My first Dungeons and Dragons experience technically started in Forgotten Realms. In High School our Magic: The Gathering club decided to try its hand at doing some pen and paper RPGs. They ran the intro adventure found in the Forgotten Realms box and I was handed a Deep Gnome cleric as my character.
I had no clue how ANYTHING worked and nobody told me a damn thing. The group was all boys and, like many a male peer group, it functioned more like a wolf pack than a group of friends. Someone had to be the Omega and since I was the smallest and tended to have a smart mouth that was what I became. That’s why I was handed the Gnome healer who was only needed when people remembered that they took some damage.
I hated that character. I wanted to kill things and I really wanted to not be the lowest man on the totem pole in that group. I changed at the earliest opportunity and made my first character with a computer program since I didn’t have any of the books.
I rolled a Ranger. A Dark Elf Ranger. A Chaotic Good Dark Elf Ranger. I chose that combination because the program told me I had kewl powerz and I could get to the stabination twice a round, which sounded effective. I didn’t even know that Rangers could have combat pets so I never had one. I’d also never heard of Drizzt. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
By that point the party was mostly made up of underdark monsters. Seriously. It was insane but I didn’t know any better. My Drow, that Deep Gnome (now played by someone else), a Minotaur, an Abominable Snowman, and an Illithid. Seriously. THAT was the party.
Then something amazing happened and the DM duties shifted to someone else. Suddenly these mists came up and the party found itself sucked into a dark world full of gothic horrors. Vampires, a town full of Werewolves, flesh golems, all manner of terrible things, and player characters falling to darkest temptation. It was exhilarating and suddenly DnD transformed in my head from a weird game full of stupid stuff to a story with characters I wanted to see survive. My own character kept his good soul and fought against the hatred of EVERY SINGLE NPC we ever encountered to prove he was actually a good person despite how he looked. Seriously, villagers in Ravenloft would kill on sight a Drow if they could, but wouldn’t bat an eye at a Mind Flayer?
That was the first introduction to gaming and I fell in love with it. That first setting, the themes it had, the moods it created, all those things have informed my gaming sensibilities for the last 20 years. Now I want to bring that feeling to some brand new players. The greener the better. I want to pay it forward and provide a visceral first impression of Dungeons and Dragons to people who I hope fall in love with it like I did.
Barovia is a dark place full of horrors, personal tragedies, and existential nightmares. What better place for new Dungeons and Dragons players to start?