Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

This is Me in ’83 – Dungeons! Dragons! Tomfoolery!

This entry likely begins in late 1982, when I was at my friend Mike’s house, and we wound up watching this movie called Mazes and Monsters on TV. (I say “likely,” because while the movie debuted on Dec. 28, I suppose it’s possible the thing was re-run in early 1983.)

So the whole terrible anti-role-playing propaganda of the movie was lost on us, because not long after, I remember Mike telling me one day in study hall that he had learned to play pencil-and-paper “Mazes and Monsters.” Basically, you’d draw a map of a cave or a castle or something similar, with small, numbered notations that corresponded to a hidden list of treasures, creatures and traps. You’d then guide the other guy through, asking him where he wanted to go, and describing what he encountered along the way. I think there may have been some super-basic sort of combat with plain old six-sided dice, but mostly it was kind of like walking the player through a Choose Your Own Adventure story.

The next step, of course, was Mike getting a Dungeons & Dragons basic set, and showing me the cool dice and the character sheets, and The Keep on the Borderlands module.

Since we didn’t know anyone else our age who had any interest in the game, though it was tough for us to play for real. Most of the time we just created characters with artificially-inflated stats and ran through maps and modules in a souped-up version of our “Mazes and Monsters.”

On a semi-related note, here is a Polaroid of Baltek, the Green Dragon:


Mike and I built him out of homemade green play dough and wrote a story about him (spoiler alert: Baltek wins) for our “Medieval Day” project that year.

We shared a study hall in sixth grade, and somehow, Mike and I started getting passes from our teachers to play D&D either in the hallways outside their rooms, or in adjacent empty classrooms. I remember in particular sitting on the floor with The Lost City awaiting Mike’s adventurers.


Then one day, I happened to see a copy of the morning memo that teachers used to get from the office every day. One note read, “It’s springtime! Practical joke time – how about no more hall passes for John and Mike?”

After a couple days of us trying unsuccessfully to finagle passes, one morning, the school heard this over the PA system: “Attention – if anyone has seen John Booth and Mike ___, please let us know: They are missing from the sixth grade halls!”

So we had no luck. And then, Mike had one of his friends ask a teacher for their autograph. And the kid got it. Just her signature on a blank piece of paper. Above which we then wrote, “Please excuse John and Mike during study hall.” Now, being a dork, while I thought this was ingenious, I also knew that some teachers would think it was funny, and some would, well, not. So I said, “Let’s take this to the office and let someone know it’s a joke first.”

Now the really weird coincidence is, when we got to the office – over Mike’s quit-being-such-a-nerd objections – and I told the secretary my name, she said, “John Booth? Your mom just called: She wanted us to remind you that she’s picking you up early today, and you have a dentist’s appointment. She’ll be here in about 10 minutes.”

We never got to find out how our clever fake hall pass would have been received.

Our shared exploration of D&D was pretty brief. In seventh grade, I traded away ten bucks plus my copy of The Lost City for a Timex Sinclair.

It would be 17 years before I created my next Dungeons & Dragons character, and while the game – and I – are different, rolling those polyhedral dice still takes me back, on some level, to 1983.

May 9, 2013 - Posted by | 1980s, geek, Ohio | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] Now, I could be wrong on the timing, but it seems very likely that the summer of 1983 was also when my friend Mike and I took a kids’ introduction to computer programming class at the Stark County campus of Kent State University, working on Timex Sinclairs. While I can’t say for certain it was that year, I do have a vivid memory of our instructor challenging Mike and me with a problem one day, offering a pad of graph paper as a reward because he knew we loved using the stuff for Dungeons & Dragons. […]

    Pingback by This is Me in ’83 – WarGames « Cornfield Meet | June 4, 2013 | Reply

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