It is Friday and we have returned! We missed last week’s show due to some real world adulting and home-ownership woes (thanks, Matt), but have returned this week to punish your ears and soul with our inane prating because we can! Join your hosts Robert and Matt as they discuss real life, exploding phones, TV shows, and other random-ass stuff. Welcome back to your weekly dose of self-loathing, because it’s a brand new episode of Useless Drivel – A Podcast Without a Point!
Step right up boys and girls, step right up! Prepare to be astounded and amazed, excited and entertained, overwhelmed and occupied by the freakish sights that only your ears can behold! That’s right folks, were going uncaged this week, so there’s no rules, no order, and no stopping the freakshow geek show! Join us this week as we discuss a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and a whole bunch of other stuff! Open up your pocket books, get in tune with your psychic side, and kiss the bearded lady good-bye as you settle in for a brand new episode of Monkey in the Cage.
I am referring, of course, to the first gaming session you ever played. It all starts somewhere for all of us, and for me, it started at summer camp.
I was 14 years old and working as a junior camp counselor for a Boy Scouts of America summer camp the summer after my Freshman year of high school. I was spending two weeks in the mountains working for the camp, but because of my age, I fell in the “junior” category and had to be supervised. I spent the first week working in the camp store alongside some burned out Vietnam Vet and believe me, it was boring as hell. I was also unfortunate enough to be stuck living in the “Junior Counselor Tents” out at the ass-end of the whole camp, away from everyone and everything. It was like we were lepers, and were allowed to work for the camp out of pity. I don’t remember much of that week, aside from reading in my tent and constantly fishing for sodas in a trash can full of ice for customers at the camp store. My luck would turn, however, as the week came to a close. I started talking with one of the “real” camp counselors (he was all of 17 or so) and told him how much I hated working the store. It turned out that the junior counselor he had at the lake was pretty lame, so he talked to some of the head honchos and got me switched for my second week. After introducing me around, I sealed a spot on the waterpolo team for the weekly “Counselor vs. Cooks” match. My assist for the winning goal sealed me a spot in the Counselor’s cabin, so I packed my stuff, said goodbye to the tents and, unbeknownst to me, soon myself embarking upon the world of tabletop roleplaying. I think it was the first night in the cabin that I was approached by the two Counselors I would be working with at the lake. Time has faded the memory of their names, but the gaming experience is still absolutely fresh. Anyway, they asked me if I was interested in creating a character and playing a session of Dungeons & Dragons with them. I had no previous exposure to the game but recognized the name, but had recently finished reading “The Hobbit” and had spent a few years playing either the “HeroQuest” or “Battle Masters” board games, so I was in.
I spent the next two days at the lake being guided through the character creation process, which consisted mostly of my proffering suggestions and being told what I could or couldn’t do. Looking at the character sheet, though, I don’t think I was being told “no” a lot. What I ended up with was my first character, Carpathy-Alay, a 4th level Svirfneblin Gnome (for the 120 ft. infravision), Fighter/Thief multiclass that wore Gnomish Workman’s Leather Armor and fought with a +1 Bastard Sword (because a sword called Bastard is AWESOME to a geeky 14 year old). Named after the Carpathian Mountains (I was reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula at the time), his stats were off the charts (STR 18/26, DEX 17, CON 17, INT 17, WIS 18, CHA 15) and in hindsight, it was one of the most poorly created characters I have ever seen, but, I didn’t know the difference, so what the hell! I had my character and we were ready to go. The adventure started with my gnome and another PC, and elven wizard at the bottom of a giant hole in the earth, surrounded by sheer cliffs. There was no way out except the cave that stood before us. We entered the cave, did some minor dungeon exploring and fought and owlbear and a gelatinous cube. We eventually made it to the main chamber and had a staring match with a lich before the DMPC, a deaf Kender that fought with twin shortspears and had a wrist mounted crossbow, dispatched the lich before our eyes. With that, my first gaming session was over. I really had no idea what I had been doing the past few hours, aside from visualizing myself as a 3 and a half foot gnome and rolling the strangest dice I had ever seen, but I loved every minute of it.
We didn’t play again in the few days remaining at camp, but the guys that had introduced me to the game sent me off with a laundry list of books that I needed to start play this amazing new game. The weekend after I got home, I begged my parents to take me to Crown Books and where I bought my first gaming book… the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. Fail, fail fail. I eagerly looked over the book, marveling at all the tables and rules that made absolutely no sense while simultaneously trying to decrypt it all. After a few days, the book went on a shelf and my Sophmore year of high school started. The book sat until the first day of summer, when Robert saw it and said, “Hey, I have a Dungeons and Dragons book too! We should play.” It turned out that he had the “Forgotten Realms: Adventures” campaign sourcebook, but we pooled our minimal financial resources together, bought a Player’s Handbook, and using homemade character sheets, embarked on our gaming adventures. The rest, as they say, is history… history which will undoubtedly be retold on this podcast for years to come. Oh, and as a special treat, here is the original character sheet of my very first ever PC:
I always felt I should hold on to it. I’m surprised it’s survived all these years!!