I came upon D&D quite by accident and must here and now confess that my original assessment of its allure was less than positive. Being who I am, and how I choose to interact with the world around me, I made it no secret – through use of many expletives – what I thought of the famed Dungeons & Dragons phenomenon, and all who chose to partake of said phenomenon. I was too cool for D&D. Too good looking. Not nearly nerdy enough, and frankly above such forms of ‘entertainment.’ I got verbally spanked by all in attendance. Phrases like “don’t knock it ‘till you try it,” “we’re dorks, not nerds,” and “shut up, you’re wrong,” were all uttered repeatedly. Still, all my friends played there and then, saturday afternoons until late in the evening (and later deep into the dawn), and so I would sit and watch – dispensing my pleasantries at regular intervals and laughing at all the silly moments, of which there were many. Sadly, it is in my nature to want to understand the world I am exposed to, and when it came to D&D I was more clueless than most people are about the way the great game of cricket is scored. I started asking questions. The DM, sensing like the sly bastard he is, that my pretense of disliking this frankly very social experience, was beginning to wane, did not hesitate. Seizing this opportunity, he answered all my questions patiently, and shushed all the nay saying players who were mocking me now, as it was clearly their turn now that the roles had been reversed. Pretty soon I had discovered the basic premise of the game, and had a fleeting understanding of its basic mechanics. Clearly, the European in me had some difficulty with the dictatorial position of the DM and his vast and merciless grip on the hopes and dreams of his player’s characters, and this is what originally kept me from agreeing to play, now that I had taken an obvious interest in the game and was spending every saturday watching a campaign unfold. Slowly but surely however, I came to see another side of the DM’s power. When players were struck down by recurring and inexplicable bad luck in their dice rolls, the DM would covertly intervene by, in his words “fudging” rolls, from behind his DM screen. There were forces at play here that had all the benevolence of a true Deity, intent on the endeavors of his mortal children, and watching over them. Understanding for the first time that the DM’s veto powers were a double-edged sword and not just an instrument of death and destruction from a wantonly malevolent despot in the tradition of Mussolini, Hitler, and Josef Stalin, I capitulated.
“Ok, I’ll play” I said one day before the start of the game, startling all in attendance, “but I have one demand” I added in earnest. The DM eyed me suspiciously, unaccustomed as he had been to entertaining so much as subtle suggestions, but waited to hear my one demand sensing victory was at hand for yet another convert. “I’ll play,” I reiterated, “if you let me play a half dragon.” Having read, or at least flipped through, most of the extensive D&D library available on the shelves along the gaming table, it had not escaped me that in the world of Faerun not every man is born equal. The standard races did not appeal to me in the way other, more exotic races had done. Clearly no DM in his right mind will let a player unleash a character on his carefully crafted campaign that is so imbalanced that he or she will act much like a one person army and leave the other players feeling insecure. It would not be fair. It would not be fun, and moreover, it just isn’t practical. Dorgal, upon hearing my outlandish demand burst out in mocking laughter and said, loudly so there could be no mistake, “yeah right, buddy – good luck with that.” It will not have made him happy then, that after a brief moment, the DM said “what class?” Dorgal’s round face contorted violently in disbelief. He had expected an answer along the lines of: “not a chance!”, “hahahaha… no”, or even “leave this sacred place of gaming and ne’er return hence!” In the words of the wise: ‘twas not to be. “Barbarian” I answered. “Ok” said the DM. Mouths dropped collectively at this clearly incomprehensible decision. Blunt and Mathius who had been in their respective rooms off to the side of the main living room, burst simultaneously forth from their hiding places spouting incredulous and high pitched “what?!?”s. The DM proceeded to inform them that a melee combatant, even a half dragon one, would not unbalance his vision of the destiny he intended for our characters, and went on to explain that the level adjustment assigned to half dragon characters would balance things out nicely. No one was convinced. Nevertheless, Anakronox was born.
It was the start of my second year at University and my new founds friends were all in apartment 3013. Apartment 3013 would go on, as time went by, to carry special significance. Not only because it was the chosen dwelling of our resident DM and his vast collection of D&D related literature, but because of its central and convenient location for the 3 of us who did not live there. Griim lived, quite literally, next door, Jesska and myself, lived scant minutes from gaming table, the others lived up in 3013. I remember my first game of playing well. To facilitate the introduction of a new potential member of the adventuring group at this stage in the campaign (they were around 10th level I believe) I had taken it upon myself to write a bit of a back story aided by some helpful albeit adamant suggestions from the DM. The night before I had spent several hours constructing a suitable model to represent my new character on the gaming table. For a novice miniaturist sculptor, I still believe I produced good work for using only super sculpey, a pair of paperclips, and bits of a soda can. As I placed Anakronox on the table, and took my seat amidst these battle hardened veterans of the game, I felt cooler than I ever had hanging out with the ‘cool crowd’ back in my high school days. The very kids who would have teased and tormented the ones I was now sitting with, on account of massive dorks. Within a year of leaving that crowd, I had done a 180 and become one of the enemy. 2003 promised to be a very good year.