Sunday, 20 March 2011

Traveller Gathering

And so my path was set.  My personal quest clearly in my mind, I ventured out and marched with determination into the very heart of Cardiff city centre and its offering of Victorian arcades.  These arcades were*, and in some cases, still are, one of the magical touches of shop browsing in Cardiff.  The flagstone slabs, gallery-style balconies, ornate Victorian lamps hanging from the wooden vaulted ceiling and the thick, opaque glass block inlay of each arcade shop's cellar grating, worn smooth by the decades of foot traffic.

*(I say 'were', due to the fact that now an edifice of a mall-style shopping centre has been erected on the other side of town, pulling away all the shoppers from the Victorian arcades.  As a result many shops within the arcades are now closing down, leaving the once thriving, bustling arcades a former shadow of their glory days.  City Planners = sphincters.)

Off a location known as 'The Hayes' was my destination, the Royal Arcade.  F.C. Parker's was the hallowed place for everything role playing in Cardiff.  Just around the corner on The Hayes was Spillers Record shop, and only up until recently was it still there, selling vinyl records, cited as being the 'oldest living record shop in the world', Spillers Records.

Once in Parker's, the thing that struck you most about it was the bustle going on in there.  This was most likely due to the fact the layout was akin to a galley kitchen - the length of the shop was its width, with an old Victorian counter running from one end to the other, and in order to make the passage of customer easier, there were two doors placed either end of the shop, literally a 'one in' and 'one out' set up.

Behind the counter spanned shelving crammed with tiny drawers for metal figures, open shelves filled with all the boxed games you could imagine, and a host of others things which are, for me, too hazy to recall.  Upon the counter were placed a variety of display items, one being a glass cabinet containing the latest figures for all the role playing genres.

Mr. 'Parker' himself was an imposing man.  Standing over six feet in height, broad of shoulder and chest like a barrel, glasses perched on the bridge of his nose, and a walrus-like moustache nestling upon his upper lip, one could not help but be respectful to this man when he served you.  The great thing about this gentleman was exactly that - he was a gentleman.  Always polite and helpful, never patronising or condescending, this man had a gamer's heart, and you sensed it.  Your confidence never faltered when in F.C. Parker's.  Never feeling awkward for asking for figures, dice, or any other rp product (not sure if anyone reading this has been made to feel uncomfortable by a shop owner or assistant before, but I hope you understand what I'm getting at?), I had found my Aladdin's cave.

Boldly I requested the 'Traveller' rule set.  It was placed with care on the counter in front of me.  Mr. Parker smiled at me as I hesitantly picked up the box and turned it over in my hands to read the back cover.

The simple illustration of the (assumed) soldier firing a weapon of unknown description pulled me in again to that world of fantastic potential for unlimited adventure in deep space and far flung worlds.  I bought the boxed set of rules without hesitation, bade the shop staff a happy farewell and headed for home with my treasured purchase wrapped in a brown paper bag, tucked tightly under my arm.  The journey home was a blur.  My head was already visualising epic adventures in the deepest, darkest places of space, and discovering hostile planets ripe for adventuring.

Once home and coat hung over the banister, I hurried up to my room.  The black box fell onto my bed as the brown paper bag took flight toward the waste paper basket.  I slowly opened the box, a slight vacuum inside making it initially resistant to my effort ... and there it was - three rule books and two six-sided dice, in miniature.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Kelly

Now my world creation could begin in earnest.  Out of the three books, 'Worlds and Adventures' was the one I read the most of over and over again.  Armed with an A4 pad, pen and dice, my creation of worlds was up and running.  All I needed to do now was to get some folks interested in playing.
Time for a press gang, me thinks ...


  1. Lovely to read the warm, honest and revealing description of F.C. Parker. Being his grandson, I was unfortunately born after his untimely early death, and never had the chance to know him personally.

    If you knew his personal family history, you would also share a sense of deep irony that I am writing this note from Germany - my home. However, it is very likely that his previous life in Germany contributed to his values and respect for his fellow human beings.

    Finally, there is now a smile on my face, as I write and sign off as C.F. Parker - a living echo of my paternal grandfather.

    1. Sir, it is with sadness that I reply to your post, as I was not aware of its arrival - for that I apologise, but also the sadness of his passing.

      Your grandfather was a very warm and passionate person, for whom I had great respect. Thank you for you visit and comment, it means a lot to me.

      Thank you again.