Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Game Master

I don't want to be the only geek not blogging about this. Gary Gygax died the other day. I think half the people reading this know exactly who that is. For the other half, Gary was the primary creator of the Dungeons and Dragons game.

I've read a lot of geeks' stories of how they got into playing Dungeons and Dragons so maybe it's time for mine. I got the original Basic set for my 11th birthday. I read through the rules but I couldn't quite understand how to play this new game for a while. But I finally got going and soon had a fairly regular set of kids playing: me, my brother, my best friend Avron and sometimes his brother David. Some other kids from the neighborhood and school came and went, but for a couple years you could probably find at least the three of us playing D&D every week or two.

It was really the beginning of my sort of "double life" that I've lived at different times. Throughout middle school, you had about a 50-50 chance of finding me inside playing D&D with one set of friends or outside riding a BMX bike or playing the sport of the day with a different set of friends. It's interesting that neither group of friends could understand the other. The BMX guys would never understand how excited I was that my halfling thief was the one that outsmarted and defeated Strahd von Zarovich. My gaming buddies would never understand why a Torker or Profile was so much better than a Huffy. In a couple more years I was splitting my time between playing high school football and hanging out with band/car/metal-head guys. I guess I kind of still do it today. I know most of the guys I know from work or other places will never understand why I do children's ministry. And I know some of my friends from church are astonished that I've actually drank a few beers in my life or that I used to spend my nights and weekends wading through fire scenes for the Red Cross.

I learned a lot through and thanks to the game. Probability of course, with all the die rolls. I learned a lot of history and eventually some anthropology. Ecology, civil engineering, city planning, sociology, etc. You see, I was a realism nut. I always wanted adventures I created to make sense. By the time I went to college, I had crafted a small dungeon adventure that all made sense. The structures had 100 years of history and features like ventilation shafts. All the creatures in it had a purpose and a viable way to feed themselves. The local village had factions, some religious, and a power struggle. A lot of work, but it made me learn and think a lot. Finally, like most software developers my age, my first computer programs generated characters and I always wanted to build the ultimate computerized dungeon.

Somehow I don't think I ever played a single session of D&D in college. It's a shame, really, since there were some great guys like V gaming there. My group did play a lot of hearts, Illuminati, quarters and some Car Wars, but very little role playing.

I did keep collecting though. I've always kept collecting. That's another personality trait I can maybe trace to D&D. I haven't bought anything in almost 15 years but I do have an almost complete collection of 1st edition AD&D and most of 2nd edition. I've been tempted a few times to unload the whole thing on eBay but haven't. It's by far my biggest "collection".

So after Georgia Tech I moved back to Clearwater and quickly got bored with the "blow $50 drinking at a club every Friday night" routine. I managed to find a D&D game with a couple guys my age and a random assortment of high school kids. Soon I was playing every week. We'd get together about 9pm on Friday and play until 5am. This was an interesting group. Once the younger kids died off (or fell asleep), we had some great adventures. It was much more of a role-playing, theatrical, style than I'd ever played. I also got heavily into painting miniatures, often stripping off bad paintjobs from 10 years before. I had a blast for about a year and a half.

Then came Ann and marriage and USF and work and kids... Now I haven't played a non-computer D&D session in 15 years. From time to time I think about trying to connect with a local group and get started again. But I just don't have the energy and bandwidth for the all the drama and baggage most gamers bring to the table.

I also keep thinking maybe it's time to introduce it to our daughter. She loved the Lord of the Rings movies. She was fascinated by Neverwinter Nights. I know she'd love it. But I'd rather have her go play with kids her own age. Maybe in a couple years I'll give her the new-in-box 1979 Basic set I have and she can go discover it on her own.

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