My D&D History

The Dungeons and Dragons game has been the focal spot in my life for about 35 years. It is the keystone of my social life. I hold it responsible for finding my wife. It pulled me away from a life of physical labor and stimulated me to learn my lifelong trade. It is responsible for the weddings of 4 players in my group. No other single factor has been as influential as D&D in the direction of my life. A bold statement, but one which I will prove in the document that follows.

In 1979,my best friend Gordon and I were working at a place that manufactured printed circuit boards back before integrated circuits and SoCs were around. It was really suckey work. It was dangerous, used toxic chemicals and was largely ignored by agencies supposed to prevent employers from abusing their employees. We were not being paid what you would call a decent wage. But it had a good social environment and allowed for a lot of conversation on the job. Besides my buddy Gordon there were only 2 or 3 other English speaking men working there; the rest spoke Spanish and hailed from a collection of countries south of the US border. One of the two or three English speaking guys was nice and by coincidence shared my birth date so we became friendly. His name was John Marvin and Gordon and I spent all our job free time with him.

My first marriage broke up while I was working there and I had to find a new place to live. John was living at an apartment in East Palo Alto that had an opening and I moved in quickly. My mood was very down beat and I was doing a fair amount of drugs; mostly pot and crank. Soon the 3 of us were spending most of our free time together as well as our work time. John invited Gordon and I over to play a new kind of game called a Role Playing Game (RPG) called Dungeons and Dragons. This was our introduction to the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons edition.

We passed the bong around and created "characters" by rolling a dice to generate our "attributes". John showed us these weird dice with 4, 8, 10, 12 and 20 sides. I liked them right away and enjoyed just holding them and throwing them on the table. Then he pulled out an "adventure" called "Descent into the Depths of the Earth" and began describing an environment I had only imagined when reading the Conan stories. With John as the Dungeon Master, Gordon and I as Kleeg (SP?) and Mucker we set out to seek adventure and glory.

We learned about booty, magic, monsters, rules and a game that was more than just a game. It became a fire that rekindled my flagging imagination. It did a lot more than that but lets not get ahead of the chronology here.

The 3 of us became a core of players that found people joining and falling away over the following months. This was not a game for everyone as we found out. Some people would play for 1 or 2 games and stop coming. Some would play less and smoke more but we never turned anyone away for that.

The play was passionate. We cared about our characters and John cared about the rules, his campaign and his role as the judge, jury and executioner. And us. We were pretty tight for a long time. We spent days doing nothing but smoking, gaming, drinking, eating and sleeping in about that order. Ready access to Crank, Whites, Black Beauties and Coke allowed us to game for 18 hours at a stretch on Sunday, get 4 hours sleep, go to work, come home and game for 5 hours on Mondays and so on.  It wasn't an obsession. But it was true that there were few if any amusements that were so inexpensive besides books (we had 4 channels of TV that all sucked). Oh, and there was music playing almost all the time.

After playing about 3 months, I began to imagine adventurers to play that would be grand stories. After 5 months I began making notes and started to DM 6 months after my introduction. John and Gordon were my first players, but once again, players came and went, but some stayed. Most of the adventure I wrote myself, but I also borrowed a lot from other sources. John and I agreed that it would be bad for either of us to read the adventurers the other would buy and ref, so he used TSR supplements and I used other stuff mostly from the Judges Guild. Obviously this was way back in the day spanning from '82 through '86.
My first original campaign was called "Joywind - The Blue Sun adventure".  This link will take you to a summary of that adventure.  By the end of this campaign most of the players who have continued to play with me were introduced to D&D.

The characters were the usual lot of killers, priests, thieves and other rifraf. It's amazing but I still have a lot of this stuff, part on computer and some in 2 boxes of paper in the garage. The characters started as 1st level characters and I was going strictly by the DMG rules on the allocation of Experience Points (I'm not going to define the rest of the terms here. Look em up.) I used some modules to get used to reffing. By the time they were about 3rd level I kinda had a solid idea of the full arc of the story. The characters were transported by the god Jherak (thanks Mr. Moorcock!) to the planet Joywind. This was my first campaign level adventure.

It was a world that use to be bathed in the light from its yellow sun, but now there is only blue light. In the golden days gone by the sky was blue but the light was yellow. Scholars knew that 5 or so generations ago, the Shield of Blue went up in the sky and the magic began to go away. There were many other changes at that time as well. Bad creatures, animals from the long past, things made of twisted magic began to get more common and this worsening continues to accelerate. An empire of Wolf men organized similarly to ancient Rome threatened to overcome the humans who were striving to return the yellow sun.

In adventurers underground they discovered some of the secrets that told them of the barrier that is responsible for the blue rays that are responsible. A revelation to one of the clerics directly from his god gave them a holy quest to remove that barrier and remove the blue light from the world.

They had adventurers above and below the earth, on other planes, on other planets and into outer space! In one adventure I tried to re-imagine the world of the Thomas Covenant novels. The last part of the campaign was for them to battle deep into the main fortress of the aliens, steal their space ship and force them to pilot them deep enough into space. There they used their magics to destroy the device that was projecting the energy shield that was terra-forming their world into one needed by the aliens. By that time the players were 15 and 16th levels.
I have found conclusive evedence that I was adding characters in the early days of the Blue Sun campaign on 11/28/86 as this is when Denise created her character and the others were created there about.

There was a great celebration when the players finished the campaign as it took about 4 years to play out!
Here is a list of the primary characters and the players names that played in that campaign. Those with an astrisk are still regular gamers. Those with an exclamation point have passed on. I am intentionally omitting their last names. Duplicate names are the results of character deaths.

Aramat  --  A Female Ranger in a male body - Cindy *
Xantha  --  The Raven-haired Fighter Illusionist - Lisa*
Huichol  --  The Thief of Many Talents - Dave *
Lothar  --  Expert Lock-Pick - Peter *
Morgana  --  Druidess With a Desire - Lucy *
Sumain -- Monk of Mystery - Gordon !
Timm  --  The Mage from Another World - Gordon !
Gonad  --  A Barbarian of Great Strength - Mick !
McGoomerina -- The Lusty Nature Worshiper - John
Sir Caladryll  --  A Knight of White King - Kevin
Wai-Lin  --  Dwarf Barbarian from Niapon - Little Jim
T.C.  -- The Toughest of Clerics - Little Jim
Sasha  --  Priestess of Sonia - Eva
Kallandra  --  The Mage of the Gray Hair - Dennese
Ted Williams - A doughty fighter - Big Jim

The "real" time while playing that campaign included a lot of personal changes. When I was making PC Boards, there wasn't a lot of need for working with your mind. It was mostly physical labor. It was just the latest in a 7 year long series of mostly physical labor jobs. Playing D&D first stimulated my imagination. Then it began working on my arithmetic and memory skills. When I started making my own adventurers and campaign I had a reason to improve my writing and note taking skills. As my imagination became stimulated and my mind became more active, I also became increasingly dissatisfied with making PC Boards.

Finally I got sick of it and quit (or got laid off, I'm not quite sure) and began looking for other work that was more mental and less physical. I was lucky enough to stumble into a job with the "OnLine" retail store. They were like a Sharper Image of their time selling game systems, computers, digital watches, calculators and so on. I had a lot of retail experience (from High School stuff) and a desire to learn. In the interest of increasing my knowledge of the products, they let me take computers home. YAY! I had worked with computers before, but not the new personal computers. In a couple of months it was clear that computers were in my future job plans.

About that time I started looking at how much a PC could help me DM. This got me interested in typing, word processors, the BASIC language and so on. I really needed (wanted) a computer so I could do game stuff with it (and play games ;>). I scoured the FTP sites for NPC creation programs and netbooks. It was all good.