D&D: An Introduction (An Addiction)


I've been playing Dungeons & Dragons since I was seven years old. Papa Brebner taught me and my older sister how to play 2nd Edition, which was the version of the time. I'm not sure if 3.0 was out yet or if we just hadn't got the books. Anyway, armour class 0, what a time...

Papa Brebner would often find me rifling through his Monster Manuals looking at all the pictures and drawing my own monsters. I have memories of family friends visiting our house for weekends to go dungeoneering. Daytime was family time, but come the chilluns' bedtime, out came the character sheets, game board and dice and they'd be playing into the wee hours. We used to sneak into hallway and listen at the door as Mama Brebner would yell at my Godmother for stealing Hoggle, her dwarven fighter's kill. There was no way we could sleep when there was that much excitement going on in the living room.

Blood & Tome - by Todd Lockwood (toddlockwood.com)

Needless to say, when Papa Brebner asked if I wanted to learn how to play I lost my shit. The game excited me so much everyone would have to tell me to use my "inside voice" every time it was my turn.

I must make a point here, or an observation more like. Something I've noticed with about 80% consistency, is there everyone's first character in D&D is a manifestation of their personality in some aspect. A projection of self or desired self. Some people might think that's obvious but I find it fascinating. I suspect it's one of the reasons I've seen (and experienced) this game reduce people to tears. This is a concept I imagine will resurface in future posts. My reasoning for introducing it now is because of Andrinor.

Andy was my first character. In typical little boy fashion I idolized my father. The aspect of myself that manifested in Andy was my desire to be like him. Andy was a human fighter/wizard who was an inferior copy of Papa Brebner's first character Springfoot. Springers was an elf and at about 20th level at this point and a god in our D&D universe for all sakes and purposes. Andy even looked like him, given that I was using an old miniature Papa Brebner used before he drew his current one. From my perspective, Andy was going to be the best, just like Springfoot. Today he stands (yes he's still alive despite having been knocked into negative hitpoints more than any other character I have ever seen) as the worst built character I have. His mismatch of feats, skills, ability spread and equipment were determined by whatever my pre-pubescent mind thought would be cool. And yet he perseveres. Depsite his flaws, I am glad that he has taken on his own identity rather than following too tightly in Springfoot's steps.

Tenny made her own character, Annilla, and we started questing. Papa Brebner used NPCs to guide us and bulk out the party and we had a grand time fighting Zombies, Bugbears, Gray Ooze and Piercers. Eventually our family friends pulled together and bought Papa Brebner (who was the primary DM for their group) the core rulebooks for 3rd Edition. I couldn't handle all the new art, magic and items; I was practically frothing at the mouth. Papa Brebner decided it was time for Tenny and I to fill our party with some more characters of our own. The training wheels were off.

Our party of six was incredible; her elven rogue, human fighter and halfling druid, and my elven sorceress, dwarven paladin and human multiclassing waste of XP. We jammed fairly regularly and made more characters to play with our family friends depending on who was what level. I read those core rulebooks more than any other book I've owned. Papa Brebner even made a party of low levels so I could flex my own DM muscles.

This was possibly the origin of my interest in game design. I was a terrible DM. I had no conception of coherent storytelling and overpowering the PCs. I would throw items at them as I thought of them and almost every room was a monster encounter. It was a great way for me to make all my mistakes so when the time came to teach my cousins I was able to run an entire campaign with them by myself. We would spend our school holidays visiting each other so we could play. One of them even had a house with a basement, which made everything ten times better.

Silver Dragon - By Todd Lockwood (TODDLOCKWOOD.COM)

I wrote everything myself so my missions were heavily inspired by whatever stories I was consuming at the time. My campaigns were full of cameos from my favourite fantasy characters. I ported monsters from my favourite series so my cousins could experience battles against Heartless and Nobodies, Aeons from FFX, Naga from Warcraft, demons from Devil May Cry and Uruk-Hai. I wrote about four 1B5's worth of my own monsters, the viability of some even hold up today, albeit in need of a visual redesign and some mechanical tweaks.

I played the game until I was about sixteen, at which point school was getting a bit intense and I didn't get to see my cousins as often. I was also highly aware of the social stigma of Dungeons & Dragons so I never really talked about it with anyone bar my friends who were gamers. Given the social circles that were prevalent in my school, it wasn't something you used to pick up chicks (which sixteen-year-old Scotty was freaking out over). So D&D went on the shelf.

Skipping ahead a couple of years and I was having a conversation with a friend at my First Year hostel who I had a summer job with. He made a comment about how I came across as someone who would love Skyrim yet never seemed interested in it. I told him my reasoning was that it would never be as complex, creative or thrilling as the game I'd grown up on. He made the mistake of asking for more information.

For the next week or so I spent my shifts telling him all the adventures my sister and I had under our father's DMing. By the end of the week he couldn't take any more and begged me to teach him. The girls who worked at the hostel with us had become good friends of mine and were also interested. Three players each with two characters? Perfection.

I whipped up some classic orc-bashing missions and puzzles to give them a taste of how the game worked. They fell in love and eventually we were playing every other night when we were all off-shift. Interest rapidly spread to my other uni mates and suddenly I had a small community of people wanting to learn how to play. The day my girlfriend asked me to help her make a character caused a little part of my heart to die from excitement. At time of writing I would have taught just shy of thirty people the game, about half of which still play when they have time.

Dungeons & Dragons has had a huge influence on me as a person and a game designer. I have made the most incredible friends through the game and it has allowed me to exercise my creativity without limit. I can honestly say it is the best game I have ever played. For those reasons it will be a regular topic in this blog. The sort of topics I will be covering will be things like interesting house rules I've encountered, mission ideas, homebrew items and monsters, NPC spotlighting and campfire stories of funny/intense moments that I've witnessed.

If you ever get the opportunity to play, do. I cannot stress that enough. The game differs greatly depending on who you play with (playstyle breakdowns is something I'd be very interested in discussing) and it may take some time to find people you're comfortable playing with but it is well worth the effort.