Home Movie of a Dungeons and Dragons Gaming Session from 1981
This is not the best footage in terms of quality and sadly has no sound, but this is a wonderful time capsule that captures the look and feel of a Dungeons & Dragons gaming session in the early 1980s. In it, you will see a group of friends gathered around a table playing D&D in 1981. A pretty remarkable thing to see on its own, but the video’s greatness in the details that have been captured.
Right away, I was transported back to that era when I spotted the colored Dungeons & Dragons character sheet. This was an era before printers were common and if you wanted a character sheet, you either needed to make your own or use one of the ones that TSR made, which were printed on orange or gold paper (depending on how your color definitions).
My friends and I had a heck of a time trying to photocopy these sheets at our local library once it had a pay to copy Xerox machine installed. Something about the contrast in colors made it all come out very dark. Eventually a friend, whose mother had access to some fancy copy machine at work, managed to come up with a really good B&W copy of all the sheets. We used those for the entirety of the eighties, and I still have a few in my collection.
Next up, notice the soda. These kids are mainly drinking Mountain Dew, but you also see a prominent 2-liter bottle of orange soda. I was not a big Dew drinker back then, we mostly drank generic store brand sodas at our sessions, but even then Mountain Dew had a reputation as a gamer drink in my group of friends.
Notice those cans still have the skinny opening as opposed to the modern wide mouth cans.
Food-wise they appear to be eating chocolate cake. That magical pairing of soda and cake is a classic sugar-filled combo that I am sure had everyone buzzing around the table all night.
You get a few shots of dice being rolled, but most of them are blurry. But here is a decent view of one kid’s dice collection. It’s a nice combo of classic dice, some store bought extras and board game dice.
The Dungeon Master planted behind his wall of screens really brings me back. That was most often the position I found myself occupying.
Not only is this epic DM using the full-screen setup, but he has inserted the cover/screen from the module he is running to increase screen real estate. Legend.
It’s hard to fully make out the blurry cover, but the adventure they appear to be running is the classic G3 – Hall of the Fire Giant King (1978).
One last thing I want to comment on is the cameo of the science fiction RPG, Gamma World.
They don’t appear to be playing it in any of the footage, but the focus on it twice makes me think that they planned to do so and were pretty excited about it. But maybe I am just reading between the lines?
This footage was uploaded by Ethan Gilsdorf, who wrote the wonderful book Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms. Check out the footage and if you fail your saving throw vs. nostalgia, click on the link above and check out Mr. Gilsdorf’s book.