Saturday, January 25, 2014

D&D's 40th Anniversary

So tomorrow is the day any people are celebrating as the 40th anniversary of D&D. It seems likely that the last Sunday in January 1974 is when Gary Gygax first had his open-invitation D&D game going, according to Jon Peterson's research.

I figured I'd reflect a bit on the game I played, but I won't have much time for that tomorrow - I'm testing some GURPS stuff with some of my fellow authors.

I started back in 1981 with the Moldvay Basic Set, or at least that's the first copy of the game I owned. My uncle had a copy of the Holmes Basic Set and the Players Handbook, and it's possible he ran me through a game before I got my copy . . . but I don't think so. I think my first game was after I'd read the book and my mom got a friend's sons to teach me.

I showed up with my elf, Goldleaf, which they promptly converted to a F/M-U/T in AD&D rules and then ran me through B2 The Keep on the Borderlands.

From then on, after learning how to read a map key from them, and armed with a photocopy of the A&D NPC Record Sheet, I proceeded to start running the game for my cousins and friends. I used Moldvay but with lots of messed up rules knowledge gained from a soon-purchased Dungeon Masters Guide and memories of how I was taught to play. I also played in my uncle's weekend game, at least on the weekends I was around. He was running B1 In Search of the Unknown, with Moldvay D&D (I think - I have his GM folder to this day and it's in there), mixed with AD&D and the critical hit charts from Arms Law/Claw Law from ICE.

What a mess.

But it got me playing, and I never stopped playing RPGs. I ran big games, small games, even solo games for my cousin or ones where he had 2 PCs and I had one of my own (an MU named after Neves who got to 11th or possible 12th level honestly, and then bumped to 17th level so we could play out some extremely high-powered games without spending way too long leveling up).

I played a lot in school, too, playing after lunch and often again after school. I wrote about that here.

I occasionally made my own stuff, but like I've said before, the gold standard were the modules, and that's what we used. Homebrew stuff was frowned upon, and not the least because elementary school kids don't exactly come up with gems of balance and appropriateness that really add to the game. The one monster I can recall statting up and using was the karkadann, based on a picture in a book on mythological creatures. That monster made its way into GURPS, too, just like all of my AD&D memories have in some way.

But although I didn't stop playing RPGs, by the time high school rolled around I'd tried other systems and finally decided I was done with AD&D. 2nd edition came , but I'd already moved on to Rolemaster. I never did come back except in very occasional games that always ended up as one-shots because we never played again after that one session. Not until Tenkar's S&W game did I play multiple sessions with the same GM and same character with a D&D-based game.

It's still how I got started - not 40 years ago like the game itself, but 33 years ago this coming December. Fun stuff. I just wish I got to smite more actual dragons in all of those dungeons I rooted around in, or ran.


  1. Thank you for sharing these beautiful memories.

  2. Yes indeed. It does bring back memories. My best "early" games were the early 80's, in the Army. About 6 of us would gather 3 or 4 times a week in someone's room. Ha! Even our Sergeant gamed with us!

  3. I wish I had a better recollection of my first gaming. It's only fragmentary, with memories of the Basic Set box (and from reading the history of the versions, it may have been a true first printing, 1977, as it came with no dice - only a sheet of chits) and being allowed to play at school. I was in 3rd grade, this would have been late '78 or early '79, and we played during any free time we were allowed, as well as over lunch/recess.


    An epic day by all accounts.


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