Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Keeping the Flame Alive

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving holiday...well, for the readers who happen to celebrate that one. Other than being sick the last week or so (been passing the holiday colds around Ye Old Family Unit this month), mine was pretty good. Not spectacular perhaps...but does it have to be? Food on one's plate, family in attendance, a minimal amount of bickering. Definitely satisfactory. Everyone should be so fortunate.

Not a lot of time to write at the moment (what else is new), but wanted to say a few words. It was my birthday this month (turned 44 this year, though I daresay I look younger, despite the hairline) and in a fit of self-indulgence I picked up a few things from my favorite game shop. A handful of books, including a full set of 2nd Edition AD&D (PHB, DMG, Monstrous Compendium...plus a couple of the 2.5 "Options" books). I've been thinking of these ones over the last year or so (I have owned them in the past), and when I saw they were available in the "used" section, I decided to splurge. More for research than nostalgia.

[though I have been feeling nostalgic lately...my birthday hit me kind of hard this year. And I had a whole "nostalgia post" teed up on the blog before I decided to have mercy on you all and the pull the plug on the thing. It was even more self-indulgent than usual]

It's been a while since I've read 2E, and while they do have some good stuff going for them (including what must be the best interior artwork of any edition...really, the overall quality of their color plates are excellent), my opinion of this particular edition has dropped even lower since reacquiring the books. I mean, for all the stuff they "clean up" they are fairly terrible at explaining how to play the f'ing game. Remember my series of posts comparing the 1st edition DMG with the 5th? Maybe not...I mean, it was two years ago.

[see here, here, here, here, and here if you're interested]

Well, 2E provides absolutely NO information on how to craft a campaign, or an adventure, or how to run a game. It's PHB provides rules (and spells) while the DMG provides supplemental rules (and magic items). But if you wanted to learn Dungeons & Dragons with only the 2nd Edition books for reference? You'd be shit out of luck. They basically tell you to find an existing group or look for a copy of the basic set (I suppose this would have been Mentzer's red box at the time). Hell, while the term "campaign" is used a couple-four times in the text, it doesn't even appear in the glossary. Like, WTF, dudes?

And yet I have it on good authority from an industry insider that 2nd edition remains one of the most popular versions of the game still selling (when it comes to "obsolete editions") right up there with 1st edition. Not because of the system, mind you, nor even nostalgia, but because of the plethora of settings that TSR published to go with 2E: Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun, Spelljammer, Planescape, Birthright, Al-Qadim, Kara-Tur, Ravenloft, etc. Even Dragonlance (first created during the era of 1st edition) had substantial setting material released with 2nd edition. For folks who enjoy these settings and who possess neither the time nor inclination to do straight conversions, 2E is the system of choice.

Mm. Sad.

I've been thinking a lot about 1st edition AD&D lately (I told you, I've been feeling nostalgic), the version I used for most of my "formative gaming years." There's a lot of cool stuff in it, especially the asymmetry of the thing. I find it's lack of balance so charming...kind of like the unfairness of life.

Mm. That's pretty sad, too.

Anyway, I was having breakfast by myself the other day at a local hipster hangout (in the Ballard neighborhood, which is plenty hipster by itself), reading through my newly acquired 2E books. The waitress...an amiable young woman in her (early) 20s asked me, politely, what I was reading. When I explained ("Dungeons & Dragons") she wanted to have a whole conversation about the game and how she wanted to learn how to play, how she had always been interested in the game, but how watching the Netflix show Stranger Things made her even more curious. Wanted to know if the game was accurately depicted in the series (as to how the game was "back in the day").

[I haven't bothered writing anything about Stranger Things on the blog as I figure any reader of mine who has access to the show will have already devoured it. Definitely my favorite Netflix offering, and I'm a fan of a LOT of their original programs]

So I gave her the discussion she was interested in and provided her with a list of games to check out and where to acquire them, including B/X and its various retroclones. I figured it was the least I could do. You know: just "keeping the flame alive." Giving the newbies the insight into the most accessible editions of the game.

Which is important. At least to me. Still. One of these days I'm going to get back into gaming and I'd like to see the ball is still rolling out there.

EDIT: Probably should have written "dice are still rolling," right?
; )