chris moved to a new town and pretty much immediately found a whole new crew of kids who gamed. he picked up right where he left off with us and just kept on plugging. i mention this because the kids he met after moving away would be the guys that i started gaming with again in 1998...
i gave up gaming in 1990. 11th and 12th grade did not see me so much as touch a polyhedral die. i knew that chris was still playing even after we graduated from high school - the dude was like an RPG magnet. everywhere he went he met people who played - it was sort of insane. new high school? college? didn't matter - chris sniffed out the gamers.
a few times during college i got together with chris and his friends during breaks and played SHADOWRUN and VAMPIRE...but i wasn't really feeling those games. while i was away at college i discovered that one of my friends had played D&D and STAR FRONTIERS when he was younger like i had - we even brought our books up to campus after a vacation - but no one else was interested in getting a group going.
after getting my master's in 1998 i landed a job teaching english. chris had finally graduated from college by that point (he was on the FIVE YEAR PLAN) and he was settling back into life on long island. he decided to get a gaming group back together and invited me to play in it. i accepted and i was kind of excited - until i saw the behemoth that 2E D&D had become in my 8 year hiatus. instead of just using the PHB to make a character...i was handed a literal tower of books and told to look through everything and to explore all my options. every attribute (strength, dexterity, constitution, etc) was now divided into 2 additional stats...? non-weapon proficiency slots? kits? setting specific classes? skills and powers? oh boy. i wound up making a bounty hunter character who was technically a thief...but acted more like a fighter. when the game started, everyone wound up arguing about the rules instead of actually playing the game...and the rules all seemed to contradict each other. ugh. i lasted maybe 3 sessions and then used my new teaching job as an excuse to bow out. i figured that i had just outgrown the game.
another few years went by. when 3E came out in 2000, chris again invited me to check it out. he assured me that the game was cleaned up and that this group wasn't going to fight like the old group did. i agreed to check it out - and lo and behold...i liked it! at first, anyway. for the 1st year or so the game seemed smooth and chris' homebrew setting was fun and enjoyable. but...our characters started to get more powerful. we noticed that certain prestige classes were closed off to us if we hadn't chosen the right feats at earlier levels. trying to plan prestige classes ahead of time got characters killed as they had feats that were useless. some feats and skills were much, much better than others. the combat began to drag as we gained more and more attacks and abilities. books were constantly being consulted to see if certain feats and skills could be used in one way or another. rules lawyering began to become common. more and more books were being released...and they were loaded with feats and spells and options...it was like 2E all over again. soon, the process of looking things up became a reference nightmare (quite a feat, since both chris and i are professional librarians). chris began to complain that making adventures for higher level characters was A LOT of work. a few of us volunteered to try our hands at DMing and we noticed the same thing. then 3.5 came out, which made certain books obsolete. all our characters needed to be updated. i felt like we were ready to abandon the game, but at that point my friend donnie agreed to run us through the module RETURN TO THE TEMPLE OF ELEMENTAL EVIL.
it started off ok as our characters were 1st level and things
moved along at a brisk pace. however, as we progressed deeper into the
adventure and began to gain levels we fell victim to the trap all over again; all we were doing was combat, making dice checks, arguing over rules and looking things up in the books. the adventure just kind of morphed into an unsatisfying
min/max tactical miniature wargame. we finished
the module because we felt like we had to and then swore off 3E forever.
shortly afterwards 4E was announced. it HAD to better...right?
while we were waiting for 4E we agreed to try some different games. our friend rich had recently rejoined our group and he claimed he had heard some good things about a game called SAVAGE WORLDS. we agreed to try it...and when we did, well...LIGHTBULB. but that's for next time.