Perhaps it’s come time that I share with you how I first got started in playing Dungeons and Dragons. No, that’s not true. I think it’s come time for me to really remember how I fell in love with this hobby the first time. This is autobiographical and, by its very nature, completely self-serving. Be prepared.
I may be off by a year here or there, but milestones like movie and book releases have helped clarify some of the timeline. My very first memories of the hobby remain a touch fuzzy as do those towards the end. But fortunately there’s a lot more middle, otherwise it wouldn’t be worth writing this.
I wasn’t a completely sheltered kid growing up, but my parents were more conservative about what movies they showed me than many of my friends. For instance: In the summer of 1984 at 11, I wasn’t allowed to see Ghostbusters because a friend of the family’s daughter had been scared by several scenes, even though most my friends had.
However, when I got my hands on a VHS copy of the movie a year later, my parents were fine with it. When I was older, they later said they now realize it would have been fine, and have apologized. They also either weren’t aware or turned a blind eye to some of the media I ended up watching. The Hobbit at 5 or so, Watership Down, monster movies on Saturday afternoons. They let me go see Gremlins in 3rd grade with my friend Jeff. Not only a reasonably scary movie at 10, but also the first movie I’d go to with a buddy without our parents. So they weren’t entirely strict, either.
They did their best to be informed and protect me from some of the more violent imagery out there. Sometimes they did it right, sometimes they didn’t. Later, as a parent, I really appreciate how difficult it is to do the right thing everytime. All in all, I think they did a pretty great job, even if it was sometimes frustrating as a kid at the time.
But to the point of all this… While they wouldn’t stop me from buying into or playing Dungeons & Dragons, they would periodically express some amount of nervousness over my interest in it. It must have been a tough call for them as I got very interested in it for a time. As I said, I think they did a pretty great job, especially considering the misinformation of the era.
The Promise of Adventure
4th grade turned out to be one of those years that I will always associate with my childhood. Paul would become my best friend when we met in the same class that year, and we would continue to be my best friend until the summer before 6th grade, and we’d remain good friends until we grew apart in high school. 2 years doesn’t sound like a lot but at that age it’s an eternity. While I’ve had many very good friends over the years, friends like Paul only come along a couple of times in your life. It wouldn’t be until I would meet my wife 10 years later that I would have a friend as good as Paul.
We did a report together on Orangutans, we wrote a puppet play for an assignment. We went sledding, had sleep overs, and pretended to be ninjas. Somewhere during that first year, he told me about a mysterious and wonderful game unlike anything I had heard of before. He told me of dragons, goblins, swords, and magic in the form of a game combined with our imagination. He told me of Dungeons and Dragons.
Watching my kids now, I’m reminded of how very influential my imagination was at that age. Nearly everything I did revolved around my imagination. Science fiction and fantasy played heavily on my mind. Before I even got to play the game, I spun his vague descriptions into many hours of adventures.
Over those 2 years as best friends, we went on many adventures into the woods around our houses and slew a great many orcs, goblins, ogres, and even a dragon.
The Power of Imagination
That fraction of a decade was possibly the most exciting, care free, and imaginative time in my entire life, and it was heavily dominated by thoughts of Dungeons & Dragons, even if we didn’t end up playing it much. It would gradually replace the canned stories of Indiana Jones, StarWars, and The A-Team, with adventures we wrote ourselves.
I can’t remember what took so long, but it wasn’t until the middle of the summer between 4th and 5th grade before I’d eventually get the Red Box Basic Set.
Things would never be the same….