Day 14 of #RPGaDay2019: Guide


I imagine my interpretation of today’s word prompt — GUIDE — will be mirrored by many on this 14th day of RPGaDay 2019. When talking rpgs, those of us of a certain age, default to Dungeons & Dragons. I’m certainly guilty of this. I have played dozens upon dozens of rpgs, I’ve even created a few, but my friends and I are always drawn back to that place where we got our start.

I’ve told the story of my first forays into the hobby, of receiving the Holmes Basic Boxset for Christmas in 1978. A story less frequently told is how I came about my second D&D product — the Sutherland covered Dungeon Masters Guide written by Gary Gygax.


I was D&D obsessed all of 1979. I was 13 years old, thoroughly entrenched in the writings of JRR Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burrows, Robert Adams, and John Norman, but I had little to no access to D&D material. We lived in a rural area and money was tight, so the high price on the hardcover Players Handbook was out of my reach. When the Dungeon Masters Guide was released in the Fall of that year, I asked for it for Christmas but didn’t get it.

It wasn’t till the Spring of 1980 that we found ourselves on vacation in sunny Florida on a trip to the Magic Kingdom. My parents had given me $10 to buy souvenirs at the park, but the night before going to the Magic Kingdom, we stopped in at a bookstore in Kissimee and there it was — the Dungeon Masters Guide. I checked my wallet. There sat a lonesome ten dollar bill. A mighty fortune to a 13 year old farm kid from rural Indiana. I snatched up the book, eager to make it mine, but my heart sank as I saw its price tag. They were asking $15 for the hallowed tome.

I begged my parents to cover the difference. They chastised me for wanting to waste my money on the book rather than spend my money at the theme park. I begged again and they acquiesced. The Dungeon Master’s Guide was mine.

I read it all that night, and then the next day, I carried it with me to Walt Disney World. I read it on park benches. I clung to it on rides. It never left my side, on that trip and for years to come.

I still have it, of course. It’s beaten and battered. The spine gave way years ago and it’s held together by boxing and athletic tape, with Dungeon Masters Guide written in blue magic marker across the yellowed adhesive bandage.

The book is rather scattershot, but there’s a symmetry to its words and content that is akin to holy writ. Everything was there a DM needed to augment their game. And I cheerfully read through the recommendations found in Appendix N.

That book is one of my most cherished possessions. To me, it was portable magic.

— Bob Freeman


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