by Chris Rostenberg
On Old Mill Farm, my best friends were ducks and salamanders, and at Camp Dudley, everyone thought I was weird and I had just begun learning to spend a lot of time with my peers. So, when I came home from camp and Scotland, my mom and sister had moved from Harrison to nearby Mamaroneck, and we lived in an apartment. I missed my peers at Harrison, and you know, I still tend to remember people long after they’ve forgotten me. I know this because when I see people from the old days, they don’t really reciprocate the warm feelings. In Mamaroneck, I didn’t see much of my sister, Kendall, either because she wanted to hang out with normal people. I was on a quest to make friends.
When we lived in the Farm, my mom had gotten me into reading by working at the library, and my Aunt Sally, who lived in England and didn’t know what a chipmunk was, was a great artist, got me into art by giving me all this drawing paper and colored pencils. I had gotten into comics. And I had acted a little on the stage at Camp, and it was at Dudley that I learned D&D. Reading comics out loud to my mother was like acting, and D&D was a little like writing. When you write, it is sort of like interacting with the reader … one way.
I was on good terms with most of my English teachers, and I thought I might become an English teacher. I wrote a story about a planet made of water and whole planet was transparent and my tenth grade English teacher, Dr. Phil Restaino, said he liked how descriptive the story was, but he had no idea what it was about. One day I wrote this little story in Phil’s class:
…The knight approached the sleeping dragon and drew his sword. The great beast woke up suddenly and started to breathe fire on the knight just as the hero let loose with his weapon …
“Make a saving throw!”
A twenty-sided die skittered across the table and landed on a 3.
“Oh, no! My best character blasted to ashes!”
This was a Dungeons and Dragons story. So I forgot this manuscript in my desk, and this kid Vinny, a talented artist, found the second page, liked it, asked the teacher who wrote it and learned that I played D&D. We were friends and he invited me to play with Doug and Steve, who was an award-winning actor. Making these friends and finding the game was a big deal for me.
Vinny played a wizard named Elsilon, and Doug played a druid named The Kelt, who got polymorphed into a monkey. Doug also played a bard named Jimi. This character had had a dragon breathe on him, and had scars all over his face. (The dragon was only an illusion, but Jimi and the guys didn’t know it, so only they “saw” the “scars”.) Doug was color-blind. He was always asking people the color of the crayons and stuff, because color-blind people can’t see red or green or any color in between.
Steve played a D&D monk named Bro Paylion. This character had had his eye blown out by a giant (but the “giant” was an illusion, too, so they only thought his eye was gone). Every year in the yearbook, Steve looked the same. He got more girls than you could possibly imagine. He was like Lando Calrissian, but white and without a cape. Every now and then, I’d get a girl too, but I had no idea what to do with her. Steve knew what to do with the girls. One day at Steve’s house, Liz Gumbinner called him up, and I hated his guts.
No wonder Steve got so many girls. He was always telling the most interesting anecdotes. Steve told us about a boy who never bathed and a girl who sat on a vibrating pillow in his living room and masturbated. Steve’s ancestor immigrated to America with very little money and said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I made it in America starting with no money at all? Fuckit! I’ll go to the top of the Empire State Building and throw all my money off it!” And you know what? He did! This fellow eventually started Tannen’s Magic Shop, the oldest magic store on this parallel universe! J.J. Abrams once told a story about this place and a thing he got there called a Mystery Box … and he never opened it! What a mystery!
Anyway, I was really mad that Liz had called Steve and I told Liz that Steve was related to the freshmen Spagna twins, who made me question human evolution. They used to play the Stinky Pinky game where they would stick their pinkies in each other’s mouths after putting them in stinky places.
There was a fourth guy in our D&D game, Dave, who only played sometimes because he didn’t take the game too seriously. He played a human ranger named Tibian, who was killed, and the party members carried his corpse through the jungle to get him resurrected.
Dave would ask dumb questions like, “What is the difference between, ‘turning’ undead and turning undead?” “What’s the difference between humanoids and demi-humans?” “What’s the difference between class level and spell level?” When I asked Dave what class he was, he said, “Upper.” Doug muttered, “Man, you are one dumb asshole.” And he said it with such quiet anger and hatred that we all laughed uproariously, except Dave, who said he didn’t see what was so funny about curse words. Normally, Dave had a great sense of humor and would dress his dog Frisbee up in human clothes. When I laughed at this, he dryly commented, “Oh, I see you’re easily amused.”
There was this other character, Thugger Guilmartin, who was half-orc fighter/assassin who had a magical sword named Dexthul that could heal Thugger or teleport him. He also had a portable hole that he kept chains and pulleys in. He hid the portable hole up his anus. Thugger was my character, an NPC, and he kept stealing the party’s treasure because I wanted him to have cool stuff. The other guys got mad at me, but I always thought they should just kill Thugger.
There was also this guy named Stenmin, who wore blades on his hands and he was a monk. There was this guy named Nee-Kro Scout and was mute. Stenmin got polymorphed into a gelatinous cube by a beholder named Iyek. I had so much fun drawing the comic based on this, but you know, people typically just look at the art and don’t read the story, which made me mad. I just wanted to tell the story, and my life changed when I learned to type.
Anyway, I learned in DMing to keep the players in constant peril or they would wander away and watch MTV with “The Reflex” video with the waterfall coming out and getting everybody wet, or “Hold Me Now,” which I thought was cutting-edge special effects, or “Money for Nothing,” which I was sure was the apex of computer graphics. I wish civilization hadn’t collapsed.
You have no idea how many times the censorious subhuman authorities have prevented me from playing D&D. Some Christians are under the impression that D&D involves the occult. Don’t worry about the occult in D&D.
First, there is no real occult, surprise, surprise. The most censored author in America is Stephen King, which is pretty embarrassing. Second, the “occult” in D&D is fictitious and nobody claims or believes it is any more real than that of Star Wars. Third, you don’t have to play with magic at all. Fourth, if you want to interject real religion in the game, you can; recently, my ex-girlfriend played a paladin for Jesus. Fifth, Christians, if you think the Satanic influences on our society on our children come from D&D, you are being seriously distracted … look into sex ed.
When my friends and I played D&D, the occult only entered the game once, when we wouldn’t let this cute junior named Jackie DeMontravel play with us because we didn’t trust her name.
I was desperate for money and got a job teaching the third graders Dungeons and Dragons. The kids loved the game but didn’t think I was a good Dungeon Master. They said I was too immature. They didn’t even want to be friends.