I have always loved gaming, of pretty much any type, but when I was a kid Dungeons & Dragons was just becoming a thing. If you live in a cave and have no idea what D&D is let me briefly explain. It is fantasy tabletop role-playing game (RPG) originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. It was first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR). Which, by the way, I did not know what TSR stood for until 30 seconds ago when I googled it. The advanced version came out between ’77 and ’79, and I still have my original copy of the Dungeon Master’s Guide and the Player’s guide (1st edition.) A role playing game is basically structured make believe. You create a character and the Game Master, or in this case the Dungeon Master, is the storyteller that guides the players along a preset plot. It varies greatly by who the DM is and can be very open ended or very limited, depending on their skill level, available time, and the amount of effort they are willing to put into it.
I’ve had good ones and not so good ones. TSR actually made different level dungeons that required very little prep for the DM, but the really good ones were made by the DM. When I was in college back in the early 80s, a friend of mine from California told our group about the DM he grew up playing with and the guy was prolific. My friend actually had a 105th level Magic User. They played A LOT. I can’t really even relate to that. But just know that they are out there.
I can’t remember exactly when I started playing. I think it was maybe at the end of junior high, which would have been right around 1978. My group of friends weren’t really into it all that much, but I did teach a few of my track teammates how to play, and if you have been involved with track you will understand the enormous amount of downtime you have at a track meet. We played in the stands while we waited to run our event.
I did find a group before I graduated that showed me what it could be, my first really good GM, who was a great storyteller and extremely imaginative. He was incredible. I also played an RPG called Traveller, which is science fiction based. I loved playing that game more than D&D, and ended up buying a lot of the supplements for that game in the decades to come, but I never found a group to play with after I left home in 1982. Sad face.
Freshman year at the Air Force Academy we were not allowed a lot of freedom to get off campus, so a bunch of us that had played in high school got together and started playing D&D. We took turns making dungeons for each other, and it was my first time Dungeon Mastering. Really my first foray into writing, when I look back.
After freshman year, I found other things to take up my time and I haven’t played a table top version of it since 1983. I have played video versions of it. I played a lot of the Gold Box games that came out in the late 80s and early 90s. I played both variations of Neverwinter Nights.
TSR started doing GENCON in 1968. Gary Gygax, the creator of D&D started it in Geneva, Wisconsin, to be a table top gaming get together. It moved to Milwaukee when it got too big for Geneva and then moved to Indianapolis in 2003. You can find lots of people playing D&D and about any other board game you can think of. I have my 4 day pass in hand.
Wizards of the Coast bought TSR in 1997, and have been making AD&D since then. It is currently on 5th edition rules. It has made a big comeback in recent years and I just heard a piece on NPR Marketplace on my way to work yesterday morning and went down the rabbit hole. People are getting paid to Dungeon Master. Upwards of $500. My two eldest children are in a group that play via Discord. It has a dice rolling app included.
“Nerd culture, Stranger Things, and the gig economy have created a world where Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts host games for $500.”
A good Game Master is worth their weight in platinum, and people are willing to pay to have a good one. They do birthday parties and business conventions for team-building activities. Or simply host new players to show them how the game works. The good ones are booked months in advance and have a waiting list. Amazing.
It’s funny. I kept all my gaming accoutrements for more than thirty years, hoping that one day I would be able to pass them down to my kids. I did that, but they were much older when they finally discovered that they liked it. I ended up just passing my books over.
The great thing that has happened, though, is my youngest son decided he wanted to play Star Wars the Role Playing Game. We bought a few books and he learned the rules and developed his own storyline. We play most Saturday evenings now, with most of my kids and my wife and I. He is an incredibly intuitive GM. He could probably be one of those people that make money on the side if he decided to play D&D. But in the meantime, we have a blast playing SWRPG with the family, truly fun and hilarious times.
Do you have a game you enjoy? How did you get started?