PnP D&D is arguably the quintessential role playing experience one could have growing up in the 80's. I can remember being in 6th grade sitting on the school buss and listening to friends talk about the game they had the Saturday before. I remember being so captivated by the accounts of previous adventures, that I convinced my Dad to take me to the local Bi-Mart store to pick up the Basic D&D red box edition. I believe at the time it cost about $6 for all the rules, one set of blue dice, and a couple lead figures (don't recall if the figures were included or not).
I looked through the rules and didn't know what the hell it was all about; I just knew I wanted to play, and I needed to learn to get in the group and start having fun. I convinced my parents to drop me off every Saturday so I could sit in the rickety old tree house where all my friends would play for hours and hours on end. During the early years, we would play from about 9:00 AM Saturday morning to about 5:00 PM, breaking for lunch in between. Later on, we would play from Friday night non-stop through Sunday afternoon (occasional short breaks).
The culture of our group was pretty interesting in that yes, there were some pretty geeky group members, but there was also an Artist, Stoner, a few "Jocks", an old Hippie, and other various types throughout the campaign's 10+ year history. People came and went over the years, but the times we had, and the pure creativity and imagination expressed in that group has stuck with me over the years. Over 30 years later, I still think fondly about those long nights of battling evil, trying to figure out how to pay for the resurrection of a fallen party member, repairing armor, gathering spell components, and developing our own plots and strategies against an always more devious DM.
For new players, or if you arrived too late to bring your character with you, the DM always had what he called the "Meat Locker", full of gimpy pre-rolled characters you could use to get in on the fun. I remember Leonard, pronounced "Leo" "Nard", a Half-Elf Ranger; Arnhold swartzandeggsher (yes, Terminator was big at this time), and my personal favorite "Pee Wee Vermin". Of those tree, Pee Wee Vermin was my favorite. He was a toss out character that actually made it, and I enjoyed playing. Ofcourse as time went on, no self respecting Wizard had a name like Pee Wee... So, I ended up changing it to PW Vermin, or "Palamar Wallance Vermin", and later to Nomedities Dokaine (spelling incorrect, but had to do with Conan).
I also remember a great Thief (yea, no Rogue just plain ol Thief) I had by the name of Helena Von Houstead. Her claim to fame is that all the loot she got from adventures, she would use to purchase copper pieces, and melt them down into copper ingots. Yea, the stupid things we do for fun. She ended up affecting the price of Copper over a long period of time, and eventually selling at a nice profit. That was a great home grown campaign that lasted a long long time. We never went into Forgotten Realms or Grey Hawk... Some adventuring into Ravenloft, but not the setting, just the original adventure.
Those were good times indeed.