The Long and Wound-down Road of the Gaming Cycle
According to Punk Walrus

I started out in gaming in the 70's, when an ex-insurance salesman by the name of Gary Gygax published a series of books called "Dungeons and Dragons."  This set came in a black plastic box, and was a major revision of a game I had played before called "Chainmail."  A set of five unusual dice came with it, too: a tetrahedron, a cube, an octohedron, a dodecohedron, and an isohedron.  All in primary colors so bold, you'd think they melted Legos to make them.  I played with some of my fellow cub scouts, their friends, and a few other people at the local library, community center, or church (that dates this story...).  Our gaming was widely fantastical, with fire giants stepping over whole mountain ranges, only to fit in a 10' x 10' room rounds later.  We didn't care.

Years later, my mother got me a boxed set of my own.  It wasn't like the old box, it came in a large 9" x 12" blue-ish box with a large book of rules simplified, the usual dice, and an adventure.  This started me on the road to serious gaming in the early 80's, and in a year I already had my chubby little hands on a copy of Advanced D&D books, including The Monster Manual and The Player's Handbook. After I fenagled The Dungeon Master's Guide a year later, I had started my own little gaming group at the McLean Community Center.  This is when the gaming became really fun.  We played on a regular basis (Saturday afternoons), and started to develop characters.

One I particularly remember was a player by the name of Gu-Yon Wei ("Gooey" for short), who developed a Samurai-like character who got a hold of a magic wand that turned everything into a goldfish.  This seemed useless at first, until he started turning everything (enemies, traps, etc) into goldfish, which stunk as far as the Dungeon Master (me) was concerned.  So I made sure that the goldfish had the attributes of the previous incarnation, like being able to hold onto a sword, turn you to stone, or, in the case of the great dragon, it breathed fire on you.  Not to be outdone, this player would make sure his character had very odd items, like small clay pots, chalk, string, and the occasional cheese log.  Yes, cheese log.  And you may laugh at the man in the wicker armor carrying a cheese log, but when the group was being chased by a bullette (a sort of land-shark thing that haunted tunnels), it missed its saving throw, and stopped to eat the log, thus assuring safety of another round to these brave adventurers.

There were other players that also stuck in my mind.  Paul, playing the elf with psychic powers who always complained of a headache.  Eric's Sir Chaimboig, who carried so much weaponry on his person, it slowed down the party to a crawl.  Bruce, who made sure that any character he had carried a chicken so he could test if a room was trapped or not.  John, who never recovered from the word "bunnyoid" to describe a monster in a module, was obsessed with finding a secret door in every single nook and cranny.  I also met other DMs (or GMs for "Game Master") of varying skill.  I learned of the "Killer DMs", where the sorry DM seemed to delight in simply destroying everything and anyone within minutes of the game, and "Monty Haul" campaigns, where characters had obtained levels so high, they had to be expressed in scientific notation, had magical items that could alter time and space, and often owned pets that major Deities would have envied.  I watched, and learned.

When I got into high school, D&D was already being touted as causing devil worship, cult brainwashing, teenage suicide, and bad acne.  I must say, looking back on it, I never worshipped anything, especially a devil. I became more aware of cult practices (good plot themes for adventures) so I knew what to avoid in real life.  As far as suicide?  This thing took my shattered childhood, gave me friends, gave me a social life, so it reduced the suicidal tendencies that I already had.

In high school, I joined the MHSSFFC (McLean High School Science Fiction and Fantasy Club), and gained some new friends and even better gamers.  Most of the time, we met at my friend Kate's house.  Most of the gamers we me, Kate, Julie, Jason, Ellen, and a lot of "player du jour" people along for the ride.  To say we had fun was an understatement.  I had flexed my skills as a writer, and introduced a campaign with its own world and characters.  There was Xyphosauran, the archer whose son Xefon was so inept and clueless, he often kept getting kidnapped so our group would have to rescue him.  There was Bizzodd the Nemesis, the dark elf who would appear out of nowhere, do some damage or steal something, and then vanish.  After three years of Bizzodd, there was a frenzied hatred for this guy and our last game before we graduated was "Find Bizzodd in his home world and kill him!"  It was our best game yet.

After looking back on the whole thing, gaming was one of the best things that happened to me.  It taught me accounting, statistics, and tabulation (for saving throws, damage tables, treasure counting, experience points, and making charts of the statistics).  It gave me a social life.  I didn't care if I went to a friends house, we played for a few hours, and then it usually dissolved when the person who lived there had a new Atari 7800 game to show us.  We were together as a group!  Heck, D&D was just an excuse to get together and have a good time.  It helped me become a better writer and leader.  And by the end of my Senior year, I had over 140 modules, dozens of books, subscriptions to three gaming magazines.  Once I estimated I had over $3000 worth of stuff.  I still have it, too.

After high school, I tried the college scene and gaming conventions, but was quickly shown a dark side of gaming.  Whereas I gamed for fun and had a light-hearted humorous approach to rules and playing, it seemed that the more mature gaming world focused more on what I used to call "rulemongers".  People with gaming magazines in comic bags would spend hours on each swing of the sword, calculating damage more based on armor style, age of the weapon, size comparison of the two opponents, room temperature, ceiling height, and thousands of other factors that caused players and GMs alike to pour through dozens of books, magazines, charts, and only then were they confident on the rolling of the dice to see if the dagger did 1 or 2 hp of damage to the spider.  Meanwhile, the pizza went cold, the cola went stale, presidents spent out their terms, rocks turned to dust... And heaven forbid if you tried to question a strategy!  Why, they you'd start a snowballing avalanche of discussions, arguments, and sometimes outright fights between players.  GM's also seemed to actually think that being a GM gave you personal power over others!  Man, I was a GM simply because no one else wanted to be most of the time, and it was just convenient for everyone else.  I wasn't any better than any one player I worked with.  I didn't matter if they disagreed with a decision, we would discuss it, and half the time it didn't matter enough for me to actually enforce it even if I was right.  Who cares, it was just a game, right?  Not for the GMs I was seeing now.  I saw:

The last game I held was in 1990 with my new wife and a couple of friends.  But now I had a job and marriage, and then a son.  Those adventures were much more exciting, but I can never let go of those boxes of gaming books.  They remind me of a time when I had enough free boring time to need fantasy to excite my MTV generation brain. :)

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