Looking back, I saw that I’d played Dungeons & Dragons consistently for the entirety of the 1990s. These were my younger years, the long years, not the fleeting lightspeed years that jolted to life in my late 20s. The coming of age years, maybe?
I began D&D in 1988 at age 10, and the polyhedral satellite of that game revolved around the sun of my entire adolescence. Now many have experienced the same, through even longer gulfs of time, so that in and of itself isn’t all that impressive. And it wasn’t all I did either—there were definitely other satellites orbiting. Music for one. Writing for another. A desire to find a girlfriend was there. Faith, a distant asteroid at the edge of the solar system.
I felt split into four persons much of the time. But D&D was there for all of them. That, and roleplaying games seemed to weave all myselves together somehow. Perhaps it wasn’t a satellite at all, but gravity.
It was a used copy of the “magenta box”, known also as the B/X or Moldvay edition, and similar to the much lauded “red box” (which I saw advertised in comics years earlier, having no idea what in the world it was or even how to comprehend what it was for). I took it home and spent the next few months learning how to play. I plan to write a more comprehensive post on these very early years soon, but for now lets move forward quickly.
The basic set gave way to Advanced “1st edition” Dungeons & Dragons in my 8th grade year. This was courtesy of a friend’s older brother who’d moved on from such things. After that, the Rules Cyclopedia, and eventually an actual red box, although it now seemed lacking and anticlimactic. For the better part of the 90s we feasted on a mashup of these things.
This feast continued until I graduated High School in ’96. I was then ushered into proper “2nd Edition” and various other roleplaying games like Call of Cthulhu and one other that I’ll talk a lot about later on. Remember, these are the long years of youth, so all of this lasted a lifetime.
Forgotten Lore will be a series of stories retelling these things. The inspiration came from a strange idea I had a few days ago; an idea to try and remember every time I played Dungeons and Dragons ever. I have a decent memory, so I thought something like this could be done. I soon realized how much I’d played in ’97—my first year away from home—and how vain of an attempt this would be. We played every night from midnight until 4 am (when it was time for three of us to deliver newspapers).
But anyway, Forgotten Lore…
I created a character in those later days, his name was Myrkator Wraithwind, an elven magic-user/thief. Years later, I read the Dying Earth by Jack Vance. Myrkator, and Cugel from the Dying Earth, if you know him, were very similar—though Myrkator had slightly more scruples. I had more fun playing Myrkator than any other character, and that probably equates to how little fun everyone else had of my playing him. I intend to write more about him in the future.
There was also a Planescape campaign (I was not the DM) so magnificent in scope that I’m not even sure it really happened. For some reason, this game also ran every night from midnight until 4 am, even though it was in an entirely new town with many new people. This odyssey, centered around destroying the cursed Staff of Fraz Urblu, spanned almost every setting of the day from Athas to Faerûn and every plane in between (even the wildspaces of Spelljammer). We were all between levels 12 and 20 by the end and remember, this was 2nd edition, where levels didn’t come easy.
Then there was the time I tried to recreate it a couple years later for another group of gamers.
I played other games too. Torg is one. Battletech, briefly Star Frontiers, an obscure Lord of the Rings game called LOR. I’ll talk about them some. I never played GURPS in those days but I have a few things to say about Steve Jackson Games.
And one time in the very early 90s, my young head full of PHBs and DMGs, I actually explored a cave, sort of.
And then, of course, the myriad “one-off” games. The Monte Haul campaigns. The brutal “you wake up on a beach with no gear and 1 hit point” games, the “over the phone with three way calling” games.
Then there were the things about the game I didn’t particularly care for—I’ll reflect on those too.
But what was its purpose in my life? Why was it so powerful? Why did it burn so?
The fever broke sometime in the early 2000s. The tomes were lost one by one. Poems and prayers now filled the notebooks, not monster stats and world maps. I still played now and then, but the game was never the same. The other satellites had finally overtaken it. I know what happened: The world outside had finally become more compelling to me than the world within. It was time to get on with the actual adventure, whatever it may turn out to be.
Now, years later, after being there and back again, I feel I can see those misty realms with clearer, albeit older, bespectacled eyes. And I want to look. I want to crawl back through the hexes and remember, maybe not every time ever, but the best and the worst times. I invite you to come along. I’m sure there will be dragons. But there was and is treasure there. Perhaps we’ll find some together.
Adam Glass is Head of Operations at Seven Day Games, which is a fancy way of saying he writes emails all day and plans meetings in his spare time. The resident rpg historian, he has a long past with Dungeons & Dragons and has been playing various rpgs since his childhood in the 1980s.
“In my childhood rumors ran Of a world beyond our door— Terrors to the life of man That the highroad held in store…..”
Reminds me of this Robert Graves poem, Mermaid Dragon Fiend.
Looking forward to joining you on the adventure!
Thanks! Great to have you!