It's hard for me to remember a time before I knew what a tabletop roleplaying game was. I was a young boy in the 1980s, growing up in a small town that was usually a few years behind whatever fad or fashion was sweeping the rest of the country. My older brother, who moved out when I was ten or so, was caught up in the tail-end of the D&D boom. I'm not sure exactly how I became aware of the game; I don't remember ever watching him play. I was aware of it in more of an indirect fashion. All I knew is that it was a game full of monsters and magic and that it was something my older brother liked to do. I think it was this latter fact that truly peaked my interest in tabletop RPGs.
My brother is about eight years older than me. He was into the normal things for a kid his age, which in the late 70s and early 80s logically included comic books and Dungeons and Dragons. I can remember tagging along with him and a few of his friends while they visiting the local comic/gaming store. I was particularly intrigued by the lead miniatures, which to me were like tiny action figures. The gaming shop was primarily a comicbook store, which I think intertwined the two worlds of RPGs and comicbook superheroes in my mind at a young age. That's probably why, years later, while I've only read a handful of comicbooks cover to cover, I have absorbed enough information about costumed heroes to hold my own in conversations with casual comics fans.
My earliest strong memory of an actual gaming book came when summer after a visit to the local carnival. I remember really wanting to go through a scary funhouse ride that my mom objected to because she thought it would spook me too badly. While funhouses are usually walk-through affairs, I seem to recall riding through this one. Just as mom predicted, the ride scared the heck out of me, and I came home buzzing about it.
As I gushed to my brother about all the strange “monsters” I saw inside the funhouse, he smiled and broke out a Dungeons and Dragons monster book.
“Maybe,” he said, “you can figure out what some of those monsters were called if you look through this book.” I couldn't, but the fantastic creatures I saw in that book stayed with me strongly enough that, even now, monster manuals are perhaps my favorite kind of RPG book. Sometime after the incident with the carnival fun house, I actually got to play in my first (completely unsuccessful) game of Dungeons and Dragons.