A proper tribute to Mr. Gygax

In which I out myself as a complete and total nerd:

As I mentioned two posts ago, I was saddened to learn that Gary Gygax, the creator of Dungeons and Dragons, failed his saving throw vs. death on Tuesday. I spent the entire four years of my high school career (why do they call high school a career, anyway?) immersed in D&D with my girlfriends. We did not have boyfriends (I’m sure that comes as a real shock), and so we’d spend nearly every weekend and some weeknights playing.

I don’t think that we really played the same way that most other people play D&D. We weren’t sticklers for the rules, or calculations and charts, and we definitely didn’t have little figurines to represent our characters. Our characters had definite personalities and extraordinarily complete backstories, and while we still did a lot of normal D&D adventuring, we preferred to play “Personal Happiness.”

“Personal Happiness” resulted in me having, to this day, an entire file box full of scribbled notes from one character to another. During sleepovers, or evenings at each others’ houses, or even during school when we were supposed to be doing algebra or chemistry, we’d write notes back and forth to each others’ characters. Each conversation would have its own sheet of paper:

B.P.- How’s life?
-Selina

Selina- Alright. How about you?
-B.P.

B.P. – I suppose it’s okay. The kids are driving me NUTS. N-V-T-S, nuts! Nevermind. I got a cat. All black, named Macbeth.
-Selina

Selina – I’ll take the kids if you’d like.
-B.P.

B.P.- If you want ’em for a while, it’d sure be nice.
-Selina

Selina – Okay, I’d like to have them.
-B.P.

B.P.- How’s the love life? If you don’t mind my asking, that is.
-Selina

Selina – Nonexistent. And you?
-B.P.

B.P.- The same. I’m surprised Kook Sul hasn’t asked me to marry him lately.
-Selina

Selina – I think he gave up.
-B.P.

This was essentially a pen-and-paper precursor to instant messaging! And yes, most of our Personal Happiness conversations revolved around love and relationships – the very things none of us were experiencing in real life. For what it’s worth, Selina was my cleric, recently divorced from Sarah’s character B.P. (Black Panther), a half-elf/black panther shapeshifter.

It was seriously like a four-year soap opera.

Geeky and pathetic as it may sound, I think that the intensive imagination that this required helped develop not only my creativity but also my writing skills and my skills at relating to people. I haven’t always had good people-relating skills (okay, maybe I still don’t!) and D&D really cemented my relationship with my girlfriends. We are all still good friends today, twenty years later, and who knows if we would have been as close as we are if it weren’t for RPGs.

A couple of other notes: We always wrote out our marching orders at the beginning of adventures, and the title always was “Marching Order (smooth, like a little froggy’s bottom).” Why? I have completely forgotten, but I’m sure it was for some hilarious reason. Also, in the marching orders we had columns for name, class, rank, and hit points – the usual stuff – but also a column labeled “V/NV,” which I believe stood for “Virgin/Nonvirgin.” Clearly this was important to us!

This was my favorite character, Bradley Dale, named (not so secretly) after someone I secretly was in looooove with in high school. Click for larger images.

And we weren’t big fans of charts full of numbers, but we did keep a few:

2 Comments

  1. Molly

    AAAAAAAAAAGH! Would you look at that…Wow. I have a giant box of similar contents in my parents’ house. This has totally made my day! I’m sorry, though, that I was never in the same school as you guys so I had no one to commiserate with in this way during algebra.

  2. Katy

    I know! With the weird way the Plano schools were set up, we were only in school together for one year (you in 6th, me in 8th) and I’m not even sure if we knew each other then.

    I think mostly our methods were to trade notes in the hallway between classes, lest we get in trouble for passing notes in class!! It was always great to see a friend in the hallway, and she’d hand you a note (folded up into a little square with the corner tucked in!) for you to read during your next class!

    I guess today kids just text message each other during class. Kinda takes the magic out of it.

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