Tales from the days of swords and dice



Before I go any further, I have a confession to make — growing up I loved the game Dungeons & Dragons.

With my inner nerd now released, let me take you back to the time when I did battle with fearsome monsters, firebreathing dragons and rescued many a fair maiden (actually, I don’t remember there being too many of those, but it sounds good) armed with nothing but a set of polyhedral dice, worn and tattered rule books (often covered with pizza grease or stained with spilled soda) and an overactive imagination.

The mother of all fantasy roleplaying games, D&D, turns 40 this year and as it marks its fourth decade I can’t help but recall the times I played the game — and a slew of homemade games friends and I generated as we went through our teenage years and into adulthood.

For those of you unfamiliar with Dungeons & Dragons and similar games, they were created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in 1974. Appealing mainly to young boys, the game allowed players to spend hours fighting dragons, seeking treasure and doing battle with all sorts of mythical monsters. Of course, this was all done from the confines of the player’s homes and was done on paper and maps, sometimes accompanied by painted lead figures to represent the “characters” created by the players.

When I started playing the game, sometime in the early 1980s, Dungeons & Dragons had already gotten a bad reputation by misguided people who believed it to be Satanic and evil. But once my friends and I started playing it, we found there to be nothing evil about the game. For us it was hours of fun, sitting around a table rolling dice to determine the outcome of sword fights and magic attacks against the likes of evil wizards, trolls, orcs and other monsters. We would literally spend an entire weekend playing out these long scenarios, eating pizza and drinking way more Faygo soda than was possibly good for one teenage boy to consume.

At times we would be intently fighting our make-believe enemies, rolling dice to see if we were to win or lose. At other times the gaming session would deteriorate into boyish horseplay, sometimes resulting in injuries — but it was all in good fun.

Over the years my high school friends and I have continued to dabble in D&D and similar games, getting together once or twice a year to play — then maybe not picking it up for several years again until we needed to recharge those creative batteries. Last year I managed to find copies of the old rulebooks I used 30 years ago when I played and I picked them up dirt cheap at a used book sale. On a whim I introduced the game to my son, Sam, who has been raised in the era of videogames.

I wasn’t sure how he’d like playing a game like Dungeons & Dragons, but I soon found he was excited to play and brought he own incredible energy and imagination to the table.

It’s good to see the mantle passed along and a new generation of kids who are eager to discover amazing new worlds — before charging in to slay the nearest goblin or ogre.

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