My mom used to read to me at night before I went to bed. We went through many, many books together this way – until I became old enough to want to read on my own. But, before that critical moment arrived, we had been to Oz (all of the Baum books, plus many of his “Non Oz” masterpieces), Narnia, Prydain, Middle Earth (The Hobbit and the entire Lord of the Rings), Green Knowe, and many other imaginary realms.
An influential stop, for me, was Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Earthsea.”
Strange as it might seem to folks, I never wanted to play anything but a human. In my current games, I think I’d have a hard time letting anyone play as anything but human. I haven’t quite got to the point where I have figured out the ecology of too many of the demi-human types in the campaign yet.
I heard about D&D before actually playing it. I was at a play rehearsal in Junior High and one of the other kids there, Kevin, who was a year older than I was, was telling us about it. I kept asking questions and immediately realized that, while he had played the game a few times, Kevin was unclear on the rules and the some of the structure. This didn’t stop me. I started drawing maps on the chalkboard in the classroom we were in while he tried to explain the game to us.