I have been playing the Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) role-playing game ever since my father gave into my entreaties in elementary school. My desire turned into a family activity, but I have not since played with anyone who began D&D with their family. My father, my mother, my sister, my brother, and I each made characters and began to play together.
1st edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, the rulebooks bought during my father’s high school days and filled with illustrations that I didn’t see as ridiculous until my boyfriend recently pointed them out. He also noted an abundance of “table porn”.
Well, my boyfriend is right. The art and presentation in newer editions make original AD&D look quite shabby, but I still love those rulebooks. I know that the equipment lists are on page 35 in the Player’s Handbook. I spent eager hours going through the Monster Manual thinking that I could somehow, sneakily, use in-game this knowledge that I was gaining out-of-game. My father had none of that.
My father gave us his character to manage, a fighter named Fylhund, while he fulfilled the role of Dungeon Master (DM; the D&D variation on Game Master, or GM) and ran our game. My mother made a halfling (hobbit) thief named Daisy – most likely not because she wanted that class but because our group needed a thief. I was not aware of this at the time, but thieves are essential yet relatively boring to play during an AD&D fight. She must have been prioritizing the excitement of us kids.
My brother, the baby of the family, made a cleric named Daffyd. My younger sister made a magic user named Crystabeau. I created a ranger named Fairlee who had black hair and stood at 5’7, the height I was once convinced I would grow up to. I only made it to 5’4.
My sister and I got our character names from a book called Fairy Dreams which I have even now. It is right next to me, on the bookshelf in this small bedroom that is my haven at university.
Although newer editions of D&D, such as 4th edition, have grown closer to video games and mainstream role-playing games 1st edition AD&D was, and still is, the perfect frame for the Tolkien-esque world we played in. My father read me the Lord of Rings when I was four or five years old, and the setting and themes of our game came from medieval history and Tolkien’s words.
I know that there are balance issues in 1st edition AD&D, and that some rules are seen as unnecessary or overly restrictive; for example, a player character must be of lawful good alignment if they want to be a paladin. But I accepted those rules as if they were organic. I thought of chivalry as most young girls must and decided that a paladin ought to be good and ought to be lawful, and I still feel that most of the restrictions make sense. Why would a dwarf be a ranger, anyway? Due to Tolkien’s influence that just doesn’t fit my image of a dwarf.
So my mother’s halfling was a thief in accordance with the racial restrictions. And my ranger barely squeaked by with rolls of incredibly high strength for a human woman.
Spoiler: Fairlee’s strength, plus a giant-slaying sword, plus the ranger’s damage bonus against giant class creatures, turned her into an amazing giant-slaying machine later on. I giggle just thinking of rolling d12 and adding her bonuses.
Everything was set. We would play in the same world my father and my uncles had played in, on the wild edges of the Kingdom of Bloodstone where an old character of my dad’s had become King. My parents bought each of us a set of dice and the game began.
Although I remember that I was deadly serious about it, only heaven knows how they managed three children at a pencil-and-paper game. Despite real world trials, we played as a group of five do-gooders who met in a small town on the edges of civilization and basically adopted the town and its people. Residents were thinking of abandoning the place, and some already had, for kobold and orc raids were coming across the river and no one had soldiers to spare for forgotten Momfret.
There was a war on – Bloodstone beset by enemies to the north and the south – didn’t we know?
We swallowed the townsfolk’s incredulity when we said that we would protect them, 1st level adventurers with little coin in our pockets who hadn’t even drawn blood. We ventured across the river and into the hills, Fairlee leading us along the creatures’ tracks, and we discovered and destroyed lairs of evil to return to Momfret a little bit richer, and a little bit more credible to the locals.
A man in Momfret named Potter befriended us to an extent, offering us a house to stay in. Later, after that house had burned down and we finally pieced together some suspicious details it became clear that Potter was in fact evil, possibly the root of all the town’s problems, and he had had the opportunity to learn plenty about us and would love to kill us all. We children were deeply offended by this man turning coat on us, and we soon embarked on an adventure entitled “Get Potter!” on the adventure tracking sheets.
He launched his attack first, however. A great massing of orcs marched on Momfret, leaving us little time to organize meagre defences. Our original five adventurers, joined by an elven fighter-magic-user named Melethan, and a human fighter named Everard (both of whom we had rescued from orc lairs), marshalled the townsfolk into digging a ditch filed with sharpened stakes and building a makeshift palisade. We found a few among the people who could use a bow, a hammer, or a pitchfork, and we spread ourselves out to support as many areas as we could.
Crystabeau’s spells won us that battle and saved the town, orcs falling asleep before they could threaten anyone. Daffyd healed the wounded. And then with our group members around level 5, we embarked on a journey into the mountains to find the great citadel of Potter, evil cleric and nemesis of Momfret.
At some point my father bought us all figurines and painted them. Fairlee’s hair is black as I wished, her clothes a practical ranger’s brown and green except for the purple on the inside of her cloak, which I simply couldn’t resist.
I am now 21. My parents have long since split up, but when I go to my father’s house in the summer on some weekends he and I play 1st edition AD&D. Sometimes we play that group we first made as a family. The group has since been named Magnum Force and its members now range from 8th to 13th level, little Daisy the thief being the most advanced (in older version of D&D different classes require different amounts of experience to level up, and thieves require relatively few experience points per level).
My brother isn’t there much, and my sister is no longer interested, so I play everyone, I map, and I write the adventure tracking sheets for Magnum Force. They’ve become my band of heroes. Our ongoing mission is to destroy a series of giant lairs as well as the mastermind behind them, and in the last dungeon we used a ‘wall of iron’ spell not to wall off any entrances, but to be conjured up in the air and dropped flat on a bunch of fire giants.
Instant KO. I highly recommend that use of the spell.
Melethan wandered off as elves do but the other six are still with me. These days Daisy has many potions of flight and a ring of invisibility that makes her even more useful as a thief. In one of our last adventures she single-handedly killed a blue dragon by flying up and backstabbing it. Daffyd possesses ogre strength thanks to a pair of gauntlets and he is contemplating building his religious stronghold. Crystabeau gained a slew of spellbooks from a high level sorcerer that we killed, and what with all her spells she never has cause to use her many magical daggers.
Everard spent nearly a month as a woman due a mishap with a girdle of femininity, and I dubbed him Everdina for that time. We had to find a high level magic user and pay him a bar of Mithril to cast a ‘wish’ spell to restore Everard.
Fylhund has now acquired far more magical swords than he could ever want, and he has been generously giving them away to our soldiers. Oh, did I mention our little military force? It’s not official by any means, but we are now the protectors of three other towns in addition to Momfret and we have about thirty soldiers under our command. Plus another elven fighter-magic-user, who will doubtless wander off like Melethan did once she feels she has repaid us for rescuing her.
Elves come, elves go.
We hired our soldiers from the city of Umber across the bay, which is also where we got our blacksmith, warhorses, and stonemasons for our two barracks. One barracks has a concealed room underneath it for our treasure, built by Crystabeau using ‘dig’ and ‘rock-to-mud’ spells. To get more supplies we can reach Umber without paying a single copper piece by using the small wooden box Fairlee possesses, a curious artefact which can turn into a rowboat or into a small galleon at a word.
And of course Fairlee is ever my precious first character: the giant-slayer, the tracker, the 5’7 powerhouse that I wish I was!