When I was about 12 years old I frequented a shop called Pope & Smith on Chelmsford High St. It was the closest thing I had to a FLGS back then. Except the two harridans behind the counter were somewhat lacking in the F dept. It was a toy and game store, long gone now, with another branch across the road that did sports equipment. My mum got my p.e. Kit from there. It had a fledgling RPG section. Actually, I’m doing it a favour calling it a section. It was pretty much a shelf. It had a spinner rack with minis, some boxed games like Valley of the 4 Winds, and some stacked up books and magazines. I spent every hour I could in that store, under the basilisk-like glare of the Mary Whitehouse clone in charge. One of the first things I bought was a copy of The Best of White Dwarf Scenarios Vol I. I still have it, and doubt I will ever part with it. It was magical. Even now I can remember the adverts. One was a badly drawn comic strip about an alien invasion. The second part of that was in Best of WD Articles Vol I. An immediate and compulsory purchase.
A whole world of gaming lore was laid out before me. Names of people and shops and books I’d never see in real life, but they were real to me. Many of the articles were by Don Turnbull, from Cambridge IIRC. He prefaced his stuff with references to his home campaign, the ‘Greenlands’ dungeon. It looked incredibly exotic to me, yet somehow still attainable? I loved the fact that we were both playing AD&D, yet his creation merited a name, and was good enough to be published. I’d have given almost anything to have been a player in Greenlands, but Cambridge might has well have been on the moon, and Don was about as approachable as Roger Waters to me.
The answer was to do my own dungeon. My desk was the floor of my tiny box room on Hunts Drive, my soundtrack Pelican West by Haircut 100. I laboriously drew my maps which covered two complete A4 sheets of 5mm graph paper, faithfully going right to the edges, indenting nicely around the 4 punched holes. The first level was quite symmetrical and I could probably draw the first dozen or so rooms from memory now, nearly 30 years later.
You entered down some stairs into a 30′ square room with doors to the north, east and west. I’m certain I marked the central square with the universally acknowledged symbol for a statue. To the west lay a small complex with an altar hiding a secret door with a treasure chest behind that. I wanted this part to be just like the part of Greenlands I’d seen in tha mag. It was to have cool magic sucking monsters, a electrical trap and an animated statue. The rest of level 1 is vague to me now (and then if I’m honest) but I do recall all routes led to a final chamber that contained a dragon, guarding the stairs to the second level. How on earth the dragon got in through those 5′ corridors I’ll never know.
The second level was a step up in sophistication. There were barracks, gladiatorial arenas and, brace yourself, diagonal corridors. (I never fully understood how to draw those on a grid until I read the advice in the 4e DMG last year)
I called my dungeon Dunmarren. I don’t know why. I never fully stocked it, but many maths books died in my numerous attempts. Later, when I’d been lured into playing other games such as Runequest, I changed the name to D^unemarrhan as it looked more like something Michael Moorcock would have come up with. I wrote the title at the top of level 1 in purple felt tip and I’m sure I drew a curly scroll around it. I did that a lot. There may even have been a compass rose shaped like a sword.
I don’t know where those maps are now. I’d never have thrown them out on purpose. I’d love to see them again.