Saturday, September 7, 2013

Adventuring with the D&D 30 Day Challenge

I'm going to continue bundling my answers to the ongoing September RPG house party.  The full list of questions is here, and below is this week's crop of answers...

(7) Favorite Edition

1st edition AD&D.  I liked the Holmes basic box, but never looked back after getting those three original hardcovers.

I'm sure someone else has made the following analogy between the timing of D&D editions...
  • 1977: First basic boxed set 
  • 1980: 1st edition AD&D books hitting the market 
  • Early 80s: Newer AD&D products (UA, OA, Dragonlance) start to go downhill; seeds sown for 2nd edition. 
  • Late 90s: After some dormancy and changing of the guard, 3rd edition is a very different kettle of fish (a stinky one, if you ask me) 
  • Early-mid 2000s:  3.5 edition, 4th edition.  Not my bag, baby.
...and the timing of something else:
  • 1977: Star Wars 
  • 1980: Empire Strikes Back  (peak of quality, many say) 
  • Early 80s: Return of the Jedi.  Still okay, but Ewoks, really?
  • Late 90s: After some dormancy, Phantom Menace.
  • Early-mid 2000s:  The rest of the prequels.  "Noooooo!"
The analogy isn't perfect, of course.  (I'm not going to look for parallels between 1974's OD&D and American Graffiti!)  Looking forward, I suppose one can add to both lists:
  • 2014-2015: Yet another reboot.
I'm interested in seeing what both of those are all about, but I'm not holding my breath.  :-)

(8) Favorite Character You Have Played

There were two:  a human fighter named Arwold Archmalios, and a human cleric named Ingomer Lakhshmin.  The hodge-podge of names from different cultural backgrounds made (somewhat) more sense in the context of the Atlantis-like continent of their birth.

Arwold didn't have too many distinguishing personality traits, and was probably more a throwback to the featureless player stand-in PCs of late 70s OD&D.  He did carry around a sawed-off bardiche (which was usually a long pole topped by a curvy metal axe) that I managed to convince everyone did just as much damage as a full bardiche but could be wielded as easily as a sword.  My mental image of red-bearded Arwold was staring back at me from my AD&D Dungeon Master's Screen...

Ingomer's first adventure was L1: The Secret of Bone Hill, which contained the "Church of the Big Gamble."  The priests there were into randomness and worshiping the gods of chance and fortune.  I got the idea that Ingomer would be enthralled by this concept, and I searched through the Deities & Demigods book until I found Xochipilli, the Aztec god of gambling and chance, to be his patron deity.  That also was a decent fit for my crazy Atlantis-like continent!  :-)

They both made it up to something around 15th level before retiring and passing on the baton to the next generation.

(9) Favorite Character You Haven't Played

Ummm... not sure I understand this one.  Unless the questioner is talking about licensed properties (like playing Harry Potter or Gandalf), the characters don't exist until you create them.  Even at that point, they're just a few numbers on a page.  You've got to run them around for a while, and let them grow into themselves.

Now, as a DM, I might look forward to "playing" the roles of a few unused NPCs that I've come up with over the years.  Gotta have good villains!  I've got a great voice picked out for Manannan of Montfort, for example.

(10) Craziest Thing That Happened [in an RPG adventure]

The square brackets above clarify my interpretation of this question.  I might get people in trouble if I were to answer that more broadly!

Thing is, this all was 30 years ago.  I remember some crazy-fun D&D sessions.  There was a time when some really innovative thinking and teamwork got the party across a deadly chasm.  The success bred a kind of natural high that lasted for a couple of days (in real time, not game time!) afterward.  But I couldn't even begin to remember enough detail to bring that to life again.  :-(

(11) Favorite Adventure You Ran

At the time, the favorite adventure that I created from scratch was a high-level extra-planar extravaganza, capped by a confrontation with Orcus.  I called it "War in Heaven," and might have even had The Battle of Evermore playing in the background or something.  Too bad it was a massive railroad from start to finish.

(12) Favorite Dungeon Type / Location

My friends and I started out with many a bog-standard "dungeon crawl," so when I got into DMing, I always tried to stretch beyond that.  The few times I started new first-level groups from scratch, I led off with B3: Palace of the Silver Princess.  I suppose it's an above-ground dungeon crawl, but there's less of a problem in trying to justify the existence of a large semi-abandoned mansion than there is explaining why there's a multi-level underground ecosystem filled with monsters and treasure.  :-)

Thinking back, I guess I did tend to prefer adventures with some component set in houses or castles.  That part felt like an open-ended game of Clue!  The Clockwork Mage was kind of like that, too.

(13) Favorite Trap / Puzzle

I don't think I excelled at crafting these kind of mind-frack exercises.  I do remember once inflicting this quite sadistic, but ultimately harmless "trap" (from Dragon magazine #35) on my friends:

Should be readable if you right-click it into a new window

They forgave me.  :-)


  1. A D&D book you might find interesting -

    "Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It," by David M. Ewalt

    1. Thanks, Laoch! I've seen it discussed here and there, but I never really gave it much attention. I'll have to. Another recent "historical" work, probably more down in the weeds than Ewalt's, is Jon Peterson's Playing at the World. (Peterson also has a pretty cool blog.)

  2. The Star Wars parallels confirm a comment I left somewhere about time periods. Of course, it's easy to detect (construct?) patterns in hindsight, right?

    (I'm gonna go with detect ...)

    1. Yeah, it's most probably apophenia, molded by a bit of extra making-the-shoe-fit in my fuzzy descriptions of the time periods. Still, I can't be the first to have noticed this overall overlap. :-)

  3. Love the Star Wars/D&D parallels! Late '70s/early '80s was prime time for us geeks.

    1. Thanks! I'm sure I must have absorbed the idea for this from somewhere, but I can't recall where.