My daughter and her friend somehow decided they wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons a few weeks ago, which got me thinking about where my old books might be.
In 1982, my family moved from blue-collar New Jersey to a town in white-collar Connecticut, and I started at a new school. I went from middle school back down to an elementary, and I was bused in from a remote cul-de-sac on the far side of town. I was pretty isolated until school started (the only other kid on our street was two years younger, and all he ever wanted to do was sit inside and play Pac-Man) but after a rocky couple of weeks I met up with a guy who lived less than a mile from my house through the woods. He introduced me to a bunch of his friends, who lived nearby, and one of the things we bonded over was Dungeons and Dragons. They had an agreement with one of the teachers who let them play in an empty classroom during recess once a week, and they invited me to sit in.
I didn’t understand how the game worked at first. There were dice, and rules, and they gave me a character to play, but I enjoyed using our imagination to solve problems. We played as much as we could that fall, between building forts in the woods around our houses, riding bikes, and playing Pitfall! I enjoyed one of the best Halloweens of my life that year when my friend’s father showed us how to melt the plastic tip of a can of shaving cream to shoot the foam 10′ or more; we roamed in and out of epic battles with older neighborhood boys, using our knowledge of the woods to escape and regroup.
My parents bought me the D&D and Gamma World boxed starter sets that Christmas, and I played on and off until I left for college. The box is long gone but I still have the original Player’s Manual, the first dungeon module, a set of dice, and a well-loved first edition of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. It only took about five minutes to dig through a storage bin to find them for the girls. I showed them how to roll to create new characters, and at some point in the next couple of weeks I offered to walk them through their first dungeon to see if they like it. Which means I’ve got to read the DM Guide this week to remember how…