Sunday, February 2, 2014

Day 2: I didn't want Jason to play, but Shannon was okay.

One day, Jason, who was a year or two older than me, saw one of my brother's AD&D books laying out in my bedroom. My brother had stopped running his games, but had loaned me his gaming books (these turned into a permanent loan--thanks, Bro). I read through them constantly. I wanted to put a group together. At first I was excited that Jason seemed interested.

I told him about the game, even said that we should play sometime. But I had some major reservations.

See, at that point I was living in low-income housing, a little cluster of apartment buildings separated from the rest of small-town Iowa by a Walmart and a bypass. And that meant theft. 

Once, after some of my "friends" from the neighborhood hung out at my place, some of my money went missing. So I really didn't want risk anybody stealing my brother's AD&D hardcovers.

The first person I formally introduced to D&D was a kid from school named Shannon. He lived in town, but I had to go to his house to run games. His mom didn't want him to come out to where I lived,  give my neighborhood's bad reputation.*

So I really didn't care if I had to ride my bike to Shannon's house. I finally had a player. He rolled up a fighter (I think) and spent an afternoon adventuring in the world I'd created.

The very first adventure I wrote up featured a Yuan-ti/snakeman and his tasloi minions trying to attack a village with a siege tower. I was enamored with siege towers, and I liked "non-standard" D&D monsters. But even, if I recall, Shannon thought it didn't make sense that the Yuan-ti only had a handful tasloi to push the siege tower. ("But come'on, Shannon, you're character is only 1st level.")

Shannon became part of the ever-rotating roster of players I had throughout most of middle school. I was leery about who I let come to the table, but Shannon was okay--when he showed up. Distances were just too great.

In any case, I can't blame him for not wanting to play more. I suspect that I'd gotten reputation for becoming a huge nerd:

Yes, I would bring my D&D books to school and carry them around with me--just in case.

But when one of my former players (not Shannon) stole my DMG in 7th Grade, that stopped.

*For the record: most of the people who lived there were fine, just trying to get by. Sure, I got into fights with the other kids--but that was the limits of the violence. But there were drugs, abusive parents, and other stuff I know I've blotted out. Just now, as I write this, I remember the day the police showed up to one of the apartment buildings. The eight-year-old girl who lived there--I wish I could remember her name--came out crying and told us that the police had come to take her mom away for drugs. A little while later social services arrived, and that was the last we saw of the girl and her mom.

I credit two major influences in my live for keeping me out of the worst that place had to offer: a wonderful and patient mother, and Dungeons & Dragons. 


  1. Hey man, thanks for sharing this story. I can relate to anyone who had D&D to help them find escape from a tough childhood. I grew up pretty poor myself, though the neighborhood was not that bad. But my family was pretty dysfunctional and, actually, we were the ones that had the cop showing up on our block. Today, I consider myself the white sheep from a family of black sheep, and I too had help from D&D and a mom who believed in me.

  2. I bet RPGs and D&D in particular kept a lot of people out of trouble.

    Great post.

  3. Man, there's just something about siege towers, isn't there?


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