Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's about to get Nerdy in Here!

This is the book Michael had.

         I remember riding in the back seat of my best friend’s mother’s car in the summer of 1995. It was an extraordinary large car. I can’t quite remember the make and model, but I’m pretty sure it was made in the mid 80s and required a commercial driver’s license. She was taking us to the mall to hang out and run around like a couple of hooligan kids; which actually meant going to Walden Books and the arcade to waste our allowance. I retain such clarity of this day that it astounds me. It was a warm day and the sun was shining brightly. I can still smell that old beige car and still feel its vinyl seats on my skin. My best friend, Michael, had recently convinced his mother to purchase him a book at the local hole in the wall comic book store. No, it wasn’t your standard super-heroic crime-fighter; it was TSR’s Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook. Michael handed me the book to flip through as his mom was driving us around and, from that point forward, I was hooked. I had never in my life seen such a book. Questions immediately started flowing from my brain as if the flood gates had been lifted. “A game with no board?” “How does it work?”

At this point in my life, I was 12 years old, rapidly approaching 13. I had two tried and true friends, Curtis and Michael. We were somewhat like the three musketeers with less musketeering and much more playing with G.I. Joes and watching cheesy action movies. My only experience with Dungeons and Dragons was the cartoon which aired between 1983 and 1986 but was also shown in syndication for several years later. My dad never was comfortable with me watching the show as a child (either that or he thought it was terrible) so I never saw much of it. I played pretend like all boys do growing up, but I never set up hard and fast rules for anything. 

If you’re not familiar with Dungeons and Dragons you may have heard some misrepresentations about the games. The media latched on to two big incidents and used the game as a scapegoat. These incidents involved James Dallas Egbert, III and Chris Pritchard. These tarnished the Dungeons and Dragons brand for years and I'm sure there are still some people out there who remember the negative press the game received then and still believe all of the hype. At 12 years old I had no idea who either of these men were. 

All I knew is that Robin Hood was cool and King Arthur and his Knights were brave and Merlin was wise. I think that most history minded kids know those things. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever believe that I could become one of them or someone like them even if it was only on paper and for a few hours a week. Dungeons and Dragons (which I will now refer to as it’s more common term: DnD) is a game of imagination and rules. There’s really not much else to it. I had a very active imagination as a child and my control freak and borderline OCD tendencies seemed to embrace all of the different rules; and, man, were they complicated back then. Basically, one person decides to be the Dungeon Master (I know, nerd alert) which is the person who creates the situations that the players have to react to. Everyone else makes a character based on what skills they want to have. Easy enough, right?

Since that summer day 15 years ago I have had a fascination and sometimes a borderline obsession with things medieval and fantasy related. Where most 12 and 13 year old boys are playing sports and thinking about cars I spent my time flipping the pages of my own recently purchased Player’s Handbook trying to commit every picture and every rule to memory so that I could get the most enjoyment possible out of my games. It’s about escapism for me. It’s escaping the social awkwardness that a pubescent boy exhibits. It’s escaping the confines of society and the “rules” of growing up in a traditional public school system. It’s about escaping the confines of whatever keeps you from being what you want to be. I went from being a goofy acne covered tween, to a sword wielding warrior with a roll of the dice. 

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