Sunday, January 26, 2014

40 Years of Dungeons and Dragons

Jon Peterson's (Playing at the World) educated guess is that today is the 40th anniversary of Dungeon and Dragons. 

A person's life has several key moments, some more important than others, marriage, birth of a child, death of a parent or loved one for example. The other key moments are not quite as important but still define us in important ways and for me it was my introduction to Dungeons and Dragons in the fall of 1978.

I first became aware of Dungeons and Dragons when of all things I was teased for not knowing about it. The person mocking me waved what I now know to be an ODnD White Box. It was the summer of 1978 and I was just out of 6th grade. All I could was mutter "Yeah I already know about!" and walk away. 

Around that time, I had a friend named John and we played a lot of hex and counter wargames together. Not only DnD was about to ignite a fad craze it was also the highwater mark of wargames with companies like SPI and Avalon Hill leading the way.

Somehow the two of us managed to get a hold of a Holmes Boxed set. The first game involved him refereeing the Porttown Dungeon and me playing a magic-user. The adventure was very short as my Magic-User went downstairs, turned to the right, found a room with four skeletons. I fired a magic missile and didn't even take down one. I tried to game my way out with the Holmes' parry rule but ultimately my magic-user took too many hits and went down. 

That game ignited my passion for Dungeons and Dragons. Prior to playing I was an avid fan of the Lord of the Rings and read my older brother's copies several times to his annoyance. One of the things I loved about the Lord of the Rings was the Return of the King appendices. I quickly realized that Dungeons and Dragons was not only an interesting game but it allowed me to write my own RotK appendix and actually do something with it. I quickly wrote my own setting and still have a faded posterboard of it. One of my few regrets is that I didn't manage preserve the folder I had of it. I took a previous version of that posterboard and detailed the setting in a series of letter size maps using quarter inch graph paper.

In the winter of 1978 and 1979, I learned a lot more about Dungeons and Dragons as it was played extensively at Boy Scouts. At that time we used camp grounds with winter cabins. With the cold and dark coming early there was a lot of time in the evenings to play. Years later I was able to use one of those sites when I was involved in running boffer LARP events.

My friend John and I split the $15 cost of a ADnD Players Handbook. One of the things we were eagerly looking forward to was being able to go beyond the third level cap of Holmes. Alas the Players Handbook didn't have the combat charts. We had the wait until the fall of 1979 before we got a hold of the Dungeon Master Guide. Afterwards there was no stopping us. I still remember calling State Street Models daily to see if the book was in. Then begging my dad to drive me down to get it.  The ADnD DMG was and still is a marvelous RPG book. 

Also at that time my grandfather passed away. With all the changes that occurred I was allowed to bring the coin bank that I kept at my grandparents. From when I was 6 years old to around 12 I managed to save nearly $150. With 1970s prices I was able to buy all the DnD stuff I wanted. I also discovered Judges Guild and liked a lot of their material. That allowed me to stretch my bank even further. 

In the fullness of time my passion for Dungeons and Dragons led to me meeting my oldest friends, Tim and Dwayne. It lead me into NERO and boffer LARPS where I met my wife, Kelly Anne. Then around 2007 the circle closed and I was back to running Dungeons and Dragons as my main game. Not only running the game but publishing for it. Through this I met Ken, Chris and J Squad at Gold Star Anime. 

While I can't say Dungeons and Dragons is the most important influence on my life, it had a profound, lasting, and positive impact.

So here to 40 years of Dungeons and Dragons. To the memories of Dave Arneson, Gary Gygax, and to all their friends that supported them. And here to 40 more years of Dungeons and Dragons.


Unknown said...

Nice Post Rob

Chris C. said...

Like you say, here's to another 40!

Anonymous said...


RobC said...

I discovered D&D about the same time, or perhaps it was around 1980/81. My parents sent me off to my first overnight summer camp for two weeks. One rainy day, my cabin went over to hang out with another cabin and someone there had the A&D books. I spend that entire afternoon reading the Monster Manual. I had no idea what all the numbers meant, but the fluff text captured me. The next year the magenta Basic Set came out and I spent $10 dollars (!!) and bought it for my best friend for his birthday in July. We rolled up our characters (Lars, Marla, Fr Jerge and the uninspired Silverleaf and Black Dougal) and spent our time making dungeons for each other.

Our local bookstore had all the TSR products. Back then D&D seemed such and established game. I’m 46 now and having played RPGs for over 30 years now, it almost feels like I got in on the ground floor :)