Wayne of Wayne's Books fame posted a rather nice found object the other day, a hand-drawn and inked city map folded up in a second-hand rpg product.
There is something bittersweet in stumbling over these finds. The sad fact that someone took their imagination seriously enough to have poured creative effort into them at one time—and then later in life that it mattered so little that they tossed them away.
One of the silver lining sides of having lost track of many of my own gaming books coupled with a “fishing trip” lunch-hour obsession with Half Price Books is that I too have ended up with a burgeoning collection of these found objects.
To be sure most of them fall into the category of the junk Wayne mentions, a small mountain of filled-out character sheets. Even then there is some fleeting interest in a glance at these snapshots from the early 80s, the graceless awkward tween boy handwriting, the goofy character names, the dramatic scribbling over of an obviously dead character and the like.
But a good fifth of the time I find something more interesting: a dream stronghold illustration, a castle map, a letter-code key (from my own brother's Players Handbook and likely to be for one of my dickish ciphers), an AD&D combat slide ruler (totally useful), a page of a dungeon key (my own Tree Maze), etc.
I love the fragmented, divorced-from-context nature of them, it spurs my imagination. Was that stronghold the culmination and reward for a long-arc of play by a particular character? How large was that dungeon? Was that drawn by another kid like me?
Yesterday in the mail came a boxed Runequest Vikings set, I had what I consider a huge find: five solid dense handwritten pages of an adventure. Though written for Runequest likely somewhere in the mid-1980s it has all the classic features of a D&D dungeon homebrewed by an early teen of that period. The room descriptions are wonderfully goofy and unbalanced.
Take the hilarious entry door description: “2 levers, 1 says pull, 1 says don't pull. If you pull the the one that says don't pull, the passage behind you collapses...”
Or this room description: “30 small humanoid creatures. They cower and offer no resistance. There is a stockpile of food and water. If the food is taken the creatures will get all riled up and 300 more will pour of the caves and attack.”
Take that encounter level!