Thursday, April 9, 2015

Dungeons and Dragons: When and where it all began

I'm in the mood for a fun post, so here's the origins of my addiction to D&D.

Just so we're clear, I've never not been a nerd. As a kid, I was playing video games off floppy disks at home and devouring fantasy books like they were being consumed by fire. However, nearly all of this was pretty mainstream stuff until High School.  Though not everyone hosted LAN parties, nearly everyone did play Halo.  Though not everyone read, nearly every kid that did read also read R.L. Stine's books. So, although I was awkward at sports and picked on by my peers, my venture into nerdom was pretty vanilla until High School.

Now firstly, before I get into this, I have to introduce a character named Ken. He's my best friend, best man at my wedding, I was best man at his wedding, we're only two months apart in age, our parents put us together to play as little babies, for all my life I've never gone more than a month without talking to him, our wives joke that we're married, kind of friend. If you've read my A Victim of Bullying blog post, then know that this is the same Ken who was one of few people who kept me alive. Long story short, J.D and Turk's relationship looks forced when compared to ours.

So, when Ken comes to me and says, "Dude, you gotta come and play D&D with me," my reaction was "God damn it, I don't want to play that stupid ass nerdy game!" all while knowing full well there was no way I wasn't going to try it if Ken was telling me to do it.

See, as close as Ken and I were, we went to different schools and thus had different friends. While I hung with the stoners at my High School, turning down their drugs but enjoying the shelter from being bullied, he was hanging with some "nerdy ass" people who decided to start playing D&D 3.5e. Ken decided to drag me along one night to one of their outings.

So let me set the scene. I'm 16 and driving an 1985 red Mustang my parents bought me that couldn't be trusted to make it out of town. I pull down some back country roads at about ten o'clock at night and find a small pocket of suburbia among the countless fields of California Valley agriculture. I pull up to a house that's seen better days and notice an old trailer in the front yard that's probably never seen a good day. Outside are five teenage boys who are still getting into the habit of applying deodorant and appear to have a phobia of scissors. I wish I could say I looked different. Que horror music.

I won't bore you with the math and introductions, but after we get inside the trailer, the group roll me a generic fighter and we get into the game. Turns out nearly everyone except Ken likes to play an alignment called chaotic-evil-asshole, and our group is on the run from mounted knights in fullplate armor.

Immediately upon entrance into the game, everyone splits as the enemy descends upon us.

Now, like it or not, I was almost immediately hooked. Despite having no knowledge of my character, the world, or any value attached to anything at all, I was still immediately hooked. I got the sense of danger to myself and noticed a challenge before me that was near impossible to overcome. I love challenges. I love a hard fight. I'm the kind of guy who bought a Playstation 3 specifically to play Dark Souls and looks forward to losing every morning to a game of chess.

Armed with a shortbow and bastard sword, I take off running like the others. Turns out the DM was out for blood and sent these knights in to kill us off. We all split up, as do the knights, but Ken and I stay together and get two knights who chase after us into the forest. Within moments, Ken is knocked unconscious because he was still injured, leaving me alone, solo, and a total noob to handle two knights sent to slaughter me. As I'm fleeing, I decide I have to fight, and turn and draw my shortbow.

"You know," says the DM loftily from the bunkbed above the trailer's driver seats, "these guys are in full plate and you have a +0 to Dex. You basically have to roll a 20 to hit them."

"Well, I have to try," I said.

And I roll a 20, which is the highest roll you can get in D&D and only has a 5% chance of occurring.

Hell yeah I jumped up and cheered!

My arrow nails the slit in the knight's helmet, dropping him in a single blow and sending him crashing to the ground. The next knight closes the distance before I can get another shot, and I draw my bastard sword and engage him hand-to-hand. It was a total slogfest and with some amazingly luck, I pull through and topple the knight with only a couple points of HP to spare. My fighter is bleeding profusely from a huge gash on his right leg, he's beat to shit, but he's alive, and I'm pumped.

That was over 10 years ago, and I'm still playing D&D to this day.

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