4 min read

The day I understood roleplaying

I have always wanted that my first blog post (I have never blogged) were about Gary Gygax, father of Dungeons & Dragons, and nothing better than relating my first gaming session, the one that changed my view about what the spirit of the game is.

I was 10 or 11 when I first joined a role playing session. As any new player, I wanted to create a bold and heroic warrior, one who would lead to victory to his companions. My first two characters died because of that boldness. Who would have thought that a couple of points made so much difference!

Once my third character in just four or five hours died, I decided to choose a dwarf. I realized halflings were not the best race to lead in battle, and dwarves were pretty sturdy and powerful. One of my partners lent me a battleaxe. It was not that good, just gave an extra point of damage when wielded by dwarves, but it made me feel feel invincible.

After picking me up in a town, we went to the woods, searching for a cave that was supposed to hold some old weapons. Always the bold and arrogant dwarf, I went inside (failing two awareness checks) and met face to face with a bear. In maybe the only stroke of luck I had that night, I got a couple of consecutive twenties which allowed me to attack first, hitting one of his legs, and to run away while the bear was still shocked. But dwarves don't run that fast, and I failed an awareness check that made me turn the wrong corner and reach a dead end. The bear came and slammed me from the back while still looking at the dead end (yes, I failed yet another check). Disarmed, stunned and trapped, I was considering an elf for my new character when my companions, two human warriors and an elf healer. For the next half an hour, I watched them fight the bear in a place so small they could not attack together even with their shortswords, barely tickling him at all. To give you all an idea, my lonely desesperation attack upon meeting him had done more damage to him than the attacks they could muster.

Trapped between a narrow dead end and a bear, with a weapon lost somewhere in the cave, I tried to sneak through him so that we could all escape. But I failed another check, the bear hit me with his pawn and was about to tear me open when a warrior threw himself and clung to his neck. The bear slammed him against a wall and, as he fell, he told us to get out. A few die throwing later, he was dead, but the rest was outside.

The session ended for the night, and while having pizza, he gave me an envelope. Before starting the game we have all written in a sheet of paper a single phrase that would that would define ours characters. It said something like "Sacrifice is an option when a friend's life is in danger." I felt ashamed of mine, which read "Become the best warrior."

That is when role playing in general and Dungeons & Dragons in particular "clicked" for me. The game is not about a goal, but a path. For my next session, my card changed to "Loyal, friendly, hard worker and very arrogant." It didn't matter where it would take me, as long as I respected that sentence.

Dungeons & Dragons was my entrance to role playing. It made me share a lot of good moments with friends and people I had never seen before. It made me think always in the path, not the goal, and was one of the reasons I joined a MUD (practicing English was the other one).

Gary's co-invention marked my life. I still can't believe he is no more. Every day I log in a MUD will be a tribute to someone who wanted us to use our imagination to build something special, unique.

Thank you, Gary.

I posted a very similar note in the public board of a MUD (multi-user dungeon) the day after he passed away. Since many of my blog entries will be related to MUDs and roleplaying, I believe it is suitable to start with a homage to Gary Gygax, the one who started it all.

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