The web was swamped recently with memorials to Gary Gygax, the creator of role-playing gaming as we know it today, and after reading my pal Barron's excellent post, I was inspired to add my own memories. So. here's my late tribute to childhood fun with Dungeons & Dragons, although for me it was all about an inspiration to create!
I don't really remember how I first heard about D&D, but I remember getting the basic set while I was in 7th grade and marveling at how you could play a game with no board or pieces to move around! It finally dawned on me that role playing was just "pretending with rules", and I thought all the crazy math formulas used for battles were cool. Of course, I had a few sets of dice (I remember how you could ink the number using a fine pen or by rubbing them with a crayon), and even though everyone thought the 20-sided die was the coolest, I liked the simplicity of the 4-sided one. I think I started saving my allowance for the hardback Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books before I even played my first game, because they were full of fascinating character types and awesome illustrations! I read through the Monster Manual over and over, enjoying the gross creatures and imagining epic fights. I started collecting the small metal figures, too, and spent lots of afternoons painting them with toothpicks and learning wipe-off antiquing techniques from magazines.
My geeky group of school friends became my playing group, since we were all into Lord of the Rings and D&D at the same time - it was just inevitable! My pals Scott, Chad, David, Galen (who had the best medieval-sounding name) and I would meet at the public library, where we could get a little private room to play in. I was almost always the Dungeon Master, since I liked being able to play all of the various non-player characters that my friends would interact with in the game. I was already an acting ham, so I didn't want to limit myself to just one character when I could be several at once! I also liked knowing the secrets that everyone else had yet to discover, and I thought the Dungeon Master's screen was so cool - it had fantasy paintings on one side for the players to look at, and tons of reference tables and formulas on the other side! I remember several really good games, and I also remember being a lenient Dungeon Master, since I didn't want my pals' characters to actually die since they had worked so hard on them.
But by far my best D&D time was spent creating my own fantasy world for our games. You could buy tons of game modules that included all of the background material and maps for an adventure, but I wanted to make my own from scratch. So, first I made a few "mini-modules" for quick games, and later embarked on giant stories with hex maps and multi-level dungeons! Back before home computers, I actually owned a typewriter and did all my "serious" work on it, so I spent lots of time getting my modules to look just right, and even adding illustrations to the pages just like the pros. I used to draw a lot (although I barely doodle now), so I really enjoyed sketching castles and coloring maps, even if I had to draw hundreds of little symbols. My drawings also were a part of my own Monster Manual supplement, where I designed my own creatures with their crazy stats, and I tried to incorporate these into my custom modules. Truthfully, I enjoyed all this creative activity far more than playing the actual game, but I'm really glad I had a group of D&D friends to inspire this in me!
When I was decluttering my college notes recently, I found most of my Dungeons & Dragons creations, so I scanned a few pages (only maps and parts of modules with drawings) for you to enjoy (and for me to remember forever!). Remember these are from the brain of a 7th grade geek!
View photos: Dungeons & Dragons Memories