I remember the day I finally got my hands on the AD&D, DM’s book like it was yesterday. A guy I knew had snagged a copy when he had been in the UK, so I asked if I could borrow it, and miracle of miracles, he said, yes. He gave it to me before first period so I had no time to look at it, but as the RPG gods decreed, and as luck would have it, the fourth period teacher was off sick, so I had about 45 minutes to see what this was all about.
Man, there are certain light bulb moments in your life, and this was one of them; when things just click, and go BOOM. The cover, the weight of the thing, the thickness, even the smell, were just brilliant. At that stage, we had been playing the Mentzer rules only, and I was sort of acclimatised to how I thought D&D woud look. But that all went out the window when I saw what Gygax had created back in ’79 when I was still a nipper.
It was the iconic cover, the one we all know and love by David C. Sutherland III. It just set the tone from the get-go. I opened it and flicked through the 232 pages in amazement. This looked as if it had been written by Professors! Finally something I could show my parents and make them understand that D&D was a serious game, not just some pew-pew facsimile we played every other weekend. (It didn’t work. Still hasn’t actually.)
The scope of what I was seeing was just unbelievable and I could feel my creative juices firing up, but then I saw it… and let me tell you, it was love at first sight.
My eyes stopped on page 152, about halfway down the page, nestled comfortably between ‘Pipes of the Sewers’ and ‘Quaal’s Feather Token’, a magical item that made me sit up and really take notice…it was the Portable Hole. I don’t know why, it just lit my imagination to no end. I was used to most magical items in D&D, but as cool as they were, they were no match for something as left field as this beauty was.
Portable Hole: A portable hole is a circle of magical cloth spun from the webs of a phase spider interwoven with strands of ether and beams of Astral Plane luminaries. When opened fully, a portable hole is 6' in diameter, but it can be folded as small as a pocket handkerchief. When spread upon any surface, it causes an extra-dimensional hole 10' deep to come into being. This hole can be "picked up" from inside or out by simply taking hold of the edges of the magical cloth and folding it up. Either way, the entrance disappears, but anything inside the "hole" remains. The only oxygen in the "hole" is that allowed by creation of the space, so creatures requiring the gas cannot remain inside for more than a turn or so without opening the space again by means of the magical cloth. The cloth does not accumulate weight even if its hole is filled with gold, for example. Each portable hole opens on its own particular non-dimensional space. If a bag of holding is placed within a portable hole, a rift to the Astral Plane is torn in the space, and the bag and the cloth are sucked into the void and forever lost. If a portable hole is placed within a bag of holding, it opens a gate to another plane, and the 'hole, bag' and any creatures within a 10' radius are drawn to the plane, the portable hole and bag of holding being destroyed in the process.
That was my touchstone moment and introduction into AD&D. Having a book like that, that contained such creative magical items made want to be a better DM. It still does actually.
It was a few weeks later and I was at the local library. It was a slow day and all the good stuff was gone so I picked up a copy of E.T. I presumed it was written after the movie came out. I hadn’t seen it at that stage, so I figured, what the hell, let me give it a bash. And lo and behold, there in Chapter Two was my dear friend, the portable hole.
They were playing D&D around the table, I can’t find what was in the book, but I did manage to get a copy of the screenplay and it had:
Okay then, so I run out of the
forest and I think I’ll shoot
just my arrows at the goblins
to make them chase me. I
keep running and shooting and
running and shooting and just
when they’re really mad and
about to get me… I throw down
my portable hole and climb in
and pull the lid closed.
Then later on the DM, Steve says:
You can only use a portable hole
once, you know?
Okay, I can only let you stay in the
hole for ten millirounds, Elliott.
Not sure if it made it into the movie though, but fairly interesting none the less. So yeah, loved the book, loved the magic item, and still loving AD&D!