by Chris Rostenberg
One day at Camp Dudley, a boy invited me to a secret meeting in the boat-house where some kids were involved in illicit activity. I had to agree to keep it secret and was to remain quiet while the boys talked.
Five children sat around a big table and this kid, David McDermott, who couldn’t swim, was speaking. He was describing some big medieval city and some guards. Another boy, Russ Matthews, was talking to David, asking him if he and his friends could get into the city. David said No. He said it in a voice that was not his own, as if he were playing a character in a play, but there was no script or audience. They were improvising. What was this? This was strange.
Russ said he would give the guard three electrum pieces to let the party into the city. Was this legal? And what were electrum pieces? The guard was scared the duke would punish him, so the boys could not get into the city.
Now, there was a boy named Clarke Lombardi, and he was from Manhattan and wore a straw hat and when someone would call him strange, he would reply, “What is strange?” Clarke Lombardi cast a spell on the guard and the whole party got into the city! Yay!
What in the world was this? It was some sort of game with many rulebooks with charts and weird dice and little painted metal soldiers and monsters and I could not get my mind around it. This was my introduction to Dungeons and Dragons, a game which I learned was discouraged at the camp.
Me: “What is Dungeons and Dragons?”
Clarke: “It’s a table-top fantasy role-playing game.”
Me: “But what is that? What is the point of the game?”
Clarke: “The point is to have fun!”
Me: “The point of every game is to have fun! How do you win?”
Clarke: “How do you win in life?”
Me: “You’re strange.”
Clarke: “What is ‘strange’?”
The next year I came back to the camp, I was an experienced player, but no-one was playing at all. I went up to Clarke Lombardi and asked him if he wanted to play. He said, “Oh no, I quit that game.”
Me: “Why? You loved it!”
Clarke: “My parents told me to stop. It’s too time-consuming.”
Me: “Why do you do what your parents say? My parents can’t even get me to do my homework. I haven’t done it in years.”
Clarke: “Don’t you want to go to a good college?”
Me: “Of course I’ll go to a good college! All the kids I hang out with are going to good colleges!”
Clarke: “But they do their homework.”
Me: “But I’m smarter than they are!”
Clarke: “You are?”