Sunday, April 16, 2006

Ahhhh, Spring! That magical time of year when a young man's thoughts turn to table top role playing games. At least mine seem to turn to table top role playing games.
For those of you who only visit PrettyGeekyThing to find out what moronic thing my co-workers or clients are trying out, rest assured the focus will return soon. In fact, as a show of good faith:

"I hate them all. Someday they'll pay. Oh yes, one day they will all pay."

I've also decided that the topic today isn't funny enough to stand on its own as an article, so I'll start by listing some words to entice the search engines and sustain some interest. I've stolen these words from the subject lines of emails in my SPAM folder. Here goes:

Nipples, nipples, nipples.
Earn a Degree-0nline
What Women Really Want (This Month)

Ok. Back to the topic.
I've got a history. I've been playing Dungeons and Dragons (old school, pencil and paper) since 1980. This journey has carried me through three and a half editions of the system. I've decided to crack open a frosty Diet Mountain Dew and blog away about the state of the hobby and what it means to me.
I credit the game with my love of reading and performance. Since reading and following instructions and "acting" like I know what I'm doing has kept me working through some pretty rough I.T. times, I owe D&D. I owe D&D big.
As a product, Dungeons and Dragons has been through a lot. A semi-hostile takeover led to a lot of bad blood (and more than a little bad product) and legal issues more than improvements brought about a second edition.
This edition was replaced by a third edition and then version 3.5, both created to sell books and keep jobs as Hasbro purchased the whole game shop and had a need to find Star Wars action figure level profits. As a side-effect, this edition was actually an improvement. I bought the books, I read the books and I wanted to play the game.
Having moved to Houston with no gaming group, this presented a challenge.
To the internet! Solver of all modern problems!
There are whole message boards dedicated to forming groups from complete strangers so I signed up and posted as if playing the game happened at my house all the time.
Within a day, I had email and scheduled a game.
Then I asked my wife if it was okay to bring complete strangers from the internet into our house.
Have I mentioned my wife is awesome?
Anyway, it went stunningly well and I count two of the original players as two of the best friends I've ever had.
Years later, every other Saturday we still get together. There is less gaming than conversation, but that is a natural progression. Gamers are storytellers, and we love to tell each other stories even if all listening parties were there when it happened.
We have gathered an enormous amount of stories together and in other earlier (and inferior) gaming groups and passing these stories along in the oral tradition is important.

"There was that time when you had all that treasure and you left it in the cave in the volcano to keep it safe and then the volcano erupted while you were on the next adventure. That was awesome."

"Just a Nixie, you say?"

"Malchor qualifies for his own prestige class so we have to write the rules for 'Drunken Mage'."

"We had no chance so he broke his own staff and sacrificed himself to save the rest of us. Or maybe just to piss off the DM."

"You should have been there. An elven monk that couldn't pass a 'move silently' check to save his life."

"I don't remember where it ended up, but I think the half-orc could run about 200 meters in 6 seconds. And he did it a lot."

Lately, we have branched out into other systems. I don't own the books for them, so I've tried to emphasize character development over rules optimization. Since someone else is running the game (and managing the rules) I've felt a little more free.

We played 'Vampire: The Requiem' for a while. I wanted a serious vampire, intimidating and powerful. My stealth-oriented character ended up more foppish and sneaky than intimidating. I still enjoyed playing him.
We are now playing 'Werewolf: The Forsaken' (which I love to abbreviate) and I read the rules BEFORE creating a character this time to avoid a repeat of the 'fop' unpleasantness of my Vampire character.
I even came up with a sort-of cool back story that emphasized his tortured youth and went along with the campaign setting. I gave him drive and purpose and a reason to leave the tribe and travel with the other characters. I carefully spent points on character creation to play up the power struggle in Werewolf society (think Discovery Channel pack dominance and Broward County Florida politics) but I had a few points left over so I dumped them into 'Striking Appearance', a trait that makes my character naturally and memorably good looking.
Unfortunately, in the second game as soon as the party needed money, 'Striking Appearance' is all that I found on my character sheet as a source of revenue. The Story Teller (Game/Dungeon Master) handled it like a pro, but my character (created to be awesome) is currently working as an underwear model. Hey, it pays the bills.
I know Dungeons and Dragons. In that system, my characters are plotted out to maximize damage level after level from the very beginning, but they are tied into specific roles and actions that lead to these progressions and the realities of dice rolling often become more the focus than the fantasy of the character.
Since I don't know the rules as well for the White Wolf (Vampire and Werewolf) systems, I've been forced to pretend more. And it is good for me.
Neither character has turned out as I'd intended, but I wouldn't change them.
If I'd been shaken into sobriety in college and told that in a decade I'd be living in the suburbs with a beautiful wife and daughter and working with computers I'd have laughed. I guess I've not known (or have ignored) most of the rules in getting here, but I wouldn't trade off for anything. Even if I sometimes feel like a bit of a male model in my current job.
So. Every other Saturday I trade in the concerns of the office and the stresses of working with idiots to pretend to have someone else's problems for a few hours. And to hang out with my friends to talk about geeky stuff. It keeps me sane.
I hope it does as much good for them.
And when we eventually get back to Dungeons and Dragons I've got an evil feral tauric zombie ninja pirate I'm dying to try out, but who wouldn't?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We love you too, (hugs) But in my defense their was a bunch of dried leaves everywhere, and I did have a can attached to my leg. Beside's I didn't want to move silently!

O and yes she awesomeness!
D out