How I Went From Playing Tabletop RPGs to Writing Fantasy Books

The Basic Set – image from Wikipedia

Back in the ‘80s, I was not exactly what you would call a healthy kid. I was small, skinny and weak. I got picked on all the time. And I would catch every bug out there, seems like every year. During one summer, as I lay sick in bed from a particularly nasty stomach flu, my mom brought me something she picked up at our local hobby store, a new game they called Dungeons & Dragons.

For those in the know, this was the Moldvay box set (Tom Moldvay, J. Eric Homes, and Frank Mentzer all released versions). From the look of the cover, I knew right away I was in for something special, although I had no idea what a tabletop roleplaying game was. I sat up in bed and stripped off the cellophane as fast as I could.

You can imagine my surprise when I lifted the cover to the box and found books. What a jip. The last thing I wanted to do was read something. We did enough of that in school. But the artwork was wicked cool, knights and adventurers with swords and axes and crossbows. Maybe this strange gift deserved a second look. so, I opened the cover and I started reading.

I can’t even begin to describe the moment when I realized this was something quite unique. These weren’t just books, these were the blueprints to an entire universe, one filled with magic and spells, monsters and dungeons, and all you really needed to play was some paper, pencils, and a small group of friends. I read all the books. Cover to cover. And then I saw the maps!

I was hooked. Tabletop roleplaying was something that just seemed to resonate with me. This game allowed you to explore your imagination, to travel to other worlds. More importantly, it provided an entire rule system for creating a fantasy world of your own.

My friends and I spent a lot of time playing D&D. A LOT of time. I continued to play as I got older. Well into high school. And then in the summer of my senior year I was in a hobby shop, checking out dice and minis, when I spotted something new they had just installed—one of those rotating wire book racks. I couldn’t believe my eyes. They had books now! They had paperback fantasy books based on characters developed during roleplaying!

The first one to catch my eye was R.A. Salvatore’s THE CRYSTAL SHARD. The cover art was incredible (Todd Lockwood). And the story instantly caught my attention. A big barbarian, a sturdy dwarf, and something new called a dark elf. I snatched it up.

By now I was in college. My studies pulled me away from the game, but now I had the books. As my friends dispersed across the country, gone away to colleges of their own, I still had these books to explore. During my free time, I read as many as I could, relishing in the adventures.

I found that the books were even more exciting than the game. They took you deeper into the realm of fantasy, and stirred your imagination. Soon I had read nearly all I could get my hands on. (There was no Internet back then, and you had to search all the bookstores for something new.) I had a craving for more adventure.

Then it hit me. I could just… write my own books.

Yeah. Sure man.

Turns out that writing thing was a little more difficult than I’d expected. I tried to write a book. It was a terrible mess. I quickly gave up.

Life happened. A family happened. A career in newspapers and magazines took off. It was time to put any thoughts of adventures behind.

Much later in life, something quite unexpected occurred. On the way home from work I drove by a hobby store. For kicks, I stopped in.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. In addition to D&D, there were now a plethora of other games out there! I mean TONS of them. I must have spent two hours in there, just looking. I can only imagine what the clerks thought when I left without buying a thing.

When I wasn’t looking, life happened. Priorities got reshuffled. There simply wasn’t any time for gaming.

But that old itch had returned…

As I lay in bed that night, I found my mind wandering. Something was happening. A story was coming into my mind. A new adventure.

A good ten years later, that story was still going strong. And it seemed more and more details were finding their way into my head each night as I tried to go to sleep. Finally, when I could stand it no longer, I opened up my laptop and started writing.

I found I was a better writer now. All those darn college papers.  And the story had really grown into something special. I continued to work at it. Slowly.

Years passed. And then one day I sat back and typed the words THE END.

But that was just the beginning.

Independent publishing was all the rage, and I opened an online account. I published that book in 2013, and DEOMANS OF FAEREL came to life.

Two years later I published the sequel, HELLION KING OF FAEREL. And in a few short weeks I will publish the third, CONQUEST OF FAEREL.

I still can’t believe I get to do this. I am a writer. Somehow, I became a writer.

I suppose I have roleplaying games to thank.  And my awesome mom.

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