Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Box

The year was 1986 and it was the summer between sixth and seventh grade. I’d been home bored for about a week since my best friend, Pat, had been away on a vacation with his family. But today, he was coming back, and I knew summer would get interesting again.

Soon enough I got the call. They were home, they were all unpacked, and he told me he had something “awesome to show me” (don’t blame Pat, it was the 80s in Southern California, and we all said “awesome”). I had no idea what it would be, because with Pat, you never knew. Thankfully, he lived just down the street from me so I high-tailed it over to his place to see whatever it was he was so excited about.

When I got there, he pulled out a rather large box with the name “Kenny” written in thick black marker on the side. Kenny was a friend of the family Pat spoke about often…an “older kid” we both looked up to and aspired to emulate. He dropped the box on his bedroom floor, and with a broad grin, simply pointed and said “check this out.”

I dropped to my knees and opened the box. What could it be? Old toys? Clothes? We were sort of in that transition phase for kids where we were fast losing interest in our G.I Joe’s but weren’t quite old enough yet to be interested in things that could hold a high school kid’s attention.

As I opened the flaps, I saw…books. Not quite what I was expecting. I looked up a bit puzzled and Pat said “It’s D&D, dude. Dungeons and Dragons!” I looked back down, and sure enough, it was an entire box filled with Dungeons & Dragons materials. D&D was something Pat and I had heard lots about, both positive and negative, but one thing was certain: we wanted to play it.

We sat down together and looked through the box of loot. Over the years, Kenny had collected a ton of materials but had recently stopped playing. Pat mentioned that we wanted to try it so he went up to his room, boxed up his stuff, and gave it all to Pat. The box contained what I now know to be the Holmes and Moldvay/Cook basic and expert sets, as well as numerous hardback AD&D books, and modules spanning from basic to AD&D. We sorted out the materials and Pat gave me copies of all the “doubles.” I came away with a Player’s Handbook, a Dungeon Master’s guide, an extremely ragged copy of Deities & Demigods (Pat foolishly gave me the one in worse condition, neither of us realizing at the time that the copy he kept [which had a pristine cover] lacked several of the pantheons my beat-up copy contained), and a slew of modules (some bought from the store, some xerox copied from other players, and some made by Kenny himself). That night we started reading through the stuff Pat kept. It seemed to us that that the soft cover books were easier to understand so we figured we’d start with the basic version of the game and work our way up to AD&D.

Since Pat didn’t have any “doubles” of the basic set(s) I went to a comic shop down the street the very next day and bought my first boxed set: the “red box” featuring the art of Larry Elmore (wrongly assuming it contained the Holmes or Moldvay rules with just a different box/cover). I was hooked. Thus began my quarter of a century obsession with role playing games in general and with D&D in particular (all of this comes back to the “Old School Renaissance,” I promise!).

In this post, I just wanted to introduce others to how/when I began playing the game. Later, I’ll talk more about the things that immediately influenced the way we played and the direction it ultimately led us.

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