A slew of popular sites have posted homages to Gary Gygax, one of the original creators of Dungeons and Dragons.
Like many geek kids, I was in to D&. Note that we always referred to it this way, not by the full title. Aside from Dungeons and Dragons being to unwieldy to say, we didn’t need all those extra syllables. It was D&D and we knew what we meant.
Steve Graber, older brother to my friend Brian, got us introduced when we were in, I’m going to guess fourth grade. Steve had learned to play with a mythical friend of his that I never ended up meeting. He was a 12 year leading a group of us 9 year olds on our first adventure. We played in the shed house My. Graber built in the back yard. It had a large picnic table that we all could fit around. It was Our Place. Oh, sure, there were not “keep out” signs, but no-one would come in there.
I was already in to Science Fiction. My Dad had worked on the Apollo Project back before. He taught my Sister and me about gravity and how solar system objects revolve around each other. I was drawing space ships and playing Star Wars. But the D&D game fired my imagination with the added dimension of Fantasy.
I’ve always been a reader. I was way above grade level before I ran into D&D. So I can’t claim that the game got me reading. But it did direct me at history. The monsters of D&D lead me to mythology, first Greek, and then Norse. From King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table I learned about weapons and castles, horses and armor. Other sources lead me to Greek Phalanxes and Roman Legions.
I won’t claim that D&D alone put me on the road to applying to West Point. But D&D certainly was encouraged the ideal of Chivalry. The numbers and data tracking appealed to the budding computer scientist in me. The books were great fuel for my reading furnace. The Paladin and Ranger characters, coupled with the physical training I got from Wrestling, made a pretty convincing ideal.
I came across an old Dungeon Masters (DM) Log I had. It recorded many of the adventures I lead when I was 10-14 years old. I always ended up DM, I guess since I was always arraigning games. While you get to play as a DM, you need to keep a part of you reserved, preventing you from fully immersing in the game. I enjoyed orchestrating the games. I think this, too, was a form of leadership training that helped bring me to applying to USMA.
One thing that has waned over the years has been my interest in the fighting aspect of it. It is harder and harder for me to enjoy a game that simulates killing, even if it is wretched, evil creatures. The profession of soldier makes you aware of killing, even if you never have to perform the act (I never did). The concepts of Good and Evil as Absolutes are too easily thrown about. I’ve seen the potential to do evil (in Hebrew Yetsir Ha Ra) in my own soul and realize that to many people, I would be considered evil. I do still love the concepts of Law and Chaos, but find them to be complimentary, both required for any system to work. I’ve also realized that the game has to be tailored to the ability levels of the characters or they will be quickly killed off. The universe is not so nice as to only push adversity in our way that is just difficult enough to force us to grow, but not so bad as to maim us for life. As a new Dad, I have a newfound respect for life, especially in its most vulnerable stages.
The Game of Dungeons and Dragons provided me with a great outlet It proved to be a wonderful seed for creativity, and a great learning tool for data management.