Not counting hide and seek or my lifelong love of Monopoly, any real discussion of my life in gaming has to start more or less when I discovered Fantasy Roleplaying games.
I first started playing FRPGs in the late 70’s/early 80’s, like most of the people I know. However, most of my friends started playing them because they had some friends that got them interested in the hobby. Myself, I had my Uncle Karl.
For reasons I’m not going to go into here, my childhood was not what you would call normal. Plainly put, I was a pretty messed up little kid. After my Mom’s divorce, she and I moved back to San Diego, CA, the city in which I was born.
For a while, we lived with my Uncle Karl and his wife, my beloved Aunt Becky. But before that, we lived in a crappy part of San Diego that I’m really sure didn’t even have a fancy name, like most of the communities of that time were getting. You know, something like “Happiness Point,” “Golden Oaks,” or “Fresno.” Suffice to say, it sucked. A lot. We kids used to play in dumpsters, because they were bulletproof. (and you thought those stickers on the outside were warnings. Hah. We put them there so that bums would not invade our games.)
But back to the point (if there really is one). During one of our frequent visits to Karl and Becky’s house, my uncle (who, I might add, had sons of his own) took time to find out what I liked doing, and turned me on to science fiction novels.
Now I had read a few books before (such as the Wizard of Oz, Charlotte’s Web, and juvenile fiction of that sort), but none of them were really all that compelling. But I did love Star Wars and Star Trek.
But I digress. My uncle discovered my interest in science fiction, and lent me one of his favorite books. A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Within its pages, I found the adventure, romance, and nobility that was sorely lacking in my own young life. (Now, as an adult, I have reread the book many times, and find it to be chock full of sexist attitudes, racist supremacy and trite conventions. And at the same time, it remains one hell of a great book.)
My uncle lent me the book, and when I brought it back, he lent me another one. At the same time, he showed me some cool army men, based on the book. They were called miniatures, and had been put out by some company called Ral Partha.
I have to tell you, THEY ROCKED!! There was Tars Tarkas, the Jeddak of Thark. There was the Warlord himself, John Carter, late of Virginia. And next to them on the shelf, was something called a rust monster.
I asked my uncle which book that one was from, and he said this one.
I asked him what kind of book that was, and he said it was a game. One that perhaps we could play together.
Well I have to tell you, that just about floored me. Most of my game playing experience was with other kids, and usually involved running, jumping, and throwing sticks at one another. Sure, there were some games at my house, but they did not have books with dragons on the cover (And believe you me, I knew what a dragon was, because I had seen the Hobbit on TV a few years before). And now the coolest grown-up in the entire world wanted to play this Dragon game.
The only problem was, he didn’t know how to play it. So I undertook the arduous process of learning the Dungeon & Dragons rules, so that Karl and I could play. I had them mostly figured out, too, when the game changed to this.