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A blog about gaming, and maybe fatherhood, from a long-time gamer and short-time father.

Growing Up with D&D

odnd_coverIn the late 70’s or early 80’s, my brother and I got our hands on the old Basic & Expert Sets (the ones with the Erol Otus covers), the rule book with the blue-and-white cover art (which had a sheet of cut-out chits in the back to use instead of dice), and the AD&D PHB, DMG, and MM. We played mostly AD&D, albeit with liberal use of resources from other lines. The long-running campaign that my brother DM’d started off with the initial B series of modules (1-4), and maybe X1, before moving on to published and homebrew adventures. I remember the A series, although we only finished half of it, GDQ minus the G, and the S series, the end of which finished that campaign. Half the party destroyed themselves in the first hallway of the Tomb of Horrors when they mistook the sphere of annihilation for a teleportation portal.

Second Edition

2ednd_coverBy the time 2nd edition AD&D came out, my brother and the rest of that group were off in college. I remember loving all the pre-release hype, thinking that the new edition was going to fix all of the issues that I had with 1st edition. It seemed like the rules would make more sense and characters would be more balanced against one another. With a group of friends from high school, we used 2nd edition to play through the Temple of Elemental Evil (although we never finished), the Desert of Desolation series, and some others. We also played Dark Sun, and toyed with a few other game systems (mainly WEG’s Torg). Dark Sun aside, it’s interesting to me now to note that we didn’t have much use for the published adventures of that era.

We also played a lot of wargames.

Out of the D&D Dungeon

During college my friends and I played mostly d6 Star Wars and Rolemaster. I had grown frustrated with AD&D and missed the Powers & Options period of the game. Fundamentally I wanted to use the system to recreate the heroic fantasy literature that I had grown up reading, while keeping player options balanced so that no one person could run away with the game. But AD&D just wasn’t well-suited for that.

Third Edition

3ednd_coverSeveral years of no role-playing followed, until 3rd edition D&D was announced. As with the 2nd edition hype, I thought that this time I would finally see all of my gaming hopes and dreams fulfilled. The classes and races would be balanced against each other! Your character could change careers, or mix and match! No more nonsensical rules like level limits or race/class restrictions or bizarre saving throw categories! I found a new group and we played together for 8 years or so, sticking within the d20 universe of games. This group was very different from my previous ones, in that most of the players were strong on ideas and low on system mastery, which is exactly the wrong sort of player for 3rd edition D&D. We had a lot of fun, nevertheless, and I really grew into my own as a DM during this time. My crowning achievement was an Eberron campaign that lasted from 1st to 21st level.

Fourth Edition

4ednd_coverBy the time 4th edition rolled around, I was more than ready to slay some sacred cows. Once again I was drawn in by the hype (see a pattern forming?), and thought that maybe this time I would have a D&D that met my expectations. 3rd edition had a lot of ideas that sounded great but failed badly in practice – building monsters as PCs being a big one – so 4th edition’s focus on designing a game from the ground up that produces the desired game experience, rather than going with what “feels right” or sounds good, was a welcome approach. I also thought it would be a better fit for my group than 3rd edition, but while the edition wasn’t so heavy on the system mastery, its heavy emphasis on tactical combat was a big flop with them. My big regret was that my old group of high school friends was scattered across the country, because 4th would have been great for that bunch of wargamers.

Pathfinder Takes Over

pfdnd_coverThat group broke up, and I had a baby, and didn’t do any gaming for a while. Eventually I found my way into a Call of Cthulhu game with some new folks, and some abortive Pathfinder games with another group, and after a time we joined elements of those groups together. We played a short Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game before heading back to the old standby, D&D. Right now I’m running a Pathfinder game, which is far from my system of choice. After 8 years of 3rd edition, the last thing I ever wanted was to DM that edition again. And yet, here I am!

Fifth Edition

When the 5th edition of D&D came out, I just didn’t care anymore. I had been heavily engaged in the flamewars that preceded the 3rd and 4th editions’ releases, and that lasted through 4th’s lifespan. I wasn’t interested in the controversies of the day or how this or that was being ruined. To tell the truth, I really didn’t care about D&D anymore. It’s never done what I wanted it to do, and these days there are just so many other games out there. Back in the day, I wanted to beat it into shape because it was just about the only game in town. Now it’s not, although finding groups for other games, or dragging a group into a different game, can still be a challenge.

The Future

What I’ve learned over all those years is that what I’m mainly after in a RPG is genre emulation, rather than the more old-school approach of rules-as-simulation. 3rd edition D&D, in particular, really burned me out on the old-school way of doing things. And so I’ve been very intrigued by the newer wave of RPGs that have come out in the new millennium, like FATE, Dungeon World, The One Ring, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, and so forth. But aside from a short MHR game, I haven’t had the chance to do much with these systems. My group, being of the same age as me, is maybe a little fixated on D&D still, but in time I will be trying to get them to sample other systems. Hopefully we will eventually find one that we like better and can play together.


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