“You guys don’t look like Satanists…”
How did a kid raised in a conservative Christian home end up playing Dungeons & Dragons with three men who were there when the game was a set of house-rules?
It was the month of my birthday, and I had only one wish – I wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons with living legends.
I had been gaming at the home of Major (Retired) David A. Wesely for a few weeks now, and an opening in “what should we play next time?” appeared. I shamelessly made my plea.
“How about another Naval Thunder scenario? Italians vs. Brits again?” said one of the group members.
“Nah, we’ve done that the last two weeks,” said another.
“What about En Garde? I made copies of the 70’s rules for everyone and I’d be happy to run it!” I chimed in.
“I really don’t care for that game. It’s a dinosaur of an RPG. The mechanics are too stiff,” yet one more voice added.
“How about some D&D?”
The last suggestion was made by Pete M. Gaylord, and accompanied by a mischievous raising of his bushy eyebrows from behind his wire rimmed glasses. Pete was a former Marine on a vessel in Cuba during the 1960’s missile crisis. He was also the first mage in a fantasy roleplaying game. Ever.
I didn’t hesitate to jump on the chance to lay out my case.
“You know guys, next week is my birthday, and I would have bragging rights for a lifetime if I got the chance to play some D&D with you all.”
Without much more conversation, everyone agreed, and I was beyond ecstatic when the consensus was to play a game of D&D the next time we met.
Pete, Stephen the Rock, and David were all around when what is today known as “Dungeons & Dragons” was more simply known as a set of house-rules played on a ping-pong table called “Blackmoor.”
As game night drew closer, I decided to dress for such a historic occasion (at least for me). Stephen the Rock is known for often arriving well dressed, with a bow-tie, vest, and jacket. He is the definition of a gentleman-gamer. I decided to try and emulate his example. I found a vest, jacket, slacks, dress shoes, and bow-tie with a dragon and D20 print on it.
Character sheets made their way around the table. Townsfolk were questioned. Swords were drawn. Dungeons were delved. And my birthday wish, granted.
As the evening of adventure drew to a close, it was clear that this was one of the best birthday gifts I could have ever asked for. And as these three from the original group of roleplaying pioneers sat together
I jokingly commented: “You guys don’t look like satanists.”
Laughter erupted and feigned mischievous looks were made by some. When things calmed down a little, Stephen the Rock reflected on an old memory.
He said, “You know, I remember being at a convention years ago and a mom came up to me and said to me ‘Isn’t this game demonic?’ I told her, ‘No ma’am. This is a game for intelligent men and women. It teaches them problem solving skills, it uses their imaginations, and is a healthy social activity.’
She told me, ‘Well, okay then,’ and walked away.”
It was clear to me also, that everything I had been told as a child about this game was wrong. These men who were there when it was all just a set of house rules played in basements in the Twin Cities were of the highest intelligence, manners, courtesy, and friendliness. And they had remained this way for close to 50 years or more.
If being like these fine men meant being wrongfully labeled as “evil” or “satanic” by misinformed individuals and groups, I would be humbled to be lumped into the same marching order in a 10ft wide by 10ft high corridor. “Always march forward. Keep pressing forward,” Stephen the Rock’s halfling-thief Ullan put it.