Tuesday, November 20, 2012

This is the story of how we died.

When Gary and Dave sat down and designed Dungeons & Dragons they certainly had one thing in mind.  That it should be a social game.  It should be a time when friends got together and talked and had a good time.  Then after the game they could talk about the game they had or share in other games.  The cirlces were small back then in the Dawn Age; everyone knew everyone or were at least separated only by a person or two.

My degree of separation between me and Gygax is 1. The cousin of my regular DM ran us through an OD&D game one summer in 87.  He (whose name was also Gary) had played some games with Gary Gygax back in the day.   He told us we were playing "just like Gary did".   Outside of some email communication with Gary Gygax in the late 90s and meeting him once at what would be his last Gen Con, that is the closest I ever got.  

I am a member of what I like to call the Second Generation of Gamers.  I began in 1979 but did not really get into it until 1980-81.  I didn't learn at the feet of Masters.  I learned mostly on my own and with other kids who had done the same.  We may have known someone that knew someone that had gamed with Gygax or Arneson, but none of us had.

For argument sake I call the First Generation those that were the Masters or learned directly from them.  The first gen gets fuzzy when dealing with people that learned from people that learned from the Masters.  These are not static categories in my mind.

Presently I am commenting of one of James' latest posts on learning to DM/GM from the pre-made modules.  (for the record I give James the benefit of the doubt of being First Gen even if he is the same age as me, started about the same time and is by his own admission more of my Second Generation ).   He dislikes   (maybe too strong of a word) the older modules as DM/GM tools.  I love them.

I love my home-brew adventures as much as the next guy/gal loves his/her own.  Though there is one thing that was never discussed back then that is fairly evident now.  Running or playing those old adventures has given us all shared community.  My readers/players or you and your player or people I run into at Cons more than likely did not play at my game table back in 83.  But we can all talk about heading to the Cave of Chaos or the Barrier Peaks. We can all share stories of how we died in the Tomb of Horrors or the Forgotten Temples or Cities or even Realms.  Is has been those shared experiences that have helped shape the culture of the game we all play.  

It is an extension of the social circle that guys named Gary or Dave probably never thought of.

We can all share common stories thanks to these old modules. Share what we did, how we did it.  How the characters achieved greatness and how they died.  When I mention the Owlbear in the cave at the Caves of Chaos in B2 I could get dozens of stories from you all.  I can ask did  anyone ever shout "Bree Yark!" at the goblins?  I can ask did you ever defeat Strahd.

When I was at Gen Con this past August I ran my boys through Module B1 using a mix (of course!) of D&D Basic and AD&D rules.  We played for about 4 hours each night.  I would say only about 2.5 hours were actual play time.  The other 1.5 was devoted to people walking by to tell my kids how much fun they were going to have and how awesome the adventure was.  I didn't mind. Quite the opposite in fact, I loved it.  They loved it.  They had the feeling they were about to experience something special, something that others had gone through when they were kids.  I even joked with them in the adventure  that the place had looked like it had seen hundreds of people go through the corridors over the last 30 years.

One day, maybe very soon, they will be at Gen Con or Gary Con or something else and they will say "You know I almost died in the Caves of Chaos" and someone, of same age between 100 and 10 will say "yeah! Me too!".


Black Vulmea said...

As much as it pains me to say it, I have to agree with JM on this one.

Sure, it's fun to talk about the moat house and the steading and the vault, but the importance of most of the modules I owned were in how they affected my homebrew game-world at the time. I played or ran a number of the early modules, but I owned several others than I never ran - the first Saltmarsh, the first two Slavers - and many, many more I never read or played - Tomb of Horrors, Tharzidun, those desert ones, Ravenloft, and lots more.

My sense of community comes from someplace different, I suppose. I'm much more interested in what gamers are doing now than what they did thirty years ago.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

I would find it very boring to blog if everyone agreed with everything I had to say!

Black Vulmea said...

I agree . . . d'oh!

Anthony Simeone said...

I agree with your sentiment that those modules give gamers potential shared experience, and I love it! I love that those old modules never really get old, because they come to life again every time someone runs them. They are time travel and telepathy amongst gamers. Should we be enslaved to modules and treat them as the gold standard of how to run campaigns? No. Ideally they should be examples for us to learn how adventures can be structured, and then we move on to creating our own "modules." A mature gamer knows not to depend too much on the exact letter of the law laid out in a module. Mature gamers know that they are meant to be expanded upon, instead of being a railroad for players.

I wrote a blog post that touched on this earlier this year:


Anthony Simeone said...

Oh, and by the way, I maybe used one or two modules during all the years I played D&D as a youth. It's only now that I've really learned about all the old D&D modules, within the last few years during my current return to D&D/roleplaying. Despite my younger self's lack of interest in using modules (and my younger self's lack of money to buy said modules), I enjoy reading and using modules and, as I said, definitely appreciate where you are coming from in this post.

Stelios V. Perdios said...

This is exactly why I think I grew up in the d20 Dark Ages and why the Dark Ages continue. That shared experience, from what I can tell, is absent from much of the post-1989 crowd, given that AD&D 2e and later editions are not known for their modules. Yes, there are some good modules out there, but they'll never bind another generation of D&D players like the modules of the Golden Age.

I'll expound upon these idea further in an upcoming post: