Years Ago, and Years to Come

A-Z 2014 YTomorrow I post my Z-A Challenge 2014 Index, and I’m in a bit of a reflective mood.

Early in the autumn of grade six, I found a small group of my classmates sitting in one of the rooms between our classroom and the next. They were rolling funny-shaped dice and talking about things like ‘initiative’ and ‘green slime’ and ‘saving throws’. My introduction to Dungeons & Dragons was B4: The Lost City, and while unlike Homer Simpson I was not slain by an elf directly, it’s entirely possible it was an elf that conned me into being their trapfinder.

Why no, I wasn’t playing a thief, I was playing a fighter. Doesn’t mean I didn’t find the traps, just that I had to do it the hard way.

That was almost (graduated high school 1991, six and a half years earlier would be the autumn of 1984, I suppose: Jim had a new copy of the last good Van Halen album, so that seems about right) thirty years ago this autumn. Christmas that year found me with a copy of Mentzer Basic D&D, and a life-long hobby started.

Since then I’ve played many editions of D&D, and other games. Basic and Expert D&D, and Advanced D&D because obviously that was for the more mature [11-12 years old at the time] players. A couple years later I stumbled on a copy of Fantasy HERO and I remember spending inordinate amounts of time devising and trying to optimize new spells (to no practical benefit because I couldn’t find anyone who would play it… but in retrospect I think it ultimately led me through ‘highly detailed systems design’ to ‘highly detailed systems design often doesn’t add much besides detail’). Five years after I started I found a Second Edition AD&D Player’s Handbook and suddenly in addition to race, class, and weapon proficiencies you had non-weapon proficiencies and some classes had choices! You could choose one of eight specializations as a wizard, you could assign skill points as a thief, and even clerics had specific options, though really there were only two (cleric and druid — Complete Priest’s Handbook wasn’t until a bit later). Somewhere in here I also got exposed to Top Secret and Harnmaster, and Heroes Unlimited.

In university I started playing Champions, and briefly a slew of other systems, but mostly it was still AD&D Second Edition. Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons rolled around after I finished college, plus a bunch of spin-offs and variations. By this point I was already an inveterate tinker, and D&D3e was made to be messed with.

Over the last thirty years I have played with classmates and coworkers, my kids, and with people all over the world (thanks Internet!). To this day I’m happy to remember how D&D caused one of my players to engage in schoolwork so he could better read and handle the math involved, and I’ve established friendships with people I’ve never met face to face, all through this hobby.

Where does it go from here? Well, I don’t plan to stop any time soon. My primary group meets online via Google+ Hangouts, and while we originally formed to take part in the early D&D Next playtests we quickly moved off that when we decided it wasn’t for us. Now we mostly play old school retroclones and similar, including Adventurer, Conqueror, King, OSRIC, and currently Swords & Wizardry. Several of us are some mix of artists, writers, and designers, we playtest each others’ work, when bad things happen we lend each other support as needed.

I’m still tinkering, still writing, still designing. My long-term goal is still to get Echelon to a playable and publishable state. I’m building relationships with other designers and artists. I get to see ideas from people all over the world and with different perspectives that can color my own work.

And on Saturday nights, I get together with my friends, we tell bad jokes, and we kill monsters and take their stuff.

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