How I Got Started

While I put together a gaming group and my gaming room, there actually isn’t much to talk about regarding the old adventures I might run, since I don’t know which I might actually run. I can talk about how I got started playing role-playing games.

It was around 1982 (yikes, 30 years ago!). One of my friends rode the bus with me. His mother was a nurse who worked the early shift, so she’d drop him off at our house on her way to work. As I recall, the bus didn’t show up until about 8 AM in those days and he’d get there at 6 AM. I wasn’t a rude kid, so I got up early enough to spend that time with him. One day, he told me about this game to which one of the kids in his neighborhood introduced him. He showed it to me. It was in a magenta box and had a picture of a warrior and wizard facing off against a dragon. The game? Dungeons & Dragons.

I was hooked.

My recollection is we played it every morning and whenever we got together on the weekends (I’m sure it was actually more infrequent than that). We tried to get all our friends in on it. As soon as I saved up enough allowance, I ran out and looked for my own copy. This was in the days where you could find D&D in toy stores, hobby shops, and even grocery stores (I think I bought my copy of Monster Manual II at Kroger).

I couldn’t find a Basic Set right away, or thought I didn’t need it since we had his, so I bought the Expert Set. Eventually, and the time scale is really fuzzy after 30 years, I bought my own copy of the Basic Set once the Library copy (yeah, we had the D&D Basic Set in our Public Library) I kept checking out started to fall apart. The Basic Set I have pictured was out of print though, so I ended up with the Mentzer Revision (the red box upon which WotC based their new starter set for D&D 4E).

Purists will say I was mixing and matching two editions, but there was really so few differences in play between the two, we never noticed. In fact, we also started buying up the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books and mixing those in, as well. On some level, I understood they were different games, but it all looked the same to me. I didn’t understand things like encumbrance or even how experience points worked. I interpreted 100 XP + 1/HP to mean that your character gain hit points from defeating certain monsters.

You know what? We had a hell of a lot of fun playing those games we didn’t fully understand.

To this day, I find the artwork of Erol Otus and Larry Elmore to be far more evocative than the modern D&D artists. There was something weird, something organic about Erol Otus’s stuff, something fantastic.

Over the years, I switched to AD&D fully, but I still bought the D&D stuff. I don’t think I ever played an elf or a dwarf as a class once I figured out AD&D, but looking back, I appreciate the elegant simplicity in those rules. I treasure my copy of the D&D Rules Cyclopedia and wish I had a second copy so when I start this project in earnest, I could have a table copy. I thank my lucky stars I was able to get a PDF version of it before WotC pulled the plugged on all their PDFs. It’s been invaluable for adventure prep; I ran a Rules Cyclopedia D&D game last year at Gary Con with 6 enthusiastic players.

* None of them had signed up for the game. All my per-registered players were no shows. When these guys saw I was running basic D&D, they became excited and called their friends over to join in. Frank Mentzer even stopped by and watched a round of combat. I can only imagine what was going through his mind to watch a table of men play the game he and his friend Gary created so long ago.

Now, thirty years after I started to play D&D, I’m preparing to embark upon a new campaign, with the same (or nearly so) game I played then.  It’s going to be epic.


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One thought on “How I Got Started

  1. “I interpreted 100 XP + 1/HP to mean that your character gain hit points from defeating certain monsters.”

    Love this. In general, I love stories about how rules were misunderstood by early players (mostly kids). And yeah, I don’t think it ever stopped the fun.

    My neighbors I played with had AD&D so I started with that. My brother had the Basic set but I was not allowed to look at it. So, when I finally got my Basic set (the Moldvay), I was surprised that it did not have the Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, etc. inside. Disappointed as well.

    I still have the rulebook. My mom coated it in contact paper to protect it. She did that with my Dragon magazines too.

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