Five for Friday 4: Holmes and Nothing But Dungeons (My Early Gaming)

Here is a list of five of my early gaming influences. Back in the 1970s, gaming for me was all about the giant homemade dungeon. Here is why:
  1. The Detroit News (one of two daily newspapers in Detroit): There was a big article in the Sunday edition of The Detroit News (probably in the Accent on Living section) that described Dungeons & Dragons. This would have been 1977. 36 years later all I really remember from the article is a description of a giant homemade dungeon where the game took place. It was the dungeon idea that captivated me.
  2. Holmes Basic D&D (with the dungeon geomorphs): I’ll get to the Holmes ruleset itself in the last point. The key point I want here were the dungeon geomorphs. We took their presence as a sign that we should be making giant homemade dungeons as the setting for our game.
  3. No Modules: My Holmes set did not include a module and we never bought any. We didn't have access to a store that sold modules and so no one in my group even knew about them.To this day, I do not own any of the classic D&D modules. I have not played them nor have I read them. I am a freak, I know, and my eyes glaze over in incomprehension when gamers my age talk about their favorite modules of yore.
  4. Rules Mash-Up: Most of my early gaming involved a ruleset mashup of Holmes, the AD&D 1e Monster Manual, the four Original Edition supplements (Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry and Gods, Demi-Gods and Heroes), and Judges Guild Ready Ref Sheets (which gave us hours of fun with the Buffoon Class). The present retro-clone that comes closest to our early games is Swords & Wizardry Complete, which has a special place for me among the recent reiterations of the game.
  5. Other Games: All four of us in my original gaming group had played Avalon Hill war games and Strat-O-Matic sports games. I am not sure we could have deciphered Holmes otherwise. We did not know any other gamers, so we probably would not have tried to play had we not been comfortable decoding Avalon Hill rules.
A couple of years ago, the original four guys in my gaming group reconvened (after a 28 year break) via GameTable and Skype. We started another dungeon-only campaign, using Castles & Crusades, but it fizzled after about 8 or 9 sessions. We were only able to meet online once a month and if we had to cancel, we couldn’t reschedule. Playing once a month and skipping some months altogether did not make for good gaming. I think we were also finding that going back to the dungeon (albeit a different dungeon) was not nearly as satisfying the second time around. There is only so much monster lunch money you can take until the fun wears off.

What (or who) influenced your early gaming? How has your gaming changed from that time?