DIY Dungeons

An archive collects the invaluable outsider “art” that a generation of gamers created in their parents’ basements.
Wired magazine, October 2012

In the ‘70s and ‘80s kids couldn’t escape into hi-def fantasy realms on the Xbox, but they could map out their own worlds with graph paper and a number 2 pencil. A generation of Dungeons & Dragons players supplemented the official manuals with their own DIY maps, character sheets, and drawings. Brooklyn artist Timothy Hutchings lovingly preserves this geeky ephemera in the Play Generated Map and Document Archive (PlaGMaDA), an online repository of thousands of pages of artifacts that outline the handmade history of RPGs. PlaGMaDA’s holdings date back to 1975 and include early works by game designers like Ken St. Andre (Wasteland, Tunnels and Trolls) and oddball obscurities like Everything is Dolphins, a homebrew RPG about sword-wielding cetaceans. Hutchings is now publishing some of his “prize holdings” in printed book form. The centerpiece is “Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord,” a dungeon module created by 14-year-old Gaius Stern in the early ‘80s. The hand-typed text describing the realm is interspersed with fantasy art so crude that even a loving mother would pause before sticking it up on the fridge. But look past that and you’ll find succubi, demons, trolls, and more gold pieces that a raiding party can carry (provided you abide by the rules of encumbrance). Hutchings is also raising money to bid on the papers of Dave Arneson, the cocreator of D&D. It looks like he won’t have to deploy the Orbs of Dragonkind to score funding — BioWare founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk have each pledged sizable donations for the project.