The twelfth day in our RPGaDay conversation comes round to what, for me, has been the defining cornerstone of tabletop gaming — FRIENDSHIP.
I entered the tabletop rpg biome in December of 1978, when I received the J. Eric Holmes-penned Dungeons & Dragons Basic Boxset for Christmas. I read the rulebook and module over and over again before finally playing my first game, DMing for my dad, my brother Bret, and friends and neighbors Robert and Paul Dennison, and Darrin Mylet.
Shortly after this, D&D fever was sweeping through our Jr-Sr High School. Dozens of kids were drawn to the game, including some of my best friends. Soon we were all gaming together and the bonds created over those sessions of Dungeons & Dragons were long lasting. Forty plus years later and many of us are still as close as family.
While many of us were still gaming, in 2013 we had a reunion game bringing a bunch of the old crew together. On that winter night in January, I DMed for Shaun Keenan, Brent Smith, Steve Congdon, Mike Duncan, Doug Gentry, and Joe Strunk. All were lifelong friends, but some I had not gamed with in thirty years. It rekindled our friendship and reignited our fervor for roleplaying.
Soon after my son Connor joined our troupe, and old friend John Hall and his children began to drop in on occasion, and the game took on a life all its own.
Sadly, we lost Brent and John, two of our oldest and dearest friends. Both taken from us far too soon. They are still very much a part of our game. Their characters are kept active. Even if the chairs they once occupied are empty, their place in our hearts and our game are ever filled.
We’ve added even more players in recent, such as Rodney Transier and Aaron Hurst, as some have drifted away, those we hope to return to us when life becomes less frantic.
But the core remains. The game is ongoing. Our friendships, these bonds forged on an imagined battlefield, have become so much more than the word implies. We’re a family. But rather than gathering around a Thanksgiving table, we gather around a gaming one instead.
This is as complete a list of people I have played Dungeons & Dragons with between 1978-1988 as I can recall: Trent Austin, Clark Brady, Marty Chaplin, Steve Congdon, Paul Dennison, Robert Dennison, Mike Duncan, Clay Edwards, David Farr, Brian Ferrand, John Fleck, Bret Freeman, Gary Freeman, Doug Gentry, David Grandstaff, John Hall, Laurell K. Hamilton, Chris Hunter, Chris Kayser, Mark Kayser, Shaun Keenan, Shannon McBride, Angela McDonald, Shannon McDowell, Darrin Mylet, Greg Nester, Soni Shenniger, Brent Smith, Andy Stradling, Joe Strunk, Keith Tucker, Ted Ward, Jill Wilson, Andy Williams, Andy Winters, and David Wood.
In the 90s I ended up DMing for a whole host of players, more like a hired gun in many respects, but there were memorable games with Jack and Megan Hill and their litany of cohorts, and all the sessions played out in the Bradford Apartments with the rotating dice-slingers that gathered at those tables.
Since 2013 the players have included: Mason Bechtal, Steve Congdon, Mike Duncan, Connor Freeman, Doug Gentry, Bryse Grisamer, Abigail Hall, Dylan Hall, John Hall, Aaron Hurst, Joy Linn Johnson, Shaun Keenan, Paul McDonald, Cayden Silverthorn, Brent Smith, Kasey Smith, Joe Strunk, Rodney Transier, Chris Wilson, and Jaden Workman.
That’s a whole lot of gamers. A whole lot of friends and acquaintances, all brought together by a game. But D&D, and RPGs in general, is not just a game. It’s an experience, where the imagination is allowed to flow forth unfettered. It’s no wonder such bonds are formed…