In my cruising of the internet D&D-o-sphere I’ve started to see something popping up. That is the mention of “The D&D 30 Day Challenge.” As far as I can tell, it originated on the Polar Bear Dreams & Stranger Things blog. I read a few of the responses and thought it looked like fun. I’m not nearly as cool as the people starting this because I’m more than 2 weeks late but rather than waiting for Oct. 1, I’ll just call today Day 1. Here is the list of topics, as given by our friend at Polar Bear Dreams.
Day 1: How you got started
Ok so this is a longish and somewhat boring story, but it’s one I enjoy telling none the less. My very first introduction to the game was fleeting and didn’t really go anywhere, but it was my first intro to the game so I’ll mention it quickly first. My friend Steve used to come over to my house after school in 1983/84. I was in 3rd grade. One day we were sitting on the pile of firewood outside my back door trying to decide what to do. He grabbed his backpack and pulled out a red box. He asked me if I had ever played Dungeons & Dragons. I had never even heard of it. He opened the box and showed me the dice and a white crayon. We used the crayon to mark up the dice and we rolled them a few times. I don’t even remember opening the books. We then went on to spy on my sister or something and never mentioned it again.
Maybe a year or so later, during the summer, a friend of mine Lucas would frequently call an early end to our afternoon playtime/hangouts to go somewhere with his older brother. We were about 10 and his older brother must have been about 14. After this happened a few times, I asked where it was he was going. He said he and his brother would go to his brothers friends house and play Dungeons & Dragons. The name sounded familiar but I never made the connections to my earlier experience. In the interim I had read Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books so the thought of dragons and dungeons sounded amazing. I asked if I could tag along and he said that I could not. I was bummed but it wasn’t a big deal. I was 10 years old and would happily ride my bike instead. But then, I kept asking. Each weekend, I would ask if I could just watch, or anything. He finally got tired of me asking and asked his older brother if it was ok. His older brother said “Absolutely”. We rode our bikes over to a neighborhood I was unfamiliar with, parked in back of the house and went down the basement. I was introduced to another older boy, the friend of the older brother and shown to a large card table in the back of the room. Everyone started to sit down so I did too. The older boy we were visiting sat down behind the table and propped up what I now know to be a DM screen. He handed me a small piece of paper, cut from a larger piece with dotted edges like a coupon. He said “This is your character, read it and familiarize yourself with it”. I still remember the character. It was an elf (race and class). It has blond and silver hair and piercing gray eyes. He had a short sword and a spell. Magic Missile. Holy Crap, he has a missile! This was going to be good.
I sat patiently as the DM explained the scenario. We had just snuck up on an evil castle, surrounded by a large stone wall with a single gate of iron bound oak. We had to figure out how to get inside. I looked at my character sheet and had the perfect idea. I would launch my missile at the castle wall blowing a hole in it at which point, we could walk right in. I enthusiastically offered my suggestion. Everyone laughed…..except me. The DM smiled that silly smile that makes your face flush and kindly explained, “It’s not that kind of missile”. I was immediately embarrassed and so kept my mouth shut for most of the rest of the session except to say that I was trying to be quiet, or hiding behind the fighter. Even with the embarrassment, I knew this game was something special.
Shortly after this, my friend Lucas and I started gathering some of our own friends to play the game. I had talked to my parents about it. They were always very supportive of my interest in reading so when they found out it was a game that used large books with elaborate text, they were on board. My dad, notorious for bargain hunting at auctions, flea markets, garage sales and even The Goodwill soon had a pile of books for me to dig into. Anything he saw that said D&D on the cover, he would bring home. Frequently telling me he only paid a quarter for it. I was in heaven. My friend Lucas and I formed a small gaming group and we would play every sunday after church, often for 6 hours or more. We would eat Totinos party pizzas brought to us by his mother. I think they were thrilled we were not causing trouble with neighbors, the local cat population or skateboarding in someones empty swimming pool. This was one of the high points of my childhood. These games with friends where the sky was the limit. No one judged anyone. Every idea was better than the last, no matter how terrible it may have actually been. We just wanted to try everything and let the dice tell us what happened next. The rest is history.