Monday, October 6, 2014

The Boy Scouts and Dungeons & Dragons

As told in my last post, I spent the weekend with my son at a Webelos Scout event. As I was dozing off Sunday, I started to remember the importance of scouting was to me in regards to Dungeons & Dragons.

I was in scouts in the late 70s and early 80s. I started Boy Scout just when I started gaming and the two paralleled each other as I moved through Junior High School and then Senior High School. I lived in a small (15,000) town in the middle of rural northwest PA. Just big enough to have one or two of most things including game stores.

At the time of joining Boy Scout I was heavily into playing Avalon Hill and SPI wargames with a friend, John. He was very good and I rarely beat him. He was scary smart when it came to those games. Along the way one of us picked up the Holmes Basic Set and tried it out. Immediately we saw it was a different type of game. Despite just the two of us there there was little of the competition that characterized our wargame sessions.

My Boy Scout Troop was very active in organizing campout and other event. Including events held in the middle of winter. For the most part these winter event were held on sites with heated cabins. One site was on the shores of Lake Erie and the troop traditionally reserved a cabin perched right next to the cliff that formed the shore in that area.

Sunset came early in those events and this meant that there was a long stretch of free time in the evening. During the winter after John and I discovered Dungeons & Dragons this time become filled up with sessions of Dungeons of Dragons. A group of mostly older boys would take over a table and sit down and play a session. I remember it spread like wildfire, and there was a stretch where nearly every cabin had a session of D&D going. Not everybody played but it was by far the most popular activity.

I remember getting my first look at the Monster Manual at one of those sessions. And probably got a look at a PHB as well. Which probably why John and I split the $10 cost get one for ourselves.

In later years I started playing and running sessions myself. The one that stick out the most in my mind was probably around 1980 or 81. We where at the Lake Erie camp in the cabin by the shoreline cliff. Since it was communal sleep area we couldn't turn on the light as it would disturb those sleeping. So we played by the light of the fireplace with the sound of ice grinding and snapping in the background. A good time was had by all.

My other major memory was when I got to attend the 1983 National Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill. I remember learning that there was D&D being played. Luckily I stashed some of my books and dice and so I went over to check it out.

Everybody was playing on the gradual slope of a grassy hill on blankets and tarps. There were dozens of groups scattered across the slope. It was like a mini game convention, I don't remember and specifics other than I chatted about D&D with kids from all across the United States and learning about how people played in different region. I remember walking away thinking "Man there are a lot of ways to play D&D."


JB said...

Learned a lot of D&D stuff from older Boy Scouts bad in the day...things like cavaliers and acrobats BEFORE the release of Unearthed Arcana. Back in the day, most of the boys in my community were Scouts, and the ones in leadership positions were the same ones who were heavy into D&D. I remember one Eagle Scout that even wore a dragon head belt buckle.

Ah...the early 80s.
: )

sevenbastard said...

Scout Camp was all about D&D in my small town. We would play every night around the lantern at camp if we were not playing capture the flag.

My older brother was first exposed to D&D on a scout trip. He convinced my Mom to buy him Basic and he taught me so by the time I joined scouts I was already a player.

I have no idea if I would have got into D&D if it wasn't for scouts.