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August 2014: #RPGADay

David Champan posted in his blog this month an idea to feature an RPG from your life every day, via twitter or facebook or blogs or google+.

#RPGaDAY
My Google+ feed has exploded with it, and I am jumping on the bandwagon with gusto!

Day 1:  First RPG Played

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My first RPG I played was, I think, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, played in the late 1970’s or very early 1980’s. My dad was my first DM; we used to play on camping trips with my sister and my brothers. I don’t remember when our first game was. What I do remember is that I was very young (I was created the same year as Dungeons & Dragons), and people weren’t really talking about how to adapt RPGs for very young children. It was still very much a game about fighting dangerous foes and, oftentimes, losing.

I was just barely old enough to write my character’s name on his sheet: TOM. I was old enough to roll dice. I was not old enough to cope with the death of my character, and things ended poorly when a green dragon breathed on me before we even entered the cave. Alas!

Day 2: First RPG GameMastered

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This one is easier to remember. It would be about 10 years after my first gaming experiences before I ran a formal RPG. That said, we had an attic full of costumes and regularly played dress-up and put on skits and generally played variations of make-believe (today, this might be called LARPing). Make Believe was, in fact, the core activity for me and my best friend Holly well into high school, when we switched from Make Believe to co-writing various short stories.

At any rate, one day I sat down with Holly and our friend Jecca and said “let’s play D&D! It’s totally fun!” I think it was the Red Box basic set, but I might be wrong. I then proceeded to bore them both to utter despair. Holly even fell asleep. I was about 14.

Day 3: First RPG Bought

I am pretty sure the Red Box basic set was the first RPG I bought, which I did at Tom Thumb hobby store in Evanston, where I grew up.

When Dad moved out, he took his D&D books and dice with him, and I know I didn’t have my own dice. The Red Box had dice, character sheets, books, etc. I still have those dice and continue to play with them– they were black and red dice. The d20 was white.

The sales people at Tom Thumb weren’t very nice to young people– they typically ignored us, which was frustrating because I was always trying to buy things that were behind the counter, like beads for making jewelry.

Anyway, for Day 3, I would like to talk about a specific RPG-buying experience that I never really told anyone. My mom knows about it, but that’s about all.

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It was 1988 or 1989, and I was at Toys R Us. The Dungeons & Dragons display caught my eye– it was on a low shelf, towards the front of the store, in the gauntlet of stuff you pass through on your way to the rest of the store. I had to crouch down to dig through it. I had the Red Box and maybe the Expert set, but Advanced! What was Advanced?

I didn’t understand that what I was looking at was about to become “obsolete,” as 2nd edition was around the corner, and in fact, I would accidentally buy the 2nd edition DMG about a year later, not realizing they were incompatible. I had money in my pocket from either birthday or bribery (certainly not from doing actual chores! I was a lazy child). I wanted the Players Handbook.

I have a difficult time remembering numbers, in general, but the Internet has helped me, here. The PHB was $12, and that’s what was no doubt printed on the bright orange sticker and bar code that Toys R Us put on the book’s cover.

I took my items (the PHB and something else that was about $16) up to the counter to check out. The clerk rang me up and said it was $20 and some change. I was a little confused, but dug out my money, paid, and walked outside, holding my bag.

I sat down to wait for my mom to pick me up– she had dropped me off while going off to run another errand. Toys R Us wasn’t a common destination for me; it was out of my way, really, and I was a carless 14 year old.

Still confused at how $12+16 could equal <$20 (without tax), I pulled out my receipt.

The game book had been rung up for $1.20. 90% discount– woo hoo!

I imagined all the fun my friends and I would have with this game. How amazing it would be!

I imagined the hours and hours spent in our imaginations.

I imagined every minute of that time spent with the knotted guilt, knowing I’d ripped off Toys R Us. I’d feel shame whenever I opened the book. I’d feel like I hadn’t deserved this richness.

I walked back inside and presented my receipt and the book to the Information/Returns desk and said I didn’t know what I should do. The person there thanked me for my honesty and rang me up for the remaining $11.

My mom came into the store while I was still checking out and asked what had happened. I was embarrassed. I told her they’d rung me up for $1.20 for the book, and I was paying the difference.

“Oh, I’m so proud of you–” she started to gush.

I didn’t want this to be a “thing.” I didn’t want it to become one of the stories my family tells, over and over again. I didn’t want to make it part of my identity– when people talk about you, what they say becomes part of your identity, in little ways, and I was already having enough trouble being a goody two-shoes without this story getting around. I just wanted to pay and be done. I felt like I’d been caught stealing, even though I was the one who caught myself.

“Mom? Can we just… not talk about it?”

“Oh…. Okay.”

My mom is a champion, because she didn’t bring it up again, ever. I know she’s proud of me for many things, and I know it had to be hard for her to directly witness her daughter doing the Right Thing(TM), and stay quiet about it, to be modest and not announce to everyone that she’d done the right thing.  I’m proud of her for respecting that this was my story to keep quiet, my story not to share with the world (until now).

If you’ve gotten to the end of this very long blog post, tell me your own story of covering up something that wasn’t actually shameful or “bad”?

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