Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Save vs. Time

Truth is, I wasn’t half the role-playing geek I wanted to be. Ever. And the death of Dungeons & Dragons creator Gary Gygax is stirring up dust that’s been undisturbed for a long while. Even though I never fully got to explore the world he invented or the countless other RPGs he inspired, I still feel like the guy made an impact on my imagination and the kind of stories I enjoy.

Remember that bad TV movie "Mazes and Monsters" that was supposed to scare kids into NOT playing D&D? Yeah – it had the completely opposite effect on my friend Mike & me, who were 11 or 12 at the time. We knew about Dungeons & Dragons – one of our friends had an older brother in high school who played – but we didn’t know anyone who actually knew much about how it worked. Pretty soon after that movie aired, Mike told me in study hall that he had learned how to play "Mazes and Monsters" for real, and he showed me how some kid had taught him to basically draw a map and on a separate sheet of paper list what was in each room. Then he’d "Dungeon Master" by asking me which rooms I’d like to explore, and as I went into each one, he’d consult his list and tell me what happened.

This was, believe it or not, pretty damn cool to us, and we immediately began building more complex dungeons and treasures and puzzles to solve.

And then, one day, Mike got the Basic Set and the D&D Players Handbook and the Monster Manual, and they were So. Freaking. Cool. He showed me how to roll characters with those polyhedral dice and how to the game worked for real, and we were stoked.

We were also growing up in a small town and were the only two kids our age who had any interest in it, and the fact was, neither of us wanted to take on the full-time responsibility of DM-ing, so we spent a lot of time just creating characters and studying the books and gawking at the monsters and stuff.

It wasn’t long before I got my own red-box AD&D set for Christmas, and the Fiend Folio (the only hardback D&D book I ever owned) too, and Mike got his own old-school Expert Set in the blue box, and for awhile, we managed to play at school by getting passes from teachers to use a vacant classroom during study hall. A third kid joined us briefly, since he was willing to DM, but we only made it through about half of "The Village of Hommlet" before we realized he was more interested in just goofing off than running the game. Mike & I faked our way through "The Lost City" with me behind the screen, but I think that was the only complete module we played.

I wanted to role-play, I did. I tried to play "The Lords of Creation" with a group of kids in high school at one point, but that went to crap in a single afternoon when we players couldn’t get our characters to get along. My friend Aaron and I were huge Star Wars and James Bond fans, and we tried to get into both of those RPGs, but again, it was just an awful lot easier to have fun poring over the books – which we bought by the armload – and creating characters and TALKING about the game than it was to have to, you know, sit down and learn all these freaking rules when we could go play Archon on the C64 instead.

In fact, only once in my life have I truly played a single complete RPG adventure. When I was a sophomore in college, my friend Ivan and I performed in the one-act-play festival, and some of the theatre bunch invited us to partake in an evening of FASA’s Shadowrun.

And it was AWESOME. There were about 10 of us playing, and the game master had his shit totally together, and we played from about 8 p.m. at night until six the next morning, all the way through the adventure, and I loveditloveditLOVEDit. I had this hardboiled, trenchcoated quick-with-his-fists, trigger-happy detective character and I couldn’t WAIT to do it again, and that Christmas my parents were kind of weirded out that I asked for the Shadowrun rulebook, but they got it for me anyway,and Ivan got some books of his own, I think, and we were psyched.

That was the last role-playing I ever did.

I still thumb through my Star Wars RPG books now and then, and I the characters Aaron and my little brothers rolled up for "Tatooine Manhunt" are still on their narrow-ruled sheets of notebook paper tucked into the module – but my blue polyhedral dice were lost a long time ago.

Time to time, I realize I kind of miss them.

March 4, 2008 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Games, geek, Ohio | 7 Comments


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