Blog the First: My Early Days of D&D

G’day Internet. My name is Craig and I’d like to welcome you to my first ever blog post. It’s taken me a while to get here but hopefully I’ll be able to keep it going now that I’ve started. Given that craighargraves.com is my “work” website and my work involves hobby gaming, you can expect the vast majority of my blogs to be on gaming. So to start off today, I’m going to wander back into Nostalgia Land . . .

The 26th of January, 2014 was nominated as the 40th anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons—the game which has probably had more impact on my life than any other. And for me personally, this years marks the 30th anniversary of having discovered this wonderful game. So today I’m going to go back and remember my start in gaming and what made it special enough that I would still be gaming all these years later.

I was introduced to D&D at the tender age of nine by my school-friend Evan. I more or less started with the 1st edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. While we had the Basic Set (the original red box set) around, being nine years old there was no way we were going to play the “basic” version when we could play the “advanced” version. I believe the first adventure I ever had was a one-on-one adventure where I fought my way through the dungeon at the back of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Unlike many people,I have absolutely no recollection of that first character’s name. I couldn’t even confidently tell you what class he was—I’m guessing he was a fighter. All I can really remember is that I was rescuing a princess, and I enjoyed it enough to come back for more.

In a way it’s kind of surprising that my first adventure came out of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. You see, my friend Evan was introduced to D&D by his older brother Brett, and it was Brett who actually owned the DMG. The DMG was this kind of mystical tome that nine-year-old younger brothers and their friends weren’t to touch—we were only players after all. To enforce this gaming-class distinction, Brett used to utilize various hiding spots in his bedroom to keep our hands off it. But every now and then we’d find his latest hiding spot. The DMG would then be secreted away to school (Brett was in high school at the time while we were in primary school) and lunch hours would be spent feverishly hand-copying out tables and other details we needed to play. (As I recall, the various magic item tables were a particularly high priority for our nine-year-old selves.) While I know it wasn’t the intention at the time, I think that mysterious, special quality to the books made the game all the more tantalizing.

Because we didn’t have ready access to all of the books we needed in those early days, much of our gaming was very free form. We’d walk around the school yard and play D&D without books, dice, or character sheets. It was pure imagination. Of course after school and on the weekends the paper, pencils, and dice would come out. I remember we used to carefully write up our character sheets in school exercise books. (The care we took with those character sheets probably contributed a lot to my neater-than-average hand writing today.) And of course, these formative gaming years birthed a life-long fondness for graph paper.

Sadly, prior to writing this post up I went and looked for my old gaming artifacts from that time and came up empty. While I feel like I’ve seen them recently, they weren’t to be found. This leaves me with just my memories:

I believe the first D&D product I ever bought was the module A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade. I remember one time when my younger brother really wanted to hurt me he took to it with a pair of scissors . . . He knew what he was doing all right.

The first hardcover I ever got was Legends & Lore. It was a birthday present from my mum. I remember being really disappointed when she told me she had been deciding between it and Fiend Folio. I still don’t have a copy of the original Fiend Folio . . . and I’m still kind of disappointed.

The first hardcover I remember buying for myself with my pocket money was the 1st edition Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide. It’s still one of my favorites.

The only character I really remember from those days is a half-elf bard named Kirranus Falstead. He wore a red silk shirt and I’m pretty sure he was the first character I ever had a miniature for.

I remember one character getting chopped in half by a large trap which swung a blade out of the wall at waist height. (Our thief knew about the trap but chose not to tell anyone.)

One time when I was DMing, I let the characters use the goblin lair they had just cleaned out as their new base. This was a mistake alleviated only by the habitual shortness of our campaigns.

I remember feeling so proud when Tom “the Super DM” (Tom, older-brother Brett’s high-school friend, was a super energetic DM—he was awesome) raved about how my cleric had cast both silence and then darkness to bypass some particularly tricky guards. (I think that was in Castle Amber . . .)

And I remember reading a lot and having a lot of fun.

Yes, D&D holds a special place in my heart (as it does for many others). While it hasn’t always been my game of choice, it was my first gaming love. I’ve only just started to dig into the fifth edition (I’m in new campaign preparation mode at the moment), but from what I’ve read so far I think that old love is about to burn as bright as ever. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Happy gaming,

Craig

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