I got my first D&D rule set in 1982, when I was 14, and I been into pencil and paper fantasy role playing games ever since. That doesn't mean I played, since then, of course, finding other players was the hardest part. Creating worlds was easy by comparison. I started playing almost immediately, rolled my first character as soon as I brought the books home. I took me an hour and a half and it was a Magic User. I played my first game with my dad and my brother within that month. It was a disaster, I didn't get a number of game mechanics and managed to turn off both of them to the game. There were two games I played in while at high school. First lasted 15 minutes at the high school library, when a librarian threw me out during my lunch period. It was one of the small feats of petty axxholedness on part of a teachers assistant that have greater repercussions down the road - that game was nipped in the bud. I played with another fellow, a future prominent poet and a songwriter, it was one on one, I played in his world, he played in mine.
I started playing in the days before the internet and the whole D&D thing was mysterious. The people behind the books in hobby shops, obscure game supplements, hard cover books and game modules that I couldn't afford, the game designers, like mysterious overlords. I played by all the rules, inquiring at the local library and at the hobby shop about games, and eventually found two games. I was in college by then. I didn't last very long in either game. In one, I was a bit older than other kids and we got another player, a construction guy who was, like 35 to my, maybe 21 years to other's 15 and 18 years of age. The game got rid of us, no doubt thanks to the influence of the parents. The other game was humongous affair held at the local public library that involved sixteen players and had a middle aged mad philosopher of a DM, who thought that Catholicism was a Lawful Good religion with evil tendencies. That game was an exercise in boredom: We sat around a huge conference table, and waited 20-30 minutes until our turn came to see what we were doing, which was mostly waiting. Everyone created their own back story and a character, which didn't really matter, for we all were standing in line in front of the dungeon entrance and it took us 3 hours of real time enter the dungeon, advance thirty or fifty feet down the corridor, and find the mysterious writing on the wall that nobody could read. The game was a failure, but it served as a meeting ground for several small groups to start their own games. The game was like a committee of inquest, but in reverse: In a matter of seconds, an accident occurs, that takes some lives, and forever changes others. In the aftermath, boards of inquiry and committees sit in long meetings recreating the tragic events in excruciating detail. Ina large D&D game the reverse happens: A group of players led by DM sits in a long sessions, hammering out what actually happens in a few minutes of intense combat and exploration. That aspect of D&D is also reminiscent of one other dynamic. In post WW2 military adventures and before arrival of the ubiquitous choppers in Vietnam, patrols were done by large and long columns and convoys of vehicles. The front of the column of the side might be ambushed and attacked by the enemy, and that sector would be involved in combat, while the rest of the column would spend hours just smoking and waiting for the vehicles to start moving again.
Some in D&D gaming is a predictable cliché of D&D as a psychological coping mechanism. Here I was, a large dude, driving a truck to pay for college, boxing and playing war-games with real weapons in my national guard unit, having my D&D character pistol whipped by barbarian giant, played by a tiny little 13 year old from a broken home hiding behind thick specks. Less predictably, I got thrown out of a game, after my thief was attacked by another player character, thief drew knife and managed to kill the attacker with a natural 20. I was not invited to that game again, because I fight with and I kill other PC's. True to form, the douche bag of that DM didn't know that I knew and carried on as if he was my friend. There were two ore interesting things that clued me in, that there was more going on in the game, than just D&D. I ran a brief game, where players filled out their character sheets with the biographic details of their alter egos. Fifteen years later, these biographic details became real, for most part, contrary to their own and their families' expectations. Much later, I was sitting in a patrol car with a grizzled police sergeant close to retirement and I explained D&D to him. And he exclaimed: Those guys are playing an armed robbery! Open the door, kill the monster, take the treasure! Force your way in, shoot the victim, take the money!