The series that began here continues now into the 1980s. Take it away Keith:
ONE GAMER’S DIARY (Part 3)
Of Clubs and Conventions
As the 80s arrived a call to arms had gone out in Brisbane for a Dungeons and Dragons club to form. For two years, Anthony McMahon and myself had been playing one on one role-playing games using Tekumel as our background setting. We had believed we were the only ones playing these types of games and now it was time to find out who else was out there – and who had put the mysterious recruitment poster in Hobbycraft!
So, early on a Sunday morning we loaded my car with our freshly acquired DnD manuals and dice and drove into town to the Police Boy’s Club, where the gathering was to be held. Now we fully expected that there would be about ten or so guys in their late teens gathered at the hall in Caxton Street and we were totally taken aback when we pulled into the car-park to discover over one hundred game-starved people were there! Not only that – there were two girls waiting in the crowd, surrounded by salivating male gamers, doting on their every whim! These gaming females were Joanne Schlitz and Angela Caffrey (the latter is currently an LXG club member – the one who makes all the great cakes.
The main organisers of the club were Greg Lane and a guy I will only call R. The reasons will become obvious as you read on. R became president and Greg vice- president and the club as given the name of the Queensland Science Fiction and Fantasy Society (or QSFFS – which was the most unpronounceable acronym I’ve ever come across!) The club started an umbrella fantasy RPG campaign that was initially driven by Greg. But after a few meetings Greg discovered I had a knack for drawing maps and writing role-playing material and we soon formed a friendship and working relationship that resulted in the very first version of “Eldoria”, which became a fantasy setting that was to consume much of my time over the next 30 years.
Such was the enthusiasm of the club and its members that, soon after forming, the committee was planning Queensland’s first games convention (well the first I am aware of). It was dubbed ‘Suncon” and a club member who was an academic from the University of Queensland kindly offered to provide set-up funds and organise the venue. Life was good – I was pouring my creativity into “Eldoria”, I was meeting many new friends (including LXG member Darren Catton) and I was running and playing in some very memorable dungeon bashes.
However everything threatened to come tumbling down when Greg Lane did a bit of undercover work and discovered that our charismatic president R had put all the club funds in his personal bank account and, when asked to resign and pay the money back, he absconded interstate with the club cash. That was effectively the end of the QSFFS and Suncon. The convention did run but, as R was the main organiser, it was abysmal. It was supposed to run for two days but most people abandoned it after day one. QSFFS was dead after running for just over a year.
Now that could have been the end of gaming in Brisbane for quite awhile but, while drowning our sorrows with a few drinks after Suncon, Greg and I decided to launch another club. We announced a date for a meeting at the Queensland University of Technology (then QIT) and, because of the circumstances that led to the folding of QSFFS, we expected only a small turnout. We were amazed when just about everyone from QSFFS and many more turned up. Queensland Role Players (QRP) was thus formed in 1982. At its height it had around 350 members and I believe it was the biggest gaming club in Australia.
At QRP, the Eldorian Campaign was truly launched and over around twelve DMs were running groups at the club on a fortnightly basis. Initially the club was based in an Arts Building in Edward Street. The building was always being renovated for the 6 months that we met there and club members were constantly under threat of being killed by falling masonry or falling through gaping holes in the floor. Eventually, QRP found its long-term home at the Buffalo Club in Fortitude Valley, where the club met in the large function hall above the main bar.
While the main focus for QRP was principally role-playing, there was also an interest in board games and there titles that were championed by individuals who brought them to the attention of club members. Greg Lane was passionate about “Star Fleet Battles” and I always remember a guy called Michael Conroy and his love for the WWI navel war-game, “Jutland”. Battletech first made its appearance at QRP and there was a plethora of board games based on the popularity of DnD. Titles such as TSR’s “Dungeon” and Ariel games “Sorcerer’s Cave” were forerunners of modern titles such as “Descent” and the latest series of DnD board games.
In addition to providing a place for gamers to get together and play, QRP was very active in organising activities and producing innovative publications. The club rented the Arts cinema in Edward Street and put on a double feature of the “Thunderbirds” movie and Ralph Bashki’s “Lord of the Rings”. The cinema was packed out and the club made $1,000 profit from the event. Between 1983 and 1985 QRP published a magazine called “Behind the DM’s Screen” available free to its members and sold for $1 at local games stores. Stories were written by club members.
Perhaps the biggest thing the club did was organise a trip to Cancon 1983 (I think this was the first
Cancon games convention). A group of twenty die-hard club members travelled by a hired bus and experienced their first ever major games convention. It was a fantastic event, with RPG games, miniatures and our first introduction to free-form role-playing, which later became known as live action role-playing (LARPs).
The most important thing at Cancon, for me personally, occurred when a few games had to be pulled because the designer hadn’t turned up. I had a copy of the draft of a Dnd module called “Mindbane” on me. I had designed this for a QRP tournament and I offered to run this at Cancon as a replacement tournament. It was a hit and I resolved to try and get the module published and to revisit Cancon at a later date with more DnD tournaments.