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26 January 2014 @ 02:47 pm
Happy 40th birthday, D&D!  
At least according to Jon Peterson, author of Playing at the World, which I haven't read yet but which I'm going to get around to...eventually.

I was introduced to D&D at a very early age through my father's story. Yes, singular--it wasn't really his thing, but he played a tiny bit in college and remembered that he had been a crossbowman and had the highest Charisma so they made him the party leader. It obviously didn't have much impact on him because that was all he could remember, but I asked him to tell me that story again and again, hoping to glean some other tidbit or scrap out of him all to no avail.

At the end of elementary school, I met some people who invited me to play in their D&D game and I lept at the chance. I'd love to talk at length about what happened in that game...but I honestly don't really remember anything. I remember that we were using a battered copy of the old AD&D 1st Edition book, with the iconic image on the cover. I remember rolling 4d6-drop-lowest and having a spread between 10 and 17, I remember being told that Charisma was basically worthless--and I don't remember any reaction rolls or morale checks, so that at least was an accurate summary for that game--and I remember making a dark elf illusionist. I don't remember why I was allowed to make a dark elf because I clearly didn't know what was going on. The DM ran me through an intro scenario in a town where I went into a bar (of course) and ate with my character's hood up and an elf came and sit across from me. When I lowered my hood, he of course immediately attacked, and after a verbal warning, I cast Hypnotic Pattern...which did nothing, because elves have sleep and charm resistance, which I didn't know about. Having to go home and eat dinner fortunately prevented my character from being murdered right after being created, though maybe that wouldn't have happened.

Of the actual game that followed, I literally remember nothing other than that I made a joke about a key we found after killing a whole room full of skeletons being a "skeleton key."

And come to think of that, that was my only experience of playing D&D. While the game had run I had picked up the AD&D 2nd edition Player's Handbook (after Drow of the Underdark, the first roleplaying book I ever bought), which did lead to some confusion trying to reconcile between first and second edition (though admittedly the differences are small). But after that I picked up the Dungeon Master's Guide and the Monster Manual and proceeded to run a game for my sister. That went about as well as you'd expect from a 12-year-old's game, though I did tend toward the "Grand sweeping story" end of the pool. Of that game, one of the things I remember is that I had this conception that D&D adventures had to take place in an adventuring party, so I made a bunch of NPCs to accompany her, most of which just kind of followed her around without ever interacting with the game world. That's probably just as well, because it's bad enough when the GM has to NPCs talking to each other in front of the PCs, much less 6 or 7, though admittedly me being 12 might have had something to do with that too. The other thing I remember is that she killed a balor by turning it into a rabbit with a wand of polymorph, managing to get through both its magic resistance and its saving throw.

I also ran a Dark Sun game for some of the same people I played that AD&D 1st Edition game for, but that game fizzled because of my fascination with technomancy as a concept. Long story short, giving the PCs weapons of mass destruction in a campaign based on wandering around getting into fights in a world focused on hardscrabble survival doesn't end well.

After that, I mostly moved on to Vampire: the Masquerade (about which more in two years or so on its 25th anniversary) and considered D&D beneath me with all the pretension that a teenager can muster, but I eventually realized that the way one pretends to be an elf is not in fact a measure of one's personal taste or maturity or inner character. And while I still am not that fond of class/level systems as a whole, playing some kind of skill-based D&D derivative isn't anathema at all. So here's to 40 more years, now that the OGL means D&D is free to be used by just about anyone who wants to!

Now, if only I could decide what kind of game I wanted to run... (^_^;)
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