Sunday, July 10, 2011

D&D Confessions

This one was a little too long for twitter, so it turned into a blog post instead.
When I first started laying Dungeons & Dragons, I was doing it wrong. This lasted for a really, really long time. Well into my high school years, and I started playing between grades three and four. See, my buddy Landon had this awesome box of stuff he’d discovered at a cousin’s place, and he brought it over one day, and it was basically the best thing I’d ever seen. It was the Red Box of D&D, and it literally changed my life. From that moment on, I was playing D&D.
Except that I wasn’t playing D&D. The version of the Red Box that we’d gotten our hands on had a rolodex of cards that taught you the rules (which is, by the by, completely ingenious, and why people aren’t using it as a method to teach games today is completely beyond me). So one of the cards would have stuff like “Climbing a Wall:” writ huge on the header, and then it would go into the rules for climbing and falling and ability checks and the like. And we were missing some cards. Also, we were eight years old, so we ended up reading all sorts of ridiculous bullshit into the rules. Eight year olds are not masters of literal reading.
So what we ended up playing was some insane amalgamation of the make-believe games all kids play (“Okay, so this GI Joe is going to be the big bad villain, and this group of lego guys is a bunch of dwarves. And they’ve kidnapped this princess that we… stole from your sister? Yeah. Okay. And then we’re gonna come in and kick their butts!”) with some of the rules of D&D haphazardly tossed over them. I think the one thing that we really took from D&D was the idea of dice as a way to mediate dispute. Whenever one of us would try to do a thing that we weren’t sure we could do, we’d toss some dice and see how it went.
I played this version of Dungeons & Dragons until Landon moved to Calgary in the mid-nineties. Then I tried to teach other people the only version of D&D I knew how to play, because it was a game that I wasn’t about to give up on.
It actually took a group of Palladium Fantasy players to straighten me out, and show me how other people played role-playing games. It was an eye-opening experience for me; it showed me exactly what I’d been trying to do, refined to a story-telling art. It was, again, life-changing.
Anyway. Out of all of my D&D Confessions, the fact that I played it all wrong for some seven years is probably the most personal and embarrassing. ^_^


Anonymous said...

Well, if you had fun playing, I wouldn't say you did it wrong! I saw people play DnD *without* having fun (but sticking to the rules) - THEY did it wrong ;)

Christopher said...

I'd agree with Anonymous here. It sounds like, if you weren't strictly playing D&D, you were at least roleplaying, if not just using a house-ruled version of D&D. And you were having fun, so much fun that you wanted to share it. That's the sign of "doing it right" when it comes to RPGs if there is one.

Also, from what I've read, lots of players, even published game authors, who were introduced to D&D by written rules instead of someone showing them had experiences similar to yours. You're hardly alone in this.