Sunday, December 18, 2005

Welcome to the last outpost of a 2nd Edition hold out

A long time ago, in the late 1970's, my little brother (Scott C. Ristau, the author of Death Brand)had started reading The Hobbit, and I made fun of him mercilessly over his growing fascination with elves and something called "Gollum." He had our Mom make him a Legolas costume and I kidded that he was the fairy version of Robin Hood.

Then he heard that there were little lead figures being made in the images of all his favorite characters from the book. Assuming there would be rich fodder for more riducule of my younger sibling, I went along with Mom to the Hobby store, and took my friend Matt Clark with me.

The hobby shop was a tiny hole in the wall on Brady Street in Davenport, Iowa. It was crammed to the rafters with the most amazing array of lead soldiers and a new line of fantasy figures. Far from torturing my brother with teasing...Matt and I got hooked.

I purchased a little set, I think possibly made by Grenedier, which had a tiny little chutes and ladders style cardboard map (great grand-daddy of the 3rd edition dungeon tiles for miniatures) that led from one side to the other. It also came with a figure for a fighter, a magic user, and a hobbit theif as well as a few monsters. There was a paint brush, a strip of small connected paints like you got with paint by numbers sets, and one six sided die.

The game system was not D&D basic set, or 1st edition. This was the ancient days before international standardization. There were only three stats, Speed, Endurance, and Fighting Ability.

I was totally hooked by my little game, but the tiny game board was far too limiting. Before very long I was building a massive 3D dungeon out of balsa wood and coreboard several levels deep. We had 4x8 sheets of plywood all gridded out in 2x2 inch squares for outdoor battles, and we were making up ever more elaborate rules and stats for our game we were inventing. We called it Dungeons and Dragons, but we never bought an official rule book or an offical TSR module. We invented the game as we went along, and it was absolutely amazing.

Each of us had a party composed of 5 characters, and we all competed with each other to loot our dungeon, the DM managing up to 4 parties running in the dungeon simultaneously. We'd invented notebooks full of spells, items, and character histories. Each week we'd rotate who was the DM, and since nearly all of the dungeon's treasures and encounters were randomly generated from the tables we'd created, that didn't matter much, the DM was more of a referee than an opponent whose team was the monsters.

My brother, Scott, had a main character named Morgan who was a paladin who actually rode his warhorse through the dungeon with his knight companions. Matt Clark played, and so did Joe Fick and Audie McAvoy. We'd play every Friday night.

Each Friday had the same routine, we'd start by buying large amounts of Doritos and Moutain Dew, drop the supplies off at my house where we'd pretty much taken over the entire basement for gaming purposes--levels spead out from one side of the house to the other--and then we'd go to Godfather's Pizza to eat a large combo and flirt with the waitresses, play a few games of Pac Man, and then head home to play until we collapsed from exhaustion sometime on Saturday. When we woke up we'd all head to Davenport to buy new figures, come home and paint a few and then confirm plans to meet the following week.

After a year or so of college, though, playing became harder and eventually stopped. I kept all my figures, which by that point had become quite a collection. So did Matt. He actually works for Reaper Miniatures now, and rues the day that he sold me a huge slice of his figure collection when I started playing again in Iowa City in the early 90's.

I'd found some people (who probably would rather not have their names published due to a deep devotion to privacy) who were far more than casually avid players of the official AD&D game. They, like many of those hard core pencil and paper players, disdained my enthusiasm for all things miniature but wanted to encourage my support of their hobby. They agreed to try thier hand at playing in my world.

I had a hard time convincing them to learn my self-created game system, but they honestly did give it a go. In the end, however, they convinced me to try learing official D&D so that I could objectively decide which was better.

I have never lost my love for the simplicity of my own created game, however there was no denying that having access to all the official products was a benefit almost as important as having players who fully understood the game they were playing and who didn't constantly compare what I'd invented to something else.

I purchased the Forgotten Realms campaign setting and from that day to this I have run a second edition FR campaign.

The purpose of this blog is to discuss not only my campaign, but also any issues related to 2nd Edition and the vast field of collecting miniatures.

I hope you will enjoy my musings, offer some of your own, and in the comments section discuss 2nd edition rules and errata in this archaic form of gameplay.

We can talk about pretty much anything we want, so long as the discussion is civil.

The one thread I won't tolerate is anything trying to convince me to convert to 3rd Edition or higher. I've made the transition from one gaming system to another once in my life, and I'm too old to do it again. Don't try, or I'll delete your comments.

Dungeons have their master, and blogs have their owners, and here...I am both.

Ejoy, and let the quest for the survival of 2nd Edition begin!



Blogger stago_for_hire said...

Gabba, gabba, hey! I had a similar larval stage regarding role-playing games. I thought, and still do, that playability (a poor synonym for fun) is tantamount to RPGs, with formalized rules, charts and what-not useful when they make limitations interesting. The Mecha games were about as exciting an RPG game as playing bingo -- filling out the little cards for damage. But the conventions used in RPGs made finding new gamers easier.

I liked character generation and promotion in GURPS. From what I recall, it made for evenly matched parties, with people focusing on skill acquisition. Ever played Marvel SuperHeroes (or whatever it was called). Instead of numbers for ranking physical attributes, it used descriptions such as "feeble" and "poor" to superlatives such as "amazing", "remarkable" and "phenomenal". Plus, it was easy to bracket a character. "I'm stronger than the Beast, but weaker than Spiderman."


2:40 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home