Dungeons and Dragons is 40 this year - sometime from the end of January to the start of May, depending on who you ask.
First thought ... wow I'm old! I started playing D&D in 1977. The first UK Games Workshop opened opposite my school, so I had no chance. This was opening day - I'm not in the queue, but I was in the shop next week. And yes, we lived in black & white back then.
My mother read me Lord of the Rings when I was seven and my imagination burned with it for years with no outlet. Then this game hit my school, only it wasn't like any other game, it let a small boy pick up a sword and battle dragons and wander strange lands, discover new enchantments... walk off the board, out of the box, and go anywhere. It really was magic. I seriously could not sleep for a week, just like the night before Christmas, my mind on fire with ideas.
I hear that to commemorate the 40th anniversary a statue of the game's co-creator, Gary Gygax (1938-2008), is to be erected in his home town.
Gary Gygax (& Dave Arneson) really kick-started my imagination and I owe him a debt of gratitude for that and for all those 'wasted' days spent playing D&D with my friends through school and university.
My fingers are crossed that his statue has ruby eyes (500gp each) and death-traps galore!
As a writer I'm always a bit hesitant to cite my D&D background in the same breath as talking about my books. I haven't ever wanted to read a book that sounds like a D&D campaign - a good read and a good gaming session are very different things. I've never felt tempted to lift elements of 'plot' or setting from past D&D experience to put in my writing. The debt to Dungeons and Dragons is less direct, but strong even so. It's a legacy of imagination without limits, of excitement, atmosphere, timing.
I was always the Games Master when I played, designing the adventure. What you learn though in D&D is that predictions are of limited use, the players will go their own way, surprise the hell out of you, spend days on something trivial and solve some of the huge problems in moments.
Perhaps that's why I don't plan my stories. I just loose the characters and follow them. Sure, I'll toss obstacles in their path, but they will always surprise me, lead me off along unexpected paths. Jorg Ancrath did it through the Broken Empire trilogy, and Jalan Kendeth is doing it right now in the Red Queen's War trilogy.
So yes - I owe Dungeons and Dragons in all kinds of ways and if you think about all the people they've ever put up a statue to ... well Gary Gygax definitely deserves his chance at being crapped on by pigeons!
Happy birthday D&D!