Sunday, September 1, 2013

Thirty Days of D&D, Day 1: How I Got Started

Saw several blogs in my feed participating in this nice blogging prompt initiated by Polar Bear Dreams and Strange Things: 30 Day D&D Challenge

Thought I would pick out a few of these topics and blog about them. Since (school) classes start this upcoming week and already I have assignments due by the end of the month, I know completion of all topics on appropriate days will be highly unlikely, but this will get a few posts out of me, perhaps. So onto the topic.

How did I get started?

The first person to proselytize D&D to me was my friend Andrew during lunch hour in junior high. This was during the mid-'90s at the height of Magic: The Gathering. I sat with the Magic playing kids. He talked mostly about the settings of D&D, Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Ravenloft, Dark Sun, Planescape. I didn't play D&D at this point, but the concept stayed with me as did the evocative setting discussions. Andrew went to a different school in high school and years later I heard he delved into Warhammer.

During high school, I continued to hang out with several of the guys from the Magic table (and gathered at the new Magic lunch table in HS) and eventually enjoyed weekly gaming day on Fridays after school. We would always gather at Wil's house for alternating games of Risk or Monopoly or just an afternoon of movies or video games (rented from Blockbusters when they were still a relevant company).

Sometime in the very late '90s, probably 1998 or 1999, I suggested we supplement our board-gaming with D&D. Our small reluctant group agreed and we scoured the still nascent internet for anything we could find. Yahoo (or perhaps Infoseek) brought us to the era appropriate Wizards of the Coast site where we downloading the FREE AD&D 2nd Edition Fast Play booklet by Jeff Grubb downloadable in PDF format. The PDF is still available after all these years:

Now grognards or edition elitists could and would groan about starting with such a weak introduction using a vastly simplified rules system (to a watered down version of AD&D to begin with) that vaguely resembles D&D. Also, having reread the adventure recently, even I found it somewhat uninspiring by the standards of time/era/edition and arguably for the purposes of a gratis fast play game. No offense to the most excellent master Grubb and let me explain why.

I simply didn't care at the time about the relative quality of the free material. Blissful ignorance of the quality of other materials would do that. The fact that it was freely distributed on the internet (and remains so 15 years later), readily accessible via a printout from a now-antiquated clunky inkjet printer, and playable with the d6s we commandeered from our Risk game was good enough to get us started.

We were enticed enough to search through eBay to look for second-hand core books (after balking at the price for full-priced new books on Amazon, all fairly new sites at the time) and managed get our hands on someone's modest 2E collection, the black spine 2E core rules, plus some of the derided Player Options book and a couple of the Complete Class Handbooks. Most likely they were liquidating their stuff in anticipation for the next edition. We were such noobs, but I think I'd rather have started with 2nd Edition than not. Had we known more then, we would have stalked eBay to snag a meatier 2E collection, or even some of the mixed edition lots. Would have been nice to grab hold of some vintage gaming swag before they became recognized as such. Net auctions were still a bit like the wild west back then and price varied quite a bit.

D&D 3rd edition would release around 2000 and the OGL would change gaming as we knew it. I stuck with 2E for a bit, especially on PBeMs, before making the switch to 3E then followed through with 3.5E then onto Pathfinder from my Dragon subscription remainder. Looking back, I actually realized 2E remained a fairly consistent part of my gaming even during the 3E/OGL era, so much so in fact my current games are 2E. I wouldn't even say it's a full circle, just a steady ever-expanding continuum.

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