At the same time that I was young and struggling with Lagoon (see #2 of this series), there was the big Dungeons and Dragons scare, where sensational media blamed Dungeons and Dragons for a laundry list of society’s ills. My mother, being curious and responsible, went to a bookstore one day to see these D&D books for herself. She didn’t really comprehend them, but what she saw suggested to her that they were harmless and that, moreover, her son (me) would be interested in them.
I found myself with a random smattering of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons books and absolutely no idea what they were for. I recently unearthed the collection, and it’s entirely haphazard– Player’s Option: Spells and Magic, Legends and Lore, Tome of Magic, Book of Artifacts, The Complete Wizard’s Handbook, The Complete Book of Elves, and most importantly, the World Builder’s Guidebook. I devoured them all with fascination, even though the point of it all wasn’t really clear to me.
What was crucially missing from the set was a Player’s Handbook, something I didn’t even know existed and thus didn’t know to ask for. I wouldn’t see a Player’s Handbook for another decade. Instead, what I had was a massive repository of information and help in building and populating worlds, and so that’s what I did. I wrote and mapped and thought about endless fantasy worlds, from the embarrassingly derivative to the (at the time) unique. The idea never occurred to me that D&D was a game you played with other people, something I wouldn’t do until my 20s, but I was very familiar with worldbuilding.
Now, I’m the DM for my group of friends, and I try to come up with interesting, varied stories for them to play.