Back around 1983, I was 10 years old, living in San Antonio, Texas. One Spring afternoon, rummaging around on a shelf in the workshop I found a box I recognized and had not seen in a couple of years. It was a box with a dragon on a pile of gold treasure, a wizard and an armored figure with a bow at the ready to fire on the dragon. It was the beginning of an obsession with a game called Dungeons & Dragons that lasted for 10 years.
It was the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Box Set by Gary Gygax that first lured me in, and I was hooked as soon as I learned how the game worked. It took me weeks to figure out the game by myself, and I got a lot of it wrong, but I remember the thrill of teaching my friends to play, DMing on the fly and all of us writing our own stories of heroic adventure.
Later, after we moved to Tucson I taught a couple of friends, who knew a few who already played, and soon we had a group of 5 people who I spent a few amazing summers Dungeon Mastering for, conquering the Temple Of Elemental Evil and building an epic fantasy tale across the World of Greyhawk.
Yes, things were good. Until one day there was a terrible rumbling across the lands. The king had left his throne, the kingdom was threatened with a terrible realization: TSR, the company that had published the game and all of the myriad officially printed supplemental resources for it, was releasing a 2nd Edition of the game.
“What?! Why?!?” We never got the answer. I’m sure for many, it was a minor hiccup. It ended that group of gamers for me. As one by one, each player took the plunge and got the 2nd Ed Players Handbook and made the switch, they found and/or made other DMs/campaigns. I wasn’t able, or willing, to replace the hundreds of dollars of books I had managed to beg my parents for and mow lawns and babysit kids to save up to buy. I wouldn’t do it, especially when it looked to me like a rather convenient way for TSR to make a ton of money selling me a game I’d already bought and a watered down version at that. (Really, no more demons or devils or playable evil characters? Screw that, I’m not buying on general principles at that point.)
I gave up playing DnD, rode my skateboard more and got into art.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. But it means an eon has gone by in the gaming world. The game I know and loved doesn’t really exist in its original form anywhere at all now, but there is this new game out there called Pathfinder that I just heard about.
APalm and I have now played 2 sessions, not including character creation session, with a mixed group of brand new players, younger players who learned Adventure Role Playing Games post-1990 and even one other returning old-school AD&D gamer like me.
I have to say, so far so good! I like the mechanics, that seems mostly the same minus the old thac0 rules. The combat is quite similar and with good options built-in like the Rogues sneak attack ability. I can definitely feel the difference in the combat flow when these things are official and not a collection of ad-hoc house-rules passed around from gamer to gamer or taken from magazine articles.
I’m still too green at it to really give a decent review, but I certainly will very soon!
Getting to play with some vintage Ral Partha mini figs, a hand-me-down from another players’ father that she has graciously allowed the group to use, is really awesome. The sad state of the miniature market these days is, I’m told, a function of poor demand. After scouring two local hobby gaming stores for a simple halfling rogue with no results, we were able to order mini figs for Angie and me directly out of the catalog. I learn from the store’s ordering catalog that the manufacturer makes exactly 2 halflings. That’s correct, 2; one male and one female. Hope that covers whatever halfling character or NPC you’ll ever see.
What the hell happened? It seems the splintering of the Fantasy Role Playing Game world into multiple, redundant games has the side effect of fracturing the market so much that figures are now game-specific. (And Pathfinder, even though they make figures, only seem to make figures of a couple of iconic character illustrations from their books. Not sure what the reason for this bizarre fact is.) So, the mini fig market is dead and without demand, it won’t change. This makes me a bit sad.
But, I’m more than a little excited to finally be chucking the d20 for initiative, making saves and creating living stories. That’s what I always loved about FRPGs; living a fantasy story and bringing it to life through shared imagination. It’s a wonderful thing!