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I’ve said this a few times over on g+, so I figured I’d throw it up here – I hate those full month blogging challenges. They bug the living fuck out of me. I hate looking at my blog feed and seeing most of them with the exact same topic each day… day after day… It makes me curl up and die inside.

It doesn’t just stop me reading THOSE blogs, I stop reading RPG blogs entirely during one of these. I end up reading marketing, promotion and science blogs instead, anything to get away from the mind-numbing sameness.

What’s worse is when the “challenge” actually involves some damned cool topics that I think would be cool to read about from some of my favourite bloggers. So, to show my support for the idea while maintaining my disdain for the end result, here’s a single-entry version of the entire 28 days of the current Blog Hop Challenge:

1. First person who introduced you to D&D. Which edition? Your first character?

men_and_magicMike’s older brother was a wargamer. They gathered in the basement where he had a sand table and they gamed. But they started playing D&D too. So my cousin and I joined in a game once back in ’79 when I was 9. The edition was a mashup of classic OD&D and bits of the recently released 1e AD&D PHB. I played an elf. His name is lost to antiquity and you’ll see why in a few paragraphs.

2. First person who you introduced to D&D. Which edition? Their first character?

My uncle’s girlfriend’s son, Chip, soon after I got my 1981 B/X D&D set. I had been playing on and off for almost two years when I got my first rules set, and I was totally thrilled by finally owning the rules. He made a fighter named Angus Young. He loved AC/DC.

3. First Dungeon you explored as a player-character or ran as a DM.

Here’s a rough map of it drawn from memory in about 20 minutes. Who knows how close it is to the real thing, but hey, this all happened in 1979.

Dyson's First Dungeon

Click to Enbiggen

The first one I ran as a DM was Keep on the Borderlands. You know, because it came with my shiny new Basic D&D boxed set.

4. First dragon your character slew.

A grey dragon with a wind breath weapon that didn’t deal a lot of damage, but knocked us all back and made missile fire damned near impossible. Nonetheless, my Archer (class from a 1981 issue of Dragon) managed to make the shot using an arrow of dragon slaying that was handed to him by the party leader. This same dungeon (played in the early 80’s) was also the first time I ever encountered a Beholder from the player side of the screen.

5. First character to go from 1st level to the highest level possible in a given edition.

Dribbler Narb – a halfling mercenary thug using the B/X rules. He made it to level 8, the max level for a halfling in that edition. He was a mean little shit, but the party (with a few exceptions) respected his grit and tenacity. And his bag of holding full of marbles. He appeared as an NPC in a few adventures with the same DM a few years later. Everybody ran away when they recognized him. Made me proud. I played him when I was about 15… still in high school.

TSR1017_Dungeons_&_Dragons_-_Set_5_ImmortalIn my graduating year of high school the Immortals rules came out for BECMI D&D. That year we played through the whole thing from level 1 to immortal. Because the goal was immortality, the two DMs (myself being one of them) were a bit generous with treasure so we would level up once every few sessions – but we always put out the treasure in accordance with the rules, we would just fudge the probability check a bit when it came to the presence of gold and platinum, and never seemed to roll below-average for amounts of said. 

6. First character death. How did you handle it?

Remember question 1? Now look at the answer to question 3. In the second side-room in there we met part of the goblin raiding party we were pursuing into the dungeon. On the first round of combat, my elf killed a goblin. As he was trying to pull his sword free from the little blighter’s carcass, another goblin rushed him, hit, and dealt 2 points of damage. Thus ended the career of my first character, slain by a goblin. My cousin’s level 1 elf (my character’s twin brother) killed the goblin in question and forever afterwards had a +1 to hit and damage against goblins.

I handled it by rolling up another character and by reveling in the death of every goblin at the hands of my cousin’s character.

7. First D&D product you ever bought. Do you still have it?

Isle_of_DreadMy parents bought me most of my early D&D material. They got me my dice, my Basic D&D set, and the Expert D&D book (not the boxed set). Since I didn’t have the boxed set, I picked up a copy of adventure module X1 – Isle of Dread myself at Fandom II. I doubt that it is still in my collection (although both my original Basic & Expert books are), but I do have two or three copies of it around. One might be the original, but who knows. We swapped modules around a lot back then.

8. First set of polyhedral dice you owned. Do you still use them?

Clear orange precision dice (probably Gamescience dice now that I know what I’m looking at in dice). I filled them in with crayon. I don’t have any left as they went missing along with their dice bag ages ago when I had a backpack stolen on a city bus. Thankfully I had no RPG books in that bag at the time, that would have been a crippling loss for me.

9. First campaign setting (published or homebrew) you played in.

My DM’s un-named game world. It was a shared world used by a bunch of DMs, and had elements of Shannara, Middle Earth and other stories thrown in the mix. You could call it “generic D&D setting number 8” and be pretty close to the money.

10. First gaming magazine you ever bought.

Dragon magazine issue 41 for $3.50 CDN. I have crazy flashbacks whenever I see that cover… flashes to a time when I was stunned by the newness and awesomeness of EVERYTHING dungeons & dragons. When I looked at the issue again while writing this overview, I immediately noticed the cross-hatching used in the map in that adventure.

Map from Dragon Magazine #41

Map from Dragon Magazine #41

11. First splatbook you begged your DM to approve.

None. I’ve played D&D in two formats: the first campaigns were “anything goes” – if you had the rules from Dragon or a D&D book, you could use them (thus my Archer in the dragon-slaying story, above). Then we switched to “DM provides the rules” and everyone makes characters based on those rules. I never felt a need to push for other rules when making a character for a game that had restricted choices – the fun part at that point was making a cool character within that rules set. This is the same way I play to this day. If the DM isn’t using rule X, there’s probably a reason.

12. First store where you bought your gaming supplies. Does it still exist?

Fandom II in Ottawa. It still exists although the ownership has transitioned over the years from the original three guys to one (with an employee). I’ve heard horrible third-party stories about the store, but never experienced them. “My friend’s girlfriend was treated like…” etc. I have also heard it accused of “ghettoizing the hobby” and similar stuff.

ral-parthy-miniI still shop there on occasion.

13. First miniature(s) you used for D&D.

I know I’ve mentioned it a lot that my D&D groups have never been miniature users. Just not my thing, nor our thing. When I first played we had a sand table though, and we’d put out minis out in marching order in the middle of the table. Then promptly ignore them. Mine was a classic Ral Partha that one of the players had in her collection.

14. Did you meet your significant other while playing D&D? Does he or she still play?

Nope. I met her at a birthday party completely unrelated to D&D, although 80% of the people there had cancelled their weekly D&D games to be there (three different games were on hold for that weekend!). I was working as bartender that day.

I do game with my girlfriend however. She’s got a bunch of characters in a collection of campaigns, but her most frequently played and best-loved character is Diessa, her dwarven cleric of Strength and War.

15. What was the first edition of D&D you didn’t enjoy? Why?

ADD_Dungeon_Masters_Guide_Old_p1AD&D1e with all the rules in place. Why? Segments mostly. Segments of surprise doubly so. Casting times. Weapon vs Armour Type tables. Segments. Weapon Speeds. At the time I felt that it was all so much more complex than it needed to be, and if you dumped all the combat rules and replaced them with combat from 1981 B/X D&D, it all worked just fine. So that’s what we did. We played Basic D&D with AD&D classes, monsters, spells and magic items for years afterwards. And when I say years, I mean I still do that today sometimes.

Outside of those dislikes of 1e (and I tried playing 1e by the book again about four years ago and still couldn’t handle it), I’ve enjoyed every edition of D&D, even 1e.

16. Did you remember your first Edition War? Did you win? 😉

Yeah. Third edition came out and people started saying that anyone who played it were roll-players instead of role-players and that it was “D&D, the video game” and a bunch of other stuff. I was at a bar… A BAR. I was drinking Moscow Mules (vodka and ginger beer) and enjoying some heavy drum-and-bass. Someone who I hadn’t seen in a couple of years asked if I was still playing D&D. This girl at the bar overhears our conversation and asks what edition I’m playing. I tell her we’re playing third edition (because that’s what the conversation was about by that point) and she made the sign of the cross at me and hissed and explained how I was playing it wrong, and how it was horrible, and how I was a roll-player not a role-player… the whole fucking kit and kaboodle. I kept drinking my Moscow Mule, and let her rant for a few minutes. Then I turned back to John and said “Meanwhile, my classic 1981 B/X game is also rocking hard!”.

This was all at a bar, remember. I was kind of taken aback.

I don’t “edition war”. I know that people have games they prefer. My two favourite editions of D&D have been 1981 B/X and 3.5 for ages. So fuck the haters, let’s game. I’ll talk about my likes and dislikes of various editions with people who want to discuss the rules, not people who want to war about them.

17. First time you heard that D&D was somehow “evil”

This actually happened to me for the first time four years ago. I was drawing a map in a cafe and it lead into a conversation about gaming, and one guy threw out the “what about all the people who commit suicide because of D&D?”.

Yes. Because that’s a thing.

18. First gaming convention you ever attended?

CanGames here in Ottawa in the late 80’s. I played a few rounds of D&D, including an adventure set in Xanth where you had to get into the castle of the wizard / sage guy who’s name I forget. Pregenerated characters from the novels, the whole thing. I remember shaking a beach tree to make a bridge of sand through the moat, fighting nickepedes… We found a bunch of “normal potions” along the way. In the end, it turns out the medusa wife of the wizard had accidentally turned him to stone and needed a way to turn him back to normal.


19. First gamer who just annoyed the hell out of you.

Didn’t happen until my university days. As I was becoming more socially adept, I started getting less and less patient with those who were not. One player was exceptionally annoying at one-upping everyone’s story with a “oh, that’s nothing…” story. FOR EVERYTHING.

“Remember that time the wind dragon was giving us all a -8 to hit with ranged weapons and your archer STILL managed to nail it with our only arrow of dragon slaying?”

“Oh, that’s nothing! In one game we were in the middle of a crazed hurricane / tornado made of a dozen djinnis in their tornado form and my halfling slinger managed to bounce one sling stone off all 12 of them with a series of perfect 20’s on his attack roll!”

“My uncle got hit by a big rig and smeared across the highway” 

“Oh, that’s nothing! I had a friend who’s car got smashed between TWO big rigs and when they…”

He didn’t get invited to any games I ran. I also walked on two different games when I found out he would be one of the players.

20. First non-D&D RPG you played.

Traveller. Little Black Books in a Little Black Box. It was our first time playing an RPG with guns. It turned into a series of running gun-fights with EVERYONE. Salesman ripping you off? Shoot him. Pedestrian gives you a funny look? Shoot him. Cops out to get you for shooting everyone? Even better!

We had some much better Traveller games later. But not until we had shot everything in the Imperium.


21. First time you sold some of your D&D books – for whatever reason.

Until I started selling books I wrote, I never sold a D&D book. Not one. So, the first “D&D” book I ever sold was a copy of this:


What’s kind of cool is that I don’t sell it anymore. I’ve got five copies of the limited edition sitting on a shelf in my apartment, but that’s it. There are just over 100 copies of the book in existence and I don’t plan on printing any more.

22. First D&D-based novel you ever read

The first Dragonlance novel. I hated it. I REALLY disliked it. It felt like I was reading someone’s D&D game. Not my thing. I’ve tried a few other D&D novels over the years since, but I just can’t do it.

23. First song that comes to mind that you associate with D&D. Why?

What? Uhmm… none?

I have songs that trigger memories of specific games, but none that trigger memories of D&D. And no game triggers memories of songs.

Hang on… as I was typing that I flashed to a punk rock song I heard that has D&D stuff in it. So we’ll go with that! According to Google, the song is “The Spawn of Yog-Sothoth” by the Dayglo Abortions. It used the stats of Yog Sothoth from the AD&D1e Deities & Demigods book as lyrics. Well, I assume the “gaping cunts” and “pulsing peni” part aren’t from there… But any song that includes “Monk/Bard: nil” as a lyric deserves some credit.

The beast he exists
The beast on the astral plane
The beast he has the ability to enter our universe
The beast psionic attack
The beast chaotic evil
The beast highly intelligent and unpredictable
The beast gaping cunts
The beast pulsing penis
The beast in this shape he’ll mate with mankind to create his spawn
The spawn they will breed
The spawn with human beings
The spawn they will turn the world into man’s worst nightmare
The beast he will rule
The beast o’re his spawn
The beast they will be his servants in a burning world of doom
The beast 400 hit points
The beast strength 25
The beast charisma -7 if you meet his eye you’ll die
The beast multiple attack
The beast monk bard nil
The beast giant mass of legs feelers and stalked organs

24. First movie that comes to mind that you associate with D&D. Why?

The Dungeons & Dragons Movie. Duh, because of the name.


The next one is Krull. Because I had a character with something very much like the Glaive for a while. Magic throwing slicy thing in the hands of a bad-ass halfling (Dribbler Narb from question 5). It rocked.

25. Longest running campaign / group you’ve been in.

D&D? One group, six campaigns, 3e / 3.5e, over 6 years.

My B/X campaign world has been actively played in for over 30 years now. Not one continuous campaign, but many different ones set in the same world over about a 400 year span of history.

Non-D&D – One group that slowly changed over the years, started playing Chicago By Night in 1992, kept playing through multiple characters and chronicles all linked to a common chronicle until 2007. 15 years of Vampire.

26. Do you still game with the group that introduced you to the hobby?

Nope. And not with a single player from that era either. Or from my high school groups. Or from my university groups.

27. If you had to do it all over again, would you do anything different when you first started gaming?

As a DM I wouldn’t have run as many Monty Hall games. I was loose and liberal with treasure in a lot of games, and let a few get completely out of my control when I got bored part way through them. But at the same time, these were important learning experiences for me, as they helped shaped the DM I am today. One who is a bit stingy with the loot – but one that the players really like playing with and who has a reputation of being tough but fair.

28. What’s the single most important lesson you’ve learned from playing D&D?

Charisma is not a dump stat.