I remember wandering the halls of my high school carrying more nerd gear than school books. I almost always had my Player’s Handbook with me, at least one novel (most likely Dragon Lance or Forgotten Realms), and assorted characters I had made in any downtime I had. Not to mention I usually had dice, extra pencils, and blank character sheets in case inspiration struck while in the middle of discussing “Watership Down” or some such. Who cares about talking rabbits when you can make a pirate wizard? Not me, that’s for sure. As you can imagine, I was not the most popular kid in school, but I still had a great group of core friends and I did okay with girls even though I talked more of d20s and orcs than keggers on the weekend. No matter how rough my day or week of school went, I always knew I had a fellow nerd just a phone call or short car ride away that would enjoy a brief respite from the average social pressures with me. I never drank in school or smoked marijuana like so many in my class. My drug was fantasy. I could get high on drawing out maps and creating a world for others to explore. I got a buzz from throwing a handful of dice hoping for the best result.
My parents, initially, were not too hip to the idea of me playing Dnd especially considering the aforementioned controversy. Eventually though, they accepted it knowing that it didn’t have any psychological affect on me and I wasn’t trying to cast “spells” on anyone. They knew I was a good kid and the guys I played with were all good kids too, if slightly nerdy and irritating. I think a big part of their acceptance stemmed from a change in my activities at home. Before I discovered Dnd and roleplaying I was either on our Nintendo or watching some garbage on television. After, I almost always had my head stuck in a book, reading fantastical tales of dragons and adventure. I think they understood that there was a fundamental change going on other than the standard adolescence and they let me form myself into the person I am today. They were there to advise and guide not to demand and forbid. My whole family was very accepting of my impending super-nerdom, and that was always appreciated.
As the turn of the century crept up, Dnd started to take more of a backseat to other things that were going on. I had choir, Boyscouts, church activities, and I had also started to work. There just wasn’t much time left in the week to imagine with my friends. In the summer of 2000, Dungeons and Dragons released a brand new system: 3rd edition. Immediately I went out and purchased the new books with my minimum wage earnings. The new system was great, but it was a colossal change from the 2nd edition that I knew and loved and I was never quite able to come to terms with it. I played it a handful of times, but my books were used more by my brother and his friends than myself and mine.
In the summer of 2008 Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition was released. I had been itching to get back into playing. Things were different now. I had been married since August of 2006, we had a son in November of 2007, and I had more responsibilities than I had ever had in the past. Well, after researching the new system and finding it mostly to my liking, I budgeted for and then purchased the new Player’s Handbook. What a change! They completely gutted the whole system and built it back up from scratch; and I absolutely loved it. It is great for experienced players and has a wealth of adaptability and detail. It’s also a really great system for getting new people involved without burying them in the rules. They also brought in a more visual element using gridded maps and miniatures to represent characters on the battlefield. Overall, I truly believe that this is the best incarnation of Dungeons and Dragons that there has been, and I honestly cannot see how they can change it to make it better.
What’s truly amazing is that throughout my nerd pilgrimage others have tagged along and become irreplaceable at my side. First and foremost is my brother, who would play roleplaying games with me before we knew what they were. He was always begging to play with my friends and me and sometimes we’d let him; as long as he played the healer. He always took it in stride and learned and adapted and has become a hell of a player and a great Dungeon Master in his own right. I can’t imagine playing a game without him. Secondly, my wife, who has put up with all of this nonsense since we met and has still loved me regardless. As a matter of fact, since 4th came out, she’s become a regular fixture around out gaming table. Thanks to them and to Michael and Curtis for creating in me a desire for the fantastic and to everyone else I’ve played with over the years for keeping my mind occupied and keeping my imagination alive.