Brad's Reviews > Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook by Gary Gygax
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's review
May 20, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: personal-mythology, fantasy, faves, popular-culture, youth, meta-review

Dallas was on TV, and my Mom was sitting in the kitchen doing her nails. I was in the living room with a blank Player Character Record Sheet, a new bag of dice, a pencil, an eraser and Gygax's masterpiece.

Mom and I could still talk, even separated as we were by the full kitchen wall, and I could smell the mixture of her menthols, nail polish and nail polish remover from the other room. Our home was small and intimate: a great place to be on a Friday night when it was just the two of us hanging out with bad 80s TV, and our own devices. My little sister was in bed down the hall, and my Dad was off playing poker, so it was just me and my Mom and one of the biggest moments of my life.

It was a Friday night, and I was playing D&D with Robert S--- and his friends the next day. It was going to be my first time. Much to my Catholic father's dismay, and after long attempts by my mother to talk me out of it, I'd spent all the money I'd been saving from my paper route on D&D gear. I bought the Dungeon Master's Guide, The Monster Manual, dice, a couple of metal figures (I remember that one was a dwarf with an axe), a sheaf of PC Record Sheets, and the most magical item of them all The Player's Handbook.

I smelled the smell of my Mom's Friday ritual. I was repeatedly distracted by oil barons and their substance abusing wives. And I was totally stunned into paralysis by the giant fracking mess I'd gotten myself into. I had no idea how to make a character. I'd been reading and flipping and trying to figure things out, and I was lost. Each page made me feel more stupid, each page made me angrier, and I exploded, finally, into tears of frustration.

I was in grade seven at the time, and I was only months away from reading Lady Chatterley's Lover. I'd devoured the Scottish play. I'd spent the summer immersed in Middle Earth. I was a math whiz. I had big glasses. I was a geek extraordinaire, and I sat on our turquoise carpet beaten by THE role playing game before I'd even begun. And I just kept crying. Sobbing, more like.

But then my Mom was there.

She had even less clue than I did, but she didn't really need a clue. All she needed was to be there, to be my support, and she did that. She tried to wrestle with the things that were stumping me, and through her struggles I was able to figure out what I was missing. She played the dunski to my pre-teen pseudo-genius, and just the chance to bounce stuff off someone outside my head helped me unlock bonuses and percentages and thieving abilities and armor class, et al. I figured out the attributes, and I made myself a Halfling thief named Malachi (I wasn't tremendously original, but the Halfling dexterity boost gave me an 18 dexterity, and that seemed wicked deadly to me back in those days).

By the time Falcon Crest was over and missed by both of us, with no chance of a rerun, I had created my first D&D character, and I was ready to sit by Lauren L---, the coolest girl in our class, in Robert S---'s super cold, harshly lit, linoleum floored basement.

It didn't take long for all the "cool" kids to leave D&D behind. Mike C---, Paul E---, Lauren L---, Robert S---, they all moved on to headbanging, and that left me, Jeff, and Mark to spend the rest of our Junior High days in a happy D&D oblivion, (I'm still friends with Jeff and Mark, by the way).

I wait patiently for Brontë & Miloš (and now Scout) to grow old enough for our first foray into D&D, and I hope I can be a worthy guide into the coolest worlds of their imagination.

And even though my Mom wasn't my guide, she was my protector that night twenty-six years ago. And she'll always be tied to The Player's Handbook for me.

Too bad she's gone now. I'd love for her to be here when her grand-kids make their first characters. I bet Të makes a magic-user and Loš makes a fighter, and I suppose I'll have to plan a NPC Cleric to keep them alive.

If only I can recreate the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh. Now that would be a D&D baptism that would truly kick ass.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
October 5, 1983 – Finished Reading
May 20, 2009 – Shelved
September 26, 2009 – Shelved as: personal-mythology
September 26, 2009 – Shelved as: fantasy
September 26, 2009 – Shelved as: faves
September 26, 2009 – Shelved as: popular-culture
September 26, 2009 – Shelved as: youth
September 27, 2009 – Shelved as: meta-review

Comments (showing 1-31 of 31) (31 new)

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David Katzman a classic!

Brad I've got something churning in my brain about character alignment that I am going to turn into a review. Stay tuned, David.

Brad So much for alignment. I'll use that somewhere else.

message 4: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Ya know, you're still a geek. I hope you are a fan of Wil Wheaton, you two are a lot alike. Psst, you write better. Or at least you talk to me and that counts.

Personally I never could figure all that stuff out, and I didn't care. The guys who played it were not that nice to me, so I said fark that.

What a world. Good story you told about your Mom. Write more about her.

David Katzman Beautiful story. But just a note, there is no inherent conflict between headbanging and head lopping. My friends and I were both D&D addicts and metalheads. :-)

What a thrill it was to unlock the complexity of this game!

message 6: by Brad (last edited Sep 26, 2009 05:27PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad Yeah...Mötley Crüe, too. And thanks, David. I know it isn't much of a "review," but it was what I was feeling. I was missing my Mom all week, and this just seemed like what I needed to say.

message 7: by D. (new)

D. Pow FUCK YEAH!!! This, the DM's Guide and the First Monster manual Rawk!

Good shit, Brad.

Brad Thanks, Donald. I have to get me copies of the originals again. Screw the other editions. These are the quintessence of fantasy.

David Katzman My copies, along with my painted lead figures, still live at my mom's house.

message 10: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad And well they should, David.

message 11: by David (last edited Sep 26, 2009 07:49PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

David Katzman And my hex maps of Elgoreth (my invented continent), my bag of dice, my favorite character Salacious Crumb (elven thief), etc. etc. Plus, i have the OLD boxed set, the true original D&D rules...white box, 3 gold mini-books...that were pretty much incomprehensible. I think only Gygax and his friends could translate them. I wonder if those things are worth anything now?

omg! i just found them on ebay! Someone is trying to sell them for $525.09! They call them new and look at the picture! Looks like someone cast a fireball spell on it.

Here's one for $300:

Does't look like anyone is bidding on either one, though!

David Katzman looks like there are some different editions. I think this is the one i have:

message 13: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Eiseman-Renyard I likey! Never got past the frustrated-almost-to-tears stage, but my social circle at uni was very gamer heavy, so they helped me gen up characters who rarely lasted more than one game.

I love this idea of a meta-review: not the book itself so much as what it means/does. Think I'll have to tackle reviewing Beatniks in a similar vein.

Thanks for the inspiration!

message 14: by Stephen (new)

Stephen I love this idea of a meta-review: not the book itself so much as what it means/does. Hannah! That is exactly what I have wanted to say about all book reviews, but couldn't find the words! Thank you!

Bard our Bard, mystery awaits!

message 15: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony Well done, sir. I've already played with my kids...maybe the next generation, although I hope they have more of a social life than I did at that age...

message 16: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad How do they like it, RA? And how was it being the DM for them? I'm a little worried that they will end up not liking it when they play, although that is not founded in the reality of them. They are already great role players. I think my worries are simply because I have been wanting them to love it so much.

message 17: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad Hannah wrote: "I love this idea of a meta-review: not the book itself so much as what it means/does. Think I'll have to tackle reviewing Beatniks in a similar vein. /
Thanks for the inspiration! ..."

Cool. I am looking forward to that, Hannah.

message 18: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony They like it, Brad...they like the battles more than anything, and they sort of shout over each other during the scenes, but it's cool. They like creating characters, too.

I had to freelance a lot as the DM. They're too young to go into all the nuances of every interaction, so I tried to keep things simple. But I still had fun.

message 19: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad Some things don't seem to change at all. I remember sitting around making characters when I had nothing to do just because I loved it so much.

message 20: by Meredith (new)

Meredith Holley Have you seen the show Freaks and Geeks, Brad?!! It is the story of my high school career, and, it sounds like, yours. One of the best shows ever. If you don't like it, I'll eat my hat.

David Katzman Is that a +2 Hat of Invisibility?

message 22: by Meredith (new)

Meredith Holley I'm ashamed to say that I don't know what that is, but if it gives me super invisibility powers, then, yes, that is the hat I will eat. I had/have psycho, government-conspiracy-finding, run-for-the-hills, witch-hunt type parents, so D&D is not something that was part of my vocabulary growing up, unless the words "Jesus hates" came before it. Some of my best childhood memories, though, are of watching Dallas with my mom before going to bed. That show was capitalist enough to pass as good childhood entertainment.

I identify with the lost over-achiever on Freaks and Geeks not the D&D kids, which in some ways is too bad, because the D&D kids are a-MA-zing! They are definitely my favorite part of the show.

message 23: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Meredith, I'm sorry about the Jesus hates. Jesus hates nothing. Just for the record.

message 24: by Meredith (new)

Meredith Holley Hmmm. I don't know if that's a position I feel like you could defend really effectively, but I don't want to commandeer Brad's thread to argue it through. I'll just say that I'm pretty convinced Jesus doesn't hate D&D, and I consider my parents' beliefs pretty irrelevant to my own at this point. But if Jesus doesn't hate some shit, he's a pretty boring guy, right? Maybe he doesn't hate all the same stuff I do, though.

message 25: by Stephen (new)

Stephen That's good enough. I was just apologizing on behalf of Jesus. hehehehehe Brad help me !!!!!

message 26: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad Meredith wrote: "Have you seen the show Freaks and Geeks, Brad?!! It is the story of my high school career, and, it sounds like, yours. One of the best shows ever. If you don't like it, I'll eat my hat."

I haven't, but I've been wanting to for ages. Seth Rogan and James Franco are in it, and that suggests serious fun. Do you remember that episode of Dallas, Meredith, when there was a big shoot out and JR and Jock and Bobby (Ray might have been there too) were all pinned down by someone? I don't know if I imagined that or not. Sorry you missed D&D because of Jesus' Hate. I know the Pharisees and the Romans were big on D&D. I here Pontius Pilate had a 12th level Paladin. Craziness.

I don't know if I can help you, Stephen ;)

message 27: by Meredith (new)

Meredith Holley Wow! And here I thought my parents were making all that crap up! I might have to re-think my stance on Harry Potter, too. Herod didn't have a crazy Patronus that he was always using to show off at parties, did he? Because I could see how that would bug Jesus.

I, honestly, have no specific memories of Dallas, just a general feel of well-being. I'm sure that shoot-out happened, though. It sounds right.

Those guys are amazing in F&G, but Martin Starr is the best character, I think. Jason Segel isn't kidding around either (except when he is). Truly, the entire cast is incredible.

message 28: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad I think Herod's Patronus is a white oryx. At least that's what I heard.

message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

I really love this review. One of my most favorite-est people is this guy I grew up with, Paul, who at 13 was incredibly cool in this seriously self-conscious way (I mean we all were, but he pulled it off.) Paul is the only person I know who became the thing he most wanted to be when he was 13, which means he plays in a heavy metal band & goat heads and crazy costumes figure prominently in all of his band's shows. He played a ton of D&D, and never gave it up. He was so cool that when people would try to make fun of him for it, he'd just shrug callowly and they'd immediately feel like assholes and slink off. This is what I think of when I think of D&D, and it makes me all happy about knowing people like Paul when they were 13 playing ninjas and whatnot.

message 30: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad Thanks, Ceridwen. Paul sounds like my friend, Rick. Rick was one of those guys who played and the mocking just rolled off his back, and since Rick was playing with us his confidence and teflon attitude helped the stigma roll of us as well. I sure do miss playing D&D with my long time D&D pals.

message 31: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad So I was wrong. Te made a paladin named Aara, then dropped her and made a halfling priest of the god of thieves named Milly. Milos made a human bard named Dak, and Scoutie, wanting to play with her older siblings, made a goblin mage named Pla Plum.

And I didn recreate Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, well ... I let it inspire my own campain that opened in Azona's Mire. We started three years ago now, and we're still playing the same campaign to this day.

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