It all started in the early part of 1980. I was almost 8 years old and had just discovered fantasy books like The Hobbit, the Chronicles of Narnia, and The Prydain Chronicles. My uncle had a ton of sci-fi and fantasy books so I was always bugging him to borrow more books or watch something else from his movie collection. I still fondly remember watching Excalibur, Dune, and other similar movies with him growing up. Simply put, Uncle David was the cool uncle that every boy should have when they are growing up.
I had some friends at school – Jamie and Dan – that were interested in the same type of stuff. Dan told s about a game called Dungeons & Dragons that his older brothers introduced to him. This game sounded like something that would be perfect to satisfy our quest for more fantasy – better yet, we could make up our own stories about our own heroes. After I went over and played a session of D&D I immediately had to get my own set of the rules and tell my Uncle David about this game.
I happened to be selling GRIT newspaper subscriptions at the time and had enough reward points to redeem for a basic set; I did so and received the Moldvay Basic set a short time later. I also “informed” my Uncle David about this game only to find out that he had been playing for years already. In fact, he gave his Holmes Basic set to me at this time and would eventually give me all of his AD&D hardbacks a short time later. I *believe* that I started with the Holmes set first but it might have been the Moldvay set; either way, both are great introductions to D&D.
Once Jamie and I started playing D&D we found ourselves playing all of the time. I would spend the night at his house some weekends and then he would spend the night at mine on others. It did not take long for us to look for more options and crack open the AD&D hardbacks. At our young naive ages we assumed that more rules must mean more fun and more game so we “upgraded” to AD&D and stayed for years. (note: yes, I know that both games are great in their own right and no one needs MORE rules to have MORE fun – we were not yet 10 years old at the time.) It seemed like we were always coming up with house rules and new adventures to go on. AD&D would be our main game for quite some time. Of course, when the Mentzer version came out and then expanded the Basic rules up even higher we also started playing D&D again.
We would continue to play role-playing games all the way until we graduated high school in 1991. We would add players to the group and wound up with a total of six players. We played many other games over the years. I always seemed to want to play in the fantasy genre and would try just about anything in the genre. Some of them did not make a lasting impression but several caught the attention of the group. Two of my all time favorite games include Palladium Fantasy Role-Playing Game (1st edition) and Talislanta. (note: I pretty much skipped AD&D Second Edition all together because I felt they were trying to “de-Gygax” the game and be politically correct with some of the changes.)
After graduation many of our playing group left the area for various reasons. I was around for close to a year and then left for the Army and would stay in for 8 years. I did not play that much during those 8 years and it can pretty well be considered a gaming drought. I did try out Vampire: the Masquerade and discover Magic: the Gathering while I was at Fort Campbell, KY.
The first new products I bought in several years would be the 3E hardbacks and the Castles & Crusades systems. I was intrigued by the new rules, new company (Wizards of the Coast), the open gaming license, and the games it would spawn. I introduced my cousin Alex – son of the previously mentioned Uncle David – to the game and we started work on our campaign world, Toldara. The game world would move from 3E to 3.5E and eventually settle in the Pathfinder system. During this time I also discovered the OSR systems and became really interested in the OSR movement. I am a big fan and supporter of the movement; I even contributed a little bit by working on the Back to the Dungeon RPG system and I am currently writing an expansion to it.
I enjoy both old school and new school rpg systems so I was interested in 4E when it was released. I really feel they went out of their way to force an upgrade by drastically changing many aspects of 3E. There seemed to be a lot of shared terminology but the definition or application of many of them were altered to the point that the games were quite different from each other. Plus, the OGL was replaced with the GSL and WOTC lost more ground with me. (note: I have since amassed quite a collection of 4E material due to one of my co-workers being so dissatisfied with the system that he is selling it on the cheap; the price is “right” for sure!)
I am waiting on the release of 5E with great interest. I like what I have seen from the play test documents so far. The current fantasy games that have caught my attention include the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, Swords & Wizardry: Complete, and the Perilous Journeys game. DCC feels like opening up the old books back in 1980, Swords & Wizardry: Complete feels like the mish-mash of AD&D and Basic that we used to play, and Perilous Journeys captures the feel and quick play of early D&D in a simple to use percentile-based system.