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A Bugbear

March 5, 2008

I discovered the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons when I was 10. In my imagination, dad and I were in a hobby store looking at model trains (his thing) and I found it…not sure if that even approached reality. D n D was an odd beast, not very well written, with odd rules that, looking back, were certainly just one step removed from the miniatures system it was based on (Chainmail, also by Gary Gygax). It was fiddly in the extreme but oh man was it steeped in love. Gygax clearly loved the fantasy genre and all of it’s tenets. It encouraged my already voracious reading, stoked my already fertile imagination, and gave me an outlet for my dramatic tendencies. I spent hours and hours crafting the perfect character (Early on I tended toward the front line basher type – wizards being a bit too brittle for my tastes, and thieves being a bit too subtle).

As the years went by I found much better role-playing systems and genres that better suited my temperament. I came back to D n D now and then, even when I could only play it ironically with tongue planted firmly in cheek. I hear that the fourth edition just came out but I doubt I’ll ever even crack a book. But the place of Dungeons and Dragons in my life will always be there. Always. I carried my Dungeons Master’s Guide and Monster Manual to class every day in Jr. High. I developed the friendship of my life over D n D (thanks Alan). In many ways I miss it. I miss the Mountain Dew fueled evenings, the polyhedral dice, the ROLE playing.

So…thank you Mr. Gygax.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 6, 2008 6:22 am

    My first memory of DnD is from the playground in 6th grade in Littleton, CO. I had just moved to Denver form small town Oklahoma, had long hair, an Okie accent and after about two months the only kids who would even speak to me were the kids who got picked on by everyone else, and even they made fun of my accent. I tagged along anyway and saw them playing it on the gravel playground and heard them talking about purple worms, and orcs, and vampires. At first it didn’t make sense, a game you played with some funny but cool-looking dice, and a piece of graph paper. “You play it in your mind,” they said. After a while I got more into it and got my mom to take me to South Glenn mall to the toy store (it was a dollar cheaper there than up in magic-game shop called I think, Fascination Corner). My mom thought ten dollars was a lot to pay for a game that was just a book and some dice. Around that time Brad showed up at church too and even there we were, out-casts from planet outcast. At some point we both realized we were into the same game and spent Sunday afternoons playing it on dining room tables, the start of a relationship that grew in so many ways and continues to this day. Yes the system was overly complex and confusing, but that was part of the draw, that you could understand a system that “normal” kids and adults couldn’t fathom. And it had those cool dice! My main character was a dwarf with plate-mail armor and a morning star, and he could wail. But even more important was the social aspect, how young boys could be brought together, the growth in imagination, cooperation, competition and diplomacy. I’m sure it added to the part of me that made me a writer. Perhaps those Mountain Dew fueled highs were the spark in some small way to a few years lost on the medieval streets of Prague high on psychedelics. It’d be an interesting PHD subject, to study the social aspects and/or fallout, and trace the lives of kids from that little mini-era and what all those people who played it are doing now. Brad and I probably would have gotten close anyway, but DnD was the spark, and for that I am eternally grateful. Oh, and neither of us have turned out to be a satanist!!!!

  2. March 7, 2008 8:36 pm

    The prototype is always a little clunky. Gygax was to roleplaying what Edison was to the light bulb.

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