Saturday, February 1, 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop] Day One


Person who first introduced you to D&D. Which edition? Your first character?

His name was Sheldon.

I was probably 10 years old, and had talked about D&D with some friends at my school, had enthusiastically watched the Saturday morning cartoon when it had aired a couple years prior. Even knew one or two who had older brothers who played. This would have been circa 1988. Unbeknownst to me, the popularity of D&D and tabletop RPGs in general was beginning to wane, and TSR's glory days were behind them. None of that mattered. D&D sounded cool and I wanted in.

Sheldon was not one of my school chums, though. He was the son of a woman my mom knew. In the manner of parents everywhere, a "play date" was arranged, based on the sole qualification that we were the same age. I was dropped off at Sheldon's house for a whole Saturday. Fortunately, we got along pretty well, even though it felt a bit uncomfortable hanging out in a total stranger's house.

It became apparent that Sheldon was some sort of kid genius: he attended a magnet school, he made elaborate home movies with his siblings, and just seemed to have a fairly erudite air (or at least as much of such an air as a 10-year-old can conjure). It also quickly became apparent that he was tremendously spoiled and tremendously lonely. I think his parents bought him tons of toys and games as a way to make up for his friendless situation, and I certainly wasn't complaining. It was like hanging out in a toy store to be at this kid's house.

After playing Fireball Island (which I loved and later asked for and received as a Christmas present), Sheldon suggested we play Dungeons & Dragons. I leapt at the chance.


What transpired was that Sheldon got out his copy of the Mentzer "Red Box" Basic Set and read aloud the solo introductory scenario at the beginning, allowing me to make the choices and roll the dice for my character. I remember him sitting on the couch in the living room, reading from on high and showing me the Elmore and Easley illustrations, me on the floor next to the coffee table. I remember encountering the rust monster. I remember the character sheet, with its odd graphics for hit points and armor class, and ogling the polyhedral dice, fawning over each one like Smeagol finding the One Ring. (I'm not sure if they whispered to me, but I wouldn't be surprised.) And that's about all I remember.

I don't know if my character died, or if we completed the adventure, or what. In due time, my play date came to an end and I went home. I may have seen Sheldon a second time, possibly for a sleep-over, but that was pretty much it. Nevertheless, the seed had been planted. A little over a year later, and a thousand miles away, I decided that I wanted to get a copy of D&D for my very own. But that's a story for another day.

This particular recollection has a strange coda, however. I still think of Sheldon from time to time, and the somewhat bizarre circumstances of my introduction to the game that would play such a huge role in my life. Last year, chatting with my mom, I thought to ask her about him. "What was up with that kid Sheldon? How did you know his mom?"

And here's the thing: she had absolutely no memory of either the woman or her kid. I pressed her, providing details from my own memory, but nothing rang a bell. I realize that this was 25 years ago, and that the incident is obviously much more memorable to me because of its repercussions (not to mention, I hung out at the kid's house for at least eight hours, whereas my mom just dropped me off), but I found it strange that she couldn't even recall knowing Sheldon's mom. It's as if the whole family materialized out of nowhere in order for me to experience D&D and then faded back into nothingness...
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