It’s October 1989 and I’m in my second month at St. George’s School on Westwood Road in Broadstairs. I haven’t been beaten up or bullied yet and the entire secondary school experience is still relatively new and exciting. There are so many amazing bikes, so many new potential friends and so many GIRLS….but I’m not interested in racing bikes, making new friends OR asking out girls (which is very fortunate as I’m going to turn out to be TERRIBLE at those things). Instead, I’m Chasing the White Dwarf.
My sole purpose is Dungeons and Dragons. I don’t know this yet…..not really….all I actually know is that I spend the same day each month desperately waiting for home-time so that I can race out of the school, onto Broadstairs High Street and into Games Den.
Games Den was a shop owned by a miniature painter called Mike. At the time, I thought he was the greatest fantasy artist in the world…and, to be honest, I’ve never seen anything that makes me doubt that. Mike would paint miniature goblins, orcs, ogres and trolls that he kept in a glass cabinet in the window. He once painted a tiny version of Thrud the Barbarian that I saved a month’s worth of pocket money in order to possess.
Mike was a god, a purveyor of dreams and the only reliable dealer for my own personal addiction: fantasy roleplaying games. He also sold White Dwarf.
White Dwarf was a magazine that opened a door for me, a door that at the time I thought would lead me to riches, success and happiness. It spoke in a language only I understood and featured pictures of (among other things) the sort of guys I imagined would naturally end up becoming my friends. At the time, I failed to notice something that I really should have paid more attention to: there were no women in the magazine: like….none.
Nevertheless, White Dwarf was my drug of choice. It was like a tiny taste of a different world, a weed gummy that gave you a glimpse of a buzz. I didn’t know it at the time but White Dwarf would lead me on to Advanced Heroquest, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and ultimately (gulp) Dungeons and Dragons.
Dungeons and Dragons was the hard stuff. All the kids like me knew it. You needed a beard even to open the Dungeon Master’s Guide and there was no way you’d understand anything beyond the introduction unless you had a degree in The Arcane.
Parents thought it was devil worship and to many fathers who wanted their sons to like football and girls it might as well have been devil worship: it certainly led kids astray.
Dungeons and Dragons became my world. I started to actively feel like a wizard at school: I would spend my lunchtimes away in my head, poring over books in a dusty study at the top of some distant tower when I should have been looking around the playground and thinking ‘Wow – they look like they’re having fun: I’ll go join them.’
Instead, for me, it was D&D. A decade after I first discovered the game, I would be running the sort of adventure campaigns that it took a year for my friends to complete: I would do this as my main hobby activity, even before my job became writing fantasy books. When that finally happened, I would end up occupying another world literally twenty-four hours a day, writing The Illmoor Chronicles during the day and running Dungeons & Dragons games in the evenings. The boys would come round, order pizza and we’d all sit there, immersed completely in ancient forests and fantasy cities until my baby son would start crying and I’d have to dash off upstairs to change his nappy. These sharp doses of reality would completely fail to ruin the atmosphere, as the guys would only stop playing D&D in order to talk about OTHER games of D&D they’d played in the past. It was all engulfing.
I’ve said for a long time that the single biggest mistake I made at school, looking back, was making that split second metaphorical decision when faced with the choice of either following the boys who went to the canteen at lunch or the boys who went to the roleplaying hut.
Here’s the thing, though: I don’t actually BELIEVE that I made the wrong choice.
I’ve always been bad at sports.
I’ve always struggled at making new friends.
I’ve always been a complete disaster with the opposite sex.
The one thing I am good at is creating worlds inside my head. It has brought me fame, success and made my fortune. It has paid off a mortgage and provided an incredible base of support for my family. It has connected me with my heroes and has given me a place of escape and a refuge from quite terrible mental health issues.
All that was because of Dungeons & Dragons….so it really was worth chasing The White Dwarf.
Chasing the White Dwarf was written by Davey Stone during March 2021. Thanks for reading Chasing the White Dwarf – we hope you enjoyed it.