Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Life With D&D, Part I

I was a gamer at heart even before I picked up my first set of polyhedral dice. Some friends of mine were playing D&D by about 1980, and I wanted desperately to get into it. My best friend as a youth was a kid named Dave, and his older brother and his friends were playing it. I wanted desperately to play as well, to the extent that by early 1981 I had reconstructed with great care something that I thought was an approximation of D&D, based on the information that I had - which was limited to small talk about the game.

My memories of that early time are pretty fragmentary, so I'm actually reconstructing a lot of this as I write. But I can date with absolute precision my formal entry into the D&D hobby. May 5th, 1981, which was my 10th birthday, for which I received the Tom Moldvay-revised D&D Basic Set with the legendary Erol Otus cover.

This was the real thing, and so I played it incessantly and when I wasn't playing, I was thinking about playing. I dragooned every neighborhood kid I could into the game in my exuberance, and we collectively must have played through the Caves of Chaos dozens of times. I'm sure we made an utter hash of the rules. But that edition of the Basic Set was, of course, only half a game - to get the other half you had to buy the D&D Expert Set. So that too joined my collection.

My buddy who'd originally inspired by drive to play D&D, however, lived far enough away that I wasn't allowed, at that age, to go to his house, and he was only seldom in my own neighborhood. But after owning the Basic Set for (I'd guess) some months I found out that he had moved up to Advanced D&D. Now there was the real thing! It let you play Elven fighters and Dwarf clerics, instead of making every Dwarf or Elf the same class, something that bugged me even as a ten-year-old. And there were ten times as many spells and monsters and magic items! And you could go all the way up to like 21st level, whereas even the Expert set only let you go up to 14!

By Christmas of 1982, I was playing AD&D - that was a D&D Christmas, let me tell you. I recall it taking me an extra-long time to hunt down a copy of the Monster Manual, for whatever reason - it was the last of the core books that I got, although I'm pretty sure I had a copy by that glorious holiday of 1982 where I got a whole stack of D&D stuff.

D&D was my bread-and-butter game for the next couple of years. I figure I started moving away in around 1984-85 when I discovered Champions and Traveller. And I moved still further away when I discovered RuneQuest in 1986, with the 3rd edition published in cooperation with Avalon Hill. By then I was very cognizant of what I perceived to be the limitations of D&D and felt stifled by it. I started moving away just as the rest of the hobby started moving away, in a direction that would call itself more story-oriented.

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