My Amazing High Fantasy Adventure
The origin of High Fantasy role-playing as it first appeared in a blog on Thoul’s Paradise in 2015
Jeffrey C. Dillow
The next part of my amazing High Fantasy adventure might be hard to believe by most of you. It certainly is hard for me to tell. To get through it, I will rely more heavily on RPG terms. This way you will instantly understand what I am saying and I can move the story along more quickly. You should also know that my character’s name when I role-played was Eru, a high level warrior, and my wife’s character name was Enchantra. I know, Enchantra….really! It is a name I have long been stuck with using in my books no matter how much I dislike it.
This part of the adventure involves two vast armies, a High Dark Lord, treason and treachery that expands over decades, and a Glamour so strange and powerful it baffles science today. You don’t believe me, do you? I don’t blame you. It is all true and not just in High Fantasy. It is true in real life. My life. So fantasy gamers, be of stout heart because at the end of this story you will believe.
The year is 1984 and my friend Paul and I are traveling back on a train from New York City. We just had one of the most unbelievable experiences in both of our lives. Earlier that month, we sent a copy of one of my books to be reviewed at a company called Rankin and Bass. This group had done a lot of animation work on Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and more recently The Last Unicorn. Rankin and Bass both agreed to meet with us. The meeting went very well and they told us they were willing to work with us to create an interactive movie. They said they would put up a million dollars if RCA would match it and use NBC to move the product. We were stunned. We had just shook hands on a deal that our “Fellows” in the lab would have to like. It was exactly what we had all been working towards. We were going to make the first interactive video for RCA and it came with outside funding!
We could not have been more wrong. From the beginning, we were met with a lukewarm reception. Our bosses went off to huddle and talk about it. Weeks passed, then months went by while upper management talked it over. In the meantime, my fellow wizards were making “Point of View” bobsled videos, detective videos, and more. I finally pushed for an answer and was told “no!” Not “why”, just “no.” I was devastated. This was the first time in my adventure when I had met such an obstacle. I quickly became despondent and started consorting with the wizards to try and resolve this impasse. I became so consumed with getting the permissions to make the first High Fantasy interactive movies that I completely missed the two dark armies that were marching against us and the vast destruction they were leaving in their path.
The first army advanced on my publisher, Prentice-Hall. It was called Gulf-Western and at first seemed innocent enough, but things began to change rapidly with my publisher in Reston. Again, I was too consumed and isolated in the comfort of my own lab to pay much attention to what was going on in the outside world. All I knew at the time was that my William Morris agent and my editor could not provide much help in working on a deal. Editors began leaving or resigning at Prentice-Hall. It became very clear Gulf-Western was interested in Prentice-Hall for their textbook publishing. Textbooks were sold by the millions – millions and millions, steadily every year. Computer books and vanity projects like High Fantasy were sold by the tens of thousands. A few short months later, Reston Publishing was gone. It was sacked by the first army and burnt to the ground.
I did not see the second army, headed by the High Dark Lord, approach either. This army and its Prince were well-known, but their movements were more secretive. You see, just a few months after Reston Publishing was sacked, the King of RCA betrayed his kingdom for a few pieces of gold.
To understand this part of the adventure you need to know that the founder of RCA, David Sarnoff, broke away from a company called General Electric decades before. RCA was GE’s major competitor in America for consumer electronics. Sarnoff had spent his life fighting off GE and winning.
In a clandestine meeting, Thornton Bradshaw, our King, lowered the drawbridge and opened the gates to a large invading army headed by a High Dark Lord known in those days as Neutron Jack. He went by the name of Jack Welch and earned his reputation for eliminating people while leaving only the buildings standing after acquiring a company. RCA’s long sworn enemy marched through the gates without a fight.
Just months apart, both kingdoms were sacked and the wizards in the labs knew they would be coming for us soon.
Two armies and a Dark Prince as promised at the beginning of this blog. Did you forget about the Glamour?
At exactly this time (we are still talking about 1985) Enchantra was stricken by an “unconceivable glamour“. Her left side became completely paralyzed. The Great War wizard was stricken and she was going down fast. Multiple sclerosis was wreaking havoc on her nervous system.
Hold on now, fellow gamers. We all have read enough fantasy to know what fantasy gamers do in these bleak situations.
Eru draws his sword. We fight!
The great wizards at the RCA labs flee. These “True Ones” were working on digital codecs to compress video into a digital signal that could be pushed through wires. This is before the internet. These types of magics will not be needed for years! GE had wizards, but their focus was forced on making cheaper toaster ovens. There would be no place for wizards like the “True Ones” at GE.
I grab Enchantra, who has three babies clinging to her robe, and fight my way out. I hack my way from Princeton and head north. There, I find another enclave of wizards in Morristown. These were not as high a level of wizards as the ones in Princeton, but they were willing to take us in and shelter us for a brief time. At that time, I worked for AT&T Electronic Education and Training. These wizards had an idea that the computer might someday play a role in education. They called their magic “Distance Learning.”
My focus shifted from fantasy to survival. Day by day, we survived. Days turned to months and then years. I could not stay at AT&T for long. After a while, I ventured out on my own as a “Sellsword”.
The greatest medical scientists of our time know almost nothing about MS. There are no potions or elixirs to remove this glamour. But did I mention that Enchantra is a war wizard?
Slowly, the eye patch was put away for good. Feeling and sensation started to come back. The cane, “Shefast” her wizard’s staff, still hangs ready if the need arises. Today, for the most part, “Shefast” remains in the mud room.
Everyone is safe again. We are all alright. This is after all, “My most amazing High Fantasy Adventure.” In my world, everything works out.
So that at least partially explains what happened and why it has been over 30 years since I have even thought about fantasy. As I am sure we all can agree, “stuff happens”. I am sure stuff has happened to you too.
So why now?
Surely I am forgotten; a tiny footnote somewhere.
Well, those clinging babies are grownups now. Now they are starting to ask questions. They got on the internet and started finding references about me. Amazon has an author’s webpage that lists some of my books. My daughter, who is a better writer than I ever was, wants to write. The others want to help.
I grabbed some of the old charred manuscripts and began to rewrite. Jennifer, my daughter, has added her voice to this adventure by writing a Young Adult novel.
So here we are back at the beginning. I am, once again, making all of the artwork. “Can’t someone help me find that lost Steranko?” I think we can all agree; however, that my covers are a lot better this time. Many of the early RPG developers are gone. It might be time now to take a look back. We plan on releasing two books this month. It might be time to take a deep breath, to dream for a little while and let our imaginations go.