Like most kids in Hawaii during the ‘80s, I enjoyed an abundance of free time and sunshine. My younger brother and I grew up in an enclosed neighborhood of tall rock walls and bougainvillea and hibiscus bushes.
Even though I had a collection of Barbie dolls and her accessories, I ran with the boys. We climbed trees, played war against those other kids, caught lizards (but released them unharmed), and rode our bicycles helter-skelter, Evel Knievel. I loved Legos, Atari and arcade video games, G.I. Joe, He-Man, and Star Wars action figures.
It was only a matter of time before Dungeons & Dragons entered our lives.
Thomas was a few years older and introduced the game to us. Naturally, we had heard the news, if you played D&D then you were engaging in the seductive arts of Satan and his many followers. We played anyway, but strangely enough did not turn towards the dark side.
D&D fascinated me with its character types, creation, and development, its big book of monsters, and spells! I was enamored with the vocabulary like constitution, dexterity, and experience points, and the adorable abbreviation of it xp. Each mysterious step in an unknown dungeon held my attention as we worked as a team to find the treasures, unlock puzzles, and find our way out – alive.
I tried all the character types: wizards, elves, fighters before deciding clerics were the best. The polyhedral dice were not only pleasing to my eyes, but to handle as well. Rolling them NEVER stopped being fun. It was a game of chance that made you hold your breath as you watched the dice spin until it stopped.
But I was devastated when my most powerful player, Alexandra died. Prior to her, character deaths were always an opportunity to start again. This time though, I got angry because Alexandra and I had been together for the longest time.
Don’t ask me to remember the moment. I was crushed. I went home, sat in my upstairs bedroom, and probably relived her death a thousand times.
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I grabbed my dead character sheet and stomped over to Thomas’s house at the top of the hill.
I knocked on the door. He answered.
“You killed her! You killed her on purpose because she was getting too strong and powerful. You were jealous. I can’t believe you would do this to me. To her. There’s no way I could have lived through all that. And you knew it. Well, guess what? I don’t want to play with you anymore!”
He stood there in shock, but he looked halfway amused too.
That added fuel to my fury, so, I – dramatically – held out my character, and ripped it half, then in quarters, and then whatever is after that.
I could tell he was trying not to laugh which only pissed me off further. As I spun around to leave, I saw him kneeling, and picking up the pieces of my character.
I went home and cried.
Later that day, Thomas came by my house and offered my character back. He had taped it together, it looked sad, my character, and yeah, he did, too.
“You’re right. I did throw Alexandra into the deep end. It was unfair of me. Please say you’ll still play. I enjoy having you around. At least think about it.”
I thanked him, but I didn’t take my character back. I thought about it. I thought about how I loved the game as much as he did. I thought about becoming a DM (dungeon master) myself (which I ended up doing, but played with only my brother). But it didn’t seem right, so I didn’t resurrect my character. I created a new one and moved on.
While I still loved and played D&D, I started exploring other RPGs like Battletech, Star Frontiers, and Vampire the Masquerade up into high school. Afterward, the adult world forced me to learn a different role playing game.
Nevertheless, I look back at a childhood brewed in creativity, imagination, and play. It’s funny to look back and think about a group of children imagining their versions of the game play as our DM described the treasures and encounters. It’s strange to reflect that my obsession with reading and writing (and perhaps even storytelling) took hold during these formative years from participating with a circle of friends out looking for an adventure.