Monday, May 12, 2014

Re-creating My First Character: Tryon the Elf

As darkness surrounded the old military tent pitched haphazardly in the backyard, a group of boys huddled around the warm glow of flashlights and lanterns while flipping through strangely illustrated tomes.  Armed with pencil, paper, and oddly shaped dice, one of those boys recorded esoteric numbers and arcane symbols onto paper and brought to life a creation that would remain a faithful adventuring companion for many years.  On a warm humid summer night in 1982, Tryon the elf came to be.

The re-created character of Tryon the Elf

Tryon the elf was my very first Dungeons & Dragons character.  I rolled him up at a friend's birthday sleepover in 1982 - the night I first learned to play D&D.  The entire concept of a roleplaying game was entirely new to me then so I'm sure I had no idea what I was doing.  Most of the other boys did know however, and guided me through the process.  Today, I have no way of knowing exactly what that character sheet really looked like.  Unfortunately, the original met its demise around 1987 or '88 when I decided that I was much too cool to play D&D anymore.  Tryon's stats, weapons, and armor on that magical first night are lost to memory and time.  All I truly remember about that first character was the class (elf) and the name.

After finishing the character's stats and buying equipment, I was prompted to choose a name but I was at a complete loss.  As a boy I had always been interested in anything related to medieval times or outer space so I certainly had the imagination to pick a good one.  But for some reason I remember drawing a complete blank.  How could I come up with a name (which was obviously an important life decision at the time) on the spur of the moment?  When the others grew frustrated at my indecision, I was forced to make a final decision.  I blurted out the first thing that came to me:  Tryon.

NC Governor William Tryon - an early elven ancestor?

To this day I have no idea where the name came from.  At the time, the name meant absolutely nothing to me.  Perhaps it was a subconscious decision forced on me by the others urging me to "try" to come up with something.  Or maybe I had heard the word at some point in my life and it came bubbling to the surface unbidden and unlooked for.  The second possibility may be the most plausible.  I found out a few years later when taking North Carolina state history in school that there was both a governor (William Tryon 1765) and a town (located in Polk County) with the name.  Most likely it was pure coincidence though.  I was only 11 at the time so hearing of the historical governor or knowing of the town (which was clear on the other side of the state from where I grew up) was highly unlikely.  Whatever the origin of the name, Tryon was my first character and he lived to go on many adventures and luckily survived each and every one.

The picturesque town of Tryon, NC.  Perhaps the Caves of Chaos lie in the mountains behind?

I can't even begin to pretend to remember much about that first character.  As mentioned above, the name and class where the only clues I had to go on.  So instead of blindly trying to re-create Tryon, I simply rerolled the character using the Moldvay basic rules that would have governed his creation thirty-two years ago.  In doing so, I went by the book except for two deviations.  I vaguely remembered our old house rule for rolling stats and used that method rather than rolling 3d6 in proper order.  Tryon's abilities were generated by rolling 3d6 seven times and discarding the worst result.  The scores were then assigned to the abilities in any order desired.  I don't know how good Tryon's stats would have been way back then but I was very pleased with the results this time around.  A 15 was the highest roll but I was fortunate enough to roll it three different times.  My lowest roll (not counting the 7, which was discarded) was an 11.  It seems that the new Tryon is a very well-rounded elf.

The second deviation was dealing with hit points.  Even after being away from the game all these years I remember how deadly the combat was.  So instead of relying on fate to give me a good score, I once again enacted an old house rule and maxed the character's hit points which resulted in a score of 7 (+1 for the constitution modifier).

The rest of the character was created by choosing equipment and spells as an 11 year old boy might have done.  I may not have chosen wisely (which was the point), but the character still looks pretty good to me.  I'm completely guessing here, but I think that this version of Tryon would look remarkably similar to the Tryon that first entered the Caves of Chaos thirty-two years ago.

Rolling lucky tonight.

Name:  Tryon                              Class:  Elf
Level:  1                                      XP:  0
Alignment:  Lawful
Armor Class:  4                           HP:  7

Str:   15                                       Armor:  Chainmail, Shield
Int:   15                                       Weapons:  Longsword, Longbow
Dex: 15                                        Spells:  Magic Missle
Wis:  11
Con: 14
Cha:  12

The process of re-creating Tryon was quite fun.  To relive the full experience, I only used items that would have been available to me on that night so long ago (minus the tent and flashlight of course).  I haven't written in pencil in ages.  I had a hell of a time simply finding one in the house to use.  Wide ruled filler paper was even more difficult to find.  I had to drive to the local office supply store to find something that wasn't college ruled.  They had only one pack left.  The only easy part were the dice.  Yes, those are the original dice.  Nasty looking, are they not?  They survived the great RPG purge of '88.  Maybe they have disintegrated to the point that they roll unfairly thus giving me a distinct advantage with my ability scores.  In that case I am glad I kept them.  I think I will clean them up a bit and find a white crayon to fill in the numbers again.

Now that Tryon the elf is alive and well it is time to take him on an adventure.  I think I will try a solo adventure first to test drive the rules and refamiliarize myself with an old friend.  Then it's off to the Keep on the Borderlands to resupply and maybe hire a few henchmen before venturing into the Caves of Chaos.

Posted:  Adventuring Companions Needed.  Contact Tryon the Elf for Details.

I'll leave you with a few questions to ponder:
   *  Do you remember the name of your first character?
   *  If so, how was it chosen?  Is there any meaning behind the name?
   *  Do you still have your first character sheet?
   *  Do you think my method of rolling ability scores is unfair?
   *  Hit points...max them out or let fate decide?

Remember that comments and participation are always welcome on this blog.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks for reading!


  1. -I don't remember the name of my first character, but I know he was killed by a minotaur. My brother had magic-user named Maru, probably taken from Star Trek.
    -You're lucky to have your basic set. Mine was lost to time unfortuanately as it was passed to my cousin, to my brother to me. Alas.
    -Even luckier still to have the original dice. I love that they are well-worn
    -3d6 seven times and drop the lowest is a good option. I think we always did 4d6 but who knows what we did back then.
    -Always max the HP. Otherwise it's a short adventure.

    1. What an epic way to lose a first character...killed by a minotaur. Much better than getting stabbed in the back by a pesky kobold!

      I like the 4d6 method. Would you still roll seven and drop the lowest or keep it a 6?

      Thanks for reading!

    2. I feel like we must have been using the adventure that came with the set. Though my understanding is that there is no minotaur in it. Maybe it was homebrew, maybe I am misremembering.

      4d6 and dropping the lowest roll will get you solid results (I don't know if it was clear that we dropped the lowest) We only rolled 6 times.

      I look forward to your write-ups!

    3. I think your memory is spot on. There is a minotaur in the caves - a fairly powerful one at that. I can certainly see how your character met his demise there. On my first run through the Caves of Chaos, we never fought the minotaur (or else I may have been killed as well). The cave the beast inhabits was too confusing for the mapper so we quickly abandoned that section for the next.

    4. Awesome! That's great news about the Minotaur in the cave. Now I know the first adventure I ever partook.

  2. * Do you remember the name of your first character?
    Johan Werper. A Lawful human cleric.

    * If so, how was it chosen? Is there any meaning behind the name?
    My mom was a huge fan of Johan Strauss. It sounded "old enough" to me.

    * Do you still have your first character sheet?
    I am a notorious pack rat, so yes I still have it and all my characters.

    * Do you think my method of rolling ability scores is unfair?
    No because I am quite sure we cheated. He had a lot of 18s.

    * Hit points...max them out or let fate decide?
    He started with 8 HP, which I thought sucked. But he lived through many adventures.

    1. Johan Werper? What a cool name for a first character (or any character for that matter). I wish I could have been as creative. I also wish I would have kept my character sheet. I'm quite jealous that you have yours still. Don't get rid of it no matter what. If you hit a low spot for gaming like I did just pack it away until some other time. You'll regret it later if you don' me!

      Thanks for the comments and thanks also for reading my blog!

  3. My very first two characters were generated at the same time and were named "The Halfling" and "The Thief". While I don't recall their stats nor do I have their sheets (I was 6 years old), I do remember that they were generated using 3d6 down the line with the option to adjust some scores at a 2:1 point ratio. Hit points were likewise rolled for (d6 & d4). The Halfling was sober, cautious, yet brave to a fault in a pinch. I know he helped our traveling companion The Dwarf out of a pit he had plunged into whilst trying to leap atop a pile of illusory gold. The Thief, who I suspect had 1-2 hit points, was a coward and was particularly terrified of skeletons.

    In the course of that first dungeon we met skeletons, green slime, and a red dragon (who fortunately was dead, but of course we didn't know that when we saw that huge tail blocking our way out!).

    1. Great names. They are simple and to the point with a bit of humor. I like it!

      I also like the fact that even your first characters had, well....character. The fact that your thief was afraid of skeletons makes him quite memorable, even without a surviving record sheet. I'm pretty sure that I wasn't nearly as creative with my first. He was probably nothing more than an extension of me in the game. Oh well, I've made up for the lack of RP elements in my first character over the years.

      Thanks for your comments and thanks for reading!

    2. SIX?! Are you serious? I'm an intelligent, well educated person, but I can hardly remember anything from being six. I was in the 1st grade learning to read and write, not opting to adjust ability scores at any ratio. Anyway, I love the names. Those sound like something I would have come up with at six.

  4. Do you remember the name of your first character? No idea. He survived for maybe 15 minutes before being killed by driders. It was ugly.

    If so, how was it chosen? Is there any meaning behind the name? The first character I can truly remember naming was a fighter named Bruno the Battler. No real meaning, I think I just borrowed it from the rules somewhere.

    Do you still have your first character sheet? I'm afraid not, but I still have many of my other character sheets, including Bruno.

    Do you think my method of rolling ability scores is unfair? Definitely not unfair. We "cheated" but I don't remember exactly what we did, other that rolling up lots of unusable characters until we accdentally got one we liked.

    Hit points...max them out or let fate decide? Fate, baby! For some reason we always rolled. I actually played a magic user with 1 hit point who lived to be 5th or 6th level.

    1. Killed by driders? You guys were hardcore! Ha!

      Bruno the Battler. I actually like it. As I continue my rereading project I'll keep my eyes open for him in one of the rulesets.

      I have to say that I'm impressed that you were able to keep alive a magic-user with only 1 HP. Now that's impressive. We have to play together some time.

      Thanks for reading!

  5. those old dice, too. I still have my multicolor set.

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  7. Why is that every time I find a really good discussion it's 3+ years old. My first character was around the same time as you and also was an elf, named Bilbo Brandybuck. Can you tell that I loved The Hobbit? Miraculously he survived, but I think my second character was my favourite of all time, Gilbo, a dwarf, who also retired successfully. My friend Droid's first character was killed pretty quickly, so he took one of the henchman elves, Bailin (BAY-lin), and he retired at around 10th level. We spent a lot of time exploring the Caves of Chaos and I think we ran from the terrifying minotaur. My dream early module to play would've been Isle of Dread, but I only ran it as a DM. I don't have my original character sheets but have a lot of the old modules, the Basic set and my old dice. They're in about the same condition as those pictured above.

    1. Better late than never Grish!

      I am glad you stumbled upon my blog post. I never get tired of hearing other player's memories of their introduction to the game. Reading about their experiences always helps me remember more of mine.

      And yes, I can tell that you loved The Hobbit. There's certainly nothing wrong with that!

      Sorry for the incredibly delayed reply. Thanks for reading!