I was a thirteen-year-old kid, racing after my friends through the lounge of our Girls and Boys Club when pixies first sprinkled magic dust of Dungeons & Dragons in my hair. It wasn’t my first glimpse into the lives of elves, dwarfs and halflings, but it was the first time an entire world was exposed. Until then I had thought these creatures lived amongst us, hiding in the shadows of the forest, deep in forgotten caves and in rock structures invisible to the human eye.
On that summer’s day, about a dozen kids were seated at tables with pieces of paper in front them, facing a man who sat at his own small table filled with books, charts and odd-looking dice. I briefly stopped to ask about what the stranger to the neighbourhood was directing.
“Dungeons and Dragons,” said my older brother, sitting at one of the tables.
“What’s that?” I said, having never heard of it before.
A quick explanation was given and then the stranger who was playing the role of Dungeon Master asked if I wanted to play. I didn’t because I was having too much fun doing whatever else I was doing. So I went off with my friends.
That quirky stranger – Peter Mortimer – was at The Club the following Monday morning and that’s when I learnt he was the new director. Not long after his arrival, he began offering his D&D game to club members. All we had to do was show up on Friday night at seven and we could play for free until nine-thirty.
It didn’t take long for Peter to gather a motley crew dedicated to participating in his wild and most unusual adventures. The weak of heart and non-believers came and quickly left, unable to grasp the magic that left many of us spellbound until the next week’s quest.
Our little group of about ten addicted participants began to take form. There were leaders and map makers (me) and fighters and magic-users and thieves (me again). We learnt each other’s weaknesses and strengths. We began to depend on each other and make decisions that were best for the group instead of the individual.
Away from the game, we studied the handbooks and discovered which spells and potions were useful, which monsters and other creatures to avoid and which class of character suited our personality. Eventually, we settled into a groove and when someone’s character died, it was common to recreate a character in the same race. It was as if the race and profession chose us, not the other way around.
Personally, I turned out to be a halfling thief. My name for my longest-living character was Durania (a combination of my favourite band at the time — Duran Duran — and my name). I was map-maker, sometimes a spokesperson for the group and often the one who could pick a lock into any castle.
The Dungeon Master ruled the game. If there was a better one in the world, I didn’t know him. Ours kept us busy, kept us on our toes and kept us laughing, raising our brows or shaking our heads. We loved him.
For several years every Friday night, we gathered in the Arts and Craft room of The Club to play my favourite game. For two and a half hours each week we became someone else, wielding swords, casting spells and talking our way out of more fixes than we could ever imagine in real life. We channelled our energy into a positive pastime and for me, it ignited a passion for fantasy that still burns today.
Sadly, we lost our Dungeon Master when his assignment at The Club ended and he moved on to fill another position in a magic land elsewhere. He was missed by many, but mostly by the gang he had transformed from a bunch of unruly kids to an adventure group called The Warriors who thirsted to be transported into a fantastic world of his and our making.