Via the blog, Realms of Chirak I learned about the idea of the September 30 Day Challenge from Polar Bear Dreams and Stranger Things. Nothing jump-starts me on a project like an assignment, and I particularly like the first question on the list. So I’ll throw my helmet into the ring and see how things go.
1. How you got started
One of my favorite stories about how I got into gaming was a most fantastic Christmas morning, where I tore open my presents to find both red box Dungeons and Dragons Basic Edition and the blue Expert Set. With those gifts my parents cemented themselves into the realm of “Most Awesome Parents Ever” and as I used the crayon to ink my blue dice and ran through the solo intro module in pursuit of the nefarious Bargle, I was hooked. Those books and dice are still with me and I still put them to use from time to time.
But I think the more important story about my introduction into gaming is what came before. What made my parents know that this gift would be so welcome.
I still remember when one of my friends first told the group of us about this new game he’d read about called Dungeons & Dragons. He talked about how you went into mazes and fought monsters, faced traps, and explored underground realms. We were all fantasy and science fiction fans, and this sounded great to us. We’d never played a game like it before and it captured our imaginations in a way that other games we’d played never could. I was particularly fascinated by exploring dungeons; in all the books I’d read it had been places like the Mines of Moria and the caves under Lonely Mountain that had most captured my imagination. Here was a game that embraced the very part of these books that I wanted more of.
The only problem was, we didn’t have the game and we didn’t know where to get it. So we did what any enterprising kids would do when hooked on an idea, we made our own. We had no idea how the game was played, but we knew it involved maps, monsters, and rolling dice. My father owned an office supply store and I had ready access to pads of graph paper, and we put them to good use drawing maze after maze. We’d lay the map out and the players would point and say, “I go here”. Then we’d say what kind of monster was there. Initially we’d flip a coin to see if we won or lost and later moved up to a d6 (the only kind of die we had at the time). The creatures were pulled from movies and books we’d seen and I remember that instead of orcs we usually used the Slayers from the movie Krull, complete with the staff-swords with one shot-laser bolts. My friends and I loved Krull.
Eventually my father took me to a hobby store and I found a copy of Metagaming’s game, The Lords of Underearth. It wasn’t Dungeons & Dragons, but it was about a lost dwarven city, and it had a beautiful cover picture of a dragon on its stolen horde that would make Smaug proud. I had to have it.
Lords of Underearth was a small wargame with several scenarios and, most importantly, a fantastic hex-map of the lost city. I spent lots of time pouring over that map. I played this game with my friends, I played it by myself, and sometimes I would just move the pieces around and compose stories. It had a throne room, a bridge over a vast chasm, and other features that were not as apparent. Why the spiraling system of small rooms with doors? Was this a spiral up to a watch tower looking out over the mountain? Why was this room hidden? Was it a sorcerer’s workshop?
All this time my parents were taking note of what I and my friends were doing, which lead to that wonderful Christmas morning when those box sets were found under the tree.