Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Of Ogres, +2 Swords, and Doritos

Karen: When I was a kid I used to play Dungeons and Dragons. A lot. For me it started with the boxed Basic set, then quickly turned to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, and the Player's Manual, Monster Manual, Dungeon Master's Guide, and all the additional books. Too young to drive, I'd enlist my mother, who was always happy to indulge my odd interests, and she would take me and my friends out to the hobby store in a near-by town, where I would buy Grenadier miniatures or some more poly-sided dice.

I was the DM (dungeon master for the uninitiated) for my little group of friends. I would
spend weeknight evenings crafting adventures for them to play, poring over the rule books and populating my scenarios with creatures like Gelatinous Cubes and Beholders. On Saturday afternoons, we'd get together and spend anywhere from 4 to 6 hours caught up in a world of our mutual creation. Monsters would be slain, gold would be taken, and magical treasures would be wagered for, all while we drank Cokes and snacked on Doritos and Zingers.

Each person in the group had a different approach to the game. One friend, who mapped for the players, was a problem solver. She loved figuring out how to get past traps or answer riddles. Another was a role player, acting out everything his character did and speaking like his character. One was all about becoming more powerful and obtaining treasure.
Another just seemed to enjoy rolling the colorful dice! But despite the fact that it was all happening in our heads, we'd often spend our lunch breaks at school talking about our past exploits. To this day, I remember a battle with a red dragon where the valiant ranger Diogenes was slain -- which of course, lead to another adventure to find a way to resurrect him!

There was a l
ot of negative press for D&D back in those days. Some people tried to link it to Satanism or teen suicide. Baloney. If anything, it was a great outlet for geeky kids to get together and have fun and to let their creative juices flow. I went on to play other RPGs later on, but D&D was the first and probably the most dear to my heart.

Nowadays I play games like Dragon's Age and Skyrim on my computer, and I enjoy them a lot. The graphics are just incredible. But a part of me still misses the interaction I had with others back when we all sat around a table and had an adventure together. Even multi-player online games can't compare with actually being in the same room together, talking and laughing and having a good time. I did briefly play D&D again as an adult with some friends and we had a great time. But that was many years ago, and I'm not sure where I'd find the time -or the right people - to do it now. I have too many other things I'm interested in. But I still look back on my playing days fondly.

So anybody else want to share their thoughts and experiences on the grand-daddy of all RPGs?


Weird WWII said...

Did a short stint in the world of D&D but wasn't really into the fantasy aspect to heavy. What we fell hard into was the Twilight 2000 military RPG. It was basically just after WWIII and the world has gone to pot and you are trying to survive it all. Think Red Dawn meets The Road. What was great about it is that it was RPing the What If 80s and it was great! I remember me and my pals playing our games in our home town of Arlington, Texas. We fought for control over the local Buddies grocery store and even had a small tank battle to see who occupied the local comic and hobby shop! But to keep to your topic, it was long Friday nights with lots of laughs, excitement and pizza! We always finished up with watching Red Dawn or some 50s cheesy sci-fi flick we rented at the hole in the wall video rental place who had the best hard to find horror and sci-fi vids and then passed out on the living room couch or floor. It was great low tech way of gaming and really allowed us a way to blast our school to bits and save those girls we like from marauding bandits or slavers in a setting we could actually relate to. I remember a funny thing happened that shows the innocence of the times. A buddy of mine was working on the next big battle in his Social Studies class when the teacher pic it up. It was a detailed map of the school but it had noted of where his RP character had placed booby traps and mines to thwart our incursion into his fictional HQ. The teach just looked at it and said put it away and get to reading. Shit, nowadays that same instance would see the police and DHS arrive and arrest us all for staging some sort of attack on the school.

Anyway, we loved the whole RPing for years until girls, comics and tabletop wargaming took over our interests. I still hold those long nights of pizza, soda and excitement and waking up with a sore neck on the couch with all my pals snoring away all over the living room and my Dad quietly reading his paper in his easy chair smiling at the madness at his feet.

Great memories,

david_b said...

Never was interested in D&D, role-playing or any gaming. Knew kids that were, though.

It's more akin to my overall interests. My love is more straight science fiction, not fantasy. I know there were oodles of space games, but was never spent any time in that particular crowd. (Probably too busy chasing cheerleaders, don't recall..)

Amazed at the advances in virtual gaming, but never been a player. I would like to finally buy a decent chess game for my PC someday soon, just haven't gotten around to buying any. Too busy on guitars and comics, I guess.

Great column idea, though.

J.A. Morris said...

I was into the game for about a year or so, around age 10-11.
Unfortunately, our games usually ended with arguments and accusations like "you don't know how to DM!" or "you can't put Elric in that bale of hay!", etc.
But my D&D memories have stuck with me. It's funny, I've been at parties and I'll hear someone say "Demogorgon", I'm suddenly 10 again.
I remember getting the 'Deities and Demigods' manual for Christmas one year. I was shocked when I found out Elric didn't appear in my edition due to a lawsuit from Moorcock!

J.A. Morris said...

Unrelated to D&D (but definitely Bronze Age-y), here's an interview with Joe Sinnott:

I've been pronouncing his name incorrectly for 30+ years!

Chuck Wells said...

Never played D & D, but my younger brother did in college. I've been enamored with both of Bioware franchise series, Mass Effect and Dragon Age for an entire year. I've played through ME, ME2, Dragon Age: Origins and DA2 (plus all related DLC) multiple times and enjoy them quite a bit.

Garett said...

Hey Karen, thanks for bringing back the memories. Your description is very similar to my friends and I playing, getting involved in that whole creative world of characters, adventures. The creative aspect was lost on those who criticized the game--is a kid better off plopped in front of the tv, passively absorbing commercials for hours, or involved in a creative, social, engaging game with friends?

I played for about 3 years, and haven't done any role playing games since.

Garett said...

Thinking about it more, I totally forgot that I wrote a school paper defending D+D, right at the height of the media witchhunt! So much attention on was on the game for a couple years. My parents were fine as they could see I hadn't sold my soul to the devil, but teachers and relatives were suspicious and warning of the dangers!! It taught me about how the media can whip people into a frenzy against something that's not only harmless but beneficial, and also how adults can be paranoid about kids, projecting their own fears onto them. It was obvious they hadn't played the game and were judging without a clue.

Anonymous said...

i used to play a bit of d&d with friends off and on from circa '82 to '92, then the star wars rpg in college, but my true tpg love is champions! my friends & i loved super hero comics and teevee shows, so what could be better than making up our own and throwing dice around to save the world? i remember the red blaster, mister fahrenheit, monkeyman, birdman the wonder, reflex, the mystic spoon, black thor & dead-eye dick. what fun. nowadays i rarely get to play around a table but i've discovered, which has allowed me to run super hero games for players from all over the world. it moves slowly but is the next best thing to a tabletop experience. right now we're in 1960 & a new generation of super heroes is on the rise. i wish you all could take part in the fun because i'm planning a new bronze age campaign inspired by this wonderful web site! -- Kap

Redartz said...

Thanks for bringing up this topic, Karen! My friends and I spent many Saturday nights in college playing D&D. From about 1980 to 86, we adventured far and wide from our rotating apartment host sites.

Our games were often lengthy, sometimes as long as 8 hours. We kept nourished thanks to Pizza Hut and the local McDonalds. Funny how you remember details about the games years later; I still miss my half-elf wizard (he had a mini-dragon for a familiar).

We sometimes tried other games (anonymous, we also played Champions), but we always went back to D&D. Years later I introduced my sons to it; one of them was hooked !

Occasionally, when our two DM's had no time to devise an adventure, we played a great board game. Talisman is a board game very similar to D&D, but requires far less prep time. A fourth edition of Talisman was released a couple years ago, making it available for the first time in years (it was painfully expensive on ebay, trying to find expansions). Our old group of friends now has re-united several times to play
Talisman, and we thoroughly enjoy the time together again. I would recommend the game to anyone who loved Dungeons...

poisonelvis said...

i still play(i'm 46)i got my kids(12,18,22,24)into it,it's made family game nite way better,I used to own a comicbook shop,so i still have all my books from the 70's and 80's,it's a great break from video games for the younger ones,and cool retro for the older ones.

Karen said...

Thanks for the comments, people. I had hoped we'd see more remembrances but I appreciate those of you who joined in.

Brian: I purchased Twilight 2000 but couldn't get anyone in my group interested! By that time we were playing a lot of Top Secret and a little Gamma World. Your remark about your Dad reminded me that my Dad would always ask, "Who won?" after we played, and I'd explain it wasn't that kind of game. After awhile, he did it just to needle me.

J.A.: I was lucky enough to get the 1st edition with Elric as well as the H.P. Lovecraft Cthulhu creatures. Hard to believe TSR did not secure the permissions necessary to include them. What were they thinking?

Chuck: I loved the first Dragon Age but not DA2. However I really enjoyed Skyrim. The landscapes are breath-taking.

Garett:Glad you enjoyed it, and I agree with you whole-heartedly on the value of the game.

Kap: I always wanted to try Champions. But I did play City of Heroes online for several years. That was a blast!

Redartz: Isn't it funny how you have memories of your characters and their feats? I still recall my half-orc fighter M'Gora throwing himself on a dragon's back to buy time for the group. Even though it never actually happened!

Poisonelvis: That's great that you got your kids playing! Must be some interesting perspectives with that many different ages.


Chris said...

I know I'm a bit late to this party but thought I would chip-in anyways...

I've played D&D since I was 13 and managed to purchase the first editions of the DM's guide and that Deities and Demigods manual etc.

Like many here, other interests took over and there was not the time to play. D&D does require a huge commitment.

In recent years however, I've managed to play some "rules-lite" roleplaying esp using Star Wars minis from Wizards (whilst they were still making them). Great fun and it's amazing how often discussion digress to recalling past games and glories.

Just last year, Wizards of the Coast have developed a D&D board game. My friends and young boy love this and you can get a satisfying dungeon crawl completed in a few hours without the time required for the DM to prepare the adventure.

Definitely worth investigating if anyone is hankering back to the old days.

Oh and I would also recommend any of the Munchkin games.

dicecipher said...

I still play tabletop RPGs. We have been playing a lot of Serenity last few years. And my wife has been running her WoD game for almost 20 years now.

Actually met her playing 2ed AD&D many years ago.

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