Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cat Rambo Taught Me D&D

This week’s my sister Cat Rambo’s birthday.

Without her I probably wouldn’t be a gamer- I don’t know. I wouldn’t have seen someone fearlessly embrace what they enjoyed regardless of what other people said (relatives, peers, dumbasses). I might not have had that model to follow. She taught me how to play D&D in 1976, after she’d gotten the boxed set in Christmas of ‘75. I remember the first time we played. I wasn’t sure what we were doing, but a Giant Rat attacked. I fought and killed it and was pretty happy.

“Do you want to search the rat for treasure?” she asked. 


“You cut it open.”

I cut open the rat and found silver pieces and a dagger. 

I remember her letting me tag along when she went down to the Griffon to play. I remember rolling up a butcher in Tekumel. I remember getting to sit in on a session of DUEL for V&V when the horrible seed invaders attacked and someone polymorphed a kid into clay to stop it. I remember her running The Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor and the floating logs which turned out to be crocodiles.

She played in the early days of rpgs and gaming around here, often the lone female gamer in these groups. I saw the shit she went through. She would tell stories about the funny stuff, but I knew there was a lot more she didn’t talk about. I saw some of it. The misogyny, the jokes about characters getting raped, the fans of John Norman’s Gor, the condescension, and even divisiveness among the few female gamers. If I can claim any right to be called a Feminist, claim any enlightenment about women’s issues and especially their struggles in hobby circles- that comes from my sister. She enjoyed fantasy & sci-fi, loved games, and she kept going regardless of the asshatery around her.

One year for my birthday party she did a magic show that I stupidly ruined at the end. She put on a freaking magic show for her stupid little brother’s snot-nosed friends. She built a command console and flip-around transporter for my Mego Star Trek figures. She ran an amazing D&D game for another one of my birthday parties with a map she’d created and carefully revealed as we played. This was in the 70’s and she did all this by hand with scraps and markers. Honestly, that’s when I knew I wanted to GM- that session. She showed me that it could be a greater experience than just walking through a list and rolling dice.

She introduced me to the gaming group which would be the foundations of the people I play with today. I even play with one of those guys, Alan, to this day, 30some years later. She ran a Call of Cthulhu campaign that showed me what that was like- even though I was too young to get it. She let me sit in a couple of times with her Rolemaster group and see how elaborate a created game world could be. Most importantly she let me run things for her friends once I started to GM. She gave me the confidence to try and fail.

I followed her in fandom…

…she collected different comics- not just the Giant-Sized Batman and Superman books I bought. I read her issues of Miller’s run on Daredevil, Byrne & Claremont on X-Men, Moore’s original Marvelman in Warrior, Grell’s Warlord, The Defenders, and many more.

…I came to Dr. Who not through the TV series, but through the books. She had all of the Pinnacle edition American novelizations and I loved them. Only after reading those did I actually watch the show.

…I love board games and she showed me more existed beyond Clue. We played Cosmic Encounter, The Sorcerer’s Cave, Talisman, Darkover, Quirks, and others.

…I came to reading sci-fi and fantasy through her collection which I pilfered: Roger Zelazny, Andre Norton, Steven Brust, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Piers Anthony, Tanith Lee, Jo Clayton, and more.

Maybe I would have found my way there, but she guided me from the margins of same-old stuff to more wild and interesting stuff.

We fought, we argued, all of that stuff that brothers & sisters do.

Some of my proudest moments have been when she’s complimented me on my taste- when I found a book series that she hadn’t heard of or a comic book line she dug but hadn’t bought. I remember when she walked away from a session I’d run and talked about the things she wanted her character to do.

I love gaming and all of this stuff- all the fantasy, sci-fi, imaginative space, metafiction, thinking about stories, considering how to be inclusive, creating a great experience for players, all of that. Cat led me there. She showed me how cool it could be. And she showed me how to get past people who try to make it uncool in a thousand ways.

My sister's a fucking trailblazer. 

Make good art.

My sister writes and she was nominated for the Nebula. You should buy and read her books.

Happy Birthday Cat. 


  1. Awesome post - made me want to wish your sis a happy birthday too. Happy Birthday, Sis of Lowell!

  2. I love you so much. Thank you for rmaking this a very special birthday.

  3. This is a very beautiful thing this post. Happy Birthday Ms. Rambo and congrats to you Lowell for having such an awesome sister. I have one too (younger) so I know how you feel.

  4. Coolest Big Sister Ever. I envy you.

  5. This is one of the most beautiful posts I've ever read. Thanks for sharing and happy birthday to your sister (albeit a bit late).

  6. Cutting open the rat for the treasure ... that's a very gruesome and very awesome idea.

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