Not too long ago I posted a lament for AD&D and those halcyon days gone by. I must admit, it was written in a fit of pique at the modern gaming industry and my own dissatisfaction with the rest of the gaming world. Then I came down from my nostalgia-ridden plateau of gaming nirvana back to the cold harsh world of my current gaming activity and went back to gaming with my gaming club.
At the time I was also tinkering away at a GURPS Space campaign I hope to some day start (it takes up where the Conspiracy X timeline leaves off); and working up a Supers campaign that has come into demand due to the resurgence in popularity of Watchmen. What with the movie and all that.
Heck, I was collecting Watchmen when it first came out; back when getting a #1 issue of X-Men was still a real possibility. Am I just old or what? Anyway, So there I was tinkering away at those games, and still DMing the current demand--4e D&D and playing in an FR 4e game--I know *gag me*. And I'm gearing up to start this Supers game when half the group that was playing 4e started to defect from the club at the prospect of playing Supers. Now I have a strong ethic of a DM supporting what his players want in a game (within limits of course) and following through on a campaign to give a sense of completion and satisfaction to those experiencing it. So it was obvious to me that Supers wasn't going to happen any time soon. I was a little torqued, but relieved. As much as I contemplate running a Supers game, or a Space campaign it isn't where my heart lies.
Okay, so I'm dealing with my present less than pleasant 4e reality when I run into another situation in the FR campaign. My good-aligned Wizard is trying to take his fallen comrades back to the local city temple for a decent burial when we are followed and eventually attacked by a mysteriously large, intelligent-acting, black "dog-like" creature. We are bit, and the animal runs away as the sun rises. Okay, so I'm pretty sure this thing is a Lycan of come sort so I go into town to seek healing at the Temple or at least some wolvesbane at the town. But no, the DM foils us at every opportunity; it becomes obvious that the DM wants to turn us into werewolves! So, I confront him about it and it is also clear that he thinks this will be cool, and we will be pleased. I let him know I am most decidedly NOT pleased.
Needless to say this led to some unpleasantries between he and I and the party in general. He, the DM, argues the old saw that not all werewolves are evil, etc. etc. I say bull 4e lycans are evil and upon checking the 4e disease tables wolve's bane is worthless. I say some things I regret, nothing inappropriate mind you, just a tad judgmental and perhaps a bit mean. But you have to understand I had already told this DM about a previous campaign (2e not 4e) I was in when this very thing happened--how it was extremely frustrating dealing with a DM who didn't seem to understand the basic rules from he DMG about monster characters or lycanthropy--not to mention the spirit of the game. Then this DM turns around and does the same thing to me? How uncool is that? Is he just trying to get under my skin?
So I'm home thinking it all through, and feeling a little bit guilty for maybe being a little immature myself. So later that night I call the DM and apologize, and as I'm talking to him several things come to me. One: this is an extremely inexperienced DM. He had just spent the last session killing 6 of 10 party members in fairly butcherly fashion. He often denigrates certain players and berates their playing style. In short he's not perfect and he's learning. But aren't we all. Two: it also comes to me that the more I play the more I understand the basic nature of RPG's. I recall Gygax's book Role Playing Mastery, particularly what he has to say about the "spirit" of a game. That's one of the princial things about 4e that annoys me and what I'm annoyed at with this GM. But how do you explain that to a young DM? Could anyone have explained it to me when I was young and learning? Probably not.
So here I am contemplating all of this when I was overtaken by a sense of futility at trying to really capture what I preferred to game and expect others to simply understand it. You have to understand it through the game. So I began to feel like the best way to do it was to game it. That means DM it. So I thought--you know, I should just stick to only AD&D. That's what I like, what I do best, and the best way for me to communicate what I think gaming should be.
Yes, I'll admit there's a lot out there that is different than AD&D and a lot of people who like that they're different. They don't "want" the spirit of AD&D--they want something else. Cool. But it's hard to capture that spirit with something else. I've heard Hackmaster does it, albeit in a sort of parody, and others hail Castles and Crusades as the inheritor of AD&D. I often wonder about Lejendary Adventures that Gygax created. But I'll say that most of Gary's responses to questions about the relationship between AD&D and LA leaves him a little sad. It _seems_ given the chance he would pick up AD&D again in a heart beat; and that he is doing LA because he has no legal choice. AD&D is just off limits to him. And frankly, now, to everyone else. Because what is being marketed as D&D today surely aint.
So do I stick to AD&D? Oh, I'll probably pick up other games occasionally, and probably even GM them. But the game I'm most comfortable "mastering" is AD&D. In fact as soon as I can I'm going to run it again as my preferred and "central" game. What about the players? Well, I say build it and they will come.
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