“… And you’re dead.” Six of us are in my dorm room, hunched around a coffee table we ‘borrowed’ from the downstairs lounge. Remo, our Dungeon Master, reaches out and flips my ranger miniature over onto its side. Dammit to hell, not again! For as many times as my character has died during this dungeon crawl, I might as well have dressed him up in a pink skirt and armed him with one of those plastic toy bows with the suction-cup tipped arrows. Admittedly, I’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons before, but it’s not turning out to be the swashbuckling adventure I imagined it would be when I was asked to join the group. I mean, come on, no one else is dying at the drop of a hat like me. But then again, these other guys have all been playing the game for quite a while. Hmm, yes, they’re obviously veterans of many a dungeon crawl. Hmm, come to think of it, maybe these smug bastards just asked me to join them because I’m the only one on the hall without a roommate this semester and so we’re able to leave the game set-up in my room between sessions. Hmmm.
That was back in 1987 and it was my first experience with D&D. I remember being fascinated by Remo’s collection of painted miniatures, thinking the cover of the DM’s book was a bit alarming (a huge red demon wielding a scimitar in one hand and clutching a damsel in distress in the other hand), and frustrated that I had no idea how to play the darn game. If only someone would've handed me a player’s handbook and said, “Here. Read this.” But no one did that, and so after that one semester’s dabbling into the world of fantasy roleplaying, I didn’t give D&D another thought for sixteen years.
Fast forward to November 2003 and we’re preparing to fly to Arkansas to be with my wife’s family for Thanksgiving. While searching for something to read on the plane, the cover of R.A. Salvatore’s The Thousand Orcs catches my eye. I devour it on the trip, even risking my wife’s wrath a few times by sneaking upstairs to our room to read it when I should’ve been hanging out with the in-laws. Once we’re back home, working my way through the rest of the Drizzt books soon becomes my guilty pleasure. I mean, it’s not that I would've been embarrassed to be seen reading them or anything, but c’mon, let’s face it, the guy’s no Hemingway or Faulkner.
But to be honest, even though the novels are set in the Forgotten Realms, they didn’t turn me back on to Dungeons & Dragons. They were simply some fun reads that I enjoyed having on the nightstand for a while. It wasn’t until this fall (2010), when I came across some D&D 4e game products in a local Borders bookstore, that my interest in the game itself once again flared to life. In fact, I was so interested that I walked out of that bookstore with a copy of the 4e Player’s Handbook. (Uhh… I bought it first, of course.)