Boppin’ and Blog Hoppin’: Day Two

Again, not exactly Day 2. But I’ll get caught up eventually. The questions for Day 2 are the same as for Day 1, only focused out instead of in. If I’m talking about the first person I introduced to DnD, then of course I’m talking about my little brother.

This is not in any way to say that the game stuck with him, nor even that it was probably all that accessible to him when he was introduced. My little brother and I are six years apart, so particularly while growing up we were never close. I (and I think he) find it fascinating to examine how our personalities developed and diverged as children, particularly the question of how much of that was innate versus conscious choice on both our parts to be less alike. However it shook out, he’d played more sports in a serious fashion by six than I’ve watched games of any professional sport since. Once I started a regular gaming group there’d be the occasional edicts–from my mother–to “Let your brother play.” She no more understood how bringing a six- or seven-year-old into a long-running campaign damaged immersion than she recognized why letting him play my NES Zelda cart had an immediate and final impact on my own ability to complete that game. As I’ve mentioned before, it took me years to actually beat The Marsh Cave due to his…interventions. For my own part, I was not especially well-suited to interacting with a still-forming human brain; I never had the patience for a child who didn’t share my interests, and we weren’t close.

Unless, you know, I had a use for him! When I was learning Magic, my brother was useful! I could hand him a fistful of green cards and batter his mammoths with some ridiculous black and red deck, and his lack of engagement meant he wasn’t really crushed when he lost. Similarly, as soon as I had my own DnD books and felt ready to jump into DMing, John was my first test subject.

That meant he was brought in with the close-to-2nd edition that I started playing with, and his first character was a Dwarven Cleric named Sosemite Sam. Because, you know, he was five, maybe six years old. I’d just read The Runatal (our family is Norwegian to the point that I was almost named Thor, and one of my youngest cousins is Thor) and so we built him a unique Domain and associated kit for his class that let him learn and wield the various Runes as he leveled up. I laid out special rules for all of the runes–in front, again, of a half-decade-old child who would probably have preferred to be digging in the backyard*–and bade him select one. He (wisely, I thought) picked a rune that allowed him to generate a damage-absorbing shield, and then–armed with a spear, because Odin–he marched into an adventure involving a village, some skeletons, and an evil wizard.

Because I was maybe 11.

We never saw Sosemite in another game, but I was always amazed and rather touched at how well my brother remembered that adventure years later. Specifically, he remembered the part where he scored a crit against a skeleton and I described him wedging his spear into the monster’s ribcage, laying the shaft against his knee, and striking the back end of the weapon to send the corpse flying up into the air so that it shattered against the cave’s ceiling.

My brother and I considerably closer now that we’re both ostensibly adults. He’s got three inches of height on me, and many items in my college wardrobe were hand-me-ups from his brutal high school growth spurts. We hit the point where our interests were sufficiently divergent that neither of us was a challenge for the other, and now we both get to bask in each other’s reflected glory. I love the guy, and look up to him a lot. There’s even been some talk, here and there over the last few years, about rolling up some characters for a quick one-shot which I can only hope would involve a 4th-edition return of Sosemite Sam, presumably as an Avenger toting a greatspear.

*When I say digging, what I mean is that my brother used some Tonka trucks and a plastic shovel to build an irrigation system in our backyard. He did this when he was half the age necessary to see a PG-13 movie. My wife recently compared us to Sherlock and Mycroft in the Season 3 BBC show.

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