So. My parents were getting a divorce. And it wasn't a mutual decision. My mother needed to leave my bully of a father after many long years of sadness and so she bravely took the plunge and started the ball rolling.
Over the next couple of years things would become increasingly bleak in my home. My parents would become embroiled in constant arguments, long evenings of threats and abuse, sometimes degenerating into violence. I'm not fishing for sympathy - this was many years ago and the issues have long since been dealt with. Suffice to say that my mother and the two remaining children of her six offspring were put through an abusive, torturous hell by a violent bully of a father. And that's the first time I've ever said that in public, so there you go. That's what it was like.
How did I handle this? I tucked myself away inside gamebooks and RPGs. I was still an impressionable youth at 14 years old and the world had suddenly become a dangerous, violent and scary place. I had no control over it, no say in what happened in my home, no way to change or influence the outcome of every single long day and even longer night. Gamebooks and RPGs gave me that control. I wanted that control so badly I switched from being a player to running the games as the GM, so that I could have control and everyone would be able to have fun because I decided it. My grades suffered (it was, after all, the lead up to my final 'O' level exams at 16) and my schoolwork was pretty much neglected, thanks to the battle going on in my home. Strangely, the blame was laid squarely on the fact that I spent a lot of time with my nose in these books and not enough time studying. Yeah, right - so the blazing rows until 2:00 in the morning and the crashing doors had nothing to do with it, then.
It was during this period that I discovered another kind of roleplaying; me and my best friend Mark who helped me through this difficult time also made radio plays on cassette tapes, both dramatic (usually Star Wars) and comedy (our own juvenile creations). It was the Star Wars stories that stuck and grew - in later years these roots would be the beginnings of the longest ever campaign I had ever run.
But that was still 4 years away.
My actual RPG gaming time was lacking during this year as people drifted from the hobby into the arms of ZX Spectrums and C64s - even then the power of the computer game was looming. I had the red box D&D and I ran a couple of games using the Fighting Fantasy introductory RPG for a couple of friends and even my family. I didn't really know what I was doing, but it was fun to run a game. I stocked up on miniatures (my first 'army' was an orc standard bearer, drummer, general, about four warriors and a bolt thrower crew, all from Citadel Miniatures). I realised very early on that I didn't have either the patience or the talent to colour up my models and the majority of them stayed silver. It didn't matter. They were mine, and they were perfect for the very few games I got to play.
I played so little, in fact, I almost stopped gaming altogether, but the following year something happened to keep me on the gaming track.