It all started with a fearsome book, package of record sheets, and a cherry-picked set of solid and gem dice. It was my first role playing game experience, and like so many, it happened because of a friend. Sort of.
See, my friend, let’s call him “Horse,” had this wonderful book. The Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition Player’s Handbook. On the front was a mounted soldier with bluish armor and a sword riding a charging steed. That’s all a junior high school kid needed to see.
So I got the same stuff – the PHB, the Character Record Sheets (oh how I miss those green sheets), and the dice. Problem here – no monsters, no dungeon guide or adventures. We didn’t quite get it at first… but maybe that was no problem at all.
We made characters. Lots and lots of 1st level characters (to which I surely owe my steadfast approach to nearly always insisting on starting a new campaign that I am GMing with new PCs). And then… we played. Not by the rules, but by the only way we knew how.
We told each other stories.
Now, this was such a benefit, because a lot of the time during these story-tellings, we were mobile. On horseback. In the middle of the woods.
I grew up in rural, conservative Indiana, a farm boy on a small horse ranch. From the time my parents moved away from the city in 3rd grade until I graduated high school, my life was surrounded by horses – riding, training, some breaking, lots of showing. And during the summer, a lot of trail-riding.
Exploring parks and trails on horseback is something truly unique and exhilarating. You’ve got speed, power, trust, all kinds of factors that make it fun and rewarding. But, when you’re 13 years old… it can also get boring. You need something to fill up the space in your head, because you likely don’t appreciate the serenity of it when you’re that young. At least, not for 2-10 hours of it. So… we told each other stories.
The heroes were our characters, and we raided castles, visited strange cities, and did other fun and generally heroic things. It was awesome. I still draw from the well of those stories to this day, though not too much – there’s only so much a 30 year old can relate to that comes from the mind of a 13 year old.
Long story short... he moved away, got into other things. We lost touch before we could drive. We moved on.
But… I still have those mismatched dice.