Entrance exams.
[Note to readers unfamiliar with the UK private school system: the Common Entrance exam or CE is sat by pupils in the equivalent of Year 8 (12/13 years) in UK state school parlance. It is intended to help private schools to measure the intellectual capability of applicants for entry in Year 9, which is the typical starting age group at most UK private schools, although many now take pupils at 11+ and set their own exams. It features a range of papers on most key subjects, with the exam papers then sent for marking to the school(s) the candidate is applying for.]
I think the feeling was that the game might help me to improve my Maths grades,which were at that point less than impressive. With my Latin and Religious Studies also in the basement, things were looking bleak. It seems obvious at the time that the Red Box was a good starting point and indeed, it was a clever marketing ploy by TSR, as it made the game far more accessible than Advanced, which was impenetrable to most (and written like a tax manual).
Basic featured two booklets, one for players and one for Dungeon Masters, and also came with a set of polyhedral dice and a starting module (mine had B2 - The Keep on the Borderlands). Basic was also written in easy to understand language, with many of the core game concepts introduced via a step by step solo adventure. Finally, the game had great art from Larry Elmore, including the fantastic box cover painting. Elmore went on to do even better work with the Dragonlance modules and for me became the definitive artist for the game.
I had massive fun with this. It was the first RPG I owned, but I quickly added to it the blue Expert set, which brought new monsters, the idea of hex crawl wilderness adventures, and the Isle of Dread module.
This RPG quickly caught on as the accessory of choice for many of the kids in my year at school. As we were in boarding school, we frequently had to fill our Sundays with something, as the school had limited ideas about how to entertain pupils on weekends, other than with sport, cross country rambles and church. Dungeons and Dragons leaped into this vacuum with alacrity and we soon had a number of boys running their own homebrew campaigns. It even became possible to move from one campaign to another with your character, which I understand is what happened originally with the early campaigns in the US in the 1970s.
Bear in mind that at this stage we had no access to computer games of any sort. The first personal computers for home use were only just appearing. Hence, in many ways, the game represented a sort of pen and paper computer game which we could readily access at school, where resources were limited. We didn't use miniatures, and we had all gone our separate ways by the time the Companion set came out (in 1985 IIRC).
Few characters ever got to Lord level (9+) and most died at 1-2. Indeed, I only got a character past 6th level in Pathfinder last year! The attrition rate amongst low level PCs was high, but then they didn't take long to roll up. You would regularly see an AC 9 Magic User wandering into a dungeon with nothing but a dagger, a couple of hit points, and two first level spells to rub together. A kobold with a knife became serious opposition for him! There was one guy who ran an Advanced campaign, but he was a Maths whizz, went on to Eton, and is now a millionaire, so I guess that says it all.
Next time - I discover White Dwarf...