Them’s Fightin’ (Fantasy) Words
Livingstone, Jackson and Peake had been friends since school, since Altrincham Grammar School for Boys to be precise. They had bonded over a love of Lambretta scooters and, as would prove fateful for them, board games. But there weren’t a lot of board games in 60s England to play: Monopoly, Buccaneer, Formula One and Cluedo were about it. And it was the search for something new that would fuel them.
Jump forward roughly a decade and the trio are back together again, after further education, sharing a poky flat in London and playing board games because they’ve got no money to go out and do anything else. And this time they’re wondering, ‘Wouldn’t it be a great idea to somehow turn our hobby and passion of playing games into some sort of enterprise?’
This is where the idea for a newsletter comes from, and after a quick prototype, 50 copies of Owl and Weasel are printed, and Gygax finds himself holding one of them. Ian Livingstone recalls what happened next: “He wrote to us and said, ‘Love your magazine. Here’s a new game I invented – what do you think?'”
Just like that, Gygax sent them Dungeons & Dragons, making them among the first people in the world – certainly the UK – to play it. And predictably, they loved it. “Steve and I became obsessed,” Livingstone says. “John [Peake] didn’t like it at all, but we all agreed to buy as many copies as we could.” They decided they’d sell them through their newsletter. But they couldn’t afford much. “We ordered six copies – that’s all the money we had in the world.”