Seems like a good time to think about the game and my own history with it.
Like a lot of people about my age, who have played role-playing games, Dungeons and Dragons was my first. I don't remember if I bought my first game before I played it, or played it first.
I bought the Basic D&D game at a toy store in Edgewater Mall, in Biloxi Ms. I still remember seeing the box set in the store and thinking my friends would find this to be cool.
My first actually game would have been in 1980. I remember that we had some downtime in band class because it was the end of the year, and we had nothing to prepare for. We were pretty much left alone to find something to do during that hour, as long as we didn't get too rowdy. Somebody brought the game and some dice with them and I sat in on campaign that was already underway. I had no idea what I was doing, so they had me roll up a magic user, and I remember the DM gave me a necklace of magic missiles.
In the game, we started off in a bar; pretty standard stuff. Somehow we got into a bar fight, and within just a couple of rounds, my character was dead. So basically I got to play all of about 10 minutes, not including rolling up the first character and then rolling a second character that never got a chance to play. I hope it is needless to say that I never played with that DM again.
So, a year or so went by and I found the Advanced Dungeon and Dragon rules and began getting a few friends interested in the game. I think I started out as the Dungeon Master (DM), but occasionally one of my friends would run a game. I started out as a terrible DM. I remember I didn't read the map of the dungeon they were in correctly and the map they tried to make from my descriptions was no where near accurate. I also remember in later games, I would prepare for what I thought they would do that night, and almost inevitably they would take a turn that would take them someplace else entirely. I had to get good at improvising on the fly. Probably why I still do it when teaching, etc.
We also made up so many house rules, I basically had to relearn the game later on when I played with other groups.
I also, very vividly, remember one week that we had a break from school. I had tested for my brown belt in Shotokan the weekend before, and had gotten it, and I guess I was so psyched from that I setup a game every night that week. I didn't realize I had done that until one of my friends pointed it out at the end of the week.
Up until this point, I had only played D&D, or AD&D. I had found Zocchi's in Gulfport, a warehouse sized distributor of games and was interested in other games, but I moved to Georgia then joined the Air Force soon after.
After being stationed at Offutt AFB, in Omaha, for a while, some of my roommates and I started gaming together. We would trade off on running the game. I believe we had advanced to using the AD&D v2.0 rules at this point.
I'm not sure if I would have been interested in the SCA had it not been for D&D or not, but soon after this, I did find and join. And found more gamers than you can shake a stick at (and I've shaken and swung a stick at many of them).
During this time, I found it funny that all my dice were bought in Omaha, but were distributed out of Zocchi's in Gulfport, the warehouse/distributor I mentioned before. Kind of a connection to home, in a way. Ok, I'm weird that way.
My knight invited me to join in the group he was involved with. They weren't playing D&D at the time, but were actually playing Space Opera. I played with that group for quite a number of years. We did use the AD&D rules a few times, but also played many other games including Space Opera, Shadowrun, and the Hero system. D&D, Space Opera, and Shadowrun remain among my favorite RPG's (I'm not calling them pencil and paper or tabletop rpg's. Just realize that's what I'm talking about).
I picked up the D&D 4.0 rules a couple of years ago and played a few games with my kids. For now, that is pretty much the end of my gaming. In a few years, when the kids have their own lives and I have copious amounts of spare time, I might find a group again.
So far, I've played the Basic D&D rules, AD&D 1.0, 2.0, and 4.0.
I don't know if the friends I've made during gaming are lifelong friends because of gaming. But I appreciate the friends I have made because of this game.