Wil Wheaton has been waxing nostalgic about his D&D experiences and telling us about the campaign he’s running for his son and friends over at his blog lately. This, in turn, has had me waxing nostalgic about my own D&D experiences.
I’m lucky enough to have parents who have played D&D since before I was born. As a result, I grew up attending the D&D sessions held at my house every other Saturday. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on Mom’s lap, rolling her dice for her at the DM’s (Dad’s) left hand. I was a good luck charm back in those days — I rolled a disproportionate number of 18s and higher on a d20, and anyone who had me roll their stats usually got stats good enough to play anything they wanted. (Back in those days, at least under my dad’s hodge-podge edition of D&D, the game didn’t adjust your Constitution up and your Charisma down if you wanted to be a dwarf — you had to have rolled a high enough Constitution and low enough Charisma before you picked your race.) That good luck ran out as soon as I started rolling for myself, of course… now I’m just your average roller.
My parents first let me play at the tender age of nine. I still feel a little rush of glee when I think of Dad sitting me down to roll my first character. This has nothing to do with the character itself, though. It’s because that’s when he gave me my first dice. He grabbed the spare dice box (he was in the Army at the time, and some of his players were barracks rats with no dice of their own) and set it down between us. Opening it, he pulled out a double handful of dice and set them before me.
“These are now yours,” he told me, matter-of-factly speaking over the clatter of plastic on wood. “You may trade with the spare dice box if you wish.”
I no longer remember if he left me to make my trades then or if I rolled first and finished trading later. It doesn’t matter. I ended up with all my favorite dice from the box, plus one blue d6 which I never use because it has numbers instead of dots. I still have them all, and though I’ve added to my dice collection over the years, they remain the core of my dice set and are the ones I play with most often. My entire dice collection is pictured below. (And aren’t they both cute and sexy all in one?)
That first character I made was a half-elf fighter/thief. I don’t remember much about playing it, but I do recall one combat encounter, quite probably my first. We were attacked by bugbears, and when my turn came around, I made a proud declaration.
“I’m gonna cut of its head!” But then logic crept in… “Daddy… does it even have a head?”
Much laughter ensued. That threw me into confusion — it was a good question! I must have looked extremely serious when I asked that, and having become an adult watching children grow, I can now fully understand why that was so funny. I then rolled a natural 20, successfully lopping that fucker’s head clean off its shoulders. Some time later, my dad made a cover page for one of his DM-only binders, one that was full of information for his world. A dedication page. I, and that combat encounter, am on it.
I think my second and third characters were also half-elf fighter thieves. I didn’t get to make my second and third characters until I was about eleven, though, because not too long after I started playing that first one, we had an encounter that gave me a nightmare. An agony beetle happened across our party — a beetle about the size of one’s fist, as I recall. It crawls up your leg, and if you fail to notice it, it latches on to the base of your spine and starts sucking the fluid out of your spinal column. To cap this gruesome consumption of vittles off (and give the bug its name), it’s a very painful process which turns the victim into a heap of screaming, spasming flesh. He can’t remove the beetle for himself… someone else has to do it for him.
Anyway, some time after my dad got out of the Army my mom got tired of D&D. That led to the gradual decline of D&D sessions at our casa. I found other groups to play with, comprised of people my own age. I’m spoiled, though… my dad’s such a good and experienced DM. Some of the DMs I’ve played with just sucked, but others just need some more experience. Honestly, I’m kinda jealous of Wil Wheaton’s son. I’d love to have my dad DM for me again.
Edit: My dad tells me I was actually five when the bug bear encounter happened. Maybe they let me start playing again when I was nine?