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[AD&D to D&D 3.5] A great 10 years of gaming

Started by Masada, June 28, 2005, 08:35:42 PM

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After poking around in this forum, I felt like sharing by experiences with my favorite game group, some ideas why this group worked so well and a 'where are we now' summary.

In about 1991 I met a couple of guys that played in their basement.  They were in their 30's and had being playing since 1970.  The current campaign had been running for years.  The original group had been four members; a Mage, a Fighter, a Druid and the DM.  One member had dropped out before I met them (the Druid) and a second was a rare show (the Fighter).  I started playing in the group as a Psion.  The rules were new at the time and the DM wanted to see them in action.  The Mage was 16th level and I started at 1st.  This was all under the Advanced D&D 2nd Ed rules.

From the first session it was gold.  I loved it and played religiously with these guys every weekend (Saturday) for 5 years.  The Fighter came back to play regularly and the 3 of us played the same campaign the whole time.  I never caught up with them in levels, but never minded.  We ran the campaign to the "end of the world" and then started over with a Planar campaign for a while.  When 3.0 came out we started an entirely new campaign.  By this time we slowed our play time to once every other week or once a month.  3.5 forced a re-write but did not derail the campaign.  Throughout, we kept the same DM.

I have played with many groups since, but not as good as this group.  I also have maintained my friendships with these guys to this day even though I have moved 200 miles away.  I moved about 7 years ago, the group still plays about once a month--or at least did, until World of Warcraft!

Okay... what made this group successful?

When I started, I didn't know these guys at all.  But after the 1st year, they were my best friends.  Many groups form and fall.  But I think the key is really being able to play with *friends* not just gamers.  This means you do stuff together other than game.  In our case, we held parties at the regular times, we shared some babysitting, we helped each other move and once a year we went to a Ren-Fest in costume en masse.  Good times...

The DM is amazing.  Easily the most creative human being I know.  He was smart, but not arrogant.  He could run things on the fly that you would have swore were scripted.  He had a knack for tracking his NPC's by attitude, motivation and goals rather than by script.  This kept the world fluid and adaptable.  We never felt like we were on a rail.  He also provided numerous personal side-adventures to each player.  Everyone had a couple of secrets that made the group dynamic fun.  The world, after years of play, was large, detailed and rich.  It was almost like carrying around another history in your head.

Players never (seriously) undermined other players.  We joked... a lot... but we never ruined another players game.  We were generally considered the good guys, but sometimes that was a little gray.  We were not the "goodie-goodies".

Combat was featured, but not always prevalent.  He also had a knack for creating really challenging combats.  Death was common, but not silly.

So where are we now?

Well everyone had a family before, so that didn't really change.  The Fighter and the Mage pretty much dropped out all together, but we added a couple of new players.  We're all good friends.

Being widely scattered we don't play as often.  But World of Warcraft has allowed us to play together again regularly.  That gives all of us enough of a fix to make the table game even more irregular.

Other factors to the failing of the group...

Interpersonal dynamic was key.  Two players were out right banned from the group (not any of the originals).  This was really hard on us.  We didn't like doing it, but the two in question just could not avoid being jerky and often pushed too far when interferring with other players.  They also were not folks you wanted to hang out with even out of game.

A third player had a really hot temper.  We still play with him today, but it detracts from the fun factor greatly.  He would often take game play waaay too seriously and be personally offended when someone in the group did something stupid (even if it was in character).  Now that I've moved away the DM often only has the option to play with this player and one other player.  He's never said anything, but I know he often considers playing not worth it unless he can rope in one more of his better players.  The hot tempered guy is also not the best liked outside the game (lacks social skills... duh).


Hi there.

This kind of experience is more common than you might suppose. That's a good thing: it shows that human beings are deeply, richly creative. But without it D&D wouldn't be what it is.

So can you name some particular interactions that really exemplified what the game was all about for you?

One other thing. This

QuoteThey were in their 30's and had being playing since 1970. The current campaign had been running for years. The original group had been four members; a Mage, a Fighter, a Druid and the DM.

is nonsense. Not even Dave Arneson was playing in 1970. Maybe you mean 1980? Druids likewise didn't exist until Eldritch Wizardry or the Strategic Review (too much gin so I forgot which).

But anyway. I think there's still something to be understood on a deep level about the bonding that goes on in some (by no means all) D&D groups, especially pre-3e editions (that's not a knock). I experienced that and it's shaped my whole subsequent life but I don't understand it; some designers here didn't experience it and their experience is almost as deeply shaped by their frustrations with older versions of D&D. So getting to the bottom of what's good and bad about this kind of social communion could be very useful IMO.


Perhaps "1970's" would be more accurate. I think the DM got a hold of the 1974 edition.  Regardless I didn't start playing until much much later (being only 4 in 1974).

The social dynamic was the most key (imo).  I didn't know them well when I started playing.  But once I did start playing, I got invited to their parties and was immediately welcomed in to their fold.  It was almost like a brotherhood after a few years.  I still think of it that way today.  We knew each other outside of the game.  In a way I think it gave us ambition to try riskier action in real life. Not like dungeon delving, but just more ambition at work or in taking on a new path.

The 2nd most significant factor was the persistant DM.  After a few game sessions you felt you had an entire history in your head.  Nations, monarchs, freed peoples, wars, lost battles and enemies too numerous to count.  The DM had an uncanny knack of incorporating the wild tangents a group of 4 players will come up with and weaving them in to the story.  In addition he came up with some fantastic game ideas.  He kept magic item rare and resources controlled.  Even when we were hitting 18th level in 2nd ed we were still only small time kings.  We had a host of allies that needed us and another plateau of power we couldn't touch.  It kept you always reaching.

The DM also would throw completely impossible situations at us.  In one combat, deep below a very challenging dungeon we encountered a guardian that we could not damage physically and was immune to magic.  I was ready to toss it in and slog back through the dungeon.  But the mage got a wicked look.  We only needed to get the key the guardian protected.  He used Dig to drop the creature (and the key) in to a hole.  The Fighter and the Mage dived in to grapple the critter for the key.  Each attack from the critter was save or die.  Miraculously the Mage survived a full 5 saves in a row.  The weird thing about our games is that (at least in my memory now) we always pulled off the completely impossible.  The DM banned at least 3 of the Mage's dice...

In order to run a long game, you have to use every tool in the box.  Puzzles, riddles, combat, magic, dungeons, diplomacy, sneaking and luck.  No mission was the same in 10 years.

I think in recent years we've seen a great evolution of the "Geek".  For years we wouldn't mention to "outsiders" that we (fully grown adults) were playing a game every Saturday for 10 hours at a whack.  Since all this occurred in Nebraska, the techno-geek scene wasn't even in full swing in 1992.  Even now I think most of my peers at work would cock an eyebrow at serious RPG play.  I think the bonding that occurs is part of this "us" and "them" dynamic.