Gaming Advice: My First Game

Do you remember your first time? I certainly remember mine. It was like nothing I’d ever done before…and it had funny dice!

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)
By William McAusland (Outland Arts)


I’ve recently spent some time thinking about what gaming has done for me and how I’m introducing my boys to the hobby. This in turn got me musing about my first ever adventure.

I’d just turned ten-years-old and my older American cousin had come across the Atlantic for a holiday. He found a copy of the Basic Dungeons & Dragons boxed set in my father’s study and said he’d run me and my sister through an adventure. I remember being intrigued because he said he’d have to design the board first – I’d never heard of that in a game before!

We made characters. I went for a fighter and my sister played a magic-user. I don’t remember all the ensuing events, but a few things have stayed with me ever since:

  • We played in my grandparent’s cellar. (Interestingly enough, although I’ve moved around the country a lot in the intervening years the cellar is under two miles from Raging SwanΒ Press’s global HQ).
  • My character was called Morgan Ironwolf (that was the name of the example character in the Basic box). I rolled a 16 Strength and 3 Charisma. I’ve still got various versions of the character sheet somewhere.
  • We had to rescue prisoners from the Black Prince’s lair. The lair was (obviously) a dungeon. Luckily it fit on one sheet of A4 graph paper.
  • We didn’t use any miniatures – hell, we didn’t have any!
  • When we got to his dungeon, we knocked on the front door and a butler answered. We bluffed our way inside and once he had turned his back on us, I whacked him with my two-handed sword! Even then I had a subtle grasp of tactics…
  • The Black Prince’s personal chamber had many rugs on the floor. I suspected a trap and I was right. The fiend had use them to cover spiked pits!
  • The Black Prince cut my sister’s head off at the adventure’s climax. I beat a hasty (and wise) retreat. My characters have been wisely using tactical movement ever since…
  • The next day I rushed out and purchased the 1st Edition Player’s Handbook. After all, it was clearly better because it was advanced and I’d already survived my first dungeon!

Do you remember your first game? How did you get started with gaming? Let us know in the comments below!

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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

33 thoughts on “Gaming Advice: My First Game”

  1. All I can remember was that I was a thief, my six year old brother was a magic-user, and my other friend was a ranger (a class he still plays most of the time, including our current campaign). Something about stairs that suddenly turned into a slide and possibly a stone golem. It was afterwards, when I got to peek at the Monster Manual, I became hooked. Unfortunately, I don’t remember too much of my early halcyon days of gaming. I did run Beorn the half-orc fighter for a long campaign before we ended it and switched to 2nd edition.

  2. My first time put me into a broader social context, which helped me not only find acceptance but also personal social development. Back in ’79 we did not have a stack of rulebooks and our worksheets did not strive to cover every possible social encounter in character or out of character so we worked together (including the DM, as far as describing situations and encounters for our 5 and sometimes 6 senses – that would effect us dependent upon what we decided to do – think Sphere of Annihilation). We worked together within the game too and in the process of that we created our unique stories and inhabited – intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally – a shared fantasy and strengthened bonds of friendship.

    Play dates couldn’t come fast enough! And I would still make room in my life for those experiences today, especially today.

    1. I’ve really enjoyed the comments on this article both here and on Facebook. It’s amazing to read so many stories of people having fun, making friends and so on through a hobby. I think it’s a great legacy of the gaming hobby.

  3. My first game was with my parents and their friends. I was 5 when I caught them playing in the evenings with some colourfully painted toys that looked like big rats and, apparently, orcs. The dice were fun too. I seem to remember sneaking downstairs to listen to them playing together on a regular basis, and they eventually caught on and were nice enough to let me watch.

    When the campaign restarted I remember that someone suggested that I may as well join in, since I was at the table so often, so my dad helped me make a cleric, with an amazing 2 hit points! He somehow survived to beat back a carrion crawler that had already downed half the party, as well as taking on 2 orcs that ambushed from behind (in the classic 5′ corridor, and guess who was at the back?).

    We were using the 1st edition rules, and playing through the red box dungeon. I inherited all of the gaming material when my parents stopped playing, and I still have them now, even most of the dice!

  4. Oddly enough my first foray into role playing was not with D&D. I don’t rightly remember my first game of D&D, but I do remember swapping monster stats back and forth with a friend in high school. My first ever role playing experience was with my cousin and his friend Kyle a few years prior to that. I was really into comicbooks at the time and that summer Kyle brought over this new game called Heroes Unlimited by Palladium Books. I was hooked! Especially since I could now bring the stories I read about in comicbooks to life! When I came back home after the summer was over I could not find Heroes Unlimited in Northern Michigan to save my life. Luckily my second love was fantasy novels and our local Waldenbooks carried a whole assortment of Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition titles. I was familar with the brand as my uncle had talked alot about he and his friends having played it back in the Blue Box days, but I had no idea what I was really setting myself up for. I bought the players handbook and a set of dice, thus beginning my lifelong love of role playing games, and D&D is still my favorite to this day.

  5. I was in third grade visiting a cousin, and he pulled out Against the Giants and asked me if I wanted to play. He had a premade 14th level Cleric that he let me use (I remember a “Golden Mace” for a weapon and a unicorn follower), and he ran it as a solo adventure. I can’t remember all that happened in that game, but I do recall having my mind blown by the amount of imagination we put into the game. I instantly fell in love with D&D.

    To this day, Cleric is one of my favorite character classes (Rouges and Inquisitors are the others), I love giants (anytime I see a new giant mini, I will try to purchase it), and I’m still trying to figure out what exactly this “golden mace” thing was. Someday, I want to run Against the Giants in all of its 1st edition glory…perhaps with a golden mace as a treasure item.

  6. Melee… Tiny, and even smaller d6! It was a little confusing, read and re-read, try and figure it out… and it was great fun, especially for a beginner! We were balancing movement vs. armor encumbrance (which included damage reduction) and the strength to use weapons. Awesome! Then two days later Wizard was added in. The magic was illusions, creature summoning, and flying!! For our limited knowledge it was an incredible tactical challenge addition since it was all occurring in an arena. Nice…

  7. First game was at summer camp, 1978 – I was 7 and some the the older kids (10+ maybe?) were playing OD&D (LBBs). I remember watching them for a while, fascinated with the dice and how strange and alluring the books looked (and felt!). They invited me to play and told me I could play any kind of character that I wanted! I, of course being a smart ass, asked if I could play a spider. They all shrugged and said “sure” and handed me one of the LBBs. I didn’t realize at the time, but it was Arduin Grimoire, Vol. II – Welcome To Skull Tower. I had no perception that it wasn’t “D&D.” They had me roll up stats and said “pick a spell.” I chose “Trenkole’s Basic Web Spell” (kind of a nerfed version of 2nd level Web via Arduin). As “Otto The Spider Mage,” I joined their group of high-level adventurers and was a virtual fly on the wall as I watched and learned. They were going through the Giant series modules (they were on G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King) and I remember that they had my spider sneaking through giant keyholes to scout/spy ahead for the group. I at once felt important to the party, but could feel the ire of the DM – he most certainly viewed me as the method the other players were using to “cheat” his adventure!
    The next summer, I was running AD&D on the bus on the way to camp, all day at camp, on the bus on the way back from camp and all weekend – then repeat..!
    So, in that one summer I got the “bug” you could say and haven’t looked back since!

  8. 32 years ago this month (Jan) we sat down for our first attempt at playing the Basic D&D game. I remember being very curious and excited about the game after witnessing a schoolmate drawing out a dungeon on graph paper in the library a month of so before the holidays. After asking about it, my best friend was able to get the classic Red Boxed Set for Christmas. So we wasted no time jumping right into a maybe 10-room dungeon he drew up with no background, rhyme, or reason. We were four 15-17 year old (I was 16) schoolmates who were every one into sci-fi and fantasy literature and movies. “We knew what we were doing” πŸ˜›
    I can’t recall how or why I ended up playing the cleric. And I had no idea what a cleric was supposed to do other than carry a mace and shield, and help fight monsters. All I know is that we entered the generic dungeon, made the first right at an intersection, opened the first door on the left to face two goblins.
    We paired off with them. I rolled to hit …and missed. My goblin opponent hit me. I rolled to hit …and missed. The goblin hit me and I went down, dead. I immediately hated the game. It was stupid. My best friend/DM pleaded with me and everyone to start over. So I reluctantly did so. I’m pretty sure I played the same character. We started the same dungeon over and went in a different direction. We survived several basic encounters and won the treasure – a giant emerald the size of your fist. πŸ˜€
    32 years later, and here I am the only one of that group that has played fairly regularly for all this time. Three years ago I gathered that original group back together for a ‘one-shot’ of AD&D 2E, and ran them through some of the UnderMountain mega-dungeon. They survived and succeeded in their mission of destroying a Drow Altar. Then they asked, “when do we do this again?”. It was the first time in more than 20 years we’d played as a group. πŸ™‚
    Today we play Castles & Crusades fairly regularly as that original group, plus another gamer or two. I’ve returned to painting miniatures (for the first time in 15+ years), and I’m currently reading up on The Ruins of Myth Drannor to run an AD&D 2nd edition game next weekend for a separate group. And I’ll be playing a Nord Ranger very soon in a D&D 5E ‘Elder Scrolls’ campaign that another friend is starting up.
    So I’ve come full circle after initially ‘hating this stupid game’. πŸ˜€ LOL.

  9. i remember mine I was 8 and had got the basic red box edition for Christmas from an uncle.

    Was so very long ago I don’t remember much, I do remember playing the magic user, and losing my dagger to the rust monster! But at least I survived due to tactically withdrawing (running away like a little girl!)

    Didn’t buy the advanced edition though I went basic, expert, companion, masters, immortal, (red, blue, green, black and gold if I remember correctly) before briefly doing 1st edition then most of my time was on 2nd edition.

    Was hooked though so much more fun than than the other board games I had at the time.

  10. My birthday 1976… Pop had been taking me to the minatures war gamers group and on this summer day we’d ended up at the hobby shop with Dad looking to purchase an army of 25mm lead and I got it in MY head that Greek Hoplites would be good enough for me but the 30 something age group was tollerant of my seen not heard behavior and a knack for painting soon elevated my status to that of group paint monkey but newly turned 8 wasn’t gonna fit well in game so good enough for me became white box d&d, chainmail (outdoor survival was unavailable as I gather happened in other areas) and an army of skeleton’s as we didn’t know yet that the dungeon crawl would be the model and those troops would not muster in mass but rather break into small squads to occupy a room here or hallway there in the dungons to come or the occasional radioactive ruin, western coral or starship on a forgotten mission with a partally mutated crew for which Ral Partha skeletons served quite nicely… and wizards in full plate casting a hail storm that wipes 2/3rds of an orc army off the bat was… well Cleric’s became the boss fighters AFTER the rollback on spellcasters and few bothered with spell details back then… even in AD&D not so many were aware of the volume in a fireball spell much less tried implementing the backdrafts.
    House rules ruled even then and why not after the fiasco of white box became d20 dungon crawls because that was what was readable in the 3 booklets and I now believe the whole “rules lawyer” thing was thin skin over incompleate, contradictory and uninteligable notes coupled with a medieval minatures ruleset light and Avalon Hills Outdoor Survival that made for lots and lots of questions that should have been addressed not redressed with a charge of “bad attitude” and the elevation of one of the players in the group to take my ball and go home overlordship and a model of story or plot that mediums with a single writer etc compleates a work in full which is then presented to a passive audience where story plays because the audience isn’t participating so don’t expect to affect the plot because a story is a tale of what already happened where gameplay is cooperative and the play makes the story or is invalidated by it because a then b then c regardless of play results. Horrible miss of the mediums unique strengths that continues on and on as though no other options could even be attempted much less take advantage of the mediums strengths…

  11. My first character I ever was in a megaman campaign. I was a repliod (if splet wrong I apologize) named Narzone. For class wise I was hunter. It was set up just like the megaman and megaman x video games

  12. I remember playing with you two. Although my memories of that long ago time differ from yours slightly. I do remember having fun, though.

  13. I don’t remember a lot, but an older neighbor kid had, I think, the red books that were pre hole-punched to fit into a binder. I don’t remember what I played, but I think it must have been some kind of fighter because I remember running home to get a bag full of plastic Roman Soldiers I had ordered off the back of a comic book because they were just about the same size as the handful of figures the neighbor kid showed me and I wanted to use one of them to represent my character (and offered the rest for him to use if he needed for the bad guys). It seems like those figures the neighbor kid had were plastic, but I can’t remember for sure. I remember being impressed enough with the experience to go and buy the same boxed set at, I believe, an old Union Hall department store.

    I don’t recall playing with that neighbor too many more times after that but I do remember making some characters and trying to adapt the thing to superhero play. The first game I can recall running was a copy of Star Frontiers and an adventure that formed the earliest nugget of a game world I am still playing today (albeit with my own rules) with a bunch of friends, some of whom have been with me long enough that their children are now part of the gaming group! It is pretty terrific!

  14. Had to be about ’82 and my friend had the basic rules (like someone mentioned above with the three-hole-punches to put in a binder) and this friend, who is usually very smart, couldn’t make sense of it, and I said, let me have a look, and soon we were rolling up characters. After we had characters rolled up, we wondered who would be DM. Nobody said they wanted, too, but having just read Lord of the Rings, and filled with gobs of ideas, I said I would. I worried I would make myself look stupid to all my friends who were generally smarter than me.

    I quickly concocted a dungeon, peppered it with traps and monsters, and ran them through it, and they had a blast! It was so fulfilling! To get that feeling back would be wonderful. They all wanted to play again the next Saturday, and were saying, “Doug’s the DM!” Ah, good times. I miss that group of players.

    I still have those dice with the white crayon on them.

    1. Nice.

      I’d also love to get the feeling of wonder and mystery back that I had with my first game. After all, it was so great it spawned a three-decade long hobby and career!

  15. I played a bard (3.5) with a missing eye that played a set of pipes and an ocarina (I even had several tracks burned onto a cd for extra awesome points- mostly Zelda tunes). I remember sitting in my (at the time) boyfriend’s kitchen with some of his friends from various places (one of which I had decided in the first 5 minutes I didn’t like and yet we’re still friends 11 years later and he was one of the groomsmen at my wedding). I remember the guy I didn’t like was playing a wizard with a pet frog, but I don’t remember anything else about that session. We played only 2 sessions of this particular campaign, and then said annoying kid decided to run a campaign and we just carried over our same characters. Now his first session had a lot of us jumping around yelling at each other (not unlike a LARP) because we didn’t have maps or minis and him giving us a Sudoku puzzle that I figure out in about 20 seconds (he didn’t know I liked sudoku and did it in the paper regularly)!

  16. My brother and I got the blue box in late 1979 and quickly drafted five friends to join us. Having never played before, we didn’t realize that the players were supposed to make one character each and band together to tackle the dungeon, so the six players (I was DM) each made up a party of four characters each!

    It took a few sessions before we realized our mistake and each player selected one character (the abandoned characters became NPCs or replacements).

    We played a few more times together before high school intervened. I ended up playing AD&D with my best friend and his brothers and sisters (I still play with him and one brother 36 years later) while my brother moved on to playing with two of his friends.

    We all agree it was the best of times! πŸ˜€

  17. It was between classes in high school. No dice, no character sheets. Just a short walk throught a dungeon with a chest at the end guarded by a skeleton. Started playing a campaign that weekend.

  18. It all began for me when I saw my buddy pull a binder with a hand drawn and coloured wizard in the cover sleeve out of his gym locker. I asked what it was (the wizard was really cool, especially to an aspiring artist). He said, ‘Oh, this is my D&D binder. Wanna play?’ Even though that event spawned my very first AD&D experience at 12 (I played an elven wizard and killed a small dragon with a quarter staff I tied a dagger to, lol), the game we played right after that one-shot adventure lasted for a long time and formed the bedrock of my formative D&D and adolescent years. I had my mom bring me to the book store where I picked up my first copy of the AD&D 2e Player’s Handbook. The example of play sealed the deal. I had never heard of such an immersive and imaginative game. I quickly abandoned my wizard in favour of a dwarf fighter with a battle axe (still my favourite weapon, race, and class). I had collected and drawn comics up until that point. Pretty much immediately, I dropped the superheroes and delved into fantasy… and never looked back.

  19. The best was having a show down with an ogre we had been haunted by for many sessions. I was the only fighter and everyone else was out of spells and options. I went toe-to-toe with him and killed him with a critical hit… with one hit point left to my name. It was great.

  20. Somewhere in the nineties, me my brother and couple of friends did find something called MERP (Middle Earth Role Playing game). It was immensely much fun. to walk around in Middle Earth. Soon afterwards, we upgraded to Rolemaster, but stayed in Middle Earth, because it was more complex (and therefore much better! πŸ˜‰

    Years went by where I went to beautiful places in the real world, which caused me to stop playing, until 2 years ago a friend had bought a humble bundle deal with Pathfinder books, and asked whether I liked to start doing some role playing. Hell yes! He’s now getting a bit busy in real life, so now I’m taking over as a GM (at least for a while).
    Currently getting a data overflow in my brains, from reading all the GM resources available on the internet.

  21. my first adventure was the classic “Keep on the Borderlands” … a quick stop at the keep sent us out to investigate the mad hermit, who successfully slipped us vial of poison under the suggestion that it was a potion of healing. No one ever trusts the mad hermit, wisely so! a few other short forrays into the woods led to the actual caves where the group was beaten up on mercilessly by the caves’ denizens. After a retreat and recovery period, we returned, successfully vanquished some kobolds, and then ran into a bad-a** minotaur, who charged and drove two of the party members into a pit trap before getting defeated by the rest of us. From that moment on, i’ve always been hooked!

  22. I remember seeing that specific boxed set in a game store when I was 8 years old. I wanted it badly, my mother would not buy it for me. However, soon that summer I went to spend a month with my grandmother, and being a doting grandmother, she bought it for me. The next day I made characters with my cousin and we went tromping through B1 In Search of the Unknown using the random monster tables.

    Before my grandmother passed away a few years ago, she mentioned she was happy that that little gift she got me when I was a child led to a lifetime hobby.

    I still have that box set she got me, 42 years and counting.

  23. I believe I was sliced in half, not decapitated, but definitely shows how numerous witnesses to a single event can be unreliable! Considering it was my death, I tend to agree with my recollection πŸ™‚

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