Friday, August 31, 2007

Roll to save vs "End of Month"

With the recent release (PDF) of the new "4th Edition", I’ve decided it’s time I came clean and admitted that I, like most nerds, was a teenage Dungeons and Dragons addict.

It all started innocently enough at, of all places, summer camp. One rainy day, instead of joining a group of kids playing poker for hard-earned candy, I decided to investigate a different group circled around a camp counselor, huddled in a dark corner.

“What are you guys doing?” I asked.
“We’re playing D&D,” some kid said, not looking in my direction.
“D and what now?” I said.

The counselor was leading a game that was more of a cheap D&D substitute (he had no dice or printed material, and was making it up as he went along, using characters and settings out of C. S. Lewis’ Dawn Treader for God’s sake!) but it was good enough. I was hooked.

I cut my teeth on the “Basic Edition”, and quickly moved on to the Advanced D&D ruleset. I started saving up lunch money to spend on the rather expensive printed modules and rulebooks. In time, I realized that I preferred being the “Dungeon Master” (DM) in a game, as opposed to being an actual player, which was convenient because none of my D&D-playing friends wanted to be DM. I think they were all trying to save money.

However, my enjoyment of being a DM soon started to wane. I blame my D&D-playing friends who liked to take liberties with the rules, and the fact that I was something of a pushover. An example of this might go something like this:

Me: “You come upon a sleeping red dragon on top of a pile of treasure.”
Friend: “I try to steal some treasure.”
Me: (rolls die) “Your attempt wakes the dragon!”
Friend: “Ah, come on! I don’t want to fight the dragon. That’s so boring. Can’t I just steal some treasure and go to the next room? Please? Please?”
Me: (rolls eyes) “Fine. You steal some treasure and go to the next room.”

Pretty soon I “retired” from the role as DM, but I kept buying modules. I actually enjoyed reading them, although I always came up with nagging logistical questions, like: “Why would there be a bunch of Orcs inside some non-descript room, just sitting there waiting for the players to stumble upon them? Wouldn’t they get hungry while waiting? What if they had to go to the bathroom?”

Eventually, the publishers of the D&D material introduced a new ruleset, and I realized that I was essentially a victim of a clever money-making scheme, so I stopped playing D&D altogether. I did keep my hefty collection of printed material, but recently sold the bulk of them off to random nerd collectors for a modest profit. However, in true nostalgic nerd fashion, I scanned most of them and have a CD of old AD&D modules on my shelf, waiting to be re-discovered.


Drew said...

I acted as a DM for a few years in college, but I always assigned my players to desk jobs. One year, I gave a tenth-level lawful good Accountant the task of doing my real-world taxes. To keep it authentic, I required him to use an abacus.

Thanks for your blog entry, Dan. It brought back a lot of fond memories. Some day, remind me to post the story about the chaotic neutral Receptionist.

Ken said...

I really like the d20 system for computer games but you have to be some kind of freak to use them in a tabletop RPG. Have you actually read the combat rules? They're ridiculous. I imagine a single fight could go on for days, real time.

I guess some people are into that.

Also, when D&D comes up, I am required by law to mention the bohemian ear spoon.