Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Editions & Dragons

Well, howdy! Here begins a great saga, namely: my third attempt at blogging. First there was LiveJournal, which I still use on rare occasions; then there was my short-lived (though I suppose technically still-alive) fiction blog; now there is Editions & Dragons.

So what is Editions & Dragons? It's my foray into tight-focus blogging, for starters. Twitter, Facebook, and LiveJournal all keep my friends and acquaintances abreast of my day-to-daying. This, then, is something more by virtue of being about less. It is, then, my Dungeons & Dragons blog.

First, I must thank my wonderful girlfriend, Lisa, who has cajoled and ranted at me for months to start this damned thing. She saw how fanatically I was reading various D&D editions, various D&D-related fora, and various D&D blogs- especially of the "Old School Renaissance"- and wanted to see me write something of my own. I hemmed, I hawed, but like all great ideas, the woman won out in the end. So, thanks, Babe!

Ahem. First post and already rambling like a drunk conductor. Onwards!

I'd like to take this, my first post, to go in to my personal history with Dungeons & Dragons, and furthermore to explore what I hope to accomplish with this blog.

I discovered Dungeons & Dragons in 198x, some mythical year of my early childhood that will never be accurately nailed down in even my own mind. I was having one of my rare visits with my mother, and she handed down to me two books from the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition: The Player's Handbook and the Monster Manual.

I'm not certain how long I had these books before I even began to realize it was meant to be some sort of elaborate game well beyond my ken. I was, again, very young- to mention nothing of the fact that I was lacking the Dungeon Master's Guide- but slowly bits and pieces began to fall into place. There was the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, which I remember watching with my father. At some point I must have realized the show had the same name as those funny books with the crazy pictures my mother had given me. I also distinctly remember having a bendable, rubber carrion crawler toy- no doubt a tie-in to the cartoon- that survived years of bathtimes.

Even as I grew aware that these two strange books I had were part of a game, I couldn't make heads nor tails of it. It's not hard to see why, even now; that special Gygaxian way of writing just wasn't going to fit into my fiction-filled young mind, which had no notion of roleplaying games. The Players Handbook was simply Greek to me, although I was fascinated by the Monster Manual and all the great illustrations inside. I probably even started to get familiar with some of the monsters' stats (especially that succubus!) without quite grasping the extent of what I was learning.

It was all for naught, though, when I was invited to actually play Dungeons & Dragons by some kids in middle school. The guy who was DMing it and I had worked on a psuedo-wargame the year before for a class project, and I guess he knew gaming was in my soul. And it was, despite the obvious dearth of any knowledge of roleplaying games; I was steeped in video gaming and board gaming until I was brown in the gills, and was already creating my own simple board games. Looking back now I know that the book this particular DM caught my interest with was the Rules Cyclopedia, and I fell in love with it those scant few minutes I was able to glance through it. I ran home, excited; I was finally going to play that crazy fantasy game I'd been reading about for years! Someone could finally teach me!

Imagine, then, my lack of joy when I found out my father Did Not Approve. I was not yet of an age where I would do things on the sly, so when he said I was Not to Play D&D, Just Because, that was that. I was heartbroken, to be honest, and a bit confused; hadn't he been there with me when I watched the cartoon every Saturday? Still, that was that, and I was left wanting, athirst! I suspect now that my father was mostly worried about me abandoning all other activity to play games he knew were right up my alley; he had already had to take measures to keep my video-gaming to a minimum if I was to even think about doing such things as homework and chores.

Fast forward to high school. I'm still not supposed to play D&D or any related roleplaying game (having been most recently forbidden from playing Paranoia at that point, having my uncle's copy taken from me). Still, I'm a little older now. I have a younger sister now, and I'm not nearly as scared as I once was to do things Not Allowed, as long as I was sure I wasn't going to get caught. So I counted up years' worth of nickles and dimes from under my bed and dresser, converted them into a check through my grandmother, and ordered the Second Edition of the Star Wars roleplaying game.

When that arrived, I had- finally!- my first taste of true roleplaying. It took awhile, but eventually I had all my friends make characters and, at my best friend's birthday party, I ran an adventure of my own design. I barely remember how it went now, but I know we had a lot of fun. Not a one of us really knew for certain what we were doing- least of all me, as GM- but it was a gas, and that was the important part.

Through high school I tried a few other games. There were a few short sessions of Vampire: The Masquerade, but I always felt the world was much cooler than the game could hope to be. There were a few over-the-phone AD&D 2E games run by my friend's younger brother, which usually devolved into robbery, murder, and extortion on the part of my friend and I, the only two players.

And then- silence. I basically stopped roleplaying. Sure, I picked up books now and then- notably D&D 3.0 when it first came out, and Nobilis (which I still wish I had run at some point, even though I'm still not sure how to do such a thing)- but I lacked other players who had the time and inclination to get involved with me.

Then I moved to Columbus, Ohio to start an (ulitmately futile) eight-year University Odyssey. With my new-found college friends I eventually ran a few Call of Cthulhu sessions and an anime-themed, homebrew campaign that sputtered out after a few months. The roleplaying spark was reignited, but nothing took hold.

Then, last summer, into my life came Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition. I wasn't sure what to make of it at first; I had read- if never played- 3.0, and it was definitely different. I even tried to sell off the books before I ever had a chance to even make characters. But then a few of my friends started getting excited about it, somehow, and then I did- and now we've been playing since January. We're supposed to have a weekly session, but it's turned out to be much more like twice a month.

Our campaign has been going well, considering a lot of factors. The most significant factor has been learning to DM/GM from the ground up. I've only played RPGs a few times, and only once with what I would now call something like a competent GM. I've had to learn almost everything from scratch, pieced together from game books, magazine articles, internet sites, and sheer dumb luck. I'm still nowhere near where I'd like to be as a DM, but my players are apparently having a ball for all that they wish we'd play more often (as do I!).

Our 4e campaign world is Aquea, a world of my own design that I have been making up more or less as we go along. The past few months have seen the party amassing levels and treasure in a dungeon crawl, and we're all excited for the next leg of the campaign. I've been sussing out 4e all along, and- for instance- I'm not happy with how the dungeon crawl has gone. Because of the hour-long (or more) combats of 4e, it can take more than a single session just to explore a few rooms. This has necessitated pausing the game almost every time we play either just before or just after a battle, and plots and clues are long forgotten by the time we get somewhere good again. Still, we're making do and as the campaign evolves, so do the players and, of course, my DMing skills. I'm learning- slowly- what works in 4e and what doesn't.

My ambiguous, love-it-today, hate-it-tomorrow relationship with 4e led me to what has been called the Old School Renaissance. It started when I downloaded OSRIC and read it over a few weeks at work. I was intrigued to say the least; I knew that those books I had so long ago pawed through on the sleepless nights of my youth were what OSRIC was trying to emulate, only in plain language- something I would have nearly killed for as a ten-year-old wishing to go toe-to-toe with some nasty dragons or trolls- or to pit such fiends against my friends.

My flirtations with the older games have led to a few one-off sessions with my friends, first with Swords & Wizardry and more recently with Labyrinth Lord. These sessions have ranged from mostly-futile mapping expeditions in randomly-generated dungeons to laugh-out-loud roleplaying gems (such as my friend Drew trying to replicate his young female magic-user's voice at the expense of his own poor vocal cords while trying to hire mercenaries to join the group in the dungeon).

In the end, I've found that I'm of two minds. Part of me loves Fourth Edition most of the time. I like the tactical combat for what it is, and my players love how the campaign is going, which is hard for any DM to ignore. And yet another part of me is eager for our 4e campaign to either reach its logical end or fizzle out from player disinterest so I can start an older-edition campaign (I'm thinking 1e so that I can feel nostalgic for that old Monster Manual, although I see the appeal of Moldvay via Labyrinth Lord, as well).

I find myself, then, as a DM in two worlds. I'm certainly not unique in this, just as I don't believe I'm the only person interested in the Old School of D&D without actually having a single root in it. Plenty of people seem to enjoy multiple editions of D&D; certainly my players have let me know that they trust me to run any D&D system well.

This blog, then, is for all my D&D musings, game recaps, and other miscellany related to what is quickly becoming my favorite hobby. And despite some serious love for Call of Cthulhu (and an interest in some of the newer, narrative-based RPGs), I've found that I really, really love D&D. I love its tropes, I love its flaws, I love damn near everything about it. Is it because I was so specifically denied it as a child? Maybe. Or maybe it's just a solid game of fantasy, perfect fare for people like me (and so many of us) who love to chuck dice, make dirty jokes, and slaughter monsters with abandon.

So! That was a whole lot of introduction. I won't always be so long-winded, I promise. I'm not really sure how to end this, now. Is it proper form to invite y'all back? Did anyone even read this far? Can I fit one more rhetorical question into this paragraph? (Yes, yes I can.)

Well, then, until next time, folks!

1 comment:

  1. I read this far. Oh, wait, that was a rhetorical question. :P

    Welcome to the fold of gaming bloggers! That was a really interesting introduction story - can't wait to read more. :)