Some More Context
Before we continue, let me take a moment to give you some more perspective on how old I was in relation to a pop culture metric from the ’80’s: action figures, as that’s sometimes easier to comprehend than years.
- I was just a little too young for the first 12″ GI Joe and Bionic Man type toys
- Star Wars figures and vehicles hit hard and stayed pretty strong through Return of the Jedi. Along the way they lost a lot of steam to….
- The 2nd iteration of GI Joe with the cartoon and 4″ toys, which were a lot of fun for a while and only lost a bit of their enjoyment to….
- Transformers. These were fascinating and I might have stayed interested for more than a year if I had been able to find one of the more ‘popular’ toys (Optimus, Jazz, Star Scream, or any of the jets for that matter…), but a tight market made them almost impossible to find. Interest wained pretty quickly…
- I didn’t care about He-Man in the least, and I haven’t been interested in action figures since then (until I made posing action figures on a computer my job, that is….)
Somewhere in the middle there, video games and D&D took over completely as my highest priority (and eventually only video games, but that’s another story…).
In the previous chapter, I had just spent a summer submerged in fantasy bliss with my brother and a couple of neighbors.
We had spent days and weeks playing D&D on our front porch and a picnic table we dragged into the garage on rainy days. All too soon the summer came to an end and I was faced with the long trudge through another school year. The game was put on hold. Or playing it was anyway.
Over the school year, in addition to a number of video games, I immersed myself in a steady diet of AD&D rule books and Dragonlance novels. I picked up Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures. I imagined what it would be like to play a thief acrobat or a ninja with crossbow pistols. Remember, it was the ’80’s and ninjas were suddenly super rad.
I would plan adventures and enjoy a couple of solo adventures, wishing I could play it more often. All in all, I found a great deal of comfort in exploring my imagination even without actually playing the game.
It was a very welcome escape for a nerdy 8th grader.
A lot of Gaming
As the summer of ’88 rolled around, I was primed to play, and thankfully, my brother, Barbie, and Jeff were up for another round.
Given our limited understanding of the rules and inability to tell much of our own story, the game was mostly just hack and slash, monster killing. Occasionally, we would run a module, and I remember those being a LOT of fun. I ran a couple. Barbie would run at least one – B8: Journey to the Rock, and Jeff ran X8: Drums of Fire Mountain. And in all honesty, run them better than I did.
I really owe Jeff an apology for using the first Fireball spell (and only, I believe) ever fired in one of our games, completely decimating the final encounter with a single shot. While I think it was legal, I don’t think anyone saw it coming, or could believe that it dealt such that legitimately massive amount of damage. I had broken our “gentleman’s” agreement on how we welded our powers. It’s hard to explain, but I’m still a little embarrassed by it.
Anyway, in the off chance you’re reading this, Jeff, I’m sorry. I’m glad you were a good sport about it.
What feats we did that day
I don’t think it will come as much of a surprise, but like many kids, with the exception of my brother, we weren’t exactly popular. I don’t think any of us were physically bullied, but without elaborating we had plenty of unpleasant moments as a result of others. We didn’t date anyone, go to parties, or care about sports. With a few exceptions, we only had each other for a while.
Along with many other kids around the country, we were outcasts.
But when we played, none of that mattered.
For when we played, we shed our Earthly limitations.
We fought back evil and plundered treasure.
We were champions and heroes.
We were brave and strong.
It was one of the best summers I’ve ever had.
And we did it together.
We few, we happy few,
We band of brothers (and a sister)
And that was it…
That summer would be the last year we played together. It just kind of ended and we all walked away from it as we entered high school. It was an oddly anti-climatic end to a very important time in my childhood. As I get older, I realize that most eras and ages end like that, slipping off quietly one night leaving only memories behind.
All in all, I only played Dungeons & Dragons for about 5 years. But it had a tremendous effect on me and the things I would do in the future.