'Dungeons and Dragons? What's that?'
I'd heard of the game but never actually seen or played it. I was knee-deep in Fighting Fantasy gamebooks and had no inkling that the experience could go beyond choosing paragraph entries. This was long before the internet made such things easier to find and learn about. I think the only time I'd ever seen the game even mentioned was on the back of an old issue of Conan the Barbarian (which, incidentally, I still possess).
'It's called a role-playing game,' said Des, one of my school mates. 'It's supposed to be really good. You like playing those gamebooks, yeah?'
'Yeah, well, they're supposed to be like that, but you can do what you want'.
My 13-year old brain was slightly muddled. A game like that? With my curiosity piqued, me and my new best friend Mark sought out more information.
We didn't have to look far. It turned out that one of the teachers at school, Mr Bowen, was starting a D&D after school club in room 1A, and potential gamers of all ages and sexes were invited. I was lucky to get a seat at the table of Jason, my first ever DM and a member of my present-day gaming circle. Jason had been dabbling in the dark arts of DMing for a short while and this was his first big game. Room 1A filled up and the games began.
My very first Basic D&D character, in fact my very first RPG character period, was a thief named Jamm Donut. Okay, not a great start but we were all young and we didn't really know what we were doing. Fighting alongside Mark's character, a wizard named Taskmaster, and several other players we assembled in a tavern and trudged down to the dungeons. I can't remember much about the adventure but I do remember my very first kill - a random skeleton wandering the dungeon. After taking a hefty hit I managed to defeat it and Jason described it collapsing in a heap of bones at my feet. It was exhilirating.
After a couple more weeks the dungeon ended with us defeating the bad guy and being catapulted through a portal back to the inn where we had started with our spoils.
It was an incredible experience. Many times I had wondered what I could have done beyond the choices in a gamebook, even decried the fact that there were choices I would have preferred, and here was a way to do that. I was hooked. Within weeks I had saved up enough pocket money to buy my own Basic D&D red box, and then my money after that went on miniatures and paints.
The club, sadly, did not last and we began to travel to each others houses to play. The hobby waned for some but I couldn't put it down, always eager to play. Others didn't really understand it and drifted away and others really bought into it and played not only D&D but other games, such as Traveller and RuneQuest. But it was always Basic D&D that thrilled me.
The following year, roleplaying games and gamebooks would become an important and much sought-after escape for my teenage self as my family life entered a traumatic period.