Thursday, July 5, 2012

There and back again, a historian's journey

When I began this long road, I was in elementary school. It was third and fourth grade that saw me enter the world of fantasy roleplaying, though I wasn't using Dungeons and Dragons. Instead, I wanted to play games with my friends like the roleplaying games I played on the SNES, and I made up a ridiculous set of rules to do. You see, I had seen an old Dungeons and Dragons manual at my grandfather's house. Asking around as to what it was, I was told that it was a game that you play with pencil and paper with your friends.

Forgotten Realms was the first D&D product I ever bought, followed rapidly by the 2e PHB and DMG. I was in fourth grade, and I was a tyrant of a DM, angrily blasting players into greasy smudges when they made fun of Elminster or irritated me with backtalk. I was a child-DM and they child-PCs, so perhaps it was excusable.

That was the start of some kind of mania that has remained with me for the rest of my life. Shortly thereafter I became convinced that I needed to learn more about the middle ages to my D&D experiences better. I was a voracious reader, and I devoured every fantasy in the library and read the Lord of the Rings once a year to keep it fresh in my mind.

I read Villehardouin and scrambled to find history books. I became, as it were, obsessed with the period. This obsession was founded on learning how to better describe the fantastic worlds I dreamed of in D&D, to know how people lived in the Middle Ages and thus to be able to formulate true and proper worlds that were based not only on whatever fantastic assumptions I cooked up but rather on real information.

When I went to film school, history still clung to me. I spent a lot of my free time reading history books; my D&D days had dwindled, and my group had long since split up, leaving me without an outlet. It wasn't until I graduated that I realized I really wanted to simply study the Middle Ages.

That is how I became a historian, though now that I am having great trouble getting into a Ph.D. program it seems that this dream is fast retreating from me. So here I sit, a DM with an MA, writing fantasy literature and using my knowledge of history to produce a better D&D setting. I have made the journey from hobbyist to historian and back again. A strange journey indeed.


  1. Education is never wasted. It always makes you a better person.

  2. Nobility and knowledge are never measured by degrees.

  3. If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. So you do well, for us all, to study it.