RPGaDay 2019 begins with “First”

It’s August. That means it’s time for #RPGaDay, the annual challenge to post something related to Role-Playing Games each day for a month. To help, each day has a theme, which in previous years has been a question, but this year is just a single seed word for each day

Today appropriately is “First”. How to interpret this?

Let me start with my first introduction to Role-Playing Games – Dungeons and Dragons. Well, to be honest, that’s the only RPG I’ve played, the only one I’m interested in playing. I like to get deeply into the setting and the story, and I have been developing my understanding of my D&D world since the 80s. I’ve still got so much to do and explore and develop in this world I don’t have time to go off and start working in a completely new setting with new rules…

So, let’s go deeper – my first introduction to Dungeons and Dragons. Absolutely classic: a friend had B2 Keep on the Borderlands and we spent a chilly weekend playing through it with him as DM and me as the only player. Madonna’s La Isla Bonita was on the radio constantly, so every time I hear it it takes me back. And he was a Queen fan, so when the radio wasn’t playing, it was Queen tapes.

BECMI Basic Players Manual
BECMI Basic Players Manual

That was the last time he DMed for me. I acquired the red box basic set, and I was hooked. I’ve still got the books and the first set of dice (which I had to colour in with a wax crayon), and over the next few years I acquired the whole collection of boxed sets – Expert, Companion, Master and Immortals. My friend and I continued to play, sometimes with other friends, but normally on our own with our own campaign where his magic user and elf and my cleric collected lots of treasure, defeated lots of monsters and somehow seemed to progress incredibly fast through the levels. The Companion set arrived about at the time we were ready for dominion building, and coincidentally there just happened to be a nice secluded valley with mountains all round providing a very secure base, and with a knowledge of how to optimise troops for the War Machine of the Companion set, we were able to rout the indigenous monsters… After that we discovered that castle building and ruling was a bit too much like accounting, so gave up and just went on fantastic adventures again. I even designed my own class, the Dunedain (fairly similar to the Ranger, it turns out, but rather more overpowered…)

BECMI books and gazetteers
BECMI books and gazetteers

I also started acquiring the gazetteers – The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, The Principalities of Glantri, The Emirates of Ylaruam and The Kingdom of Ierendi (I think that was the order I acquired them) and they fired my imagination, although I never really got to use them in a game then. I spent months drawing and assembling a massive map of The Known World from the maps in those gazetteers and the continent map in the Expert set – 12 sheets of isometric paper drawn out in a labour of love which replicates what Thorfinn has done rather more manually and less accurately. I’m sure it’s still in the loft somewhere…

Then I moved away to university, joined a choir and spent most of the rest of my spare time Scottish Country Dancing, running New Scotland (the Edinburgh University SCD group) with my now wife among others, running the Inter-Varsity Folk Dance Festival when it came to Edinburgh in 1996 (500 folk dancing students descending on Edinburgh looking for dancing, classes, a place to put their sleeping bag, places to perform including a morris tour, and food), and then running New Scotland’s 50th Anniversary celebrations. With all that, there wasn’t time for Dungeons and Dragons, and the couple of attempts I made among my dancing friends fizzled out.

And that was that until my children started asking 3 years ago what this “Dungeons and Dragons” thing was all about, and I started a campaign to show them…

But I’ve rambled on long enough, so that’s a tale for another day, as are my comparisons between BECMI and 5e.

Tomorrow we have “Unique”.

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