It was the summer of 86′, and our family had just moved from Dallas to Little Rock as my father had been transferred to the Air Force Base here. Up until that time, I had never been exposed to role-playing games, but that was about to change. This is story of my introduction to the world of TTRPGs, their impact on my formative years, and how over three decades later, they continue to be a part of my life.
I remember when my Dad broke the news that we would be moving. Being that our entire extended family lived in the DFW area, 13 year-old me wasn’t happy with the prospect of moving out of state to some place I’d never heard of. I was in middle school, had made a nice group of friends and we had settled in Arlington for several years after moving from Abilene years prior.
Shortly after moving, our family found a new church (I was raised Methodist) and with it, a new Boy Scout troop for Dad and I to join. My Mom had put me in Cub Scouts when I was younger and it turned out to be one of the few things that I stuck with growing up. We attended several weekly Scout meetings and soon prepared for our first weekend camping trip with my new Troop.
That weekend we had probably 20 or so Scouts with close to half a dozen adult leaders, my Dad included. My tent mate for that weekend was a kid named Robert, and that paring would unknowingly be the beginning of my RPG love affair.
Later that night after we finished dinner, we were allowed to do whatever we liked until “lights out.” I made my way back to my tent to drop off a few things, and I when i entered, there were three of Scouts in our tent, and there were a set of books sprawled out over his sleeping bag. On the cover of each booklet, I read the words “Top Secret” on them. I had no idea what they were looking at.
“What are you guys up to?”
“Getting ready to start a session of Top Secret. Ever played?”
“Never heard of it. What kind of game is it?”
“It’s spy RPG from TSR, ya know, the guys that make D&D!”
What’s D&D I thought to myself, “Sounds cool, mind if I watch?”
“Not at all, in fact, you’re welcome to hop in if you want?”
And that’s where it all started, in my tent at a weekend Boy Scout camping trip. Every chance we had that weekend when we weren’t having to do Scout related activities, we were playing Top Secret.
After getting home from that trip, I was consumed with wanting to learn all I could about Role-Playing Games. There was this entire world out there for me to discover and I wanted to jump in, feet first to the deep end of the pool.
At the next Scout meeting after that initial trip, I ask Robert where he gets his RPG stuff from. He tells me there is a store in Little Rock, House of Hobbies, right across from the University. I ask my mom leading up to the weekend if she will take me, in lieu of making our weekly trip to the comic book store.
Game stores from back in that day were a magical place, especially for teenage Richard. This store was no exception. As I walked through the front door, it was like I stepped through a portal into another realm. I was overwhelmed by all the merchandise available and knew I could spend hours just looking through everything.
I had found my tribe.
I honestly don’t even remember what (if anything) I bought that day. It didn’t matter, RPGs had put their hook in me, and I was happy to be on the line.
The rest of my years in Boy Scouts, we would continue to play RPGs on camping trips and Robert’s and I friendship continued to grow along the way. By the time I got to college, I had stopped playing RPGs, even though I knew one day I would come back to them.
Over the years, Robert and I lost touch, as many do as they move into full adulthood. It wasn’t until my mid-30s that I started back with Role-Playing Games again, even though I was still keeping up with the hobby (and making purchases). I was at my previous employer when I met Jason and several other co-workers and discovered that Jason had a regular RPG group that played every other week.
At that time, they were playing through a lengthy D&D 3.5 campaign. I was offered a chance to join their game, and I haven’t stopped playing since (save for a few dry spells here and there). That was 15 years ago.
Fast forward to today, and I have very healthy relationship with Role-Playing Games. It’s the only type of gaming that allows myself and table full of friends the ability to have a share storytelling experience. It’s what sets RPGs apart from all other types of Tabletop games.
It’s what has brought me back time and time again, all those years.
Today I have a gaming group that I cherish, with a great group of people. And even though we are constantly having to tiptoe our way through the scheduling minefield that is known as real life, we have been able to keep a fairly consistent schedule. Which you probably know is key for TTRPG games in keeping rhythm and the story fresh in players minds.
Did I mention that Robert is a part of the group? After all this time, we are gaming together again like we did all those years ago. The person who is almost singularly responsible for opening the door to this wonderful world or RPGs (granted, i guess it’s possible I might have organically discovered them by some other means). To say it adds a little something extra special, the fact that we are gaming together again after all this time would be an understatement.
As things have come full circle, I’ve taken some time to reflect back on my history with RPGs and what the future might hold. I do know that no matter what other types of gaming I might end up getting into down the road, Role-Playing Games will always be a part of that future.
So grab a bag full of dice, some pen and paper, a rulebook and some friends, and have a good time!
As always, leave a comment with your thoughts. Until next time, LLAP!