Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Rusted: The Early D&D I Briefly Had...

Ok, so I never lost a winning lottery ticket. That's good, because kicking myself in the ass over potentially squandered millions is nothing I'm keen on experiencing. I don't take certain things well, and I'm guessing this would definitely qualify. But there was that one summer, sometime in the mid-70s, before Star Wars and after Planet of the Apes, when I held a piece of early D&D in my hands, only to lose it because kids lose stuff all the time...

What I lost was a bulette, an owlbear, and a rust monster. Apparently I lost an umber hulk, although I never saw the family resemblance. These iconic baddies first appeared in a collection of so-called prehistoric monster toys from Hong Kong (every cheap childhood toy was tengentally connected to the place); and I'm sure I found these gems in the impulse aisle of the neighborhood Win Dixie, cheap and easy for an indulgent mom.

They captivated me from the start such that I remember them all. Every one. I was a dinosaur fanatic from early on, so it was clear they mapped to no known species. But then, I also appreciated Japanese kaiju, and I'm sure that was part of it. First among equals though was the bulette, which I also imagined to be a shark monster, and a certain insect-like creature destined by fate to become a rust monster, bane of magical weapons everywhere.

I had fun with these. I really did. In fact (fun fact), I even invented a very early version of Monsters Destroy All Cities where gigantic kaiju settled their differences by rolling a single d6 each. The higher result was victorious, with ties getting a second round until someone fell, defeated in imaginary battle. I think my longest fight lasted 30 seconds or so. Is it any wonder I was destined to discover tabletop simulations? Certain things are fated...

These delightful toys kicked around my junk pile for a few years, even after I discovered a life-changing thing called Dungeons & Dragons. But their significance to a hobby still young in 1978 was lost on me, although in retrospect, those pseudo-dinosaurs were influeing early gameplay while I was fighting 30-second battles in my dining-room. Such convergences are rare and obviously coincidental; but I don't mind losing the toys if it got me a passion.    


  1. That's a great story. I, too, had that bag of little toy monsters. I remember immediately recognizing the bulette in the Monster Manual when I first saw it in 1980: "Hey! That's that little toy!"

  2. The proto-D&D toy monster legion is aging well.

  3. If I still had them, I use my old collection of Crazy bones (if you look them up, yes I'm that young.) I think using any chocstky and trinket other than rpg minis is a sign of young rpg players who don't have the money to buy things like that.

    1. I've used dice and pennies, so I totally get that...

  4. When I was a kid in the late 70s, I had, in addition to a healthy collection of legit toy dinosaurs, lots of those little plastic monsters, but since I didn't discover D&D until 1986-ish, they were all long gone before I realized their significance. Besides the ones that went on to become the rust monster and the bulette, I had a dark brown one with spikes on the sides of its head and its fists raised high (named "Puncho" by me and my siblings) and a weird bipedal white dragonish thing with some sort of branching growths on its muzzle (named "Wingnose.")