My Journey With Dungeons & Dragons

Last month marked the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons.  It's a game that has had its share of successes and failures.  It has overcome controversy to become almost mainstream.  In fact, in some ways it has become trendy to play D&D.  It's a worldwide phenomenon and as long as people are willing to use their imaginations it will exist in some form.  So, for the anniversary I want to talk about my journey with Dungeons & Dragons, what D&D means to me, and why I will always be a D&D player.

First off, yes I am a D&D player.  I think most people who read this won't be surprised, but I'm sure someone will be.  I was once told by a friend that she had mentioned to a mutual friend of ours that I played D&D.  To which the other friend asked, "Does he light candles and wear a cape?"  The answer of course, is that the candles are optional and it's a cloak, not a cape.  Cloaks have hoods.  Just kidding!  I've never worn a cloak to play D&D (now, RenFest is another story!) and I think the only time candles were involved was during a power outage.  Let's get past the stereotypes here.  D&D is not of the occult, nor is it the domain of the hopeless loser (at least I don't think I am).  

The "Red Box"

The "Red Box"

I started playing in the 5th grade, this would have been 1988.  This was a big year for me, new school, new baby brother, and a new best friend.  Kevin was the big kid in class and I was the pipsqueak.  We both didn't quite fit in and were quiet types.  But, we seemed to read the same kinds of books (Choose Your Own Adventures!) when our teacher let us pick out books from the class library.  We soon found that we liked the same kinds of TV shows and movies, and we both had a Nintendo.  It also helped that we lived about 5 minutes apart.  Soon, we were over at each other's houses playing Nintendo every weekend.  Then one day, a kid in our class brought an infamous red box to school and showed it to us in free time:  The Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules.    I had heard hushed whispers about this game before from grown-ups and older kids.  It was up there with a Ouija board on things you don't mess with and here it was in this kid's duffle bag like it was the Ark of the Covenant at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  I was sure if he opened it, spirits were going to come out and melt our faces right there in Mrs. Lawson's class!  Then he did and it was horrible... it was... it was... wait, it was just a game with dice?  Granted they were weird dice (20 sides, that's insane!), but just dice.  We started flipping through it and the basic game was set up like the Choose Your Own Adventure books we loved. So, we played with it a little and it looked neat.  

Kevin asked if we could borrow it and we played our first game that weekend.  We used pre-made characters from the book and just ran through the choose your own adventure style game in the back of the book.  You had health and had to roll a certain number to hit and then rolled for damage.  This was like a video game without a TV!  We were hooked.  We made photocopies of the book on the xerox in my grandparents' print shop (sorry about all that toner, Grandma!) and then started making up our own games.  We played during free time at school and on the weekends.  Soon, we had a third player, another boy who lived nearby named Jeff.  Jeff was a year older and always played fighters.  I immediately took to rogues.  Kevin was the resident wizard.  We took turns at DMing.  My favorite part about those early days was making the dungeon maps on graph paper.  I would spend whole bus trips to and from school filling in every little box on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper.

The stats made the acronym FASERIP, what Seventh Grader wouldn't love that!

The stats made the acronym FASERIP, what Seventh Grader wouldn't love that!

I played a mutant ferret.

I played a mutant ferret.

As we got older, we found other role-playing games to play.  Sixth grade was the year of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and sure enough, there's an RPG for that.  Seventh grade we got into comic books and especially Marvel comics.  Yep, there's an RPG for that.  (Incidentally, my box looked exactly like that picture with the corners split.  Must have been a design flaw.)  Eighth grade we tried Shadowrun.  Ninth grade we dabbled with RIFTS.  But, we always came back to D&D.   


Jeff went to high school a year before us and met new friends; friends who also played D&D. He started hanging out with them more.  Kevin and I found a couple of more friends our age who played D&D and the group split for a bit, but once we were in high school, we all merged into a D&D supergroup.  There was Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy, Dave, Matt, John, Jeff, Kevin, and Than (yep, I got my nickname from my D&D group.  Shocker, I know.)  We had other friends who would come by and we didn't always get together as a pack, but we were over at each other's houses most every weekend in high school and pretty much always playing D&D. We even got our girlfriends to play!  (Wha... D&D nerds with girlfriends?!  We were the OG Geek Chic!)

How do they not see that dragon?!

How do they not see that dragon?!

We got snowed in one time at Jeremy's house and played a game all weekend long with breaks for food and sleep.  One time, Kevin's wizard got trapped inside of his own staff and only the person that held the staff could talk to him.  That person was my extremely hyper, talkative, rogue.  I'm pretty sure I broke his brain that night.  Dave liked to mess with people's dice (*gasp*) and would put them in his mouth.  He stopped that when he swallowed one of the Jeremys (Jeremies?) d20s (we all kinda wished it was a d4.)  We devoured the Dragonlance books and adopted it as our default campaign setting.  This sowed the seeds for a fictional world backed by RPG elements into my brain.

High school was soon over and the group parted ways.  We had a lot of good times and lots of fun adventures, but time moves on.  Yet, I soon learned that we were not the only geeks in the world.

I found a whole new set of friends in college!  Marcus, Jackson, Brett, Nate, Thomas, Jeremy, Adam, Zach and Julie.  Sure enough, D&D games started up again and, as you may have read before, Chronicle was born!  I was the DM and Chronicle was my campaign setting.  The players became my characters and their adventures my stories.  Maybe someday, they'll make an appearance again.

After college, things sped up.  I worked in a comic shop and ran my own Chronicle D&D game there with a whole new set of friends (Ben, Noah, Jason, William).  Later, I opened my own shop in Savannah, GA and ran another Chronicle game with a whole new set of friends there (Jamie, Zach, Megan, Tiana)!  After that shop closed, I moved back home and found my old college friends (Shanon, Anna, Marcus, Sarah, Thomas, Jackson) and we ran another Chronicle game.  After I got married, I started up a game with a whole new set of friends (Bob, Rick, Matt, Brian, Lacey, Amy, Thomas), who were mostly from my church (again, breaking stereotypes here!), and even got my wife, Rachel, to play!

Have you figured out the pattern yet?  Have you seen the common theme?  To me, D&D is about one thing.  It's not about dragons and elves and magic.  It's not about a particular rule set or brand names or genres.  It's not about being a geek or being cool or being normal.

Dungeons & Dragons is a game about friends.

That's it.  

For an introverted, shy little geekling in the 5th grade it was a way I could finally make friends who were true.  I could trust these friends.  I could hang out with these friends.  I could go on adventures with these friends.  

Look at a gaming convention like Gen Con or PAX.  There are thousands of people there to play games, but all of them will tell you, year after year after year, the reason why they come back is because of one thing - the friends they meet.  You make a deeper bond with someone when you play games together.  You cheer at success, you laugh at mistakes, and you groan at failure.  What better way to get to know people, than to experience those things together?

Everyone that I have ever sat around a table with, I consider a lifelong friend.  No matter where our lives have taken us, no matter how close we are now, every one of them YOU is a friend for life.  

If you haven't had the chance to sit down to a game with me, then what are you waiting for?  There will always be a seat open.

Happy Anniversary, Dungeons & Dragons!  

Thank you, Gary and Dave, for introducing me to my friends.

The Chronicle Begins Anew.

"Wait, there was a comic before this.  What happened?"

Fifteen years ago, a couple of college students got a crazy idea in their heads to make a comic book.  They had a lot of fun playing D&D with their friends and thought someone should write this stuff down and while they're at it draw it too!  It was a great idea and looked to be successful, but what happened?  Well, several things became apparent quickly.  

First, making your own comic book isn't cheap.  Quality printing in the 90's was ridiculously expensive and color printing exponentially even more.  I had the idea of putting the comics up on this thing called the internet. But, who was going to see it and how were we going to make money off of it?  Google had been invented a year before but capitalization of ad space was a relatively new concept that we really had no grasp on.  So, peddling print books at local comic shops and cons it was!  We had a blast doing it and met a lot of interesting people and a few idols along the way.  But, the costs were too great and the comic book was doomed without a steady revenue.

Second, I wasn't as original as I thought I was.  The original story was based on our D&D games and our D&D games were a little loose with the things we borrowed from.  I outright stole some things when I thought I was being clever.  You'll still see traces of that in the new Chronicle.  There's an organization of wizards divided into three orders who strictly keep a hold on magic and hunt down sorcerers and unaffiliated wizards.  With apologies to Weis & Hickman, I've kept them in and changed up the tenets on which they divide themselves.  "Good artists borrow, great artists steal."  I think W.H. Davenport Adams got it right the first time, "great poets imitate and improve, whereas small ones steal and spoil".  Hopefully I've done that.

Third, making your own comic takes time.  Time is never on your side.  But, when a creative team gets divided between several states, time just goes out the window.  Or at least it did back then.  This was the days of  long distance calls, calling cards, and 10-10-321 (look it up kids, it'll blow your mind.)  Time cost money and as covered in point one, funds were limited.  High-speed data connections were just starting to take off and emailing large image files was not an option.  This made things very difficult.  Too difficult for the partnership to survive.  Time moved on and so did we.


So, why now?  Why again?

Second question first.  I always intended to come back to Chronicle in some way.  I have notebooks full of world ideas and gaming material.  I wanted to publish that in some way.  Maybe a novel, maybe an RPG sourcebook.  It was always just writing.  I had convinced myself that Chronicle as a visual medium was dead.  I was the writer on the comic and the artist was just too good to attempt to imitate or follow-up.  That was a mistake on my part.

First question second.  The answer is, why not?  We live in an amazing time when the cost to publish your own content for the world to see and advertise it is literally pennies on the dollar compare to what it used to be.  I hope this gets rolling.  I have a lot of great ideas and I would love to hold a printed copy of my work in my hand once more.  But, if not, that's okay.  Chronicle's alive again (as long as Josh Trank doesn't come after me with Hollywood lawyers).


So, what now?

Well, the strip's going to come out weekly at first so I can get a buffer going on my productivity.  I'm going to be updating this blog with any cool gaming/comic related news I come across.  Also, I'm going to start posting up that world-building content I've been doing for years and sharing it with the gamers out there.  It's going to be put out under the  Open Gaming License and designed for Pathfinder, but I'm always up for talking conversions to some of the new systems that have come along (coughFATE).

There's a ton of content coming your way and if you like what you see, PLEASE leave a tip in the jar in the shop or even better buy a sketch or merch when it becomes available.

Also, please share this site with your friends and followers on social media.  That's the key to getting a comic going and show me I have some support.



Finally, I just want to thank a few people. First, I want to thank Julie Collins for her part in the first leg of Chronicle's journey and being gracious enough to allow me to continue forward with the name.  She's super-talented, go check out her work.

Secondly, I want to thank all of the friends who have played in the Chronicle campaigns over the years and helped me build this world.  You guys have given me a channel to keep the idea alive and allowed me to see that I've still got what it takes. 

Thirdly, I want to thank my family.  My parents have supported me in so many different ways over the years, that I just want to tell them to stop it some times, but they keep on anyways and I love them for it.  My brother and sister have been great supporters as well even though my likes are pretty different from their own sometimes.  That's okay, you guys are still the best.  To my grandparents, thank you for the example you have set before me. To all my extended family, I thank you all for the kind words over the past few months as I got ready for this.

Finally, I want to thank my wife Rachel and our two precious boys.  Rachel is my compass.  She keeps me on course when I drift off to Neverland too often, but she also makes sure that I don't forget the way there. I am thankful everyday to have her at my side and love her without end.  To my boys, you are both too young to read this right now.  But, I hope that someday you'll read this and see that this world I am creating is for you.  I hope to give you a place to let your imaginations soar with dragons and fight with monsters.  I also hope that it shows that truth, justice, and courage take many forms and are not always the most obvious things to find.

Thank you all,

Than Gibson