In any case, by the time I was 11 or 12, I had the Basic set of Dungeons and Dragons, and I was completely hooked. Being 11 or 12, I never read the rules completely and jumped in with both feet, trying to run games with my Sister(s) or a few times in my church Youth Group (weird, yes, I know) or at school during study time (in 7th grade). But the experience was never like what I read about in the gaming books. I never considered any of this really 'running' a game. Plus I was a little confused about just how D&D and AD&D related to eachother. With no older gamers (or even other gamers) to 'mentor me', I had to just piece things together.
What I consider my first 'real' gaming experience came a few years later, with the release of the Star Frontiers game by TSR. Being a huge star-wars fan, I jumped at the chance to run a science fiction game. And luckily for me, my cousin (Todd again) was onboard, too. We used to go visit my aunt and cousins about every summer, and for the 4 or 5 days we were there, Todd and I would stay up all night and play. Over the summers, the game branched out to include Todd's friends (George and Ed), my sister (Jessica) and even my other cousin (Todd's sister, Chris). Here, finally, I had a 'gaming group'. It felt like the game sessions described in the books and in the Dragon Magazines (I'd picked up a few of those by this time). It was fun. Much Mountain Dew was consumed and pizza devoured. Now, I was a gamer.
The realities of living in South Dakota, however, ensured that for the other 51 weeks of the year, I was pretty much SOL. Oh, I tried to run every now and then for friends in town. It was okay, but not the same. It wasn't until 1987, that I met the only other gamer geek in town. Mark was younger than me, and was just recovering from his bout with leukemia—which explains why our paths really hadn't crossed before this. But now I had someone I could talk gaming with, and that was great. That fall, we started a D&D campaign- with myself as GM and Mark running the party. It was hack and slash through the Temple of Elemental Evil, Slave Lords, Giants, Drow and beyond. We even tried our hands with some other games—Battletech, Top Secret S.I., and this new game that had also just come out in 1987...Star Wars.
The D&D Campaign went into retirement when I went off to College in 1989. And despite the fact I was in a larger South Dakota town, the gaming scene still seemed to be non-existent. I tried gaming a few times with various room-mates and friends. But again, it didn't really come together. It was in '91 or '92 when I saw the flyers on campus. The Fellowship for Creative Roleplay and Gaming. I took a chance and went to the meeting. One of the best decisions of my life. Met some of my best friends there and at the small gaming convention that was held that year. I ran the 'Tatooine Manhunt' adventure for the Star Wars Roleplaying Game. Little did I know that this could kick of a gaming campaign that would continue (in one form or another) to this day.
Now, having reached this pivotal moment (I'm sure all my thousands of subscribers are hanging on my every word), I will break and continue later.