Let's take a quick trip in the Way-Back Machine, shall we? The year is 1980, the place is a row of shops in Pembroke Mall, Virginia Beach, VA. A gangly, bespectacled 17 year old picks up something called In the Labyrinth . . .
As I've said before, D&D was my first RPG. I started gaming life as a wargamer, though, but that's a different story. I was introduced to D&D by a friend of mine, I didn't discover it on my own. He was the DM, always, and I was the only player in his games. We played as constantly as two teens could manage. We lived less than a mile apart, so we played a lot.
Being a wargamer, too, I loved learning and trying new games. Being a mid-level teen from a four-child family, money was tight, so when I saw a little ditty called Melee, I was in. Melee was great fun. It was much more tactical combat (with a board and counters!) than D&D, which definitely got my wargamer blood a'flowing. Then came Wizard. Dueling mages, what could be cooler than that!? Magic-users, uh, sorry, I mean Wizards, actually duking it out on the sands of the arena, something I'd never done, or seen, in D&D. A magic system with points, rather than fire-and-forget. Damn!
Anyway, I played those two as often as I could find an opponent.
Then, that fateful day in The Alley. In the Layrinth was, I think, $7 or $8, somewhere in there. It was rich for my budget, but I had to own it. Here was a book that turned Melee and Wizard into a full-blown RPG. But not just any RPG. It had a combat system I loved, and a magic system I thought was the coolest thing since sliced bread. More than that, though, it was mine. Nobody lead me to it. Nobody taught me to play it.
(I should mention here, that I'm not trying to imply that my friend ruled our gaming. I wasn't a victim of RPG oppression or anything.)
I devoured In the Labyrinth as well as the first two Micro-quests. It was the first skill-based game I'd ever played. It had it's sticking points, sure enough (You mean there's only three stats?! I only get to use d6's?!), but they didn't diminish my love for the game. But, two trans-Atlantic crossing and three years later, and it was gone, along with Melee and Wizard. I'll always love it though, because it was my first RPG discovery.