Early Tabletop Gaming: First Timers


I think it was early-autumn 1983 when I first played Dungeons & Dragons.  We were in Grade 8 and were bored of just running around the field during our lunch hour.  Our friend Jeff mentioned that he had just received the D&D rulebooks and asked if we’d rather go over to his house to play.  So, we broke the rules (Don’t leave school property during lunch) and headed over to his nearby house.

At that point, I had only known Dungeons & Dragons from the cartoon show, which had just started.  I may have been aware of the game through some comic-book ads, but I’m not really sure.  There were 4 of us (Jeff, myself, JK and Jay) and we ate our sandwiches as Jeff attempted to explain character creation.  I think he was more confused than we were, and he was the one holding the book.  After about 20 minutes, we each had a basic 1-st level character.  This was from the Moldvay Basic D&D Red Book, I believe.  Jeff started to run us through an adventure, but was confused about what a monster’s Hit Dice were used for, thinking it was the number of sides on the die to use when monsters tried to hit you.

JK, who was pretty much the natural leader of the bunch, passed Jeff his fighter and quickly took over as Dungeon Master.  It’s been more than 28 years, but I still remember that first half-hour game, as we entered the mysterious cave and came upon the mystical, shimmering curtain of light.  Probing it with our hands and a staff, we were suddenly attacked by monsters unseen on the other side.  Jumping through the energy curtain, we engaged the dog-like monsters.  Kobolds!  We were terrified.

That was all we needed to get hooked.  JK became our Dungeon Master, although we all took turns at running various games.  By way of some unspoken agreement, we seemed to divide up games and topics and each had our domain.  JK quickly upgraded us to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and also handled other favourites like Gamma World, and other tabletop combat games like Car Wars and BattleTech.  Jeff had a weapon-fetish and drifted to games from Palladium like Robotech, Rifts, TMNT and also bought the Middle-Earth Roleplaying stuff (MERP).  Jay was the creative comic book genius, and ran Villains & Vigilantes, Champions and other superhero games.  He was also DM when we tried out the Dragonlance adventures.  I kept up with the Basic Dungeons & Dragons game, picking up the Expert and further sets.  I also bought spy games, like Top Secret and the James Bond 007 RPG.

When JK and Jay went to GenCon in 1984, they came back with a few more games.  Jay had picked up Golden Heroes, which would become our go-to Superhero game for what was certainly the longest-running campaign I’d ever been part of, lasting through highschool.  And they picked up Tunnels & Trolls for me, which was the perfect light and funny fantasy game for me.

Discussion: Any hobbies that started young and continue today?  Do you remember those early experiences?

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