The Dungeon Masters Guide to Winter


whew… is it Friday yet? I swear these weeks are getting longer. This is not a good sign for mid January. I’m no Puxatawney Phil, but according to my calculations Spring is still something like 3 months away. At this rate I may not make it.

The last few mornings I have struggled to stay awake on the way to work. Coffee alone hasn’t been working, so I’ve had to resort to slapping myself in the face. I wish I were kidding, but I really have had to give myself a few hard slaps in the face to keep my eyes open. I may need to consider smelling salts before I end up knocking some teeth out.

Have you ever actually tried using smelling salts? I just thought about it the other day when I saw players on the bench during an NHL hockey game, sniffing them to wake up. It struck me as funny to see something so medieval as smelling salts being used by professional athletes. I tried smelling salts once as a kid, and found that as horrible as they smelled, I couldn’t stop smelling them. I was a strange child. I also used to stare at the sun after I was told not to. In fact, I couldn’t stop staring at it. I’d look up, see spots, look away, and then look back. This would continue until I got a headache and had to go inside and lie down.

Thankfully, I grew out of that phase and replaced staring at the sun with other sorts of self destructive behavior, like beer and girls. These were much more socially acceptable than sniffing smelling salts, if only a tad less painful.

When you grow up in a Northern climate, you have to manufacture your own entertainment to get through the long winter nights. Before beer and girls, but after staring at the sun, my friends and I would while away the winter evenings by playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Yes, we were that geeky.

It was the early 80’s, and we were still in that awkward period between childhood and our wild teenage years. We were old enough to stay up late on the weekend, but still young enough to not really know what to do with our freedom. So like most preteen boys, we got together at each other’s houses on Friday and Saturday nights, with our graph paper, and our multisided dice, and lived out our fantasies as heroic figures out of a Tolkien novel. We’d alternate taking turns as the “Dungeon Master” and spend the week planning out our adventures for the coming weekend. Then we’d convene around someones kitchen table on Friday night, and break out the Warriors, Wizards, Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings we’d created, and test ourselves against a plethora of mythological creatures, dealing out critical hits in search of action points.

Yes kids, in the days before the interwebz your parents really did use #2 pencils and graph paper to create virtual worlds to indulge their imaginations. And yes, it was as geeky as it sounds.

I’m not sure where the concept of Dungeons and Dragons began, I only know that by 1984 every tweenage boy in Batavia seemed to be dabbling in it. On those long, interminable winter nights, when we longed for the escape fo spring, it was about all we ever did. Gather together, and dream of foreign lands, and daring exploits. For three years it was our sole source of entertainment, until that fateful evening that Bella introduced me to beer. After that, it was all over, and I never looked back.

In retrospect, it truly is amazing the mystical, and magical sway that a pretty girl and a six pack of warm Old Milwaukee beer can have on a teenage boy. Suddenly, all his boyish games seem flat and dull. His imaginary world of wizards and damsels in distress is replaced overnight with real adventures in the woods behind the Blind School, involving real maidens and potent elixirs. No longer does he dream about heroic exploits on a field of battle. Suddenly, he spends every waking moment campaigning to conquer the beast of self doubt, and win the girl of his dreams.

Amazingly enough, I found myself more adept at this new world of girls and beer, than I ever was in the world of make believe dragons. So much so, that when I did finally leave High School behind and leave for college, I felt as if my life were ending. Those long cold lonely nights in the North Country, offered neither D&D, nor coeds. Just cold beer, and colder dorm rooms. Those four long years in that frozen wilderness proved to be a much more difficult adventure than any I had dreamed up with graph paper, and twelve sided die. Loneliness, alcohol, and frozen tundra is not a good combination. Just look what it has done to Russia. It’s amazing I lived to tell the tale.

But I did survive, and so I know I will survive this winter too. Even without my Dungeon Masters guide, or a six pack of Old Milwaukee to distract me. Spring will come. It always does. No matter how dark the night, or how cold the morning.

Hang in there prospectors we will get through.

14 thoughts on “The Dungeon Masters Guide to Winter

  1. D&D always sounded like there were no rules. Like it came with a game board that was just for show and the rest was made up by sober teenage boys in basements on Friday nights. Admittedly, I’ve never had anyone ever explain D&D to me, so the fact that I have never been able to grasp the game shouldn’t is a surprise.

    Twelve-sided die, now that’s new!

    • That pretty much sums it up. Although there isn’t even a gameboard. You just pretend. It prepared me well for the corporate world.

  2. Lies. All lies. Winter is never going to end. Some day a new population of species will find our still frozen bodies sitting at our computers with looks of horror.

    Grumble.

  3. And now, instead of D&D, married men everywhere escape to their PS3s, which when you think about it, is absolutely the same thing.

    And hubby said just yesterday, “THAT’S IT. We’re putting our house on the market tomorrow and heading south.” He says this every year. Instead of that fantasy, we’ll probably hop in the car this weekend for a jaunt to any hotel with a nice pool and hot tub, just to shake the cold out of our bones for a couple of days.

  4. Your husbands just tell you guys they are retiring downstairs with the PS 3’s. They are totally watching porn instead.
    Wow, that sounds jaded and angry.
    I think having to type all my Internet correspondence on my iPhone is making me cranky.
    I’m going to go stare directly at the sun for awhile.

  5. Did Dungeons & Dragons then become a video game? Like, early Sega?

    Maybe not. I just remember the boys on the school bus talking about it non-stop. I wanted to beat their heads in with my lunch pail after a few months.

    I’m pretty sure that even if spring comes, the feeling still won’t come back into my feet. I need industrial-warmth slippers. I don’t know what they are, but I have decided that I need them!

    • Sega? What’s a Sega? Is that like an Atari?

      (Kidding!)

      I’m not sure if there was a Sega version of D&D. I know there’s been a lot of derivatives over the years. I think World of Warcraft is a ripoff of D&D.

      As for the boys on the bus, I’m sure you were completely justified in beating their heads in with a lunch pail regardless. You aren’t related to Dufmanno by any chance?

  6. Hi Tom,

    I was amused to see that you had a penchant for staring at the sun, for I had the same affliction at, I would guess, roughly the same age, until one time I knew I had gone too far, for I was so dazzled that I saw only blackness with a strange, lurid, yellow-green retinal image in the shape a big “V” like the horns of the constellation, Taurus, complete with the “baleful red eye of Aldebaran.”

    I put that last in quotes because I read it somewhere, and when I tried to come up with a better word than “baleful,” I could think of none.

    To this day, when my eyes are adjusted to darkness, and I suddenly see something bright, I will see that same “V.” It takes about fifteen minutes for it to fade, and meanwhile I am semi-blinded.

    Staring at the sun really is dangerous. And weird.

    I like it.

    But I am afraid that I never did outgrow heroic fantasy, beer and girls notwithstanding. If this is the kind of post you do when you are busy with something else, all I can say is, “Wow.”

    Cheers,
    Rick
    Latest: It’s Not About Me

  7. Wow. I thought I was the only kid that stared at the sun. Never did see the baleful red eye of Aldebran though. Although I was afraid of coughing in the dark because when I did I’d see a pair of glowing yellow eyes.

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