Every few weeks I see a list of “Things You’ll Never See Again”, or “Favorite Snacks from the 90’s That Millennials Will Never Know,” or some other list of products or shows that are no longer around. Most of the time, it’s Crystal Pepsi, or some failed breakfast cereal that I never ate and only vaguely remember commercials for. These lists rarely apply to me.
But there are a lot of dearly loved and missed things from my younger years that are never on these lists. A few of these may be around in some limited form in little pockets of the country, but for the most part, they’re gone.
Back when I was cutting my teeth on gaming, TSR was king. This was the company that started it all with Dungeons & Dragons. And while many other RPG companies have come and gone, and D&D is still being printed by Wizards of the Coast, there was a certain mystique to the name TSR.
2: Vampire Hunter D
This was one of my very first animes (from back when we still called it Japanimation). I fell in love it. I’m a proud owner of the sequel, Bloodlust, but never got around to buying a DVD of the original movie. And while the manga, toy lines, and cute purse/lunchboxes are still being produced, the two Vampire Hunter D movies are no longer being made. You can find used copies online for $60.
3 & 4: Ral Partha & Grenadier
I remember going into gaming shops and poring over miniatures for hours. I own hundreds of lead and pewter minis, and the gold standard of figurine lines was Ral Partha, followed by Grenadier. The current standard is Reaper (which is located about 2 miles from me) but I mourn the loss of so many of the old minis that are no longer around.
5: Flashing Swords Magazine
Flashing Swords was an awesome quarterly magazine that served as a platform for many starting writers. Some of my very first work was published by them. Their last Issue was in 2009.
6: $.49 Video Stores
In today’s world of streaming video and Redbox rental we forget the bygone joy of going to a Ma&Pa video store. I don’t mean Blockbuster. I’m talking about the cramped little shops with worn and faded shelves and an Adult Section in the back hidden behind a pair of saloon doors. Every one I ever visited had an unique odor and a candy machine stocked with Runts. They always carried the coolest box covers (many of them better than the movies inside them). There were no instant ratings, so it was always a crap shoot if the movie was worth a damn. In college we had a local place that had one of the greatest collections of cult and weird-ass cinema ever assembled. As much as I love streaming movies, there was an excitement to video stores that other mediums will never have.
7: Dragon Magazine
Freaking awesome magazine. Every month I’d go into the local bookstore and look for the newest Dragon cover. First, I always flipped to the back and read the comics. Then, ‘Through the Looking Glass’ where they reviewed the newest Official AD&D Ral Partha miniatures. I loved the articles on redefining or introducing new character classes, or the ecology of some classic monster. Probably my favorite issue was October 1986, which introduced the ‘Witch’ class.
8: Vampire the Masquerade LARPers
I never got too into Vampire, but I really loved how many people LARPed it. You could go to a bar or club and see (mostly) normal looking people wearing a little pin that represented which vampire clan they belonged to. There were several years at The Church (a Dallas goth club I frequented) when there was easily 30 people playing on any given night. Eaves dropping on their conversations was a bit surreal (They are playing vampires after all). The storytellers worked in teams, and it was impressive to see how they orchestrated the whole thing. Imagine herding cats while both you and the cats are drinking. I’ve heard some people still play there from time to time, but the epic games and battles unfolding around us ignorant mortals are no more.
9: Hawkwood Medieval Fantasy Faire
This was a small faire up in North Texas that ran August through September in the middle of the Texas heat. We used to refer to it as Heatwood, then when the September rains came, the grounds turned into a muddy slop and we called it Bogwood. But there was a magic to it that I’ve never been able to capture since. The faire went under in 2001, but I made more friends and faire-family during the few years I was there than I’ve made in all the faires since. I’ve met many rennies that were also there, and even though we never knew each other at the time, we immediately bonded. Last month we had a reunion of a lot of the old patrons and participants. It was an amazing place.
10: Video Arcades
I love arcades. They have eaten more of my childhood dollars than I can imagine. I wish there were more of them. I recently re-read Neuromancer, and as prophetic a book as it was, the part where everyone hangs out at an arcade was either completely wrong or Gibson’s insight into the future shows that one day they’ll make a comeback.
11: Star Frontiers Knight Hawks
There are several space-based combat games out there, but my first taste of them was Knight Hawks. I’d played the Star Frontiers RPG a few times, but one rainy Sunday our GM busted out Knight Hawks and I was in love. I’ve spent many hours blasting the hell out of my friends’ fleets and while I’ve tried my hand at a few of the newer space battle games, none have ever really filled the spot Knight Hawks did.
I am very happy to say that while researching this, I discovered that FASA is still around. After nearly a decade hiatus they are back and kickin’. Vampire Hunter D just got re-released in Australia last month. The fan-run Knight Hawks games and supplements seem to be pretty popular and I’ll be picking some up. Maybe there’s hope for the rest, after all.