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Monday, January 19, 2009

Halcyon I

My name is Greg Backus. I am totally in awe of the old-school revival - so surprised and happy to see what is going on. I've been lurking for a while and reading these great blogs, finding so many kindred spirits - articulate ones no less.

I started playing Melee/Wizard and (blue book)D&D when I was young (let's say 9). My older brother and his buddies would play and I would hang out and watch - mostly because my mom made him. He was genuinely a gamer and he enjoyed getting me involved too. We'd play boardgames (Milton Bradley's Midway was the shit!) and have arena battles in the Fantasy Trip. And then - In Search of the Unknown (monocolor). Greggo of the Mountains came to life. I had no idea what to do!

I Loved It!

This period probably lasted about a year. My brother (older than me by 9 years) experienced a religious conversion and ceased all gameplay. Ouch. Even burned the books in the backyard and prayed...These were the dark days of Mazes and Monsters, of conservative backlashes against freed imaginations. I was miserable at first, but soon found I could go out to the woods and fight my friends with sticks. That was fun too...but in down time, I started making games myself and checking out whatever D&D materials I could find at the library and such.

So, flash forward a few years. There was a Hallmark Card/Book shop in the dwindling mall near my house. WOW! RPG books! I'd go over after school and pore through the books until the middle aged attendants would tell me I had to leave.

One day, I decided I was going to steal a book because I couldn't buy any of them. I can't really condone theft, but this is a history, and it is something that I did then. I'll claim desperation. Honestly, though, it was something of a prediliction of mine when I was young - maybe this is an argument against the inclusion of the thief in AD&D...It was my second theft (my first, a pack of Close Encounter of the Third Kind cards was a disaster. A sucessful theft, but I couldn't wait to open the pack, so my mom noticed me in the back seat of the car and made me go back into the grocery store, return them and apologize...)

This time...SUCCESS!
Tunnels & Trolls, 5th Edition! What a haul!

What was this book doing in Hallmark? Maybe it was a franchise thing, I dunno. Different days...even with the Satanic Scare a recent event...

So, T&T became MY game. I ran my friends through free-form adventures, they developed the characters that they wanted. We'd end up playing several different games: the Dungeon boardgame, Gamma World, Toon, AD&D, Paranoia, Chill, Diplomacy, Axis & Allies, Twilight 2000, Call of Cthulhu - how about Fringeworthy! - but the main campaign was in a vague world governed remotely by Ken St. Andre. The system was so rules-light that we just did whatever we wanted to.

The next big step came with Rolemaster and MERP. It was a system a friend introduced to me, and he ran the beast too. The anthithesis of T&T? I think the argument can be made. I don't remember having fun with the game in play, I think it was more that the level of detail was so fascinating.
It's too much, in my opinion - but it certainly broadened my young perspective. I started collecting the Companions and keeping up with the game more as an academic pursuit than a play vehicle, though I did run a few adventures.

Gradually my group disbanded. The pressures and distractions of late adolescence (read: girls, music, beer and weed). I kept my books and would still think about gaming, but there were other things going on. Every once in a while I'd run some friends through one-shot AD&D adventures, but it never amounted to much. The gaming dwindled and eventually died.

I even sold my HUGE Rolemaster collection, my OD&D matierals, oh man - I don't want to catalogue the loss. It bums me out to this very day.

At least I didn't burn them...


dan said...

My early experiences with D&D were also tempered by a few run-ins with religion. Looking back, the time when I was first getting into D&D was also the time that I started to drift away from religion. I don't consider the two related, but it's interesting that things worked out that way.

kesher said...

I can think of no better way to kick-start a gaming life than lifting Tunnels & Trolls from Hallmark.

That's simply fabulous.

It's always good to read honest, thoughtful gaming reflection!