Reflections on Dungeons and Dragons

How I became acquainted with Dungeons and Dragons and the road to becoming a Dungeon Master.

Introduction

            For those that have been following me, my life has been fairly busy lately. I haven’t even been keeping up with this blog because my primary focus has been working on my book and getting it ready for publication. Much of the rest of my days have been dedicated to raising my two daughters (one just entering 1st grade and the other about to turn a year old) while working a full-time job. It hasn’t been easy. So when I was approached about not only playing, but running a D&D campaign, I had some reservations.

            It’s not that I didn’t want to. When would I have the time? And I’ve never run a game before. That is an enormous commitment.  But after some time, I considered it. And I thought, what the heck. Afterall, I have barely had any time for recreation lately. Outside of the occasional movie or TV show binge, most of my recreation was limited to a coloring app on my phone. I have barely played any video games as of late outside the occasional Mario Kart or Switch Sports.

Polyhedral dice spread out over a map and book

            So, where to begin? Well, I suppose at the beginning, when D&D first entered my life. So that is what follows. I will go over my history with Dungeons and Dragons (and roleplaying games in general) so that you may better understand where I am coming from. Then, in a separate blog, I will go over my experience setting up the game and how our first sessions unfolded (at the time of this writing, we have already had about 4 sessions under our belts). Once I am caught up, I will attempt to update after each new session as we continue our journey through The Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure. It has been a fun ride so far.

My Brief History with D&D     

Early Awareness

I grew up in the 80s. However, I did not have any actual contact with Dungeons & Dragons at that time. My earliest memories were of the cartoon that aired on Saturday Mornings. And my brother had a game called Electronic Dungeons & Dragons. The game featured an electronic board with wall pieces and several pewter characters. The objective was to navigate the dungeon and find the dragon’s treasure without disturbing the dragon. It was neat, but that was the extent of my knowledge of the game. This was also during the time of the satanic panic and I don’t know how the full game would have been accepted in my family or among my peers. I didn’t really know much more about it at the time.

Dungeons and Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game
Dungeons and Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game

First Play

When I started high school, I started getting into deeper video games than the ones I grew up with. Among them were games like Dragon Warrior (Quest), Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, and similar games. Little did I know that many of those games found roots in Dungeons and Dragons. After high school, I joined the Navy and when I was in my training school in San Diego (before the base shut down), I finally had my first chance to play the table-top game that had alluded me earlier in life.

I don’t have many memories of that first game. I don’t even think I got very far in it. But soon, I was introduced to other TTRPG’s, particularly, Vampire the Masquerade. That was an interesting variation that left the medieval fantasy setting behind for a modern horror setting. That game was expanded by a slew of other connected games, like Werewolf the Apocalypse, which came to be known as the World of Darkness (WoD). My friends and I, at one point, even set out to make our own Role-Playing Game featuring the WoD game system but in the setting of the Highlander franchise. Unfortunately, we never did complete that endeavor. But I was hooked.

Rulebook for Vampire: The Masquerade Tabletop Role-Playing Game
Vampire: The Masquerade Rulebook

After my Navy Training School, I would eventually leave my friends behind and go on to my first command, the USS Mount Whitney out of Norfolk, Virginia. I had my Magic: The Gathering card collection that I played but didn’t get back into D&D and was even introduced to a TTRPG based on comic books and superheroes. It was also at this time that I was introduced to The Elder Scrolls in the form of Daggerfall on the PC. This was like playing D&D on the computer for me and satisfied that itch.

Cover art of The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall computer game
Cover art of The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall computer game

Then I met my friends, Matt, Dave, and Mike. We played a variation of the traditional TTRPG known as Palladium: Fantasy Role-Playing Game. Some of my fondest memories came with those group of guys.

Maintaining Familiarity

 After I left the Navy, I was alone. I had a bunch of source books that I had collected over time, but no one to play them with. It was at this time that my interest in writing began. I had made several attempts at creating fantasy worlds of my own, but often got bogged down in the world building. But I became more aware of the world of Dungeons and Dragons in the process. I played the Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights games on my PC. I also got the books for 3rd edition of D&D when they were released.

After a few years, I went back into the Navy. Eventually, I would find myself on the USS Enterprise. While I never found a gaming group during that time, I did find the novels. Particularly, the novels of R.A. Salvatore. Over time, I would get familiar with the Forgotten Realms, particularly the Sword Coast and Icewind Dale. I also explored several other novels by Salvatore outside of the D&D world. While I was out of the game, I maintained a familiarity that would pull me back years later.

Covers for the first 6 books of the Legend of Drizzt series of books.
Covers for the first 6 books of the Legend of Drizzt series of books.

Back in the Game

Playing again

Around the birth of my first daughter, I decided to use my benefits from my time serving in the U.S. Navy. In particular, the Montgomery G.I. Bill. I started attending school with the objective of finally getting a degree. First, I attended Community College, then, after gaining my Associates Degree, I moved on to university. It was during that time that I started getting the itch to play D&D again.

With my daughter getting older, I was able to squeeze in some time aside to pursuit this endeavor. Utilizing modern conveniences like message boards, social media, and apps, as well as gaming store bulletin boards, I finally found a group to game with. They invited me in. They were in the midst of a game (not D&D but similar… for the life of me, I can’t remember the name) and I joined in on a couple sessions. When that completed, we looked at other options. First, one started a homebrew game of City of Mist, a superhero-based game.

Cover Art for City of Mist Tabletop Role-Playing Game
Cover Art for City of Mist Tabletop Role-Playing Game

This is where the bug really started hitting me. I created a character, an orphan technomancer, and an elaborate backstory (along with a related character, my character’s younger sister who featured heavily in his backstory). Then, the dynamics of the group began changing. Due to the group growing, it split up. That game moved to another day which I couldn’t accommodate at the time. So, I joined a game of 7th Sea, an interesting game world that covered an Age of Discovery like time period with regions that were mirrors to real Earth of that time (with magical elements). After a few sessions of that, the game fizzled out and I got the opportunity to join a D&D game.

Historically, with D&D and other fantasy RPG’s, I played a thief, rogue, or ranger class of character. However, I felt the urge to try something new. So, I went with a Sorcerer. That campaign was odd as our characters were pulled into the past during a time when the world was ruled by Dragons. It was certainly an interesting campaign and not what I was expecting. But I enjoyed it. That campaign lasted for several months and ended with a conclusion after we completed the goal. We even got a bit of an epilogue that satisfied our characters.

Life Gets in the Way

That campaign ended in early 2019. It would be my last year attending Towson University. I was taking a class that would see the genesis of my first novel in the form of a short story. Then tragedy struck. My stepmother passed away that spring. The repercussions of which affected the end of my semester. On top of that, my GI Bill ran out and after that semester, I was unable to resume school. The changes that came led to me putting aside my recreational pursuits.

My primary goal was finding a full-time job. In an effort to get my writing career going, I published my short story, The Hedge Maze, on Amazon. If anything, it was to get my name out there. With no benefits from the GI Bill coming in and a family to support, I settled with one job which I hated, then finally another job working at a hospital as a patient transporter. Little did I know what was about to happen shortly after I started that job.

The closest that I came to playing any Role-Playing Game was a game I found aimed at young children called Amazing Tales. I “ran” a game for my 7-year-old daughter, but time was a major hurdle, especially with my schedule. Still, it was a fun game and it did peak her interest. Hopefully, I’ll be able to return to it with her sometime once my schedule becomes a little more regular.

A New Opportunity Knocks

Fast forward to the present, I still work at the hospital, but in a different position. As I mentioned, I had been working on getting my novel ready for publishing and earlier this year, I started my publishing company. Between working a full-time job, writing and editing my novel, getting my company up and running (still a major work in progress), and raising two daughters (one of which is still under a year old as of the time of writing this), it has been quite a busy year.

The friends that approached are the parents of one of my oldest daughter’s friends from school. My fiancée and I would often talk to them while we were dropping off or picking up our daughter at school. We invited them over for her 6th birthday last year and even entertained them at our house a couple of times for dinner and video game fun. We’d often talk about video games and TV shows. The mother, Angie, showed interest in playing D&D after watching shows like Stranger Things. Her husband, Jeff, had played before, but it had been a really long time and he had thought he would never play again. Despite my initial hesitation, I soon was really excited with the opportunity to play.

Stranger Things Logo
Stranger Things Logo

Conclusion

As you can see, my road to this point has been long and a bit bumpy. In my next post, I will dive into prepping up for my first ever game as a Dungeon Master and take a dive into the first session. It has been a crazy experience so far and I look forward to furthering the adventure. Hopefully, you will join me for the ride. Oh, and feel free to offer reactions, insights, and suggestions as the journey continues.

Links

Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game | Board Game | BoardGameGeek

Vampire: The Masquerade – Wikipedia

World of Darkness – Wikipedia

Magic: The Gathering – Wikipedia

The Elder Scrolls – Wikipedia

The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall – Wikipedia

Palladium Fantasy Role-Playing Game – Wikipedia

Baldur’s Gate – Wikipedia

Neverwinter Nights – Wikipedia

N.Y. Times Bestselling Author R. A. Salvatore (rasalvatore.com)

Forgotten Realms – Wikipedia

Cinematic Modern Fantasy Tabletop RPG (TTRPG) – City of Mist

7th Sea – Chaosium Inc.

The Hedge Maze – Kindle edition by Serio, Salvatore. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.Stranger Things – Wikipedia