Sunday, May 20, 2012

My Origin Story

I'm TDY in Rhode Island, and I was driving down New London Turnpike, and it occurred ro me that I was driving past the side street where I played my first RPG.  But let's start at the beginning...

It was 1977 or 1978, I'm not sure which.  I was a student at Coventry Junior High East, and my friends were John "Jay" Hennessy and Don Goulart. Jay and I would regularly get together after school to play board games such as Risk and Backgammon.

Don, on the other hand, had a friend named Jim. During Christmas break Jim's parents bought him a game: Dungeons & Dragons.  For those who track such things, it was the "Holmes Edition" of the original D&D game--the predecessor to the Basic Set.

I learned about the game after Christmas break when Don and Jim came up to me and said something like "You're good with words, can you come up with a name for our group?" I asked a bit about the group, which meant they had to explain the game to me.  I was intrigued. Don asked if I wanted a copy of the game, and, of course, I said yes.

Back then "a copy" meant a pirated copy.  The process was drawn out, though, and went something like this:
  • Day 1 (night): Jim would go home and re-type a page or two of text from the rule book. Remember that this was back in the 70's, before everyone owned a computer, so Jim was using a manual typewriter!  
  • Day 2 (day): The next day, he would give the type-written pages to Don.
  • Day 2 (night): Don would give them to his father.
  • Day 3 (day): Don's father would take the pages to work and photocopy them...
  • Day 3 (night): ...and then give the copies to Don.
  • Day 4: Don would bring the copied pages to school for us.
On the first page or two that Jim typed up was the description for Charisma.  "Charisma is a combination of personality, appearance, and sex appeal..."  Remember, I'm 12 or 13 at this point, and the idea "sex appeal" in a game seemed downright scandalous.  I was hooked.

Eventually, in a flash of common sense, Don's dad just said "why doesn't he just give me the book?"  So it came to pass that my first ever role-playing game was a Xerox-pirated copy of D&D. (As young tweens/teens we didn't really understand copyright, and back then there wasn't as much cultural awareness as there is today, either. In any case, within a year or two, I owned my own copy of that book and several other TSR products as well, so they got their money in the end).

I read the book, but I didn't exactly understand.  I remember asking Don what the board looked like, because in my mind all games were board games.  He explained it to me, but I didn't really understand it until my first session.

My first session was at Don's house.  His brother Steve was there, and Jim was running the game.  "He can play the cleric" someone said, so they handed me a lead miniature and a character sheet for "Bjorg the Cleric." I don't remember anything else, but I left finally understanding the game.  I got out my bootleg book and started to make a character of my own.

I wanted to play a magic-user, but my stats forced me to be a "fighting man."  That meant he was Human, because non-Humans were their own class. He had stats, and equipment, but no name. So I dubbed him "Snowgen," a word of my own creation.

Eventually one game led to others, and other gamers became friends, and life went on until today, almost 35 years later, when I still use the name "Snowgen," and I still play games.

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