Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Stuck in the Middle with You!

And nobody is going to lose an ear :)

In terms of my gaming era - I consider myself a mid-skooler, but what does that mean. My friends and I found this game the year that 2nd ed ADD came out. We started out with a hodge-podge of 1st edition and 2nd edition texts and for the first year my DM wouldn’t let me read the players handbook. I couldn’t convince my parents to purchase the book for me. We played THAC0 completely wrong but we had lots of fun. I finally convinced the guy to let me borrow the book for a night. I read it twice and memorized most of it in a single day. The spells!!!! My first character had been a ranger, my second was a cleric. I was hooked on clerics - you got to fight but you also got spells! Eventually we figured the THAC0 thing out....

In a couple of years my GM had purchased all of the Greyhawk materials, and he was running Greyhawk. My other friend had purchased some forgotten realms books and was running those. I wanted to run my own game... so I purchased Dragonlance. I remember I couldn’t figure out how to run a game in which all my friends wouldn’t know as much as I did about the world. I really wasn't happy having to run Dragonlance, since the game seemed to be set up to replay out adventures that were first presented in books - how silly is that? Everybody I was gaming with had read dragonlance so they would know everything about the adventures I was trying to run. The plot-line of the books left little of the continent free for expansion....

However - at the bottom of the Krynn map there was a huge Glacier. I invented a small city that sat in the middle of the glacier and I ran the campaign as a winter world. Somehow there were a bunch of boats that had been stranded in on the glacier (I don’t know I was young) and the city was built out of these huge ships that had been turned into buildings by miners. There were mines that went down under the glacier and found rich minerals/gold/iron/etc... So all the people in this city were miners and adventurers looking to find treasures under the ice. This part of the world could be untouched by the "CORE" rules that were being set out for dragonlance, the only way my players new that they were on Krynn is because the moons affected their magic...

We had a lot of fun in that game. Eventually the DM that was running forgotten realms didn’t want to play anymore so I bought all of his gaming materials from him in 1994. I ran FR from 1994 until 2001 using second edition rules. In 1995, I remember some of my friends and I played my campaign almost everyday!!! For most of that time I kept throwing all the characters into the Undermountain Megadungeon and City based adventures in Waterdeep. I had a Huge zippered binder that I had unloaded the Waterdeep boxed set and the Undermountain boxed set into - along with Volo’s Guide to the North & to the sword coast. I added ~10 extra levels to Undermountain and at least 30-40 sub-levels accessed by gates, sliding doors, pit traps, etc... I made a huge number of tables for random effects using d100’s for traps, magical effects, gate quirks, wandering monsters, treasures, etc... Everything that I needed to play a huge campaign was in that zippered binder! In 2001 a house fire took out all of my DnD resources along with all my stuff. After that we used Fudge, Gurps, and Risus only for all of our gaming. We started playing less and less, and eventually my gaming group disintegrated due to job placement, dis-interest, etc...

So all my DnD experiences in the hey day of my gaming were with 2nd edition! 2nd edition is totally the red-headed step child of DnD and plants me firmly into the mid-skooler pile. I didn’t empathize with any of the new 3.0, 3.5, and 4.0 editions - instead, when looking for a new edition of DnD to play I wanted something even lighter than 2nd ed. I looked back to the roots of this hobby and found a new wellspring of ideas and games to play that remind me of my first experiences with this hobby. You only have a small subset of core rules and then you add and subtract what you want to make it your own. The new rules sets just keep piling on the extra features until you can barely recognize that what you are playing is DnD. I’m making a connection in my mind as I type between my interests in music and my interests in gaming.

When I was in high school, the music that was coming out was grunge rock (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Rage, Smashing Pumpkins, NIN, etc...) and I loved the hell out of it. It was new, musically interesting, simplistic, raw, powerful, etc... Over time though, grunge faded away, and through the first decade of the 2000’s I found very little music interesting. Everything that was on the radio reminded me of Nashville music - it might be catchy, but it wasn’t interesting. There was no life, no raw energy - instead it was cookie cutter rock. The bands were just a collection of people with tatoo’s screaming on a stage, with no message. In order to find music that was interesting I had to go backward and find the inspirations of grunge rock to find music that I liked - this introduced me to Bob Dylan, CSNY, Jimi, King Crimson, The Who, Led Zep, The Beatles, etc... I had always been aware of this music but it took the loss of my identification with new music to force me to dig into the past to find what I was searching for.

So that is what being a mid-skooler today is all about - when the middle began to evaporate, you have to make a choice - turn forward into the new way, or look backward into the history of the hobby. Sometimes that can be a truly new experience in itself.


  1. I like the new gaming generation that you have created, mid-school. But, based on your description, I think your in the old school group. Happy New Year and keep on gaming no mater what the school.

  2. You might be right. I might be an old schooler in spirit just time shifted by a few years :)

    Thanks for following and Happy New Year!

    I'm hoping to get some material up on this blog in the next couple of weeks that might even have some use for playing the game. That's if I can get my thoughts organized enough to get it in print :)