Monday, July 21, 2014

Memory Lane - Dungeons & Dragons

or, My Sidetrack gets Sidetracked.

I seem to have strayed pretty far, pretty fast, from my last substantial focus of gaming related activity. Even for me. In May and June, I spent a good amount of time working on WW2 miniatures in preparation for, and after playing, a Fireball Forward! game. That was productive time, having gotten a bunch of vehicles and a whole pack of US infantry painted up. Then I decided that I would spend a little time trying to finish the batch of medieval knights on the corner of my painting table. While doing that, I mulled over the idea of an ImagiNation for my medieval guys (as posted recently).

This ImagiNation idea had me stray down the path of mapping software, Hexographer, and playing around with sketching out the basic parameters of a medieval world. While playing in Hexographer, the abundance of terrain types and icons useful for a fantasy setting brought back a flood of memories of playing many hours of Dungeons and Dragons (primarily first edition ADnD...[blogger doesn't seem to like ampersands...]) back in and around my high school years. Me and several others spent a lot of hours around a card table in the corner of my bedroom at Ridge Lane, creating, imagining, rolling dice, and having a ton of fun. How cool would it have been to have a tool like Hexographer back then? Not coincidently, the first metal miniatures I ever painted were fantasy figures from Grenadier miniatures, a small company at that point which had the license to produce the official DnD miniatures, and which was miraculously located in the Lawrence Park Industrial Center about a 20 minute walk from our neighborhood. I have vague memories of buying some figures, unpackaged, right out the back door of where they were made.

Our DnD playing began with the original set of three tan covered books, first published in 1974. I probably got these in about 1976. I also had the blue and white book from the 1977 boxed set which pulled together all the material to date and cleaned things up. The big deal was the release of ADnD in 1977/1978. This is the version we played. And played. And played.
Adolescence in a Box

Beyond high school, and perhaps a little in college, we got older, moved on, and haven't played the game since, although every now and then in the later 1980's or early 1990's I would buy a book, dungeon adventure boxed set, or something else that might have struck my fancy. Reading these very occasional tidbits did the same thing then that they do now - bring back good memories.

Because of the special place these memories hold for my childhood and adolescence, I have a file box of DnD/ADnD stuff in the basement that I don't see myself ever getting rid of. It has:
  • The original 5 little books (the main three plus Greyhawk and Eldritch Wizardry)
  • The 3 hardbacks of 1st edition ADnD.
  • Surpisingly, the 3 hardbacks and the Monstrous Compendium loose leaf binder of ADnD 2nd edition (this came out in 1989, and although I obviously bought it, I know we never played this version).
  • About 20 or 25 dungeon modules, including such classics as Gygax's Tomb of Horrors, the 3-part Drow series, and the the 3-part Giants series.
  • Five or six boxed Forgotten Realms products plus many related source booklets and expansions (Campaign settings, huge dungeon map sets with guidebooks...). Forgotten Realms, by Ed Greenwood (originally) is one of the original DnD campaigns dating back to almost the very beginning, and became TSR's defacto "main campaign" in terms of supporting the game system with modules, books, novels etc. The depth of detail and creativity in this stuff is mind boggling.
  • A few things from Midkemia Press, a small company that did some nice little products.
  • Several Judges Guild products built around the City-State of the Invincible Overlord.
  • A few other published odds and ends.
  • A few notebooks and folders of things I created way back in the late '70's and early '80's. Bits of worlds. Dungeon levels. Background materials. Drawings of little towns and villages. Sketch maps. Wow. That seems like a lifetime ago!
Anyway, thoughts of maps led to fantasy maps which led to DnD memories which led to pulling out that box of stuff. It is a lot of fun to go back and skim through some of those old dungeon modules and sourcebooks.

I was aware that there were a whole series of editions of both the basic DnD games as well as the more complicated and comprehensive ADnD game, although until reading a history of DnD (here on Wikipedia), I was unaware as to how completely convoluted things had become. Apparently, after a while simpler DnD petered out and what is now called "Dungeons and Dragons" is what we would have called ADnD back in the day. The current version 4th edition, but a 5th edition is in the process of being rolled out between now and the end of this year. Trolling the Wizards of the Coast website (WotC bought out TSR in the late 1990's), a pdf of the 110-page basic 5th ed rulebook is available for free. I have downloaded it and am reading through it. The game has come a long way in 25 years, while seeming to maintain the same core of what we loved back then. There are a lot of things about these rules that seem really cool.

Hmm. You don't suppose anybody would be interested in...

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