Some of my first memories of childhood was playing Dungeons & Dragons with Ben. He made his character on a paper plate because we couldn’t find any paper in the house. I immediately started DMing the adventure for him, which wasn’t actually an adventure at all. It was The Shady Dragon Inn, a supplement full of NPCs for use as hirelings or premade characters. I didn’t know the difference. I thought the cover looked cool. Ben and I didn’t have a players handbook, we didn’t have dice, we barely knew what we were doing. Yet here I sit, nearly 30 years later, and I can remember everything. The bright light of the naked bulb in the basement. Ben, sitting cross-legged on the cement basement floor. Me, pacing back and forth as I basically free-associated a story based on what Ben was doing and where he was, according to the map of the tavern that came with the supplement. I never sat down and thought “Wow, this is going to be the love affair of my life,” but it was. Dungeons & Dragons is almost as much of a friend to me as Ben was.
And like any good friend, D&D and I have had our share of troubles. In my teen years, I was keenly aware of the stigma surrounding D&D. I had to master the art of appearing not into it, but still very much into it. Later on, in my 20’s, I drifted far from the game. My then-girlfriend, now wife was not a gamer. We moved away from my home in Marquette, Michigan, away from the few friends I had who were into the game. D&D was a lot of things to me, but without interested friends to play it with, it was useless.
This mentality continued right up to my 34th birthday. While sitting on the train and waiting to get home, I browsed the podcasts available to listen to. I found one called Critical Hits, a podcast where about four people play Dungeons & Dragons and broadcast it to the world. Alone on the train, I cracked a nostalgic grin for days gone by. Then I began to listen.
And then, the lightbulb lit up. I now live in one of the biggest cities in the country, with access to technology that can put me in touch with people having mutual interests in literally minutes. WHY AM I NOT PLAYING D&D RIGHT NOW?
And so began a chapter in my history that I have labeled “The Nerd Renaissance.”