Friday, July 12, 2013

The Beginning(of the blog, of my RPG life, of modern geekdom)

(this is a reprint of mine from an older blog with more detailed history of the game added at the end, I figured this was as good a place as any to start)

Some people get a kick reading about how people come into a hobby, and some people get a kick writing about how they get into a hobby.  I was not going to do a post like this, but Wil Wheaton changed my mind.  Well not fully Wil, the new hip "old school revival" trend had something to do with it too.

I'll start with Wil.

If you do not know Wil Wheaton, he played the young kid on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He's also somewhat of a geek celebrity now, and has thrown in his geek celebrity with Penny Arcade to make an even bigger geek celebrity and he's also "evil Wil Wheaton" on The Big Bang Theory.  Here is his personal blog, check it out: Wil Wheaton dot Net

He has been on vacation apparently(the blog told me.. I do not stalk Wil Wheaton), and in his absence he has been auto-re-posting some old stories of his.  One of them was about the death of Gary Gygax because he died on March 4th, ironically DM's day(it was DM's day 7 years before his death, they are not celebrating him on his death date as I once though and have a pet peeve of).  Anyways he says that his aunt gave him the red box Dungeons and Dragons Basic set.  The set printed in 1982(the year I was born).  He never got to play with anyone, so he made characters for himself and played through dungeons on his own, by himself, in his room.

My own story about how I got into Dungeons and Dragons begins at a yard sale.  Yard sale finds of D&D are the classic method of being introduced to the game.  Several people on podcasts I listen to, and a few on blogs I've visted retell this same beginning.  My own yard sale seems almost magical in my mind now.  I am not writing that to be all mystical and stuff, I did not think of the place all that much before this.  I mainly thought of the car ride home where I read through the book.  The house that we went to was not a place we frequently went to yard sales at.  I do not remember ever going there again.  It was at this house I found it.  The house was brick, with a huge flat front yard of grass.  You could barely see the brick though because hedges covered the walls up to the windows.  It was a sunny day, but you would not be able to tell at the sale table because two MASSIVE trees sprout up near it, shading the entire huge yard underneath.

*only accurate in my mind

Anyway, I got the book, I do not remember how much but it was probably fifty cents.  I was into reading lots of Greek myth and King Arthur was like the coolest thing I had ever read about.  Also I had played through the original Dragon Warrior as well.  This book blew my mind, and I know it took me a long time to read and actually understand what it was saying.  It was the player's book, and it would be years later that I would find a DM's guide.

Anyway, I do have one thing in common with Wil Wheaton's story: I never played Basic Dungeons and Dragons.  By the time I had friends to play with me, I had a Advanced Dungeons and Dragon's book.  Being kids, we saw "Basic" and was all "well we aren't kids anymore, we need to be playing Advanced.  It is more REAL"

Wil's story inspired me to read up about our Basic set that we never played.  It all started with a man named J. Eric Holmes.  He created a book(which I actually have a copy of from the 25th Anniversary Box) that is literally the original Dungeons and Dragons paired down a bit.  It was released at a time when AD&D was out, and is thought to hearken back to the "old days" of 1977(this was around 1980... so.. yea).  Its combat was more like the old Chainmail game and did not reflect the new changes to the game that Gygax had made.

This is why Tom Moldvay came in to do his version.  Moldvay made his "basic" version much more like AD&D, and reflected how the game had grown.  Fighting-men were renamed Fighters and different weapons did different damage, just to name a few.  By now, D&D Basic was its own separate game, and to reflect that there was a sequel called D&D Expert.  Now instead of just being a beginner's game, it was a graduated set of rules that reflected not the player's skill, but the character's skill.

Big changes came between Moldvay and Mentzer's eras.  Big changes in TSR management, the ridiculously stupid Satanic Scare of the 80's, and a re-dedication to quality of product.  No longer would D&D look like something put together in a basement.  Mentzer's editions lasted through to the 90's and it "feels" like that era's AD&D books.  The layout was done with thought and care.  The artwork was done by the famous Larry Elmore and friends.  Mentzer also took the last bit of "basic is for beginners" out of the game, and wrote the game to cater to Adults rather than a child audience.

Mentzer went past Expert and brought the characters even into the "Immortal" era of traveling planes and shaking hands with gods.  There were rules for such things as governing lands that AD&D did not even cover, and people used his books to help them GM such occurrences.

So that's the story of this funny thing, Dungeons and Dragons Basic.  What started as a small intro to rules(similar to the free starter rule PDF's of today) and evolved into its own game that is remembered by famous and no-names alike.

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