Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Once More Into The Breach

Wasn't it just last Thursday I was comparing my relationship with AD&D to an on-again-off-again romantic fling with a neurotic significant other?

Yeah, it was.

For those readers who are too young to know what I'm talking about, let me paint you a picture. This is a standard type of coming-o-age experience found amongst folks who spent their 20s in the USA during the 1990s. Those of us born in the 70s, often coming from broken or "semi-broken" homes (with regard to the nuclear family) had an interesting mental dichotomy when it came to relationships...being brought up to hold that monogamy and "till-death-do-us-part" was an ideal, and yet all the libertine freedom from convention that had been built up in the wake of the swinging 70s, the hedonistic 80s, and the "intellectual" (pseudo-intellectual?) 90s. Leading us to have relationships with people when we really didn't know what the hell a relationship...or even a real commitment to another human being...entailed. That is, trying to make a relationship work without the actual work and sacrifice that goes with it (and which helps develop character and growth in an individual), but instead trying to be "true to yourself" even though "yourself" was a selfish, insecure, and/or inconsiderate bastard.

And, yeah, it went both ways.

For male heterosexual folks, like myself, this generally manifested in the long-term relationship with the "neurotic" girlfriend..."long term" being more a state of mind than anything else (three months, a year, multiple years...the point is, it felt long). Neurotic is the term generally given to the girl in the situation because she seems to have multiple personalities...sometimes the sweet, sexy person you want to spend the rest of your life with, sometimes the "crazy bitch from hell." That's the male perspective.

The thing is, there was really nothing wrong with the girl, save for the same lack of maturity and unrealistic expectations found in both parties. You'd stick together, trying to "make it work" when often you weren't doing any work on yourself...leading to break downs and then break ups. And, sometimes, repeat cycles where you'd start the relationship back up and go through the whole damn thing again.

The problem was, no one was learning a damn thing. Relationships spur growth in a person and help one develop into a higher level of human being...if you let it. But it takes awhile (and some practice) to get ahold of THAT little lesson. Oh, yeah...and some letting go of one's own ego. I know for me it took several relationships and a number of years to grasp the concept. Once I did, I met my wife...and we've been married since 1998. And still happily (despite our individual foibles).

So, yeah, AD&D...when you first get AD&D (assuming that, like me, you start with some "basic" edition of the game: Holmes, B/X, BECMI) it feels like you've finally found the Holy Grail of your fantasy role-playing. I mean, look at it! How awesomely wonderful it is. It's complex and complicated compared to the basic editions, but most of its complexity is simply elaboration, and for the most part it's all stuff you WANT to have elaborated. Look at all these classes! Look at all these new magic items! Look at these awesome spells and diabolic monsters! Look: saving throws for equipment! Look: drowning rules and astral plane wandering monster charts! Look: ingestible poisons and ranger followers and NPC personality tables and Secondary Skills and using weapons in your off-hand, etc.

Things that you always wanted to know, but had to "make rulings on" before. Things that you didn't know you wanted to gambling dens and wandering prostitutes and random urinary tract infections and other diseases. The seedier side of medieval fantasy!

Demons and devils and liches and golems and Bigby's Clenched Fist and a well of many worlds. Really, what more do you need for your fantasy adventure? Look at all the different pole arms! Look, you can buy chickens and pigs! Look at all the special powers of monks! And new class choices for demihumans that don't have level restrictions (not to mention multi-class characters and "exceptional strength" and druid shapeshifting, etc.). It's everything you ever wanted...everything you think you ever needed.

And so you play AD&D. My friends and I played AD&D...we played the hell out of it, for years. And we pushed it and pulled it, and added to it, and tweaked it in little ways to make it work better for our particular game group and incorporated rules and ideas from Dragon Magazine.

Well anyway, that was a loooong time ago. Years ago, like 1997 (with maybe a "one-off" adventure or two in '99 or 2000). The reasons for AD&D falling by the wayside are many, but some include over-complexity, poorly designed systems open for abuse, lack of agreement/uniformity in which rules are "important/necessary," excessive "power creep," and the silliness of its particular hodge-podge of fantasy/literary tropes.

And, of course, now that I've spent a couple years analyzing and deconstructing D&D, I've come to love the B/X edition...and have come to see AD&D as simply one man's house ruled version of the "original fantasy role-playing game." Not a bad thing, but my adult mind has different wants and needs for a role-playing experience and AD&D feels lacking in many areas. As a kid, I wanted it to be "the game" so much that I was able to look past its flaws...or I was simply blind to them. Now I want a game that will help me grow, either by spurring my imagination (and leaving some questions unanswered) and/or by providing a rule system that "gets the hell out of its own way" and lets me get down to the role-playing. Now, I don't have the same rose-colored glasses I once did when it comes to AD&D.

Only nostalgia.

So then, it's a tribute to how sick I've been lately (I spent half of Tuesday at the doctor, being poked and prodded, x-rayed and medicated for this stupid bronchial infection) that I've jumped head first into Alexis's on-line AD&D campaign. I haven't been to work a single day this week, but I've managed (in between sleeping jags) to create a new blog for my character and tally up a page worth of equipment, calculating the encumbrance to the ounce and noting the location of every scabbard and small belt pouch...engaging in the complexity that I profess to loathe. Hell, I spent my time in the waiting room Tuesday playing 30+ rounds of rock-paper-scissors just for the privilege of doing so.

And I find I'm REALLY looking forward to running in this guy's game.

[see why I hold onto these books?]

I've been on antibiotics for a couple days now, and the doctor says I'm clear to get back to work tomorrow, so I'll be working up more LAND OF ICE posts for those who've been waiting (treasure lists are easy to write up, right?). But readers can expect the grim possibility of some very un-B/X game reports and/or observations to be posted here in the near future as I take a wild ride in an elaborate, exotic AD&D landscape.

Heck, I nearly considered playing a halfling thief. Ha!
; )


  1. A halfling thief, say it isn't so JB. Say it isn't so. I've been enjoying both my AD&D games a ton. My newbie group with no experience and my vets who all have 20 to 30 years experience. Although I do have one pesky 2nd editioner who keeps shouting THAC0. I try to tell him there is THAC0, but he still asks.

    More Land of Ice posts please.

  2. @ Tim:

    You're right..the halfling thief never did cross my mind. A bit of "poetic license" on my part to sensationalize my blog post.

    I DID consider a halfling assassin, however...
    ; )

  3. Did someone mention my blog again? ;-)

  4. why do people insist THACO was a 2nd edition thing? It's right there in the monster indices in the back of the DMG. I was just reading a 1st edition module ("all that glitters" from 1984) which clearly includes it in the stat blocks. It was there all along.

    Not trying to fight. I'm just sayin'

    (oh, and AD&D is just fine, JB. Just use the parts you like, like anything)

  5. @ IG/Heron:

    Hey, it's not MY game. I'm just learning the (rather extensive) house rules.
    : )

  6. I swear, I'll try to make it a good experience for you.