Saturday, June 6, 2009

Primordial Origins of Role-Playing (My Own)

My first RPG was the Tom Moldvay Basic Dungeons & Dragons set, purchased for me by my parents (at my request) for my 8th birthday, circa November 1981.  I had no older friends/cousins/siblings that introduced me to the game...I made a conscious choice that I wanted to play that game, and I am the one that ended up introducing others to the role-playing experience (I'll talk about the pitfalls of being a self-taught DM in a later post).

So what inspired me to ask my folks to get me this particular colorful boxed game?  Well, certainly I had played the TSR board game Dungeon! and that had an influence.  I had definitely seen the animated Hobbit film the year previously, and I believe I had also seen Clash of the Titans, which IMDB assures me was released in June 1981.  Certainly, I knew what a Medusa was before I read the monster description.  I had also definitely watched Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger sometime previously in my formative years.

However, I guess I exaggerated a bit earlier when I said "no one" had introduced me to D&D.  The truth is, sometime that Fall (if I am remembering the dates correctly...this is nearly 30 years ago!), my friends and I were playing "Dungeons and Dragons" on the playground at recess.  We had no books, no references, no dice, no nothing...frankly it bore a strong resemblance to playing "cowboys and indians" or "cops and robbers," except instead of shooting at each other we were running around swinging invisible swords, "casting spells," or (if playing the DM) roaring like a fire-breathing dragon.

There were two kids (twin brothers actually) that DID have an older cousin that had introduced them to the game, and they were (I believe) the ones that communicated concepts like "fighter," "magic user," and "DM" to me and our other playmates.  I can remember thinking the first two were bizarre words to describe "warriors" and "wizards" and these words made little sense to me till I was able to read about classes in the Basic set.

I remember little more of these make believe games, but one more thing does especially stand out in my mind.  No matter what else we were doing...whether we were wizards or warriors or dragons...there was always, ALWAYS a discussion/argument/negotiation over who was the person wielding BLACKRAZOR.

Yeah, that's right...Blackrazor.  Even before I knew what a "cleric" was, I had already heard of Blackrazor. What exactly was Blackrazor?  All the twins could tell me was that it was a weapon that sucked out souls.  They didn't even know it was a sword...or if they did, they never bothered to enlighten me on the subject. In my 7 year old mind's eye, I always pictured something like an electric shaver(!) and we treated it as the most fearsome weapon on the playground...a truly one-hit, one-kill kind of weapon.  Your persona might survive a hit from a different weapon, or even dragon fire ("ok your burning and hurt, but you'll live"), but once someone stated "I'm pulling out Blackrazor," everyone would scatter...I mean literally.

Blackrazor...the bogey man of blades.

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