The D & the D part 3

Monday, January 19, 2009
The group I so briefly played D&D with in high school soured me on the game for quite some time. Their game wasn't the same one I had known. The packaging was the same and the mechanics identical but it was far less high fantasy and madcap adventure than mindless slaughter and ego-stroking superiority.

As frustrating as it was to have to deal with death every other encounter, there was something endearing about those characters Levi and I had run so long ago. I can still picture those later sessions, having spent all our money on potions, my poor, unwashed wizard staring at the beautiful and powerful magic items for sale in the shops, other bands of adventurers trading their loot for better gear, laughing with the shopkeeper at the goblin ear we'd brought for trade, hoping the goblin it belonged to hadn't followed us into town.

Kyle had delighted in describing our destitute nature in great detail, every smear of filth given equal time with major plot points. Through it all, Levi and I had grown more and more attached to our misfit characters. We knew we were more than underdogs in our quests, we were hopeless. But we didn't care, we loved these guys. Besides, they gave us some great stories to tell.

None of that applied with the new group. I didn't feel any more attachment to my character than a fish does for the Sahara. That group ruined D&D for me. It would be another seven years before I played D&D.

Throughout that second drought I tried several other Tabletop RPGs. My junior year of high school it was cyberpunk, which was fun but largely homogeneous; early college brought the Star Wars RPG and Levi's return to my gaming circle. It was fun while it lasted but again we couldn't seem to set up any kind of schedule for our games. In those same years I experimented with Hunter: The Reckoning, but our DM was never able to hold onto a story concept for more than a day before he forgot entirely about it.

Honestly, my moving from game to game was essentially a symptom of withdrawal. Like a smoker sucking on a pen, I rolled dice for other characters to fill that void left by D&D. I did try once to play D&D but my girlfriend at the time was what one would call a stifling, self righteous ignorant banshee. I wasn't allowed to attend the evil devil game and roll those sinful polyhedrons.

Finally, after securing a job at a local bookstore, I was invited to game with some of the folks from work. I joined their game already in progress, filling the role of any absent players at first then rolling up a Barbarian who died two sessions later, devoured by the aspect of Tiamat. I've been with that group ever since.

We play every other weekend and have run through several campaigns now. We killed Strod in less than ten rounds, I've run a rogue, a fighter, the most awesome half-orc barbarian in the world, wizards of course, a dragon shaman, a paladin, even a Bard with a squeezebox. The bard didn't last long.

I've found a happy medium with my current group. They take the game seriously enough to keep the game going, but the humour of the group breaks up the action enough to keep it from getting too monotonous. We can't get through a game without injecting a specific line from Willow which I refuse to repeat here.

We've made the jump to 4th edition and are working through the pathfinder campaign right now. Our DM managed to convert the whole thing over from 3.5, a feat I can't even fathom. I have a secret desire to branch out into other games, like Champions or D20 Modern. I've been quietly building my first campaign for almost six months now and hope to unveil it sometime this next fall. I wish I could say more about other than it's ambitious, but I'll reveal more when I can.

The key to a good D&D game is a group that meshes well. It doesn't matter if one person always plays one specific class, just so long as they commit to it. The most important thing is the group dynamic. As long as that is strong, your games will always be fun. Like any game, it's always best with friends.