My Origin Story

Created with Sketch.

My Origin Story

It all started with stolen dice.  In tabletop gaming parlance, the dice I stole were d6’s, and the place I stole them from was my mother’s backgammon set.  She had owned that set since her college days, and I have no doubt she would have thrown a fit if she had learned that I was not only separating the dice from the game board, but actually removing the dice from the house.

I wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons with my friends at school.  We might have been all of six or seven years old: just old enough to squeeze some kind of understanding out of the few photocopied sheets of some of the AD&D rules we had gotten from somewhere.  We didn’t have any books, or boards, or any of that stuff.  We didn’t even have dice, and that’s why my mother’s backgammon set got plundered.

A backgammon set has pretty good dice if you’re going to improvise a game of D&D on your elementary school playground, or huddled in a secretive corner of the cafeteria.  Backgammon has white d6’s, and black d6’s, and even that crazy doubling cube with all the different numbers.  We figured out uses for all of them.

It was a dangerous time to be a juvenile gamer.  Every time a new game got popular, schools would ban the game equipment from the campus.  This happened with Magic: the Gathering cards, and was gradually extended to include any new collectible card games as they came out, and even to ban those round cardboard POG things.  I never did understand what those were about.  The point is, it was the Red Queen phenomenon: like Alice, we had to run as fast as we could just to stay in one place.

However, D&D had an advantage that all of the rest of the banned games lacked: we didn’t have a lot of equipment.  There were no stacks of cards, or discs, or chips, or anything: just a few photocopies and a pocket full of stolen backgammon dice.  It was stealthy.  If the schools had realized that we were playing D&D, I’m sure they would have found a way to ban that too, for some reason.  For all I know, they actually did.  But we played anyway, and that was how it all started for me.

As the years went on, and we got access to transportation and money, we got better equipment.  Real polyhedral dice.  Actual books of rules.  We even figured out how to use random draws from a pack of cards to introduce more random effects. Not having parents worried as much about Satanism and suicide also helped.  Still, it was pretty bare-bones.  All the best stuff was expensive, so we were still using various chess pieces to mark heroes and monsters.  We even put them on a chess board, which was excellent cover against snooping teachers.  Smart kids like us were supposed to be playing chess, and nobody ever seemed to notice that we were not following anything remotely like the rules of chess, and that we were also rolling dice and shuffling cards (for those of you somehow not familiar with chess, you do not use dice or cards to play).

And now we fast-forward a bit.  I went to some schools, moved to some different places, got jobs, lost jobs, got married, had some kids.  All the usual stuff.  D&D was marching on all the while, but I had stopped actively playing around the time that 3.5 was still going strong.  I ducked my head back into the tabletop world when I heard about 4th Edition, and when I learned how 4th Edition actually played, I ducked my head right back out again.  I played some Pathfinder in there somewhere, but I learned to hate being a DM (GM?) for Pathfinder when players began to beat me over the head with a hundred different rules supplements.  So much for that.

I took another peek into the tabletop world when I heard about 5th Edition coming onto the scene, and this time I liked what I saw.  And that pretty much brings us up to the present, and it also explains this site.  I have always been a homebrewer and a rules hacker, and 5E is perfect for that.  So, this is where I provide my thoughts and insights, and this is where perhaps someone will find something that will make their game just a little bit better.  The days of photocopies and stolen dice are gone, but the spirit is still there: take what you have, and make it the best you can.