It’s been a long time since I’ve played in a face-to-face Dungeons and Dragons game. (From now on I’m just going to call it D&D.) It’s been over twenty years since I’ve been the Dungeon Master of one. (Just DM from here out.)
It blows me away that I can talk about D&D because everyone plays. There are million-dollar Twitch streams with thousands of rabid fans engaging in discussion on what happened in the game. Dungeons and Dragons is ubiquitous compared to when I was a lad.
My first D&D experience was in grade three in a school I barely remember. A kid tried to DM during lunch, but it looked like we were drawing squares on graph paper while chucking these weird dice. I didn’t play there again.
One summer, while staying at my Dad’s, I saw the cover of Dragon Magazine #102 at a comic book store while searching for my beloved Conan the Barbarian. Its cover struck me as cool enough to look at, but then I remembered that shitty D&D game, I almost put the thing aside (I didn’t understand half of what I was reading anyway) but what caught my eye was the adventure inside.
I bought that magazine instead of Conan, and while I didn’t understand half of what I was reading, the adventure inside stoked my imagination. I could participate in a game where I could be Conan the Barbarian swashing through hordes of Orcs, or battling undead? There was an ancient set of stones like Stonehenge that the story centered around? A death cult led by a madman who was looking to become a lich, but had a flawed process which drove him insane, and thus put the entire region at risk?
Uh, fuck yes.
I don’t recall how I ended up getting the D&D red boxed set. I think my dad bought it for me, but it was so long ago I don’t remember. My dad is a cool guy, but I don’t think he was into D&D and didn’t strike me as too interested in it. He had to have seen my drawings of mysteriously cloaked evil wizards with shadowed faces, but I don’t remember him mentioning anything about it.
Later on that summer, I was staying with my grandfather, and he took a very cautious reservation to my playing. I read through the rules and stayed up late typing away at a mechanical typewriter. I don’t remember shit I wrote two weeks ago so all I can say is that just like today, I had grand plans. (Thank the Mother for Evernote. That app is the junk drawer of my brain. A searchable junk drawer.)
This was after the Satanic Panic of the ’80s. I openly played D&D in one high school and suffered as an outcast for it, so when I moved to a new high school, I never let on that I played. I feel self-conscious when I talk about D&D. Note that didn’t hinder my playing D&D, just who knew about it.
I miss playing with my high school crew. All-nighters were awesome, even if most was spent arguing over the rules. These days it’s hard to get a game together, much less schedule one.
Thankfully, with our cellphones, Discord, D&D Beyond, a bot called Avrae we have tools that allow us to play again, using tools that make the arguments of the old days negligible.
Taking a dump? What better way to pass the time than checking out what happened in the game, roll a few virtual dice, and hope for that skull-crushing critical that takes care of the nasty Bugbear that’s harassing one of the locals?
I’m the Dungeon Master in our current game, and we are playing through the Lost Mines of Phandelver. We play exclusively over Discord, in a hybrid play-by-post and real-time game. The benefit of this is we get to pretty much “play” whenever we want.
Here is our Discord Campaign, The Princes of the Lost Mines of Apocalypse :
The party consists of an Eladrin Cleric of Moonbow, an Aasimar Warlock of the Ancient Old One, a Dwarven eldrich Knight, a Goliath barbarian berserker, and a Tiefling Dragon sorcerer. They were hired by Gundrem (a notorious cheap merchant dwarf) in Neverwinter to escort a wagon of mining supplies to Phandalin while Gundrem went ahead to scope out a new prospect he was raving about.
The adventure will continue in The Princes of the Mines of Apocalypse P01.