Sunday, September 1, 2013

30 Day Challenge, Day 1: How I Got Started with Dungeons and Dragons

I got started with Dungeons and Dragons back in the early nineties when I purchased the Classic Dungeons and Dragons Boxed Set. I was a huge fan of Conan the Barbarian – still am – and my mother had been looking into anything similar to keep me interested in reading. We had gone into a comic book shop in the mall and here, next to the Conan Magazines, was the boxed set. At first I wasn’t going to buy the boxed set because I was painfully shy and buying the box meant that I would actually have to talk to the cashier. But I really wanted those magazines and if I was going to suffer through then I was going to do it only once.

The boxed set under my arms, we left the mall and went to my Aunt’s house where I promptly disappeared into the den with my bounty. That first night I broke open the boxed set and fumbled my way through the rules. THAC0 was confusing and there was just enough of a learning curve that my ten year old mind was unwilling to put forth the effort to learn it all without anyone else to play the game.  So I put up the boxed set and let it gather dust for years, only to occasionally pull out that fantastic rule book and longingly flip through the pages hopeful that some day I would find someone willing to play with me.

That wouldn’t happen for nearly a decade.

During the intervening years I had added half a dozen boxed sets to my Classic boxed set. I read the Advanced Second Edition Dragonlance Boxed Set Campaign Guide like it was the bible and dreamed fantastical dreams about the world as I fought against dragons a thousand times more deadly and menacing than Smaug had ever dreamed of being. I read everything I could get my hands on that even so much as touched on subjects similar to Dungeons and Dragons: the Hobbit, the Sword of Shannara, the Earthsea Cycle, hundreds of Conan novels, and even more pulp novels about swashbuckling heroes rescuing fainting damsels. I was greedy for the fantasy worlds that captivated my imagination in Dungeons and Dragons and was stretching my imagination to the limits with the hope of filling the void I had when it came to that damnable game.

By the time that I would actually get to play Dungeons and Dragons TSR had long since been absorbed into Wizards of the Coast and the version of the game I had spent years fetishizing had become obsolete and no one wanted to play it anymore (at least not in my area). So I began to learn under the revised third edition rules.

This game was different from my game. It was more detailed, cleaner, and somehow more and less at the same time. I struggled with the game at first convinced that something was wrong with it – or with me. I would find myself studying the Player’s Handbook trying to make sense out of the esoteric words and processes.

I made countless characters as I waited for a campaign that would actually take place. Instead I was always sitting around watching as one night stand after one night stand took place and my characters were aborted before they even go the chance to take off and develop into real characters. One night we would fight goblins in the woods of Nevermoor and the next we would fight them in Ebbon Field. And every night was the same: eight faceless characters who mattered even less to their players than the monsters did traipsing off into the fantasy wilderness to fight a single battle and be forgotten.

I grew to loath the game I had dreamed so much about playing; and went to my brother, Poot, and told him I was done with this bullshit. He convinced me to give it another shot as he would get everyone else to be serious and take the game into an actual fucking campaign.

Surprisingly they took it serious and I found the game I had been hoping for in two sessions. It was all there, and I’ve stuck with the game ever since.


  1. I remember being 13 and my mom letting me watch Conan the Barbarian on VHS because she knew I loved D&D. That started a life-long love of all things Conan, and later, Robert E. Howard too. I credit iit with being the reason that most of my characters are muscular fighters.

    1. That is so my life.

      My first real interaction to the whole fantasy thing started with the Hobbit and Conan the Barbarian. I'm still in love with both those fantasy worlds and the works of their authors all these years later.


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