I was 11 years old when I first played D&D. My buddy at school ran me through B3, the Palace of the Silver Princess during lunch. We didn’t have any dice or paper. He just read from the module. I was a fighter who got stuck in a web and had to burn my way out while fighting spiders. Then I met a woman in the dungeon who threw a dagger at something behind me and killed it. That’s really all I remember of my first game.
But he later ran me through B2 (the classic) and let me borrow it to read after. I still don’t know what any of the numbers meant in the encounters and tried running it myself for people, but I wasn’t very good at it.
But then something happened, I looked at Room 51 on the map and I wondered… “what’s this?” Checking the book, the description alluded to the idea of the dungeon going deeper and DMs could link it to another TSR book
Wait for it.
“Make something up yourself.”
Room 51 forever changed me.
Dungeons and Dragons was always fun for me as a kid. As little as I got to play of it, the hours I would spend making characters and reading the rules and examples… I cannot really express in words what those days did for me. It’s complicated and I certainly owe Dave and Gary a debt of thanks for that, even if their game never got as much play as I would have liked.
D&D would lead to other games, like the original Marvel Super Heroes, Twilight 2000, Chill, and GURPS. Eventually I would get to college and discover more great games, work in a game store, and then stumble into the gaming industry. I would go on to write on over 100 products, work on card games, board games, and even a miniatures game.
But I never forgot Room 51.
Room 51 would become my credo (almost). Trying to recapture that inspired advice to “break the rules.” I always found myself writing one extra page of GM advice. One more sidebar on how you can use this “variant.” One more sentence at the end to tie it all up as best as I could.
And if I were a better writer, Room 51 would be on everyone’s lips. All the time. Everyone would look for an inspired way to use something mundane and turn it inside out. People would remember that seminal moment in their gaming history to recapture lightning in a bottle in a way that nostalgia only can.
If I were a better writer, I’d find a stronger ending right about now.