I remember everything about my first set of Dungeons & Dragons books. They were given to me by an uncle, in the early 80s. They came in a red box with a set of multi-colored dice. The books themselves (and the box) are long gone, but I still have the dice. Their once-sharp plastic edges are worn and cracked, the numbers in some cases are barely legible and I remain dubious about the amount of luck contained within them, but I’ve resolved to keep them. They’re in my dice bag right now, resting with the newer, shinier (and luckier) dice I’ve acquired over the past 20-plus years of playing D&D.
I don’t play as much now as I used to then. Now I’m lucky to have the time and wherewithal to join a casual campaign, but, back then, I played as if my life depended on it. I played campaigns with my brother and his friends. I played pick-up games at the local recreation center. I created dungeons and played them by myself as much as I could. And when I wasn’t playing, I was poring over the books, absorbed in the detail of the rule system and the fantasy of the illustrations and descriptive text.
To this day, I still have nightmares about grub worms boring through my flesh, so evocative was the illustration in the original text, and I still have dreams about the evil, yet seductive succubus. Where else but in a D&D manual could a young man find full-frontal nudity right on a store shelf?
My ability to play D&D dwindled as I grew older, acquired other interests and developed a need for sleep, but those enthralling days of my youth still influence me to this day. In fact, my passion for videogaming spawned from a desire to play D&D-like games when no one else was around to play with me. Videogames, for me, have largely taken the place that D&D once held in my heart, touching on the same thrill of losing myself in a fantasy world, becoming someone else and playing out an adventure in which I am that hero/savior/villain.
Considering the degree to which videogames and gaming in general have consumed my life, and that this point become my career, it’s safe to say that my introduction to Dungeons & Dragons was one of the most influential moments of my life. Without D&D I would absolutely not be where I am now, doing the things I am doing, and it all started with the Red Box.
Today, there’s a new Red Box. The rules are different and the dice are a uniform black (and the numbers have already been painted in) but as far as being an introduction to the best, most captivating game in the world, it’s on par with the original.
I haven’t played it yet, but I will. I’m sure, however, that it will not move me nearly so thoroughly as the original. It will not captivate my every waking hour. It will not inspire me to create. It will not engender in me a need to pursue the furthest reaches of my imagination. Those things have already been done. Those tasks: accomplished. But for those yet to experience the thrill of discovering D&D, it will be an eye-opening experience, I am sure. I can only imagine the future fruit that will be borne of the imaginations now being inspired by this deceptively simple Red Box.