When I was in sixth grade I was fortunate enough to receive one of the greatest gifts ever. My Mother bestowed me with the three cornerstone books of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and a set of dice. Why was this such a great gift you ask? Well, to give a short answer, I would have to say that to me these were not only books but the gateway to another world.
For similar excitement of this sort back then I could read fantasy novels, which I did voraciously. Another option was to stomp around the countryside hacking weeds with my +1 stick, which, I am embarrassed to admit, was a task I performed to the best of my meager ability scores.
Upon receipt of these tomes however, I suddenly had a toolset that enabled me to build worlds in their entirety and a foundation for the underlying laws that would govern them. I suddenly went from being an slightly-geeky adolescent to something else, something bigger and infinitely cooler.
I'll never forget the smell of those books (you know if it if you've ever played). More importantly though was the ability they gave me to stop being controlled so much by my world and to instead create and control my own, with the help of Gary Gygax and friends of course.
I spent hundreds of hours reading those books, playing the game with friends and escaping from my goofy, awkward teenage body and into that of a powerful Ranger, a sly Thief, or a wizened Magic-User. Many would say this was a waste of time, a useless pursuit, some at the time even considered this to be a dark and sinister pastime. Years later, in college, it certainly came in handy. Imagine the ease of textbook navigation for someone weaned on the obtuse, Gygaxian prose of the first edition.
I learned much more from those books and I also eventually gave them up and moved on to other things before picking them up again years later, but those are stories to be shared another time.
In the end, when my story is complete it will be one infinitely familiar to anyone who ever played the game. You know the one, it's probably similar in some ways to yours, it's the one about the young farm boy who starts small and ends up becoming a part of something much, much larger.
Thanks Mom. You don't know how much that gift you gave me years ago changed my life...