I discovered Dungeons & Dragons at the age of six. I didn’t really understand the rules at the time, but the original Monster Manual and Deities & Demigods (the one with Elric and Cthulhu) were my gateway drug. Those books had everything I needed to spin off into the place I wanted to be. And when the Fiend Folio and Monster Manual 2 came out, and I started to play in earnest, I quickly became a full on junkie.
Throughout grade school, high school, and college, I returned to the same house and crew of friends that I started rolling dice with whenever I could. It almost seemed like a secret life I kept on the side, though in truth it was more like my stand-in for church: the pseudo-religious trappings of dice, paper, and pencils; the ritual of the suspension of disbelief and speaking in tongues; the doctrine of the books as led by our dungeon master/priest. The smell of that house, and the feel of sitting at the table — how could something so simple and stagnant carry such potential? Despite the hovering kindly mother, the stink of filthy teens, and the array of gross snacks, at times it felt like real magic was possible there.
The satanic panic of the 80’s around D&D, an absurd made-for-TV movie, and the “not-cool” stigma of roleplaying — we just closed the blinds and rolled through that nonsense with a chuckle and a finger in the air. In those days, I had trouble sitting still long enough to read books, and movies were not interactive or epic enough for my taste. Only that house, my characters, and the dice could give me what I craved.