Thursday, June 5, 2008

Never Trust your Friends

Back in my formative years in the RPG hobby, my group was compose of old-timers (who had started with those weird little brown booklets...) and kids. The kids were called munchkins (or, more commonly, munchies) and were given no respect until they had earned it. They did so by playing their character well and not ticking off the old-timers at the table.

I was 20 or 21 or so when I joined the group, and still had my crew cut from when I'd tried to join the National Guard (but they wouldn't take me; too nearsighted). So I didn't look like a kid. In the world of D&D, remember, I was a babe in the woods. But they gave me the benefit of the doubt, so I was accepted as an adult. (It helped that I could sit still, pay attention, and not interrupt...)

Now, these old-timers knew way much more about everything to do with roleplaying than I did; although I owned a few games* I had never actually played any of them. So I took what they said as gospel.

They didn't use the Arduin Grimoire; that was some way-out stuff. So I didn't even bother looking at it.

And they wouldn't play Tunnels & Trolls; it was "just a cheap knockoff of D&D". So I didn't even look at that.

Well, recently I've gotten volumes II and III of Arduin, and there's some interesting stuff. I can see why they wouldn't use it: There was a belief that if something was out there, you had to use it. If you allowed even one class from Arduin in your game, you would have to accept everybody else, with whatever outrageous twit character** they came up with. (I don't know why this was, mind you; nor was it ever explicitly stated. But the rules lawyers were all over the place...)

So I missed out on the gonzo whackiness of Arduin, and also the simplicity and ease of Tunnels & Trolls.

So I'm kinda retroactively pissed.

I got the Tunnels & Trolls boxed set of 5th edition (actually, 5.5). And I love it.

Sure, it isn't as complex as AD&D, or even D&D. But to me, that's a good thing. Throughout the book, designer Ken St. Andre keeps reminding you that you are the GM, and that you get to come up with whatever you want. Oh, and to have fun!

This was not the attitude I noticed in the D&D books. (I mean, we did have fun; it's just that we weren't specifically reminded to do so.) It's handy to have that in there for when you're digging through the rules late at night, wondering why on earth you're putting yourself through all this stuff.

Because it's fun. And because, through your efforts, others (your players) can have fun also.

[People have accused me of not growing up. Well, if growing up means not having fun anymore, than I don't wanna.]

Anyway, I'm going through a real retro renaissance here. OD&D is just the tip of the iceberg for me. I've also recently gotten Metamorphosis Alpha 1e (pdf, alas), Gamma World 1e, Champions 1e (I started on 2e...) and the original three Traveller books (I had the revised ones.)

And I'm loving it.

I want to create scenarios for each of these games, and just travel around to game stores and conventions with my big bad bag of old school goodness, ready to run a game at the drop of a hat. I'm not sure if that's feasible, but I can dream, can't I?

Anyway, to get back to the subject of this post: Never trust your friends. That is, when you can check it out for yourself. (Though there are some things you can trust your friends on; I wish I'd listened to them when a certain female came along...)

_ _ _ _ _ _
* Specifically: The Fantasy Trip, Top Secret, Traveller, and the Basic and Expert D&D Rulebooks (Moldvay/Cook editions)

** That group's particular terminology for a game breaker, something that shouldn't be allowed or was too overpowered. A 15th level Wizard in a 3rd level game, for instance. Or any Wizard that was proficient with and carried a vorpal sword. That sort of thing.


Max said...

"I want to create scenarios for each of these games, and just travel around to game stores and conventions with my big bad bag of old school goodness, ready to run a game at the drop of a hat. I'm not sure if that's feasible, but I can dream, can't I?"

Have Dice Will Travel? Sounds good to me!

Jeff Rients said...

max, coffee: In all serious I've been chewing over something similar for the last few weeks. Basically adopting a state of perpetual readiness, so that if someone wants to play a game I can make that happen as close to instantly as possible.

Will Douglas said...

What gets me is how thin these old rulebooks are. I could easily carry Metamorphosis Alpha, Top Secret, Gamma World, Tunnels & Trolls, and OD&D around in one backpack. Along with adventures for each. Compare that with a "reasonable" assortment of books for 3.5 and you realize that the sky's the limit...

Max said...

Indeed. Even AD&D weighs 4-5 pounds!

And in this era of pdf's and retro clones, you needn't even carry the books, just a trusty laptop.

(n.b. I like books better!)

Max said...

Another thought: All these restless GMs, and here I am without a rocket car. Aren't we supposed to be living in the future?

Will Douglas said...

Well, Max, that's a problem. If we were willing to "move with the times", we'd be able to play 4e online. They're setting it up that way.

So, I guess we can live in the past, or live in the future. But we can't live in the past in the future (if you take my meaning...)