I was 9 when I first heard of Dungeons And Dragons. I was 22 when I played my last role-playing game. When I think about or talk about being a teenager I tend to put the heaviest stress on music and how important it was to me. Then books and comics, and then maybe a nod to the angst and sexual frustration side of things. Dungeons And Dragons, and its warty kin, don’t get much of a mention. As I was saying in the pub the other day – it’s not that I’m ashamed of them exactly, but it’s not the kind of thing you talk about with people who didn’t, er, do it.

Well, OK, it is that I’m ashamed of them. There’s a kind of miasma of irredeemable lameness around role-playing games that no amount of revisionism or excuses can erase. And I tried all the excuses. The problem was, most of the criticisms of gaming and gamers – escapism, adolescent wank fantasies, wish-fulfilment, social abscesses – were true. It might just be a coincidence that I stopped rolling a dice in anger at around the same time as I started having sex but, you know, it might not. (I carried on playing the games for a few years after, but they were ‘diceless’ games – we’ll get to them.)

The thing is, though, I loved them. I loved playing them and I loved refereeing them even more. So I feel I should try and do right by them. Hence this occasional series: impassioned defences, embarrassed admissions, confirmed prejudices and good stories will rub shoulders as if they were sitting in a tavern waiting for an NPC to show up.

But for now – the facts. I was 9. I had seen a boardgame called Dungeon! in Doctor Who Monthly and asked for it for Christmas, from my Gran (who apparently regretted this ever after). She couldn’t find it and the shopkeeper fobbed her off with Dungeons And Dragons instead. And to my initial disappointment and subsequent wonder, that is what I got.