Friday, July 10, 2009

Back in the Day...

... after my mother got me into D&D (because she wanted an excuse to paint minis) in 1983, she found out about the controversy surrounding it, and so made me sit down and watch Mazes and Monsters as a serious cautionary tale.

... I bought a lot of games (or more accurately, had Mom and Grandma buy me a lot of games), and so I would tank the game we currently played in order to try out this new thing. Yes, I ended up playing a lot of games that way, but at the expense of a real lasting campaign for anything... ever.

... I feared that the fun and success of a campaign was determined by player success, so oh boy did I fudge and fudge and fudge and fudge rolls to make sure nobody ever died. Three first level PCs (with "gifted" magic items) taking out the moathouse from T1. A fourth level thief killing the green dragon from X1 single-handedly. ayyyy...

... I invented my own adventures and NPCs to inhabit Dungeonland and made them suitably bizarre, and ran that for people during lunch in elementary school. Other kids familiar with D&D immediate told me I was playing it wrong and was an idiot.

... I'd completely blocked these people from memory until just now... I have been saying my first encounters with people who had already been familiar with D&D before I met them didn't happen before high school. That's not true! I did have encounters with people already familiar with D&D early on. But because I was very unpopular in school for probably dozens of reasons, legitimate and not, my encounters with them were short and unpleasant. I thought the D&D commonality would help us become friends, but what happened was these more "experienced" DMs (remember we're talking about kids 10 and younger) just used the game to abuse me further, and I cut out trying to game with them almost immediately.

... I can't remember if this was elementary or middle school, but I had a player who didn't like a call I made, and he was in some sort of "tough guy" stage, so he actually stood up and slapped me. I took him down (in real life, not the game) and so we were "even" but that's the sort of thing I dealt with running games (and may have contributed to that second point above).

... while playing D&D with my best friend and his little brother one time, their older brother storms in, pissed as hell because my friend had left a save disc (a 5 1/4" floppy for Bard's Tale or Ultima or Wizard's Crown or a game like that) idle in the computer for hours, and "They melt when you do that!" and beat the hell out of him (or so it seemed at the time, I don't recall lasting bruises or anything) on the spot. Game over.

... one of the many games I tried to run was Runequest, that edition set in Europe with the huge box. I'd missed the whole "Runequest is the sophisticated fantasy RPG!" type of thing and had no idea. It was just a new game and I wanted to try it! Unfortunately the character sheets had naked character silhouettes so instead of playing the game, my players drew boobs and nipples and dicks on the character sheets and I got pissy and so much for this big expensive box my mother just bought me.

... in high school I tried recruiting a player once, but a couple of people from around the neighborhood that played in my games sometimes had a problem with him from previous interaction so they beat him up when he came to my house.

... also in high school, at a local convention this one guy who ran a D&D campaign I was in decided that he was going to kill off all the "newbies" (younger kids we didn't know) at the con game so he could run a "serious" adventure for his regular crew.

... in high school, when a few of us had hooked up with some older gamers who ran great and serious games (and introduced us to Justifiers and Bureau 13!), I ran a D&D game for that group. I was so nervous about running for gaming veterans twice my age that I completely screwed up and it was a shit game and I never got to try running a game again with that group.

...I spent most of the post-high school 90s not gaming because I wanted to play D&D, and that was passé. When I left home to go to college, Vampire was the hot new thing (and White Wolf was based in a suburb of Atlanta, where I just moved). Magic: The Gathering killed a lot of role-playing when it came out as well, but the Vampire thing was brutal. I had no clue about goth culture, never had so much as been on a date at that time, and hadn't ever been in a social situation where anyone besides my mother and her friends ever drank alcohol, so reading the Vampire rulebook was both socially threatening to me as well as conceptually foreign (I was thinking Van Helsing and monster hunting when this one guy was pitching it to me). I've still never played it (and would and have passed on offers to). And I still strive to this day to stay out of social situations where alcohol is involved, by the way, although concerts really ruin that, don't they? Anyway, I was a D&D pariah in the 90s.

... I was, however, involved with one D&D campaign in 94 or so. These two guys ran as co-DMs, and everything ran smoothly and I remember it as a pleasant game. However, this ended when two things happened - I discovered girls right around the time my character was magically changed to evil alignment. I don't remember what triggered that but it was definitely a curse or something else DM-initiated. So I ditched the MacGuffin of the campaign and screwed the party over because "It's what my character would do," and then miraculously had Saturdays (or was it Sundays?) free after that. I think the rest of the guys continued on as a group.

... I got into a huge fight with my girlfriend. In the mid/late-90s, I was going to start a 2e campaign. I was ready to get back into gaming by running a serious game now that I was a grown-up! My group was going to consist of my girlfriend, my roommate, and his girlfriend. My girlfriend was the first to roll up a character. She wanted to be a ranger! I don't remember which character generation method I decided on, but her rolls were not good enough to be a ranger. And I would not budge. I was going to be serious this time and finally game as an adult with adults, I wasn't going for this kiddie 'gimme' crap! I think I even pulled out the "maybe the character is allergic to trees?" suggestion from the DMG. That's where it turned from a disagreement to a fight. The campaign didn't even get to its first session.

So as you can see, I obviously play older versions of D&D just because I'm nostalgic and my current gaming and this blog and all my efforts are all entirely efforts to reclaim the glorious gaming of my youth. The fact that I've been running traditional games continuously now for three and a half years (OK, about six months of that using HERO, admittedly) is just my way of showing I'm afraid of getting old.


  1. And that is how James E. Raggi iv won the Four Yorkshireman Award for Gaming Uphill... Both Ways... in the Snow... Barefoot.

  2. Awful lot of animosity in some of those games? I can't even conceive of a game ending in physical violence.

    I think I've been missing out.

  3. Impressive. I've heard of dysfunctional games before, but some of those were impressive. Physical violence? Oh, my.

    Ain't childhood great?

  4. GO AHEAD A DRANK A BEER............. ITS IS OKAY FOR YOU!!!!!!.

  5. Wow.

    Some of those gaming experiences sound just like mine.

  6. It’s not old school gaming till someone gets in a fist fight!

    Ha! I definitely remember suffering bear hugs and at least one “pile driver” as a DM back when I was a kid…

    Thanks for sharing James...welcome to the mature world of adult gaming. Hope the unburdening has been cathartic!
    : )

  7. I laughed out loud when I read what happened with your go at Runequest. I can relate to a lot of what you've said. I was fortunate to be one of the bigger of the gamers so I didn't get much crap and was able to settle fights without too much blood being spilt. A little was okay. I very much enjoyed this entry. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I almost got in a knife fight during a D&D game in a friends attic. Oh how much I miss the good old days.

  9. James, the drama!!!!

    In 30 years of gaming I have only had one confrontation...with my middle brother who showed up for a session drunk. REALLY drunk. Disgusted, I called the game about an hour in,leading to a confrontation, and my younger brother tackling both of us as the rest of the group looked on in horror. The entire event ended with a "I love you, man" moment as we hugged and made up after rolling around on the floor awhile, with the great comment from a player's girlfriend who was there watching the entire thing "You never know WHAT you'll get with the Badolato Bros on game night".

    Maybe a lot of the violence has to do with the age you started playing? I don't think I would have been mature enough to handle D&D had I started at age 13 instead of age 16...