I could give you lots of reasons, I guess. Too much TV. Loosely supervised childhood. A lack of viable options. Familial curse haunting my bloodline for generations.
All of the above?
I grew up in a greasy stretch of arid desert in the kind of small town where my choices often felt limited to football, rodeo, or the oilfield. But I was delicate, weird, and sometimes sickly. I couldn’t see a future for myself in any of those endeavors. Maybe I would have made a great, albeit asthmatic bull rider. Maybe I would have been the palest oilfield roughneck, often mistaken for a lazy ghost that haunts the rig.
But somewhere around the 6th grade, something like this happened:
That’s not me. I’m not in this picture, I swear to Llolth.
Lloth? Lolth? Lolo? Anyway…
The reality isn’t that far from the certainly pungent scene above. See, I’d always been fascinated by Dungeons and Dragons. I obsessed over the 80s cartoon. I examined the advertisements for the game itself in comic books I grabbed on my weekly walk to the truck stop.
Yes. I hung out at a truck stop. A lot. I guess you could call it that. A gas station on the edge of town? I don’t know what sounds worse. But put that on the list, too.
Considering that I was stranded in the aforementioned greasy desert, Dungeons and Dragons became mythical, unobtainable thing. I didn’t really understand what it was. I knew there were rules and elves and that people thought it was a recruitment tool for Satan.
And I was all in.
But I couldn’t get my hands on it. I was a kid. I had no money. Even if I did, I had no way to get my hands on D&D material. And if I did, who would explain it to me?
Then a friend told me he had played it once.
And I spent the next few days interrogating him, asking him about every detail. I even went to far as to demand he create a homebrew game at that very moment so that I could experience it.
After that, I made up my own homebrew game. It was sloppy and more ‘make believe’ than a game. But with maps, notebooks, and a deep knowledge of movies, video games, and comics, that world grew. The other nerds stuck in the desert, along with my brothers, banded together for weekly (at least) bouts of screaming at each other about Draconians and excitedly waving Cheeto-stained notecards.
The game itself - we called it Dungeons and Dragons because it was our only frame of reference - was an ugly, Frankenstein of a beast. We cobbled it together out of need, making up and writing down rules as we went along. The story went on for decades. Sweaty garages turned into sweaty apartments, etc.
And now D&D has come out of the garage. It’s big now. Beautiful people play it, too! Not just troglodytes like me!
So now I want to bring our old world back to life. I’m dipping my toes into D&D proper now, buying the books, checking out the indies, and watching Twitch streams.
Any recommendations or tips?