Happy 40th, D&D

Friday, February 8, 2014

With the 40th anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons hitting in the past week, it has made me wax nostalgic for the tales of my gaming past. Thinking back to the beginning, to my first D&D game, it is amazing to see what an impact it has made on my life.

I grew up the typical brainiac nerd. Each day, I would come home from school and curl up with a science fiction or fantasy novel. Piers Anthony, Stephen R. Donaldson, Fritz Lieber, Michael Moorcock, Jack Vance, Roger Zelazny, Robert E. Howard, Anne McCaffrey and more told their tales of daring and adventure and I was hooked. Reading was a solitary hobby that fit well with my shy persona.

That all changed when I stumbled upon a very simple video game called Akalabeth. It was written by Richard Garriott (better known to most as Lord British) and involved a very simple interface where you would travel into dungeons, kill things, and take their treasure. I was hooked! I didn’t have my own computer back in 1980, but the folks at Computer World in Appleton, Wisconsin were more than happy to let me come to their store after school and play Akalabeth.

In the fall of 1981, I was off to St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota to get my bachelors in biology. Right away, I went into withdrawal from my daily Akalabeth fix. I put up some posters around the cafeteria hoping that somebody might have a computer with Akalabeth on it. I never got a bite on that, but a guy let me know that he was starting a game of Dungeons & Dragons and I was invited to give it a try. Now, I had no idea what Dungeons & Dragons was, but I figured it probably had something to do with a computer, so I was interested in giving it a try. Imagine my surprise when I showed up at the designated dorm room and there were six other people there!

I had a bit of apprehension—what did I get myself into? But I fought down my fears and sat down as the guy who invited me explained that we were going to be playing this game called Dungeons & Dragons. As he talked, I became more and more fascinated. We were going to be telling a story together as a group. There were all these weird shaped dice and painted metal miniatures. I couldn’t tell you any details about the adventure that night. The GM never ran a second session. But I was hooked and told my mother about this new game I had discovered. That Christmas, I was given my very own D&D intro box which I devoured like a sailor dying of thirst. I also received two boxes of Grenadier miniatures, one of characters and one of monsters, which I painted over my Christmas break.

By the time I got back to St. Olaf, I was ready to GM a game. I was desperate to do so. Me, the shy bookworm nerd, was eager to reach out to people I hardly knew and take on the role of the director of a game, the narrator of a story. I was ready to become a leader!

My first regular gaming group was a couple of friends. We played Keep on the Borderlands, because that was the adventure that came with the Beginner’s box set that my mother had bought me for Christmas. Now, Keep was meant to train new DMs by encouraging them to add their own encounters and expand the adventure. I took the map of the area surrounding the keep and the Caves of Chaos, and made a more detailed map that included my own first dungeon, a ruined castle on a nearby river. Attached is my first ever dungeon map. I tried to make things as realistic as I could, but there are so many problems with my map, that it makes me laugh now to look at it. But I was just an eager new DM with a couple of eager players, and we had a blast in that first dungeon!

There were just a few players in my first campaign, so I did double duty. I DMed the campaign, but I also played a character in the campaign, the Fighter/MU Erwyle. Attached is his character sheet from the end of his career. A couple of notes: the character sheet is one that I made up on the school’s UNIX computers, and Erwyle’s possessions and magic-items aren’t on the sheet because they took up a print off that was seven pages long! Erwyle never made it beyond the first campaign except as an NPC, but I’ll never forget those first adventures. I even got superstar artist Clyde Caldwell to draw a picture of Erwyle for me at my first GenCon!

It wasn’t belong before the group had grown to six and we set out to tell tales of adventure across the world of Greyhawk. We met every Friday and Saturday night, playing well into the night, and sometimes into the next morning! The Slaver Series, Against the Giants, Descent into the Depths, the Temple of Elemental Evil, Against the Cult of the Reptile God, the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, the Sinister Secret of Saltmarch, the Secret of Bone Hill, and many, many others tested the wits of my players over the course of the next six years. Players came and went as some graduated and new players joined, but the core of my players stayed the same. It was a heady time for me as the campaign became the thing of legends among gamers at St. Olaf and I had a long waiting list to get into the campaign. Life-long friendships were formed and memories were made that shall never be forgotten.

It all came to an end when I was asked to join my first gaming company, Lion Rampant games in 1987. But it was those early years exploring the World of Greyhawk and learning to be a great DM that really helped me the most as I began a career that would go from Lion Rampant, to White Wolf, to Wizards of the Coast, and now to Paizo.

A couple of years back, something happened that was a first for me. I lost one of my original players, Dar Lund. It hit me hard at the time and I didn’t want to have to deal with the loss of somebody who shared those heady early days with me. Dar was one of the chefs at St. Olaf College and it was through one of my players, Rob, that Dar was introduced to me. I’ll never forget his first character, Roy P. Zabblapper III, the first born son of a vagabond scribe (yeah, I was using the character background charts from Dragon Magazine). Zabber (as he was affectionately known) was also knicknamed the Dwarven Blender, because of his two-handed, Hasted fighting style that left more than one monster beaten to a pulp. If the plot dragged too much during the game, Dar would look at me and blurt out, "Zabber heads through the door." He got himself into more than one pickle that the rest of the party had to bail him out of by doing this, but it only added to the legend. Dar played in my campaign until I left Minnesota in 1988. He was a player I could count on to be there rain or shine, with his trusty dice at hand, along with his dragon-shaped ashtray. When I spent two years deciding where my life was going to go, Dar and his new wife, Betsy, allowed me to sleep on their couch, running D&D games whenever I could get four players together.

To my friend Dar I raise a glass of Velunan Fireamber Wine—to days of adventure and friendship that will never be forgotten!

Lisa Stevens
CEO

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Tags: Auntie Lisa's Story Hour
Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Happy Birthday, indeed. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful shard of memory.

P.S. A toast to all the 'Dars' that will ever be in our hearts and memories.


there is nowhere that says who wrote the post:)

Happy 40th birthday D&D!!!!!!!!!!!

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
captain yesterday wrote:
there is nowhere that says who wrote the post:)

It's "Auntie Lisa's Story Hour!"

ps. I love your story hour. Please keep more coming!


On a cold day in February while I am feeling bad with a head cold this made me smile and remember my own past in gaming. Great Story Lisa and thank you!


Thank you Lisa, this left me with a desire of making stories of my own!


Nice story, this reminds of when I first played D&D. Opened more than just my imagination. Things like my vocabulary, world history, and a host of other things were enhanced because of it.


Very nice. Reminds me of my old college gaming days, which came a bit later -- D&D and I are the same age. Also reminds me of my godfather, who introduced me to the game and invited me to join him and his adult friends in their games when I was just a lad of 12. Those were great nights. I eventually named my first son after my godfather, shortly before he passed away. Today I play Pathfinder with two of his nephews.


feytharn wrote:

Happy Birthday, indeed. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful shard of memory.

P.S. A toast to all the 'Dars' that will ever be in our hearts and memories.

To Dar and those like him!

clink!

Sovereign Court

Auntie Lisa's story hour is great, not least because Auntie Lisa can really lay down some prose.

kudos to Lisa, respect to Dar.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

All character sheets should include a Beard entry.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32

feytharn wrote:
A toast to all the 'Dars' that will ever be in our hearts and memories.

Hear, hear! To all the Dars of the world!


Auntie Lisa:

"My first regular gaming group was a couple of friends. We played Keep on the Borderlands, because that was the adventure that came with the Beginner’s box set that my mother had bought me for Christmas."

I'm fairly sure my first encounter with D&D was not at its birth. I entered junior high school in 1978. I had started playing trombone in 6th grade, and was in the band when I changed schools to Jr. high, and there was another kid who had these books.

What are those I asked one day. It was B1 - In Search of the Unknown. I spent many home room periods sending pre-made characters to their deaths in this dungeon, but the one thing I can remember that hooked me was finding a room with a fountain... and drinking the water... and getting a wish... and having absolutely no idea what to wish for since I had just started to play, so the DM suggested I wish for an Iron Golem to help me out. And I tore through several encounters, and then the Iron Golem went insane and killed, well, everyone, my character included.

Yeah, somehow the idea of that spectacular of a failure spurred me on to play.

I quoted Auntie Lisa above because my grandmother bought me the B2 box (Keep on the Borderlands) and the X1 (Isle of the Savage Tide Adventure Path) for that Christmas. My oldest friend and I played those modules every way possible. And my grandmother later learned of the "controversy" surrounding D&D and lamented to the end of her days the game that gave me the best outlet for my imagination and my interests, despite me never worshiping Satan or murdering people, as far as you know.

I love this game, and I love what it has become. Thanks, Paizo.

AJ

Silver Crusade

Thank you for this lovely story. I am blessed you have shown us a true friend who will not be forgotten. Thank you and may Dar, and ours stay true to our hearts and souls. A cheers to the adventures of yesterday, and the hearts that are eternal. Cheers. Thank you.


I loved reading the story at the beginning and remember very well my own humble beginnings with a RED BOX set bought in a nearby city, the meeting of ADVANCED players and my own first GM experience with a "hand-made" multilevel campaign based on "The Mines of Moria".

I would also like to add that in later years, though I now exclusively play PATHFINDER, Paizo has always supplemented my games with excellent quality products in a tradition that happily continues to this day.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32

I'd be curious to know which Dragon edition had the Character Background charts; might like to dig 'em out and compare with Ultimate Campaign!

Shadow Lodge

I read this Sunday morning, after playing Dragon's Demand with my group last night. We don't have Dar, we have Kevin. But all the same happy 40th D&D, and thanks for making me who I am.


Wow, Erwyle had an AC of -6, he must have been easy to hit... :)

Shadow Lodge

Aww, it's so inspiring!

Ever since its birthday, I've been reading stories of how RPGs brought people together and lured the shy out of their shells; how they spark imaginations and weave stories that span years and years.

It's a hobby to enjoy on many levels! Now I'm tempted to write up the story of my first foray.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Designer

Good stuff, Lisa.

In case anyone missed it, here's what I wrote about it.

Mike

Grand Lodge

Abyssian wrote:
feytharn wrote:

Happy Birthday, indeed. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful shard of memory.

P.S. A toast to all the 'Dars' that will ever be in our hearts and memories.

To Dar and those like him!

clink!

To Dar.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Thanks for the memories Lisa - and Happy 40th D&D!

Also - looks like Erwyle only needs 140K xp to drop that save vs. spells down to a 3! Epic! :)

Grand Lodge

Lisa - fantastic. Thank you for sharing this!

Sovereign Court

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Great post.

People that are not gamers have no idea what gaming is about. It's about the people we play with as much as the stories and experience we have while playing.

I'm not politically correct normally so I won't be on here. I don't look like the typical gamer. I'm a clean-cut male with a political job, I wear suits and shiny shoes every day. I'm very serious in my day job.

Please save the posts about what a "typical gamer" looks like, as we all know what the non-gaming world thinks gamers look like, and their perception is their reality (although we Gamers know the truth). When people hear I'm a gamer, their eyes usually widen and they are shocked, "You're a gamer?" "Do you dress up" "You don't seem to be a nerd" "What, do you go to pick up chicks or something?" "Isn't that for kids?" or even "Why would you want to hang out with those strange people."

Well folks, "those" people are some of the best damned people I have ever known. They are certainly more intelligent than your average run-of-the-mill Joe Blow walking down the road. We have a sense of humor and know how to have fun.

"You're a gamer?" Why yes I am. I have a serious face when I tell them this, and it's off-putting, as then they realize they may have been insulting. They then usually ask me if I play the shooter games, at which point I say no, that I role-play with Pathfinder (formerly Dungeons and Dragons).

"Do you dress up?" I don't dress up. It's not my thing. But the brave souls who do are courageous. A lot of "normal" people would jump at the chance to release their inhibitions and be who they are. More power to the people who dress up. If the people driving by point and make fun of someone dressed as a Stormtrooper or in the makeup of a anime character, then Freud would say they've got 3 fingers pointing back at them. They are cowards and ignorant.

"You don't seem to be a nerd" How do you define nerd? Does the professional women who goes home and views Desparate Housewives consider herself a nerd? I doubt it. What about those who watch soap operas, or WWE wrestling? Why are these hobbies any different than "gamers'"

"What, do you go to pick up chicks or something?" I'm married, thank you. Gamer chicks are hot, though ;-p

"Isn't that for kids?" Please show me in the Book of Life where it says adults cannot participate in entertainment activities, and please show me where the list is so I can see if "gaming" is included.

I'm a proud gamer. I have a very active imagination. Without it the world would be boring, pitiful, and lifeless. Yes, I enjoy other activities. I travel, I drink, I work, I play. It's all part of life. It's made even better by those we enjoy those things with.

So here's to all the gamers we've known and will meet in the future, whatever shape, color, or size they may be.

Cheers,

Adam Jones
Indiana


What are the EG, AG, ME, SW and (second) ST stats?


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Transylvanian Tadpole wrote:
I'd be curious to know which Dragon edition had the Character Background charts; might like to dig 'em out and compare with Ultimate Campaign!

I know I have that issue, because we used it in my campaign in the mid 80's..so figure it has to be earlier than issue 100.

If you rolled really high like 99 or 100 I think you were the heir to a kingdom..

The best I ever got was second son of a goldsmith

Liberty's Edge

Thanks for sharing this, Lisa!! My own memories parallel this, and I too have lost a few gaming friends over the years.

Paizo Employee CEO

Steve Geddes wrote:
What are the EG, AG, ME, SW and (second) ST stats?

If memory serves correctly, they were secondary traits from some Dragon article. Ego, Agility, Mechanical ability, Swimming, and Stamina. I don't think we ever really used them, but I tried to incorporate all of the Dragon articles into our game. Sometimes successfully and sometimes less so.

Lisa


Ah, cheers. Dragon and Dungeon were somewhat intermittently available in South Australia so they didn't really factor in our games, beyond the odd adventure.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Lost Omens, Maps, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber
Transylvanian Tadpole wrote:
I'd be curious to know which Dragon edition had the Character Background charts; might like to dig 'em out and compare with Ultimate Campaign!

Looking through the dragondex, there was an article in issue 52 about character backgrounds for the GREYHAWK campaign setting.

I would go and look at the actual article, but my Dragon magazines are boxed up at present awaiting the completion of our game room.

EDIT: ... but the CD-ROM version just happened to be sitting next to my computer desk, and it installs just fine on Windows 7!
Sure enough, in issue 52 there's a "Leomund's Tiny Hut" full of tables for birthplaces & languages spoken.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32

JohnF wrote:
Transylvanian Tadpole wrote:
I'd be curious to know which Dragon edition had the Character Background charts; might like to dig 'em out and compare with Ultimate Campaign!

Looking through the dragondex, there was an article in issue 52 about character backgrounds for the GREYHAWK campaign setting.

I would go and look at the actual article, but my Dragon magazines are boxed up at present awaiting the completion of our game room.

EDIT: ... but the CD-ROM version just happened to be sitting next to my computer desk, and it installs just fine on Windows 7!
Sure enough, in issue 52 there's a "Leomund's Tiny Hut" full of tables for birthplaces & languages spoken.

Thanks! I'll go dig it out!


Happy 40th D&D. Here's hoping we've both got another 40 in us! :)


JohnF wrote:
Transylvanian Tadpole wrote:
I'd be curious to know which Dragon edition had the Character Background charts; might like to dig 'em out and compare with Ultimate Campaign!

Looking through the dragondex, there was an article in issue 52 about character backgrounds for the GREYHAWK campaign setting.

I would go and look at the actual article, but my Dragon magazines are boxed up at present awaiting the completion of our game room.

EDIT: ... but the CD-ROM version just happened to be sitting next to my computer desk, and it installs just fine on Windows 7!
Sure enough, in issue 52 there's a "Leomund's Tiny Hut" full of tables for birthplaces & languages spoken.

Cool! That Dragondex is handy. The issue I was thinking about was #70:

Social Status and Birth Tables: New For AD&D Play" Gary Gygax 70(11)

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Reminds me, I need to copy my CD Roms to a usb stick so I can reference them on the tablet.


Say, Lisa, could you provide a map key for your first dungeon?

Paizo Employee CEO

AlgaeNymph wrote:
Say, Lisa, could you provide a map key for your first dungeon?

Not off the top of my head. I remember it being in some spiral-bound notebook, but I haven't seen that in ages. I don't think that it was much more than a list of monsters, treasures and traps in each room. I hadn't gotten as far as thinking about story or room purposes or whatever. It was pretty much draw a map and plunk down monsters sort of thing. :)

-Lisa


I got a visit from an old friend I haven't seen in over 20 years. He was one of the first people I played D&D with. So while he was here I had him sit in with my regular group and ran We Be Goblins. Good times and a heck of a way to celebrate the game's 40th anniversary.


I had something I found today, related to old adventures. I probably should have just posted it here, instead of starting a thread, so here's a link: Old adventure, familiar names

Liberty's Edge

OMG! I can't believe I missed this blog post!

Seriously Lisa, if you find yourself back in Wisconsin for the holidays you should seriously consider showing up as a regular Pathfinder Society player on Saturday morning at Chimera Hobby Shop or on Sunday morning at Gnome Games! The North East Wisconsin PFS group would be too shocked to know how to handle it (and knowing my luck it will be my turn to GM.) :-)


In celebration of D&D's 40th Anniversary, 52 gaming blogs are responding to a list of 28 questions- 1 per day- all month long:
http://d20darkages.blogspot.de/p/d-40th-anniversary-blog-hop-challenge.html

Anyone read any of them so far? The series has been pretty interesting.


I missed the blog post, too, but am glad it has resurfaced so I could read through it. It definitely brings back memories. My original DM was a childhood friend of mine and he passed away recently, so this article was timely. My very first character was a halfling named Aldolome Birdfriend, because I bought a pet songbird as part of my starting gear since it sounded cool. That was the first of scores of characters, and adventures, and campaigns, and years and years of good memories.

Thanks for the reminder!


I remember those days so well. I got the 1981 red box with my newspaper route money and boy, it soon took me away from the atari I had gotten for xmas.

Those early examples in the red guide still resonate..Morgan Ironwolf the fighter..Black Dougal the thief, who quikly died during the example of saving throws versus poison! What a great name, Black Dougal has been my goto rogue name for 30 + years now. and was my first WoW charcater as well.

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