Thursday, May 21, 2020

A Brief (?) Snapshot of my Gaming History-Storytime

A Brief (?) Snapshot of my Gaming History
Still not Erik, BUT word is that he'll be back today/tomorrow so this might be my last guest post here at the Tavern. I'd tell you to go follow me at my blog(s), but one is secret, one is not about gaming, and one is well, I really need to get back on it. The remaining is Frugal GM, but I don't do stories, rants, or stupid stuff there.

Ok, let's be honest here, I do stupid stuff wherever I am. I really shouldn't kid you guys or myself there.

Like probably everyone reading this blog & post, I'm a gamer. Sure, you can call me a dork, geek, nerd....you wouldn't be the 1st, but "gamer" fits.....dweeb is right out though. These days most folks, ok single women I try to chat up, tend to equate "gamer" with some guy who sits around playing Xbox all day. You think that's bad, wait until you explain you'd rather spend your weekend at a convention sitting around a table rolling dice and pretending to be a Dwarf!

....but was I playing D&D?

Clearly I wasn't always a gamer, but I did kind of start early on. Now I'm certain we have a mixed audience here and some of the newer crowd might not get a couple things. One being that some of the older Grognard-types take some special pride in how early they got into D&D. My introduction to AD&D was in the winter of 1978/79 since I had an Uncle in Illinois that played the game and I was able to get my hands on his books. Oh I played something that winter, but I'm not sure I'd call it AD&D. My 7 year-old ass might have been an advanced reader, but running for my little brother and older (different) Uncle was more a story-telling session inspired by the PHB and using dice and a few charts here & there.

I don't know how many boxed sets I bought a few years later. It seemed the local Waldenbooks had a glut of them and if you needed dice it was cheaper, and easier, to just buy another sale/discounted/clearanced box set to nab the dice. How I wish I had those dice today! Again, we played D&Dish inspired games, up until I got to 6th grade. My school started this weird activities day where every Thursday afternoon we had a couple hours to take part in a wide array of activities that you could sign up for. One of the 8th graders decided to run a D&D game and I was able to get a spot. I was so stoked because this was going to be my 1st true, 100% by-the-book D&D game as a player. I found a FLGS (Favorite Local Game Store), bought some dice......including my 1st Armory D30 (and D30 book!). I don't remember the game, but I played an Elf and at one point succumbed to Green Slime. The GM actually let me keep running my PC as the Green Slime slowly consumed my body, kind of like a faster-acting Hansen's Disease. So much for running rules-as-written! Actually this 1st "real" experience has given me a preference for Elves & Archers, and a solid, seething HATE for Green Slime. (Seriously, if you die to Green Slime in one of my adventures, you're an idiot, or play your character dumb, because I'll telegraph it's presence from a mile away!)

The summer after 6th grade I moved from the outskirts of Boston to rural Iowa. My parents were divorced and I switched from living with my mother to living with my father. I could no longer just run down to the T Station, hop on to the next town over, and hit up the FLGS. I'm certain there wasn't a place to buy dice or game supplies in the my county and I probably would have to drive 3 hours to a find a decent game store, or even another Waldenbooks, not that 7th graders get to drive. I was in a gaming desert and had to subsist on gaming miniature catalogs and the rare copy of  Dragon Magazine that crossed my path.

My rural location was really just the beginning of my problems trying to play D&D.

I begged and pleaded my parents to get me some D&D for Christmas. Hardcover AD&D would be the best, but I'd shovel the walk all winter for even one of those many D&D boxed sets I was so quick to rat-f%#$ for dice (I had to shovel the walk all winter anyway...) Nope, never going to happen. Why?

Well my family (clearly not by my choice) attended the local Mennonite Church. My next door neighbor was my Pastor. If you're not familiar with the Mennonites, I don't blame you.....think Amish, but modern. Actually we had both Amish and Mennonites where I lived...the Amish weren't Mennonites and the Mennonites weren't Amish (this isn't true everywhere just where I lived). Now one thing about the Mennonites (I'm not going to delve into this much further) is that they are extremely peace-oriented, as in they are actually proud of how many believers have been martyred for refusing to take up arms or take part in violence.

Should've Done Better with Black Leaf Newb!
So here I am begging to get my grubby little hands on some D&D and in one Church service any progress I may have made was crushed because the Pastor read off a long laundry-list of "Violent" games that members should DEFINITELY NOT BUY.... 'cause they're just straight up evil. Of course "Dungeons and Dragons" was pretty much at the top of the list, just below actual guns and toy guns. Fuck me. Younger readers probably don't really get the bad press that D&D had for years and how "real" the threat the uneducated general populace perceived D&D to be. A couple years later I was able to share some D&D books with my Pastor and get him to understand that we aren't going to cast spells, worship Devils & Demons, or kill ourselves over a game.......but my 7th grade, and later 8th grade ass was screwed.......

Star Frontiers
.....so imagine my surprise one more Christmas and a second Church-warning later when I received a copy of Star Frontiers. Seriously? I can't hack and slash monsters, but I can unload laser-blasts at aliens? Took me a hot minute to figure out that the clueless parents that did not understand what a role-playing game is were also the same clueless parents that hadn't been told to not buy their kid the violent "Dungeons & Dragons in space" that was Space Frontiers. Hey it was gaming....not what I wanted, but I'll do what I can. Since I'm now an 8th grader in a rural community, still not driving for a few years, the best place to assemble for a game is at school. I managed to talk a teacher into allowing us to play in a morning study hall as long as we didn't make too much noise.


Unfortunately this lasted basically one adventure because while we were sufficiently quiet, the teacher either couldn't or didn't want to deal with the influx of students that would rather play, or at least watch, the game in progress. That morning session was nipped in the bud all-too-quick. The brief rest-stop at the oasis was closed, so back to the gaming desert for me.

I got in the odd game in here & there. I'd play any solo adventure I could get and I loved those assorted Choose Your Own Adventure books. Those books are great, especially if you cheat like I did. Seriously, this tip ups the play-ability by a factor of five (at the cost of re-play-ability): map your adventure out! Read the hell out of the encounter descriptions and chart out/map the book/game out as you go long. Those books are really designed to only go forward, but if you map the encounters out (with room numbers!) you can treat it like a solo adventure. Sucking on HP such that one more hit and you're dead?.......remember that room 12 encounters back that had the healing pool? Flip back to that encounter, heal up, and jog back to where you had already advanced to. I did some bastardized GMing for my one Uncle using whatever he had on hand and once at Boy Scout Camp my Program Director ran some of us counselors through his home rules game. I was able to get a copy of his rules and was working to merge them with one rule set I particularly liked, but that never happened. I did get in one great campaign when I first went to college, but I had to revert back to living off of just reading assorted books and of course Dragon Magazine.... access was now easier though as I usually had (some) money and a car.

I got back into gaming when I enlisted, finding a group to play with at my 1st duty station and again at my 2nd (in Germany), where I was able to start going to local cons and competed in some tournaments. I ended up earning some special certifications in the Air Force and quickly became too busy (too deployed) to do much outside of work and fell back to the old standby of reading RPGs vs. playing, but I did start writing & designing a bit.

HackMaster (4th Edition) Player's Handbook
That was 1996.......by 2002 I had just gotten married and on my honeymoon I discovered a copy of the HackMaster Player's Handbook in a comic book store (my new bride wanted to visit EVERY comic book store in Las Vegas). Here was basically a 1st Edition D&D game that had pretty much all the home rules and tweaks I had been allegedly working on since my Boy Scout Camp days....BUT HackMaster did a better job with what I was trying to do! We got in with the "local" HackMaster group (another long post in its own right) and managed a trip to Seattle to attend a game convention and our 1st two tournament games, running married PCs.....oh, and this trip was our way of celebrating our 1st Wedding Anniversary. The guy who had volunteered to run several non-HackMaster KenzerCo games backed out before the con and I filled in. That weekend was the beginning of my volunteering for KenzerCo and attending conventions/tournaments on the regular.

1 comment:

  1. I fully embrace the dork/geek/nerd descriptors. "Geek" is probably the single best word to tie together everything I blog about, honestly.

    It was fun taking a trip through your gaming history, btw!


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