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Playing My Roles

I don't really remember a time when I wasn't aware of Dungeons and Dragons. Beside the fact that it was firmly entrenched in pop culture by the time I was old enough to be aware of pop culture, I grew up in one of the inner notches of the Bible belt. I was always hearing about how the game was "Satanic" and would lead players into the world of animal sacrifices and orgies with demons. Then on Saturday morning I would watch the cartoon with the team of heroic teenagers and the cute little unicorn. When I would go to the book store I would see the books there and look at all the awesome fantasy art. I really wanted to play that game. But my parents wouldn't buy it for me and I went to a Christian school and appeared to be the only heretic on campus.

Therefor it fell to me to take matters into my own hands. I made up my own version of D&D that I could play by myself. Of course there was a conflict of interest with me being my own dungeon master, but I didn't let that stop me. I had very little idea of the mechanics of the game, as when I looked through the books I spent most of the time staring at the amazing art and very little reading the actual rules and game play. So where the actual game might have you give a beginning character 1d8 hit points (1d8 is the roll of one 8 sided die, and hit points were the amount of damage you could take before you died) I gave my characters (yes I played multiple) 850. Remember, this was before Nintendo was widely available, so I had not even played any role playing video games. 

The monsters I would face were not so well endowed when it came to their hit points, so I normally coasted through adventures with very little problem. When I started going to public school and met the guy who became my best friend, I finally had someone to play with. I introduced him to my version of D&D and we would play on weekends. I was still DM and player, but now I had someone who could play some of the characters. We lost interest though, as I hadn't really picked up on the whole story telling aspect of the game, and my version was little more than a series of monster encounters where we rolled dice to see how badly we mutilated them in the process of committing monster genocide.

Around this same time is when I became obsessed with both wrestling and boxing. And after Rocky 3, which had a sequence with Rocky fighting Hulk Hogan, I thought the two could easily be combined. So I devised a game where I listed all my favorite boxers and wrestlers. And this list didn't just include the then current athletes. I would watch old boxing matches so I was familiar with Muhammed Ali and George Foreman and the like. I would list out their stats (in my childish estimation) and then devised a system to simulate combat between them. I came up with elimination charts and staged huge tournaments that would take me moths to play out. This game I never shared with anyone, it was my own private pastime even though it was probably better than my D&D knockoff.

Soon I met another guy at school who shared my nerdy interests, but whose mom wasn't as firmly in the religious zealot school as mine. She got him the D&D Beginner's Box and we set up a group and started playing. This is the group that played all weekend in an apartment listening to the new Iron Maiden album on a loop that I talked about here. At last I learned how to really play the game, and I loved it. When this group drifted apart after a period of time I put together another group, and this time I was the DM. A comic book store had opened up in our town by this time, and they sold used copies of the books, so I was finally able to get my hands on them. This group would also chip in and buy modules and expansions as a group. We played Ravenloft early on this way, and as I was a big horror movie fan I would incorporate things into the game. For instance, I had the Hellraiser puzzlebox show up and the team summoned the cenobites and had to fight them. I killed those guys off so often. I also used things from fantasy novels I read, even going so far as to create my own mechanics to have Herald-Mages like in the Mercedes Lackey Valdemar books.

My friends and I tried out a few other role playing games, of course trying out the Star Wars and Star Trek branded games, and a mech themed game. We also played things like Axis and Allies, and even made our own clone of the game for a history project in junior high. But eventually we all drifted apart (except for the afore mentioned best friend who married my sister and is in my life to this day) and the games came to an end. When my kids started playing D&D with their friends they invited me to play, but I didn't want to be the weird 40 year old guy hanging out with teenagers. And since adulting prevents me from being able to to much of anything that isn't working for a paycheck or keeping up the maintenance on my house, I think it's safe to say that my rpg days are effectively over.


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