A dungeon is a group of rooms and corridors…
Date: October 6th, 2009 @ 00:55
When I was in the sixth grade, about 1983, I was given a board game; whether it was for my birthday, or Christmas, or some other occasion, I can’t recall. To be fair, it wasn’t actually a board game, but I didn’t quite understand that at the time. In fact, I didn’t understand much about the game at the time. This game was the mighty Dungeons and Dragons Basic Rules box set, the 1981 edition with the wonderfully strange, stylized artwork of Erol Otus.
It came with two books, a crayon, and easily the strangest dice I ever saw, known to geeks everywhere as d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20. Reading through the books, particularly the Basic Set rules, this was clearly not going to be a game of the sort I was used to. This seemed like a deceptively hard game, even though the rules were a lot less intimidating than some others. Freedom in the Galaxy was a classic example of having bitten off more than we could chew, so there was precedent for a few new games which quickly made it into the difficult to open hall closet, rarely if ever to escape. Not every game could be Avalon Hill’s classic, Feudal, after all. Incidentally, we never did figure out how to play Freedom in the Galaxy. The rules were dense, complicated, and poorly written. The several attempts we made to get through it usually ended up in an argument between me and my father, with anyone else involved generally walking away from the table. It was, frankly, a disaster of a game. I did take one thing from it, however. One of the characters was a humanoid bipedal saurian named Ly Mantok. A few years later, after entering the world of the Commodore 64 and the modem, it was my BBS handle on the local rural system for a brief time, until about five minutes after someone decided that they would call me “Mylanta” instead. (I later used Lacerta or Lacerta Skala, which was some broken Latin hodgepodge for “Lizard Scale” from the etymology section of the dictionary definitions of those words, clearly referencing the old character from a game I never even played. Later still, Delphi replaced this, and references the Temple to Apollo and not the database nor the car part supplier. Finally, upon getting back into the BBS scene after returning from England (more on this later), for the DC area boards, I picked a new handle for each board with the connection to the past being simply the first three letters. Delirium, Deletion, Deliberate, Delusion. “Delusion” happened to be the handle I picked for what became my favorite local DC BBS, before the Online Service Providers made it all irrelevant, so “Delusion” is what I kept. Ironically, the service provider I used in the brief period between direct-dial BBSes and an actual ISP? Delphi.)
So back to the hall closet in 1983: that’s where the story ended. For a while, at least.
After sitting in storage, under-appreciated for maybe a year, I took the game out and saw more in it the second time than I saw in it the first time. Sometime during this reading, I thought I “got” the game. I was ready to play it, and I brought it to a neighbor’s house to try to play. We were two people strong, so we decided I should be the Dungeon Master and play a character, and that my friend should play a character. I chose the magic-user—possibly the worst name ever for a wizard-style character ever conceived—and my friend played a fighter, probably influenced as much by the Conan the Barbarian movie as anything else.
Tank and DPS in place… Wait, wrong era.
The rest of this post is going to assume some basic familiarity with role-playing game (particularly D&D/AD&D/d20) terminology and slang. These first characters weren’t “characters” in the sense that the word usually implies. They were, quite literally, a group of six ability scores, hit points, experience points, level, armor class, a race, a class, an alignment we didn’t understand—lawful, we were the good guys, of course—and a list of armor, weapons, and loot. All of this was scrawled on 3.5 inch index cards in the barely legible scratchings common to all boys our age condemned to a world of post-cursive, post-D’Nelian print. There was no “character” in the sense of any motivation, a past, or a context. Later, constant erasing and re-writing would eat through the cards and require a character transfer to bigger cards.
We really had no guidance. We had no access to anyone else who knew what the game was, let alone anyone who had experience in actually being Dungeon Master. Eventually we would get a few more people playing, though it never occurred to me to limit myself strictly to the role of Dungeon Master. To point out that we were not playing the game correctly would be a gross understatement. The map was laid out before us, though anyone familiar with the game is probably aware that there’s all sorts of information on the Dungeon Master’s map that the players shouldn’t have. An alternative never even suggested itself to us. Playing the game was more fun than losing, so as we progressed through the Keep on the Borderlands adventure (the other book in the D&D box set), a lot of potentially game-ending die rolls were overlooked. Over the course of a few summer days, we killed the kobolds and orcs as we taught ourselves this new type of game. With the map, there wasn’t a lot of mystery, and with constant fudging of die rolls, there was really no jeopardy, either. Experienced aficionados of role-playing games can probably guess the result. With two key aspects of the game effectively removed, all there was to do was bigger, badder monsters, and more and more treasure. We were knee-deep in the classic Monty Haul powergaming mode.
As out of control this was, from a D&D purist perspective, it was compounded by the fact that the Basic Rules box set went to level 3. Having nowhere to go but up, it made sense to hand out levels at the same rate one needed to increase from level 2 to level 3. The plusses on the magic swords got higher and higher, The hit points and treasure and amount of the monsters increased, but rarely the always-fudged-anyway risk. I also played the game with some cousins from time to time. They were no different than my neighborhood games as far as player experience. Of course, I used the same character in both games and just made the assumption that, well, the dungeon filled back up. Needless to say, the constant goal of more treasure, more levels and more power is extremely interesting at first. It’s also the kiss of death for long-term game-play, and not surprisingly, both groups drifted away from playing after a while, once even the veneer of non-existing jeopardy was gone. A +17 sword will only motivate the flagging interests of players so far.
I eventually became bored, too; I realized something was wrong, but other than fudging dice rolls to keep players in the game, I didn’t really understand what we were all doing wrong. I chalked it up to the limitation of the fact that I didn’t have access to the Expert Rules, and there would surely be better stuff to do once I had that. Instead of the Expert Rules, I came across a book called Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook. Well now, clearly all that had been wrong is that we were playing the training wheels version of the game, and now I could play the Real Thing.
The neighborhood group gave it a chance. Armed only with the Players Handbook, character creation offered an extravagant menu of choices, particularly if one wanted to be a spell-caster. Even so, there was a lot of rule-lookups, a lot of cross referencing, and a lot of confusion. Adding the formidable Dungeon Masters Guide to the mix at a later date compounded this issue to an incredible degree. Eventually, this group again lost patience, and that was probably about the time we started playing epic games of Axis & Allies, and eventually spending more and more time appreciating my friend’s father’s extensive collection of adult magazines. I was still interested in playing, but I didn’t have anyone to play it with. Much like the way I would play Risk by myself from time to time, six-handed, I developed ways to play AD&D solo. When you’re playing the game solo, it’s effectively a dungeon crawl powergaming session, but clearly that was pretty close to what we were doing before in the group anyway.
In junior high (which in our school district was limited to the seventh and eighth grades), I met other players. Very often, these were kids who, like me, were in band, were geeks to varying degrees, read a lot of the same (shitty) fantasy novels I read, but didn’t live close enough for sessions that could be regular or convenient. My two friends who were the most into AD&D were probably Matt and Dusty. However, they also had Commodore 64s, lived on lakes, and there were usually a lot of better, more immediate distractions when we’d be at each others’ houses for time periods that weren’t really conducive to AD&D gaming sessions (which is to say, for less than most of a day). Since they were neighbors, however, they could play frequently. During school, we would “talk shop” about AD&D and while I was primarily a hack ‘n slash powergamer number cruncher, they were more of the “Bastard Dungeon Master from Hell” types whose primary goal was to kill the player as quickly and in as fool-proof a way as possible. I became more of a collector than anything else; while I would play from time to time with other people, that long-term convenient session-style play never panned out. So I would collect, and play modified streamlined rules for solo-play. As the powergamer and the BDMfH bounced ideas off each other, the end result was that both campaigns headed off the cliff into the Chasm of Ridiculousness. My character would gain levels. Their dungeons would get more physics-defying. My character would add classes. Their dungeons would be in a castle suspended from a chain of the Strongest Metal We Could Invent a Name For. My character became multi-classed in every class I could find, in the original books, in the Unearthed Arcana (chock full of new classes), and in Dragon Magazines. Their dungeons would contain herds of Tarrasques. My character would kill evil devils, demons, daemons and gods (and my Monster Manuals and related references would be filled with crossed out stat boxes overwritten with “Irrevocably Dead”, “irrevocably” being a very important adjective in the high-end AD&D lexicon. Their dungeons would eventually require extra dimensions to hold all the evil, diabolism, and mind-numbing complexity within. My character would gain levels to such a ridiculous degree that I was effectively forced to use my Casio VL-Tone calculator/synthesizer to calculate them since it had a ten digit display rather than the eight digit display common to most inexpensive calculators available. Their dungeons filled with gods so powerful that they made the most powerful “official” adversaries and gods pale in comparison. My character would kill all gods, good or evil, and assume control of dimensions. Both their campaign and mine would be tossed aside for a brief moment of sanity, and I think each of us played a purist hack ‘n slash session or two of regular low-level (but not first-level) characters to whom rules were strictly applied, and if they died, well, it was time to create a new character.
One day, during junior high, a few gamers were discussing some gameplay mechanic or campaign issue or another. The conversation went to hell, literally. With the sort of pseudo-philosophical hair-splitting common to issues concerning the Outer Planes (non-AD&D types, think various versions of heaven, hell, and everything in between), the matter of the differing motivations of infernal denizens came up. There were three important types: demons (an unorganized and destructive form of evil), devils (who represented a hierarchical, orderly approach to infernal damnation), and daemons (which were represented by inscrutable, powerful creatures of pure evil, without any regard to personal independence for their followers, nor regimentalized armies of destruction).
In front of us was a pleasant, popular girl. She wasn’t a snobbish sort, but she wasn’t a close friend of any of us, either. She turned around, having half-heard enough of our conversation, and asked “which ones are real?”
“Which ones of what are real?”, I asked.
“You know, demons or devils, or … the other ones, day-mons.”
“None of them,” I stated, deadpan. I was hoping this was some sort of misunderstanding.
“Oh, I know you’re playing a game and that it’s all pretend, but what I mean is which one of those groups are based on the real thing. You know, like in real Hell,” she clarified, admittedly more open-mindedly than a lot of conservative Christian types ever would have.
At this point in my life, I wasn’t an atheist, but at that time I was moving down that continuum from liberal Protestant to Deist. I wasn’t ready to reject the idea of a deity, but I was pretty sure that Satan was a boogie-man whose primary purpose was to be a tool used by sleazy charismatic preachers to scare the unholy shit out of me (perhaps, eventually, literally) when I was in eight and woke up too early on a Sunday morning.
“Right. None of them. It really is just a game, and it really is just all made up. There are no demons, devils, or daemons in real life” was my confident reply. She made a dissatisfied (but not angry) noise and went back to what she had been doing. I had had my share of exposure to the “D&D is a tool of the devil” sorts. This was the occasional aunt, parent of a not-too-close friend, and very conservative parent of the girl who was brought up in a house so weird and repressed that she would never even be able to fake normal. It was often also the occasional adult who was more open-minded, but had really only been exposed to one side of the story. The irony was never lost on me, particularly when exposed to the most lunatic fringe of this already-lunatic group: the Jack Chick types would have you believe that those of us playing Dungeons & Dragons (goddammit, it’s Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, you Neanderthals!) were either really casting spells, or at best, thought that we were; that we were playing with forces beyond our control; that we were involved in bizarre rituals. Well, yes, 14 year old boys can turn anything into a bizarre ritual, but it always involved pizza, silliness, and fart jokes, not occult summoning rituals, unless girls were around. Then it was strictly pizza and silliness. This sort of inability to distinguish fantasy from reality—often a key accusation in the media (but less prevalent in the Christian circles, for reasons that will be obvious)—was always limited to the fundamentalist critics of fantasy gaming, never to the players. For us, it was a game. Not “just a game”, but definitely a game. Many years later, I would have my own fun with Jack Chick’s amazingly loose connection with reality.
Back to the game table: the period of campaign normalization and the general society’s misunderstanding of role-playing games bled into high school days (class of 1990). Computers were part of the mix as soon as we had them. My hoarding instincts led to early databases of AD&D class sources, spells, and weapons on the Commodore 64. I’m pretty sure that these were Microsoft Multiplan spreadsheets for the most part. Computer RPGs started out as basic exercises in BASIC, appropriately enough, and moved on to classics such as Telengard and the Apshai series. More advanced offerings followed, such as Questron and the early Ultima series, whose 8-bit gem was easily Ultima IV. Official AD&D CRPGs started with 1988’s Pool of Radiance.
AD&D was the source of frustration that, one day during the 11th grade, resulted in my first and last shoplifting experience. By this time, TSR had moved on from major books every now and then to a constant stream of small paperback modules, adventures, and campaign setting books. I was at a Waldenbooks store with a friend, Greg. To me, it seemed that the Forgotten Realms campaign setting books were getting smaller and smaller, and the prices were getting more and more expensive. We had already been to the B. Dalton store, from which I had bought two FR campaign settings and a Dragon Magazine. At Waldenbooks, I saw about four more brand-new FR campaign settings that I had never seen before, and feeling that I was paying more and more for less and less, I asked Greg to go look to see if they had a particular magazine up front. I then slipped in four of the AD&D accessories into my B. Dalton bag, met Greg up by the magazines, then walked out.
Generally, my sense of right and wrong made a huge distinction between Commodore 64 copy parties in which I would trade software with a bunch of other teenagers who could also not afford the $30 that each piece of software cost (about $60 in 2009 dollars), and shoplifting. With piracy, I was getting something I couldn’t afford and therefore would not otherwise be buying, yet not depriving anyone else of it. I had friends who would steal albums on cassette from K-Mart and that wasn’t just risky, it was wrong, and I didn’t want any part of it.
So when I had that bag full of AD&D loot—some purchased, some purloined—a cavalier attitude toward theft had not fueled my poor decision to shoplift. It was pure blind rage and a sense that I as member of the fanbase which made these games so profitable in the first place, was being taken advantage of, and taken for granted. I regretted it immediately, but fury was still a stronger force than regret until I got everything home. When everything was open and I started reading through, it was yet another case of TSR taking a random country in its Forgotten Realms campaign, and fleshing them out with 48 page booklets of information I would get very little use out of, either playing solo, playing the occasional group game, or even as source material for my own ideas. I kind of fell off the AD&D nipple then, and was happier to get the solo-play experience from CRPGs than from a floor filled with books, anyway. Just as importantly, BBSes and telecommunications (and, let’s be honest, phreaking to real BBSes since I was from a sleepy one-Board town whose local BBS scene rarely generated more than five messages a week) were taking more of my time.
When I went to England in January 1991 for my first assignment in the Air Force, I connected with a more “genuine” AD&D game, this time the less haphazard, more streamlined 2nd Edition. Here I got to experience a lot of the stereotypes of RPG society. There were the Casual Gamers, who often brought their girlfriends who could have cared less. There was the Role-Player, with a good separation between player and character knowledge. I was there as the DPS Mage… Wait, still the wrong era for that terminology. There was the Social Gamer, generally driven to bring out the best in others. There was the Rules Lawyer, who of course we let be DM rather than risk him on the other side of the table. There was the Guy Who Games In A Robe (and you just hoped you never caught a glimpse of how much or how little else). And there was Evil Rogue Character Motivation Guy: my friend, Franklin Sevier Harris, or Sev, whose full name I give only because I’ve been trying to find him off and on for a while now with little success beyond a Pandora account he hasn’t touched in about 22 months and if a quick aside accomplishes that, then so much the better.
Evil Rogue Guy is the player who is there to make sure everything revolves around him. Despite the fact that it makes absolutely no sense for an evil Drow assassin to be hanging around a paladin, a good cleric, and a group of other characters who ride the alignment funnel to its point, Good-ish pure Neutral, to the ends of Lawful Good and Chaotic Good, he’s there. Not only is he there, and playing a race whose alignment is pretty much assumed, that’s not good enough: he wants to role-play the party-creation encounter. As ham-handed as it is, when you have casual gamers, a lot of times it’s best just to dive in and start the session doing something instead of figuring out what to do. But not with Evil Rogue Guy. Calling his character evil is a misnomer, he’s merely Chaotic Selfish. And, perfectly within character, he trusts no one. What good assassin would? So instead of spending the first ten minutes after character creation having fun, the Chaotic Selfish character requires all the rest of the players’ characters to convince him, in character, that he should tag along with the party. What’s more, since we all know he’s a Drow assassin, it’s only reasonable to assume that his character is not to be trusted, and will be serving us a double cross at the most inopportune moment, but will be trouble leading up to that point, as well. Halfway through the session, we’ve got to tell Sev as players either he needs to get his character on board, or play a more compatible character, because the whole session is going nowhere.
Several sessions are like this. Due to the transient nature of military life, with people coming and going, people changing work shifts, and people getting dishonorably discharged for possession (and not the demonic sort), temporary and permanent turnover is legion. Most sessions involve coaching at least one person through the dreaded Character Creation Gauntlet. Unfortunately, its’ not actually dreaded. It’s fairly fun. It just goes on for so long that the amount of time devoted to it ends up being twice as long as the time left for actual gameplay. Even with access to a regular group, it still ends up being more fun to collect rather than play. By then, more than ever, the CRPGs are improving, so at least there’s that.
When I left England in January, 1993 to go to an assignment in Maryland, I had an interesting roommate.
He was a real character. We had a lot that separated us. He was old for his rank (I think because he joined older rather than because of slow promotion), I was younger. By then (as now), I was very much an atheist, but he was the member of a conservative Christian sect which observed a lot of the Jewish holidays and dietary laws (I don’t remember perfectly, but I’m pretty sure he was a member of the United Church of God). I was married, I believe he was a virgin (my then-wife Cindy was attending college at Western Michigan University, which is why we weren’t living together yet and why I had a roommate). I liked powerful industrial metal, thrash, industrial dance, British dance, a lot of what meaninglessly got lumped into the so-called genre “alternative”, and my tastes were growing more eclectic, while he was a fan of Disney movie soundtracks. I liked a wide variety of kinds of movies, he was a fan of, well, Disney movies. I was a gun-control (but not elimination) liberal with an ACLU card, he had an NRA card. It sounds like this is going to be a disaster, right? Actually, we got along very well, and he liked AD&D, too. He had friends, Garret and Lisa, who were also big fans of AD&D. The four of us, plus occasional spare players, would get together every now and then and play, but there were usually other distractions, and we never got that heavily into a campaign.
There was a store called Gamer’s Depot that had a lot of 1st and 2nd edition AD&D products for prices which lead me to believe they had no idea what they were doing as far as running a retail store for profit, and they had no idea what they had. I would find early prints of Dieties and Demigods which included the Cthulhu and Melnibonean sections deleted from later versions, and which I could have bought there for $10 and easily sold for $50 at a convention. These days, it’s easier for buyers and sellers to find each other on eBay, so that same book goes for about $20 today (or less if you’re patient). Vintage issues of Dragon Magainzes, including issues below #50, would often be sold below cover price, despite the fact that some were also worth about $50. Unfortunately, I only bought what I wanted. After the store closed, I often kicked myself for not just buying them out with a paycheck, including what I didn’t want for myself, and taking it all to Gen Con and making a killing; the prices were ridiculously lower than resale value. This of course meant that when I did find the store closed, I couldn’t have been less shocked.
Eventually Cindy finished school and moved down to Maryland, and I no longer had a dorm roommate. Garret and Lisa were good friends of Cindy’s and mine, but the four of us had a lot more use for poker together than convincing the girls to roll up characters and play AD&D.
[A brief aside: Eventually Garret got stationed out west, and that was the last connection I had to actually playing AD&D. Interestingly, they came back to Maryland, and we all picked back up with hanging out regularly, but somewhere along the way, they were lured into the multi-level marketing experience, Amway, and briefly got me involved in it, too. I got as far as being sent out to Anaheim for a convention. Unlike a lot of people who learn the hard way, I actually got into and out of it quickly, and the trip to the convention didn't cost me any money. Their singular devotion to "living the dream", always a big part of the Amway brainwashing process, precluded them from having friends who didn't share it with them.
At Anaheim, I had the most uncomfortable mass-public experience of my life. This was not a "business meeting" in any real sense of the term. This was a cult rally, and the cult was a two-pronged attack of conservative Christianity and greedy, manipulative business-as-secular-religion vapidity. I chalk it up to a positive experience though, because I did get to go to an excellent record store in Los Angeles while I was there.
One of the other major moral regrets of my life stems from this portion of my life. In MLM-speak, your "upline" is the person who invited you, and your "downlines" are the people you invite into the cult. During some local meeting, my upline's upline's upline was there with us, at breakfast. In the Amway cult, one is supposed to talk glowingly at all times about "business", despite the fact that it is almost invariably losing you money rather than making you money unless you're selling worthless monthly "motivational" tapes and worthless pop-psychology self-help books that are either amateur publications, or mainstream titles at significant markup: your upline is always "a great, great guy", and it is a constant that "business is great"; "business is booming" further cements your goals and inspiration into place. So my upline's upline's upline (a really great, great guy) was a Diamond Distributor in cult-speak. This is a Really Big Deal™, pretty much akin to cult royalty, and you certainly didn't want to embarrass your upline by being anything less than awed and obsequious. My upline's upline's upline (a really great, great guy) sat down with me, Cindy, Garret, and Lisa, and introduced his wife, an unreadably serious-looking Japanese lady. By this time, I already had the experience at Anaheim, and by now I was busily fooling myself that this was going to go anywhere, it being increasingly obvious that the cult's goals and mine were not mutually compatible. At some time during bland breakfast conversation in which it would, upon later reflection, be obvious to me how much a tedious fake chore everything in this man's life was, someone mentioned something either about being stationed in Korea, or Korean food. At this, my upline's upline's upline (a really great, great guy) became much more visibly interested and animated in the conversation.
"Well, the world would be better off without Korea. They're barely human." Sadly, he didn't quit there. He went on on a eugenic bent for a few seconds before someone tried to tactfully change the subject.
Did I mention that he was a really great, great guy? I'm not naïve, I know the history between Korea and Japan is ugly, filled with a lot of atrocity, and not easily forgotten by people with a personal connection to it, such as his wife. The comment, however, was wildly inappropriate and blatantly offensive.
I stood up, and told him loudly enough for everyone else at the restaurant to hear "No offense, but go fuck yourself. Your wife may have had a difficult history, I don't know, she's said about two words. You're a racist asshole, a worthless human being, and she probably is, too. The world would be better off without either of you two." Then saying goodbye to Garret and Lisa, Cindy and I walked away before I slowed and turned. "And kimchee is delicious," I loudly added, before walking out of the restaurant without another word, everyone looking directly at our table.
The problem, however, is that isn't what I did. Instead, I was so genuinely surprised at the conversation turning so petty and ugly so quickly (or more to the point, the monologue by that really great, great guy), that I was literally speechless. It felt like a bludgeon to my forehead to be confronted in person with such blind, unthinking racism without any warning beforehand. Historically, it didn't make any sense. If either the Japanese or Korean people had inflicted grievous harm on one another, certainly the Koreans had a lot more reason to hold a grudge against Japan than vice versa, after a wholesale annexation of their country under force to the Japanese empire before World War I. Of course, looking at history, the former dominant race rarely forgives and forgets once subjugation is over. A lot of white people in this country who should know better are still waiting for someone to "give them their country back" (from the black president).
So in a move I've regretted since, I didn't embarrass this stupid schmuck in front of his smug, priggish peers, his loyal legion of asslickers, the rest of the pious cult of the Gospel of Prosperity, and more importantly, my former friends. The relationship between Cindy and I and Garret and Lisa didn't recover after Anaheim, after Korea, and after they focused on living the "dream" to the exclusion of friends who are only in your company because they enjoy it. Like almost everyone in multi-level marketing, the secret hope is that the one person you can convince tomorrow is so ridiculously successful that his success will change your life, and that you will become the person you're trying to trick yourself into being. I say this with no malice whatsoever: having made one of my other friendships extremely awkward by pushing the sales pitch too hard, I hope that we were the last friends that Garret and Lisa ever lost because of Scamway, whether they were the infinitesimally small number who beat the odds and make a profit, or whether they came to their sense like I did, if not as quickly.
Right, I think I was talking about gaming. The result, when I look back, is that I never really had a real, regular game. The “campaign” experience common to most veterans of pen & paper role-playing games is one I’ve never had. I was merely a collector, a bit of an AD&D dilettante, one who had the brief taste of powergaming and number-crunching, but fortunately very little of the more free-form sort of RPG characterized by theater-aficionados and acting-centric role-playing, which I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t have enjoyed anyway. Nevertheless, the experience did inform a lot of later interactions I had with characters and players in games such as Ultima Online (where I was a role-playing purist, and missed a lot because of it), Asheron’s Call (where I was a casual gamer with a role-playing veneer,which I enjoyed greatly), and World of Warcraft (where I never saw a moment of actual role-playing, either on casual PvE servers, adversarial PvP servers, nor even on PvPRP servers, and didn’t miss it a bit). I’m currently “between online games”, having walked away from WoW after an unrelated project took me away from it for a month, and I realized I kind of liked having more time available for other projects. I think the next one for me is probably going to be Diablo III, which is more of a dungeon crawl than anything else. I look forward to it. It’s the sort of gameplay I’m familiar with, one I’ve got roots with.
My sister and I have discussed buying a starter kit for someone about the age I was when I first played the game so incorrectly. I have very mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, the videogames that compete with pen & paper RPGs are much, much more immersive and socially connected, and on the other hand, that sense of the company milking the customers (now Wizards of the Coast rather than TSR) seems no less focused on constantly hitting the cash cow than it ever was, now coming out with a fourth edition after eight years of third and so-called 3.5th edition. For reference, each edition has lasted about eight years, but honestly, the second and third editions were so much better-written, and so much more consistent, that each edition after the second seems less and less necessary.
At the end of the day, though, I still enjoy the memories of the experiences, save for that one moment of weakness at a bookstore in Flint during a particularly hot-headed day.
The original crayon in the Basic Set was to color the numbers on the dice. After having a few sets of extremely good dice in my collecting, I can say without reservation that the original dice are some of my favorite items in my collection. They are also some of the worst made; molded resin blobs with rounded, ill-defined edges.
I think a nerdy life would be less without them.
Update - 20 July, 2010: A few weeks ago, my girlfriend talked me into playing D&D fourth edition with a group of her friends. This group is on the casual side, and is playing the game much more “correctly” than I ever have (not that that’s a high bar to cross). I don’t bring a ten digit calculator with me…
…but Excel handles large more conveniently anyway, right? The shadow of the powergamer never quite disappears.
Categories: random? thoughts