Ronin Round Table: Gateway to Gaming

Evan Sass

Most of us at Green Ronin have a weekly game night, and some have two or three. We got into this business because of our love for the hobby. That love started when somebody shared their own passion for roleplaying, or gave an RPG book as a present, or we found a dusty box with an intriguing cover on a shelf at a shop.

The Blue Box has recently come back into my possession.Up until 1979 or ’80, my gaming revolved around Monopoly, checkers, chess, Sorry, Mastermind, Life, Pit, and Password, with some Scrabble thrown in for good measure. But then, late one fateful December, a mysterious box appeared under a certain tree, wrapped in festive paper. My brother and I weren’t quite sure what to make of the contents of this box, but we sure were willing to find out what it had in store. We were thoroughly enchanted by the promise of adventure the box held, and by those six crazy dice.

I can’t remember if our D&D box came with a crayon to color in the numbers on the dice, or if we somehow managed without. I can’t remember what characters we played. What I do remember is that we played upstairs at the house where my parents still live, in the big bedroom with red shag carpet and beige walls. I remember 70s rock playing on the Sears all-in-one AM/FM + cassette recorder + 8-track player + record player stereo, that our dad was the Dungeon Master, and he started running us through B2, The Keep On the Borderlands.

I’m not sure if Dad made it through the whole module with us, or if we finished going through it on our own after that first session. That doesn’t really matter. My brother and I had a new hobby.

In the 80s we hadn't yet developed rules about where apostrophes go. (Not a true statement.)We slowly expanded our collection, branching out into AD&D. Roleplaying books were not always easy to find in Portland, Oregon in the 1980s. Or maybe we just weren’t very good at finding them. We discovered a store called Endgames at the Clackamas Town Center mall, where we bought such modules as The Village of Hommlet, The Temple of Elemental Evil, Slave Pits of the Undercity, Secret of the Slavers’ Stockade, and White Plume Mountain. We also picked up the Top Secret boxed set somewhere along the way, and rolled the pink and white dice until they were rounder than they were twenty-sided.

We started playing less and less as we entered high school. Once I went off to college, I only played in one RPG session, in about 1990: The game was Talislanta. I seem to recall a lot of time spent on character creation. That, and crazy tattoos and big swords. (I’m referring to the characters.)

After college I moved to Seattle, and started playing in an actual weekly gaming group, with my brother once more, along with Brian Hess, who later would write Walk the Plank with me. After a brief flirtation with the first edition of Shadowrun (We loved the setting, but the rules…? Not so much.), we revisited first edition AD&D.

We rolled up characters and battled against bandits, goblins, slavers, giants, drow, undead, and even a dragon or two. Brian’s kids were about the same height as the table, and loved to roll the dice for us. Sometimes the dice even stayed on the table. Brian told them they could only roll up characters and play with us once they learned how to read the rules. This not only led to them becoming voracious readers, but we soon had two more, rather clever, players in our weekly games.

That gaming group changed over the years, of course, as people moved, or joined, or quit, and we tried out other games like Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (second edition) and Mutants & Masterminds. These days it’s pretty much just Brian and me trying to make time on the occasional Saturday to play Borderlands or Dawn of War online while chatting over Skype.

I’ve got a couple little voracious readers of my own now, with whom I’ve played a little Faery’s Tale Deluxe and Pokémon Adventure Game. They have started to turn blank sheets of notebook paper into "character sheets" of Star Wars characters, Pokémon trainers, and Hogwarts students, and they want me to bring them back their own dice from Gen Con this year.

I’ll catch you guys later. It looks like it’s time to call Brian and get the gaming group back together.