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


  1. Since you mentioned Archon in this post, let me first say two things about that:
    1.) I still say “So mote it be” in everyday life, which is from that game, usually eliciting raised eyebrows from those around me.
    2.) As a computer programmer, when I see a co-worker attempt to do something that is illegal (e.g. divide by zero or click on a button that I know will crash the system,) I will say “Power points are proof against magic.” This has become the standard thing to say to someone who makes a boneheaded computer move (like trying to cast a spell on a creature occupying a power point in Archon.)
    Another note: In case you don’t recall, that was a young TOM HANKS playing the lead role in Mazes and Monsters!
    Anyway, my best friend Chad was a DM, and introduced me to all of the things that you talked about above. I was an acrobatic rogue named Crowfoot Morningstar for several campaigns over the years. I remember “Keep on the Borderlands” being the first module we ever did together.
    Unfortunately, we lived in a small town, and very rarely had enough kids to play. We did, however, play all of the D&D-related C64 games and PC games that we could get our hands on. (“The Bard’s Tale” comes to mind as a classic.) We also latched on to other fantasy games later in life like Magic: The Gathering and Dragon Dice. But it all started back then in 5th grade with Gygax’s stuff.
    As we entered college, Chad’s grandfather made a 3-tiered wooden board and pieces to physically create a Gygax-designed concept called “Dragon Chess” (rules published in a 1985 Dragon Magazine.) “Dragon Chess” was a three-dimensional variant of regular chess which took place in three planes: Air, Earth, and Underworld. A very cool concept, with complex piece movement (esp. the pieces that could move between the planes) and much more intricate strategies than regular chess. Our games would take DAYS to complete.
    Chad still has the board, and I think we’re going to play a game the next time we get together, a tip of the cap to a guy who gave us countless hours of entertainment.

    Comment by Kink | March 6, 2008 | Reply

  2. I’m currently running a 4e D&D game with a few folks including my girlfriend and our mutual friend. If you ever want to join in you’d be welcome to tag along, it wouldn’t be a problem to add you to their adventure, even if it was only one time.

    Comment by Kato | February 28, 2010 | Reply

  3. Incidentally, I totally know what it is like to spend more time poring over source books than actually playing with them. When I was a kid, the Middle Earth Roleplaying Game was big in my group of friends (as we were all Lord of the Rings fans). I had several modules and add-ons, but I don’t think I ever got around to actually running a game (even though I teamed up with several friends to plan out campaigns). I remember one book in particular, Lords of Middle Earth, fascinated me, reading about all the elves and characters mentioned mostly in Tolkien’s Silmarillion. It even had stats for Sauron, which I found incredibly cool.

    Comment by Kato | March 1, 2010 | Reply

  4. […] have mentioned before that while I had a huge interest in Dungeons & Dragons and other role-playing games when I was […]

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  5. […] I haven’t created a Dungeons & Dragons character since sixth, maybe seventh grade. And I sold my only D&D book – the Fiend Folio – more than a decade […]

    Pingback by Character building « Cornfield Meet | May 4, 2010 | Reply

  6. […] Even though I know I didn’t have to, I really wanted to buy my own dice for my upcoming return to Dungeons & Dragons. I had to run errands today after lunch, so I drove to the local comic shop where I picked up the d10s we use as Munchkin level counters, and yes, I will admit I was excited about buying my first set of polyhedrals in a couple decades. […]

    Pingback by Dice dice baby. « Cornfield Meet | May 18, 2010 | Reply

  7. […] Over the course of Lost Crown, though, spending Wednesday nights with this group of people I’d just met became a fantastic, energizing, bizarrely comforting ritual. I’d get home from work, have dinner with Jenn & Kelsey, gather up my dice, pencils and books, and take the back roads over to Massillon. Most times, I’d listen to mixes of 1980s music, because it put me in what felt like an appropriate frame of mind. […]

    Pingback by Dungeons and Dragons: Wednesday Withdrawal « Cornfield Meet | March 19, 2012 | Reply

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