Basic Dungeons & Dragons, the Red Box
This is where I started playing Dungeons and Dragons back in the early to mid-eighties. Two friends and I gathered up enough to buy this red box from Walden Books. Dungeons and Dragons, the name we already knew was a bit taboo. Little did we know how uncomfortably it sat with our friend’s parents and grandparents that we had access to this witchery, this conjuring device of Satan. People reading this today think that sounds ridiculous and hilarious that anyone would seriously consider such things, but oh… they did.
All that aside, “Read This Book First”, and we did. We read it and read it again. We did it together and in turn. Creating that first fighter in the red box scenario. It Identified Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence and said, “All set? Let’s go!”
From that “Let’s Go” we were off to adventure. A world of Larry Elmore and Jeff Easley pencil and ink art, hit points, meeting Aleena and seeing her die. Time after time, there was no way to save her from the villainous Bargle.
The short booklet offers a solo play adventure to further entice and show an example of the game so you could absorb how the game worked at your own pace. The organization of the book might be a hot mess from a Game Master point of view, but for learning the game one small piece at a time, it makes sense. The book is intended to be read from cover to cover while learning the game.
I sit here now, maybe 37 or so years later and can clearly recall the sheer thrill and excitement of rolling 3d6 and assigning the numbers to play an adventure to level three one more time. We played to level three so many times, and in as many ways as we could think to mix it up. Still, the ways remained limitless. We tried to push the limits of level four, extrapolating the experience levels and taking wide guesses at the spells Bargle displayed.
“Just a fighter” could be a scoundrel, a pirate, a brigand, a guardsman, a knight. The elf, something from the world of Tolkien full of magic and wonder. It’s embarrassing to admit I had not read any Tolkien at that age, and I would have loved it had I sought it out.
Some time later there was another pitching in to purchase the utterly unimaginable world of the the Expert Box set. LEVEL 14!! In all its blue glory, we could now play to outlandishly new levels. The world expanded and blew our minds. Late nights on the weekends and summers staying up until 2 or 3am the three of us just adventuring, making it up, pressing on, delving into magic items and heroes going down in blazes of glory.
Yes, Dungeons & Dragons was for me. I recall someone acquiring the companion set. It was short lived for us. Somehow, someone in my friend’s family passed on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons hardback books. I recall one of the guys saying, “Woah!!! You can encounter ANYTHING with this!”.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
We moved on briefly to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, like we were professionals. Our little group of three reveled in speaking in terms of rolls to hit, AC, GP, and HD as a form of secret language. We were already passing notes in school written in QBasic and I was the one who made graphics for our small programs. This was done on a grid containing three numbers. An X and Y coordinate and a number code for color. I mean there were so many colors to choose from, up to 16 (If memory serves)!!
This fenagling the Commodore 64 code and graph paper contributed naturally to Dungeons & Dragons.
The Satanic Panic
Sometime shortly after getting the AD&D books, a grandmother, not mine, finally spoke up to one of the parents asserting that the game was indeed evil and we were indeed in danger of luring the devil. The books MUST be burned or destroyed. My friend, I suspect being Chaotic in alignment, was going to allow the destruction to happen. I begged him to just let me take the books home. He refused…. Until I paid him $30 for the stack. I was utterly livid at this proposition. He would watch the books be destroyed if he couldn’t profit. After a great deal of begging and pleading, and likely promising labor that would never be completed to my mother…. I managed to get the $30. The friendship remained, but was always a little shaky for me after.
That summer I spent at my grandparents camp in “down east” Maine. I read every word in the Player’s Handbook, The Dungeon Master’s guide, and the Monster Manual. My grandmother did ask my mother once during that summer, “Aren’t those books bad?”
My mother, Glob bless her, responded with, “I don’t care what’s in them, he’s reading. I’ve never seen him want to read so much!”
It was a world to escape to when this one was so cruel and terrible. I reveled in it, it saved me – I am sure of it. This game, this thing of imagination. It stokes the fires of inspiration for art, travel, adventure, and more.
Today – The feeling stays
This light has not faded from this world of fantasy and imagine even today. When I sit down to write the next adventure from Fehu Games, I wait for that feeling. That fire the young pre- and teen kid had when the books flipped open. That feeling of limitless adventure, is what I now spend my life trying to capture for someone else. It’s why I’ve gone back to those systems which sparked that flame for me. It’s why I fan those flames, realizing while I do so that the writing can be brought into the modern age. That we, as a community, can do better, be more inclusive, and invite new gamers in like we were invited in back then.
Welcome to the world of adventure – Adventure Starts Here.