This will be my last post for the year, oddly enough, it will also be my 200th post on this blog. I was going to make this post an end of year montage of various subjects I have talked about, but about 10% of the way through writing it, I was bored to tears. So then I start writing post about my expectations for the coming year again, about 10% in, I said to my self, fuck this, no one wants to read this shit. So I put it aside and went to catch up on the various blogs I read. I found there had been a multi blog discussion about how the commercially developed RPG products were not that good, especially back in the golden age and this probably stunted how the hobby grew up. A lot of the focus was on the creativity of the modules.
I think over all they are probably right. Many of the old dungeons were not all that good if you tried to read through them, or god forbid, if you tried to run them as written. I think what they missed here is, no one ran them as written. Do an experiment, go to Dragonsfoot forum and start a thread entitled “Tell me your stories about playing in The Steading of the Hill Giant Chief (G1)” and see what comes out. What you will get a 50 or 60 stories, all of them different, even stories about the same room, will be wildly different. The modules were run by different GM’s in different levels of skill, with different players and different PC’s with different equipment. What you will realize when reading the thread is the creativity came while the module was being played. The module was just a bare bones outline of an adventure, it was the GM and the players that filled out the details and brought it to life. We don’t remember the room because there was a snake with 8 hit points in it, we remember it because this god damned fucking snake was under the old bed and when Evro walked by it, the snake bit him and the poison almost killed him. See the difference there.
The other accusation aimed at the hobby is it is too reliant on Tolkien as source material. On the surface, this is probably true as well, but again, it misses deeper issue. Players and GM’s make this stuff their own. Again, my experience in GreyHawk would be wildly different from another player who didn’t earn his RPG cred in Billings Montana in the early 80′s. I think they are also missing the contributions of other authors to the hobby, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, H.P. Lovecraft and Jack Vance, all left their mark on D&D. Not to mention all the various mythology, especially Greek and Norse which influenced us. You could probably add more to that list.
Lastly, I’d like to point out what seems really obvious to me. What these other bloggers seem to be missing is the shared experience. Shared experience is an important element in human community building. For instance, people who have been in the Army can go to a VFW anywhere in the country and feel at home. We can do this because we have similar life experiences. We all went to Basic Training, we all took craps in open stalls were another guy was farting 2 feet away, we all ate in chow halls and choked down over cooked grits and under cooked bacon, to name just a few things. This stuff is unpleasant, but it does form a shared experience that makes for a community bond that transcends generations.
While D&D does not provide the shared experience of ultimate male bonding that is open bay crappers, it does provide us with something similar. Going back to my idea of starting a Dragonsfoot thread about telling G1 stories, if you did this you would discover players bonding over the experience in the same way two old soldiers would bond over visiting the same bar in Mannheim Germany 30 years apart, these are the things that bind us together. Next week I am starting act two of my campaign. Act two is going to be the “Against the Giants” series, which includes the fore mentioned G1. These modules fit nicely into the over all plot of the campaign, but more importantly it passes the shared experience to my nephew, whom I hope one day will go to a game convention or a gamer forum and talking to others, realize he has a link to these people that transcends time and geography.
Happy New year everyone, drink, fuck and be merry, because on Monday we have to go back to work.