Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons.
Nobody gave a second thought to my obsession with this aside from two very important people: milady (Stephanie) and my mom (Toni). The latter encouraged me to play and to continue to do so (she had a red box back in the day and was a notorious gypsy LARPer) and the former was the one person who gave me the motivation and confidence to start shopping around my (awesome) ideas, stories, characters and designs [and has a 7th level half-elf bard named Hazelnut right now, which is like the sexiest thing I’ve ever said about a woman].
So I’m going to start at the very beginning.
[As a sidenote, and I really do not want to get into it, but I’ve always loved telling stories—at one point my elementary school gave me the entire stage to entertain other kids during the last two weeks of December when I was in 5th grade, every morning for two weeks.]
I started tutoring the kid up the street and we became fast friends; Stevie and I are actually playing Pathfinder tomorrow (and I’m stoked for it) and going to our first PFS events soon. His older brother had moved away and back in, and when he moved back he brought a plethora of RPG books with him thanks to a job at Border’s. Chris was deeply ensconced in the Forgotten Realms and D&D; after enough pestering, he agreed to run a game for us.
I’d run a D&D game or two prior to that but I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and flubbed it mostly in a terrifically (doomed) effort to impress a girl I liked. Stevie and I sat down and made characters; two of the elven brothers Tarryndorn, Rankir (my archer wizard) and Elaith (two-weapon fighter). We started hunting down the trail of our third sibling—inside of the first game we had come upon a novice Thayan enclave and burned it to the ground while they slept (with no better intention than to loot the place, naturally).
The misadventures with Rankir continued for some time (including scoring two wish spells off of Hallister Blackcloak, if you can believe it), until he finally met his death after an epic and ultimately futile argument. I’ve played a host of characters since then, but I will always look back on that poor elven wizard and feel a tug in my heart for the greedy bastard. That game continued for a long time and was amazing; Chris runs a fantastic roleplaying game. We stuck a mindflayer (successfully) with a helm of opposite alignment (and a host of other people; after realizing he read it wrong, Chris rightly decided not to tell anyone and let that madness go on for as long as we kept at it), we rode around in the Starjammer, we saved kings and queens and eventually slayed gods.
There was a brief interlude, to which I am partly to blame BUT LET ME SAY THIS:
It may not look like throwing animals from a bag of tricks (tan) down into a forbidding, likely trapped (and it was trapped) pit is a wise thing to do, but hear me out: corpses can set off a lot of traps, and that elephant is going to keep plenty of hit points before they hit the ground far below.
There’s even a good chance the first one doesn’t hit the ground!
With aplomb, Chris saved that campaign by having us design evil characters. That began in Calimport and included one of the FUNNIEST interludes I have ever witnessed; we had to run the “getting into the city” scene four times before we actually got into the city. The best quote from that came from our snake-person (who died from being an idiot not long after anyway) who exclaimed (after we’d earned entry!), “Ssss-shut up! Sssss-I’m the one doing the ssss-talking!”
It was amazing and I really wish that player would get back to more tabletop again. I have never read of, heard of or seen that kind of consistently idiotic (and hilarious) gameplay in my entire life, and it is not better for it. [“I’m a dwarf! We’re good at fighting giants!” followed by leaping out of an airship down at giants—and an army, which perforated him before he hit the ground hundreds of feet below. I could list examples for hours.]
My first character there bit the dust quickly and literally; I was utterly stunned that a werewolf could fail a Jump check and die when running from rooftop to rooftop, but it happened. The next PC I rolled up, however, stands proudly to this day as my favorite character: D’thul, drow savage.
Anyway my point here is that Chris’ games were really good.
Ignore the commands of my parents good.
Play from 1 PM Sunday to 5 AM Monday and then go to school good.
You can imagine how well this was received by the folks and looking back on it, I imagine my dad is kicking himself for not figuring out that I’d be good at making this kind of content for a living. There was no shortage of groundings as a kid, but this became a constant thing; there were times where he literally would drive up and walk me out from the garage we played in.
When I went to college, there wasn’t a lot of D&D to be had; frankly, I was too drunk and too busy (yeah, both). I tried to get things going here and there, but nothing ever materialized and for some reason, I could not get my rugby teammates to join in. [Note to self: force Capetta and Casey to play D&D next time you see them.]
A year or so after I was done with school, I met Dixie Carr at a place in Pittsburgh called The Pearl. By place, I mean communal living situation housing like 12 people (see the “Hipsters” racial entry in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Bestiary 5). He invited me to a game at another communal living situation (this one was way freaking worse by the by: no heat) and that’s when I started to get that D&D fix I needed soooooooooooo badly.
It wasn’t the best game either, but there were good times and I really started to find my place there; in fact, the first adventure I sold (Unrest in Syrenteh; keep an eye on Skortched Urf’ Studios for that guy) was built and run for that group. Boris the Green Avenger and the basic framework of Grethadnis were created there and most importantly, I became good friends with Dixie.
A little while later I met the lady of my life (or more accurately, she kidnapped me from a bar) and I moved to Squirrel Hill, where I ran into Chris! In short order I started playing in his games for a while and now, I’m running several of my own and hopefully (maybe this summer? I think he’s getting sent to Japan for something but gets back in August?) I can have him sit at the table to return all the traps, PC deaths, critical hits, inexplicable string of natural 20s and awesome gameplay that he’s due.
Stephanie, milady, convinced me to start shopping around material and Mark Cathro was smart enough to grab it up while I was still cheap to hire. Now I’m writing for Fantasy Flight Games and a host of Pathfinder publishers and frankly, my life has never been better.
Thanks to D&D.
So, thanks Dungeons & Dragons. After writing this, I realize that I really don’t know what my life would be like if I hadn’t rolled that first d20 (which, one could say hasn’t ever really stopped rolling).
[And also, of course, thanks to Stephanie, Toni and Chris.]