It all started with Pool of Radiance. That’s right – the old Advanced Dungeons & Dragons SSI video game from the late 80s. Thanks for letting me play on the computer Dad! I grew up on the Gold Boxes that took place in the Forgotten Realm setting. As far back as I can remember I have enjoyed role-playing games. PC, console, tabletop, even role-playing on IRC – each has its own charm to me. There will always be a special place in my heart though for tabletop role-playing games.
I think my first serious delve into playing anything resembling a tabletop RPG came just before middle school. I would go over to a friend’s house and we along with his cousin would sit down at the dinner table and play. We didn’t have rules, classes, dice, or books. We had a pen, paper, and the need to send ourselves on adventures and it was amazing. Many nights were spent drawing the map of our world and exploring the towns and dungeons (and making crappy drawings of the villains). We described what we wanted our characters to do and each of us took turns adding pieces and directing the story, round-robin style. In a way, I miss those days.
Then I discovered there were rulebooks and game systems. It turned out Dungeons & Dragons wasn’t just a video game I played back when I was 6 or 7! I found books for Dungeons & Dragons (all the way back to the Original), Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, and Call of Cthulhu. Eventually, I tried a few rounds of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) with a new group of friends. My first character was a Magic User who was all about teamwork. I’m pretty sure I died falling off a bridge after we were betrayed by a member of our party. Regardless, it solidified my interest in tabletop RPGs. Eventually, that group dropped off though – people moved away or just lost interest. It wasn’t until high school when I got to seriously play.
High school was where I met my best friends. The people I learned games with and built worlds and stories alongside. You know who you are. Weekends were spent at someone’s house with a handful of character sheets, dice, and pencils being passed around. Initially, it was a train wreck. Like I said, we learned the games. Many nights were dedicated to figuring out how to make characters and how combat, magic, and skills worked. We made characters and pitted them against each other as we figured out Vampire, Werewolf, and D&D 3rd Edition. Eventually, we figured it all out and began making great characters and stories together.
That being said, after high school and into my mid-20s, I made my way briefly into another group through a mutual friend. When I sat down at the custom-made table with seating for a dozen people and a huge dragon lurking over a group of adventurers mural painted on the wall behind the Dungeon Master – to say I was impressed would be an understatement. Organized chaos comes to mind when I remember this group, but it taught me a lot about the need to flesh out details of my own games and the importance of multitasking.
Though there are hundreds of miles between us, we’ll always have that connection and shared experience of gaming. (We still game when we can!)
What was your earliest memory of playing an RPG? What makes you nostalgic?