Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Room of A Hundred Dwarves and Other Highlights of Third Grade

Unlike a lot of other rpgs D&D has for a variety of reasons always been linked to boardgames in my head. This likely has to do with my early experience of the game. You see I started playing D&D even before I owned the game. This must have been around the spring of 1981 or so when I would have been in 3rd Grade. I had seen some kids at school playing, and so I endeavored to make my own D&D game. This consisted of me drawing a dungeon on a piece of construction paper from school and looting a green six sided die from an old game set at our house. I drew numbers on the rooms and that’s all I figured we needed. Having noticed the squares on the dungeon maps I’d seen, I imagined that you rolled a die to move through the dungeon—just like in Clue or a million other boardgames.

Then my friend Eric (who we decided should be the DM because he’d actually played “real” D&D with his neighbor) would make up whatever he thought should be in the room. I think we just rolled a certain number on the six-sided to hit. Goblins might have needed a 3 to hit while a Dragon (the nastiest thing we could imagine) would have probably been a 6. I’m not even sure we were using hit points, but we might have been. There were also no classes: we were all playing warriors of some type. I didn’t even bother to name my character. There was one room where we had to fight like a hundred Dwarves. That was rough (although they died really easy and never made any kind of a group attack). It just took a looong time to kill them all. We’d get to a room, kill everything in sight, and then we’d find whatever gold or magic was in the room (and there ALWAYS was gold or magic). It was fun.

One of the funniest things was that we’d mostly play during our English class! We were supposed to be doing some sort of project, but we’d sit and play our D&D game instead. Our teacher got upset at us several times, but at other times she ignored us. We weren’t being particularly disruptive and the group of us were generally “good” kids who had a little more leeway.

At home I decided I wanted to have a D&D game with miniatures. I had a couple of knights and a pack of plastic monsters and dinosaurs my parents had bought me at a local drug store. I then took some cardboard and drew a dungeon with permanent marker that was big enough to move the figures around on. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that one of the plastic monsters I had was the same plastic monster that Gary Gygax had utilized several years before as the now infamous Rust Monster. At the time, I, of course, had no idea what a Rust Monster was. These dungeon boardgames went through several iterations, but they were all fairly rudimentary in their construction, but that hardly mattered to me: I was in love with the idea of a "dungeon" game.

It occurs to me now that this endeavor of mine explains a lot about the person I’ve become. I started out making and hacking games and I’m still doing that today.

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