From there, of course, the rest is history: contact with the motley hordes of CLAW and their far more wide-ranging and exploratory take on roleplaying in my second year, and very quick eradication of the shyness in the face of the completely mind-bending experience of being one of approximately two and a half girls in an otherwise all-male role-playing group. I'm not really sure if it was the confidence boost of this, or the powerful shields afforded by a role-playing persona, which kick-started the transformation from pastel schoolgirl mouse into something more in possession of a personality. But it wouldn't have been possible without that year of exposure to AD&D in its most standard form; that first game was lame and grotty and, in an odd sort of way, profoundly unimaginative, and it met a need I didn't even know I had.
So it's not really surprising that every now and then I still randomly develop a sudden, deep, alarming desire for something D&Dish. This is difficult to fulfil in this day and age, even with the high concentration of roleplayers in my immediate social circle, as everyone's moved on to other systems, or their own systems, or families and work. (bumpycat's late lamented D&D game was enormously retro fun and I still miss it passionately. Barbarian clerics ftw!). But for the moments when the jones is paramount, there's Munchkin. Munchkin is perfect because it speaks to our juvenile experiences of D&D: it's firmly embedded in the paradigm, the in-jokes1 and tactical nastinesses and sneaky min-maxing and lame system features. It knows the gazebo joke. But it's also ironic, distanced, self-consciously condemnatory as much as it's affectionate: we are invited, playing Munchkin, to celebrate both our unsophisticated enjoyment of a dungeon hack, and our graduation to something better.
By the end of last night's game I had a surprisingly coherent character: a dwarven cleric with a Talking Horse, Leather Armour (picture: busty brunette in skimpy corset and thigh-high boots), Pantyhose of Giant Strength, and Broad Sword (usable only by female players). Munchkin is a profoundly nostalgic pleasure if only because there aren't many women who enjoy playing it in our crowd (me and smoczek, and she's still in Madagascar), and you can trade shamelessly to end up with all the items useable only by females and thus useless to the rest of the group without a quick sex change. It's quite like old times. The session took over four hours and ended with all five players on 9 hit points, needing just one combat to win, and staving off the inevitable victory for a random one of us for three rounds by serially preventing, in a desperate, marginal and happenstance way depending on the fall of cards, our opponents' success in combat. I didn't win, alas, as the bastard elves ganged up to use their sneaky helping-someone-else-to-win-a-combat bonus, causing game end in a tie, but it was bloody good fun and completely worth staggering off to bed somewhere around midnight. I'm just sad I didn't get a chance to use my Kneepads of Allure.
1 They have a Level One Potted Plant as a monster! I recall affectionately the early days of CLAWs, when one of the in-jokes was the Party Potplant ("DM! DM! I rustle my leaves!"). And a Large Angry Chicken! Do you remember the ongoing gag about the Rolemaster sheep?