Monday, June 15, 2009

Alejandro (Part 1)

It was difficult considering a title for this post...I thought about, "And Now...Blackrazor," but that seemed a bit redundant.  I think I've decided on simply breaking this post into several entries, as it might get even more long-winded than my usual ones (and that's saying something).

In actuality it's hard to know where to start, except with Alejandro. The MIGHTY Alejandro, one might call him, though I'm not sure it was intended that he start out that way.  Certainly other characters from my original campaigns stand out with much more clarity than Al (Big Al, I might call him in this post, though we never referred to him as such at the time).

Yeah, other characters had more personality, more personal history, deeper ties to the campaign.  Even my brother's barbarian character, "Bork," remains larger in my mind, and he didn't last more than half an adventure before being killed by a fellow player character (, as it so happens, acting as a player rather than DM).  But I think we we went on to raise good ol' Bork.  I'm not sure such would ever have happened to Alejandro.

Whatever happened in the end to Al, I don't remember, though probably his character sheet lies abandoned in some stack of papers I've yet to unpack, fading remains of the glory of a campaign that long since trickled to an end.  In its hay day, he was the man, really...we just never really took the time to give him his due.  You see, he had a very limited audience at the time.

Oh, and before I go any further, let me first explain that the reason I am writing about "Big Al" is his place in the Blackrazor mythology.  He was the only player character to ever (so far as I can recall) ever retained and wielded the sword Blackrazor in any of my campaigns.  We'll get to that.

Alejandro must have been conceived and created some time around 1987 or '88.  It was after the demise of my first and (I'll say) best gaming group, but before I'd become entrenched with a new, steady gaming group in high school, and before my parents divorce (which is to say, before we stopped making regular pilgrimages to Montana).  That's a lot to say in a short paragraph and there is a lot of elaboration there, but for a young adolescent with a lot of crazy stuff going on, suffice is to say life was certainly murky back there at the tail end of the Reagan administration.

Alejandro ran in a campaign DM'd by myself. He was the character of my younger brother.  My only brother, he had been an irregular and "bit player" in past D&D games; now with no one else stepping up, he became the prominent fixture in my gaming.  Certainly there were other players that would join us...friends of my brother (Brandon, Mike), a friend of mine from a different school (Rob), cousins (Todd, Jason). But there was never any regularity to those games, or the group that would show up on any particular weekend.

Alejandro was a human fighter.  I don't remember his alignment, but I'm guessing it was Chaotic Neutral or Neutral.  He was big and strong (not lanky) with dark curly hair and a mustache, if not a full beard.  He was actually conceived by my brother as a send-up of his buddy's tennis coach (also named Alejandro) which he thought was a pretty funny name at the time. In retrospect, I really like the name choice...Alejandro is simply "Alexander" in Spanish.  And he was quite the conquerer.

Alejandro would have several companions over his adventuring career, some NPCs and some not.  Arioch, the Evil magic-user, was conceived of by myself and remained a constant NPC from an early point; I'm not sure if he was ever slain by Al or not.  Taliesin (Rob's bard character) was eventually slain by Big Al, sacrificed to power an artifact.  A cleric, Isaiah of Hoquiam, and his lesser brother, Moses of Sequim were both one-time companions, played by our friend Brandon; Isaiah DID die eventually (the reason Moses was brought on the scene), but I don't remember what happened to MoS.  His fate is lost in the sands of time along with so many others.

In this particular campaign, I did little as far as adventure crafting or world creating.  For the most part, I simply ran adventure modules, shoe-horning them together with very little narration.  For me, this was easiest, as I had plenty going on with high school, extracurricular activities, family obligations, and teenage life....I had little time to conceive grand plots a la Dragon Lance or some Arthurian tragedy.  Which I think may be part of why this gaming period has so little that is actually memorable (besides Blackrazor, of course).  

It certainly was prolific: just off-hand I know that I ran all of the following modules for Alejandro & Co.: I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City, G1-3 Against the Giants, D1-3 Drow series (though Q1 was unavailable), I3-5 (Pharoah, Oasis of the White Palm, and Lost Tomb of Martek).  It is certainly possible that Tomb of Horrors and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, but I don't remember doing so.  S2 White Plume Mountain, of course.  And even some Boot Hill with a crossover c/o Six-guns & Sorcery from the DMG.

Don't recall the earlier modules played, though it's quite possible Alejandro began at a level higher than 1...however, his first module may very well have been N2 The Forest Oracle and/or some cobbled version of the Keep on the Borderlands.

Just looking at that list...that's a ton of gameplay there, with some serious classics in dungeon module design.  And all of these were completed, beginning to end...with the possible exception of the D series.  This is far and away different from my other experiences with running "standard" modules.  With the exception of Tomb of Horrors and White Plume Mountain, most D&D adventures aren't really suitable for a single session of game play...even a loooong session of game play.  Keeping those games organized and coordinating different players' schedules is a real challenge...and when adventures aren't going well or players aren't interested, they may skip a follow-up session. Part of what allowed us to complete so many modules is surely due Al's player being my brother and living under the same roof...I can only imagine running the same kind of campaign today with one's own children, significant other, a roommate, or next door neighbor.  Most adults simply don't have the time (nor inclination) to invest in gaming that way.

Hell, even kids don't much.  Sports in school take up sooo much time with "summer training camps" and travel times...not to mention the distractions of on-line and console gaming.  Heck, my wife and I just threw down the cash for a 42" LCD screen and blue-ray player; I should be watching 40 hours o TV every week to justify that kind of investment!  Then add up all the time people (kids to adults) spend talking or texting or emailing or twittering from their electronic devices...yow.  When does anyone have time to learn a musical instrument?

Well, anyway (sorry, lapsed into "old guy syndrome" for a moment)...I'm sure this is why some of us OS guys romanticize (I won't say "fetishize") the games of our past. It's challenging to get the same intensive gaming experience we once did.  Doesn't mean we shouldn't try...table-top gaming has a lot more plusses than networked XBoxes in my opinion.

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