Monday, March 26, 2012

this thing of ours...(part 2)

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 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.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

this thing of ours...

over the last year or so i've given a lot of thought to how i got involved in this hobby of ours. i've also given a lot of thought as to why myself and my gaming group prefers one "type" of game to all the others that are out there. as stated in my last post, we now prefer LABYRINTH LORD/ BASIC-EXPERT DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS to most other rpgs. now, i don't want to get into an edition war - but it's interesting to see how i came all the way back to the beginning after playing all the current versions of the game. my gaming history (this is long as i'm old).

the first time i ever played D&D was also the first time i'd ever heard of it - october 1980 (i was 6 and in 1st grade). i met a kid named jimmy in my 1st grade class and we became friends. he only lived a few blocks away from me so we started hanging out on the weekends and the whatnot. one rainy saturday i was at his house and his older brother (who was in 7th or 8th grade at the time) was in charge of babysitting us. i guess he decided that it would be easier to watch us if he ran us through a D&D session. when he mentioned playing it, jimmy seemed totally psyched. apparently, his older brother only ran games for him once in a while - most of his game time was spent with his friends. they both explained the game as being like a movie where you controlled the characters.

they gave me a piece of paper, a pencil and some weird looking dice and after walking me through the process -  i had created a paladin named geoffrey. my friend jimmy had a character named ARES (and thinking back on it, he may have been playing ares right out of DEITIES & DEMIGODS. check that - he so was). anyway, we played for a few hours - and i loved it! we had to rescue a princess who had been kidnapped by a dragon...and i remember we (somehow) injured the dragon and (of course) drove him off to save the day! 

D&D then became something we did on rainy/cold/snowy days at jimmy's place. we had all kinds of crazy adventures (that were loosely based on fairy tales) - giants, dragons, titans, gods and goddesses. at one point geoffrey had a pet pseudo-dragon who could mind-blast people.

a few times we actually played with his brother's friends and the game had a different tone - more serious and realistic (we also had to use different characters than the ones we used when it was just the three of us...).

a year or so later (when i was in 2nd grade) i was at my friend chris' house...and i noticed a pile of familiar looking hardcover books in his basement (along with some new softcover/three holepunched books that i had never seen before). it turns out that he had been playing for about a year also...except that he was running his older brother and his brother's friends through adventures and modules. i told him that i had been playing with jimmy - and then we started playing at his house as well. chris' games were like the games jimmy's brother ran with his seemed more mature, was way more deadly and was somehow more satisfying.

keep in mind that at this point i didn't own any of the books or anything. my elementary school library changed all that. in 2nd grade i discovered that the library had all these books called CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE. in 3rd grade they started putting all these other books on the same shelf called ENDLESS QUEST...and they had the D&D logo on them! i grabbed a few (there were four different ones) and devoured them. my favorite one was MOUNTAIN OF MIRRORS by rose estes...and in short order i had a new elf character named landon (i was 8 - cut me some slack). i was also now the proud owner of all four of those books. (the library would order more of them...don't worry).

as 4th grade began we discovered that there was a saturday morning cartoon on tv based off D&D! man, i hated that cartoon.  i sill do.  but - that show prompted my parents into getting me the 1st 2 mentzer sets for christmas (which were confusingly different than the ones chris and jimmy had). chris had gotten a new game called STAR FRONTIERS that we began to play regularly. by the time 5th grade rolled around, chris had a subscription to DRAGON and we were playing D&D, STAR FRONTIERS and also MARVEL SUPER HEROES pretty regularly. as it turned out - MANY, MANY kids in my school were also gamers...and games started turning up at our lunch table pretty much every day.  that's how things would stay until about 7th grade.

our lunch table games in 5th & 6th grade wound up producing the five of us who would stay with the game until...well, you'll see.  when 7th grade started, it was obvious that most of  the kids who had been gaming were now done with it. they were into hair bands, going to the mall, and whatever else.  not the five of us, though. we didn't forsake D&D just to be cool! we kept playing. now we had a tad more freedom since we were in junior high school - and our games got longer as we could play all weekend if we wanted - and during vacations and the whatnot we pulled some marathons. we also began to explore games outside of TSR's catalog. we played chaosium's ELFQUEST (since we loved the comic), FASA's STAR TREK (which chris and i hated), and west end's brand new STAR WARS rpg (which is a whole other blog post).  we were also heavily into computer games at this point also - ULTIMA IV, POOL OF RADIANCE, WASTELAND, LEGACY OF THE ANCIENTS...stuff like that. 

it was around this time (1987-1990) that we stopped cheating. we rolled characters fair and square, leveled up the right way and pretty much played the game as written...sort of. we played a mash-up of AD&D and the BASIC D&D game. we mostly used the PHB/DMG/MM - but we ignored MANY of the rules and sort of used the clearer rules from the basic books...and we assumed that max level was 36th.

2nd EDITION came out when we were in 9th grade and we loved it (except for the loose-leaf format of the MONSTROUS COMPENDIUM). we felt that it cleared up many questions we had about the old rules - and we liked that we could just keep using things from 1E in 2E (like the 1E ranger, assassin, etc). we spent a good solid 2 years with 2E and had some of our best adventures...and then chris (our default DM) moved away at the end of 10th grade.

granted, he only moved a few towns away - but when you're in 10th/11th grade and can't drive...well, what can you do? when he moved away the rest of us stopped playing cold turkey. BOOM. it was just...over. that was in 1990...and i would not play D&D again for eight years.

NEXT ENTRY: chris is an RPG magnet; i come back to 2E in 1998; our experience with 3E/4E; and how we wound up back at the beginning.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

so...i made a blog. now what?

hey everyone! my name is mike...and i've finally decided to bite the bullet and create a gaming blog. i own part of a company called LEGENDARY REALMS TERRAIN ( )( ) and rich (the majority owner/creator) has been bugging me for a while to create a blog where we discuss all the things that go on in our home campaign, our business, the cons we attend, etc. it is.

i'll be honest - i like old rpg games. so do my friends. so this blog will mostly be about LABYRINTH LORD and the game it's based on - the 1981 BASIC/EXPERT version of D&D.

our current gaming group is about 6 people deep - and we're all varying ages (from 21 - 38) with various backgrounds in different rpgs.  there's something about those old rules/games that you just don't get from their modern counterparts...and i'll be discussing that (along with other stuff) on here.

the first couple of posts will be about how i came to be involved in this hobby of ours (back in 1980) and about how my friends and i have stumbled into PROOF that younger kids today actually like the older games of OUR youth moreso than the games of today...

anyway - thanks for reading and i hope you enjoy!