Monday, June 8, 2009

End of Innocence

No, no...nothing to do with Vampire the Masquerade.

I can still remember where I was when I was first introduced to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, or very nearly anyway.  I'd been playing B/X for years, had even run a couple one-off games for older kids that were actually AD&D players (always wondered where they got that interesting blade barrier spell of those weird supplements like the Rogues Gallery, perhaps?).

Actually, I was already using the AD&D Monster Manual, but I equated "Advanced" (as printed in bold right on the front) with Expert.  And, yes, I did consider myself an "advanced" DM...hadn't I pretty much memorized the Cook expert book (a lot easier to do when it's under 70 pages long)?  

As I may have mentioned earlier, there are several pit falls inherent in being a "self-taught" Dungeon Master.

Yes, yes, I'd already encountered some crazy rules in the Monster Manual (I pretty much ignored Magic Resistance), but it just never occurred to me that I might be playing with a completely different rule set.  Until this particular module.

I may have actually already suspected that "Advanced" and "Expert" were different, but it was confirmed one day after soccer practice (must have been about 11 years old) when my friend Matt, brought me a copy of N1: Against the Cult of the Reptile God. Matt had been playing D&D with me for awhile now (we had met in Little League circa age 9 and he had moved to my school age 10).  I was the established DM of our group of friends and he wanted to know if I had this module so I could run it.

Matt was an "expert" player himself, having a Name level cleric with a good squad of devoted heavy cavalry guarding his stronghold (clerics always had it easy when it came to setting up of the few rewards for being the party healer, I suppose).  But he was no DM and no module buff.  While I was always eager to get my hands on a new module (not having a lot of ready spending money myself), I was displeased to note that the module was intended for low level characters (the N series being for "Novice," the adventure was for characters levels 2-4).  All the players in my campaign were far beyond the module specifications.

Still, I wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth, and I eagerly thumbed through the find a bunch of weird stuff in it!  Half-elves? "Long" swords? "Ring" mail?! What the hell was all this?!

The mixing of the various classes and races (some of the NPCs were elven thieves or some such) was the dead giveaway that all was not cool in my D&D world.  I was disconcerted (not having ready cash for modules, I certainly didn't have the allowance to spend on new game books), and yet thrilled at the was like a whole new gaming vista had been opened up to me; one that I truly had not known even existed.

It was shortly thereafter that I received my first DMG and my first PHB.  The first was a gift courtesy of my aunt's boyfriend(?!) who was a gamer himself, and just a generous soul.  Of course, he played 1st edition Dragon Quest, not D&D, so for him it probably wasn't much of a sacrifice.  The PHB had an illustration of Ringlerun on the cover and I got it either for my birthday or Christmas, I believe (shortly around the end of soccer season, so not too much time had passed).  Little did I know that the next four years or so would be the most intense role-playing of my young life.

We never did run N1; in fact, I never borrowed it, never finished reading it...too bad, really.  N2: The Forest Oracle was a pretty good adventure.

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