Let’s do a stupid Dungeons and Dragons thing I found on Facebook.

I’m not normally one to participate in posts that list off a bunch of questions for you to answer and then peer pressure all your friends into doing the same. In part because they’re often a sneaky way to get you to reveal personal info that could be used to try and answer security questions and in part because most of them are stupid. This one is also stupid, but I don’t think any of the answers can be effectively used for nefarious things. So what hell, let’s give in to the pressure and do a…

Yes, I still have copies of my original Advanced Dungeons and Dragons books. Along with a number of filled out character sheets for both my own and other’s PCs.

D&D Meme!

  • What was your first D&D character?
Click for full image.

Fuck if I can remember. We’re talking almost 40 years ago. It was probably a human fighter because that’s about as basic as you can get and a good starting point when you’re just learning the ropes.

Wait, I still have a folder around here with some of the character sheets from back then. Both for myself and for other players when I ran games. I wonder if…

Holy shit! I do have it! Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you from all the way back on March 1st, 1983, what may very well be the very first AD&D character I ever played. A human Chaotic Evil Magic User named Bendor! Apparently, I jumped in on the deep end.

According to the sheet, he was level 9 so I didn’t play him for long. Considering Magic Users get a d4 for hit points and Bendor here has 35, I either rolled really well or the DM took pity on me. There are a couple possibilities for who DMed my first game, but I’m not positive on which one it would’ve been.

All of this is assuming that the Number 1 on the sheet is accurate. Based on the math, I was 16-years-old when I started playing. Could’ve sworn it was earlier than that, but thinking on it this makes sense as I joined the D&D Club at Pontiac Central High School that year in an attempt to do more extra-curricular stuff. For reasons I still don’t understand, I was made President of the club that year too. The next year I’d be at Lake Orion for my final year of high school.

  • Which D&D class is your least favorite to play, or do you not want to play?

I never got the hang of Bards. It didn’t help that they were considered a supplemental class under AD&D rules and many DMs just didn’t allow them. You have to go all the way to the back of the Players Handbook to find them under Appendix II.

Bards were a pain in the ass.

It very well might be that I just wasn’t literally charismatic enough to play one, but I remember it being a confusing process. I thought there had been revised rules for them in the Unearthed Arcana book that came out in 1985, but I just checked and didn’t see anything. I didn’t think I had any Bard characters in my collection but it turns out I do still have a sheet with my one attempt at a Bard on it. He was level 7. Looking at it I’m not sure we were doing it correctly.

  • What D&D spell would you most want to have in real life?

That’s a good question. There’s a lot to choose from even in just the original Player’s Handbook. There’s the classic Magic User — I forgot the class was called that — level 9 spells of Wish and Time Stop that have obvious possibilities. The Cleric’s 6th level Heal or 7th level Resurrection would be handy.

However, I’d probably go with 9th level Magic User spell Shape Change. If nothing else, for the pure amusement factor alone. Though I can think of a number of ways it could be useful.

Nasty buggers.
  • What’s your favorite D&D monster?

As a player? The dragons, of course. Once you reached a certain level, they were laughably easy to deal with and always profitable. Whether you’re talking about the dragon’s hoard or about selling off the dragon itself. Not to mention that subdued dragons can be ridden! Who the hell doesn’t want their own dragon to fly around on?

As a DM? Probably the Lich. They were always good for putting the fear of… well, of a Lich in the players. Literally if they were lower than level 5.

This is if we’re only considering the original Monster Manual. The choice becomes a lot harder if we include the Fiend Folio in the equation.

  • What’s your favorite NPC/villain that you’ve encountered/created?

Drawing a blank on this one. It’s been a long time since the heyday of getting together with my friends and playing for a ridiculous amount of time on a Saturday. If we were including games other than Dungeons & Dragons that I’ve played then I can think of a couple of villains I made for the Champions superhero RPG that I loved playing. Also, I enjoyed the hell out of playing The Computer in Paranoia. D&D though? Can’t recall anything about the modules we ran other than hazy details. I have a few laying around here.

I wasn’t kidding. Yes, that is an official World of Greyhawk fantasy setting along with White Plume Mountain and the Tomb of Horrors.
  • Has one of your characters ever died, and what killed them?

Of course! Several of my characters died. Usually from something stupid I’d done. Traps, monsters, angry NPCs. You name it. Trying to run through the Tomb of Horrors module was always a good way to lose a character. We did finally make it through on a third or fourth attempt. Most of us anyway. ToH was a favorite to pull out when PCs in a game I was running had gotten too big for their britches. That is probably my favorite module of all time both as a player and a DM.

  • What’s your best natural 20 story?

I don’t really have one. I wasn’t particularly lucky. My best friend, Bill Owen, was often ridiculously lucky with the dice. The best story I have about dice rolls isn’t from Dungeons & Dragons, but Paranoia and it was Bill, not me, that had all the luck. Again, this was almost 40 years ago. I can’t think of any particularly memorable die rolls I had.

  • What’s your best natural 1 story?

See above. Same answer. It’s been too long. Still got most of my original dice, though.

See? Wasn’t kidding about that either. Pretty sure I had more than this, but this is what hasn’t been lost over the years.
  • What’s the highest level you’ve ever played a character to?

Given that Tomb of Horrors is for characters level 10 to 14, at least level 10. Most of the XP tables for the classes don’t go beyond level 11 with Monks topping out at 17. Tables listing number of spells per level, however, went as high as level 29. There wasn’t any hard limit set, but after the mid-teens pretty much all the monsters were trivial unless the DM was bumping their stats.

That said, I found another stash of old character sheets and in it I have a level 34 Illusionist named Lis Ouslos, which was just my name with characters swapped. It was from a total Munchkin campaign. I mean, look at her stats! An illusionist with a 24 strength?

There isn’t a thing about this character that isn’t ridiculous. I have another copy where she’s “only” level 26.

You can tell I was a teenager as on the back under Distinguishing Marks I’ve written “Mole on her left breast” and under General Description there’s just one word: “Beautiful.” I think Mark Grismer is the one who ran that campaign.

  • What’s your favorite magical item?

Probably the Bag of Holding. Got a ton of shit to lug out of the dungeon you just cleared? A couple of Bags of Holding will get the job done without breaking a sweat. The Wand of Wonder was always fun for a laugh, but the Bag of Holding was near-essential gear.

  • If you had an IRL alignment, what would it be?

I’d like to think I’m Neutral Good, but if we go by one of those WHAT ALIGNMENT ARE YOU quiz things on the Internet, I’m supposedly True Neutral. Which is a surprise to me.

  • If you had to date one of your characters, which one would you pick?

What a strange question. No one specific character comes to mind.

  • Is there a character you want to play but haven’t had a chance to play yet?

I don’t think I’ve ever played a Cleric. If I were suddenly to take up AD&D again, I might give one a try. I don’t know anyone who still plays this version of Dungeons & Dragons, though. In the current version (5th edition?) it appears the number of classes has been expanded so there’d be several I’ve never tried, but would give a whirl. Oh look! Bards are considered core now.

  • Are you a dice goblin, or a dice minimalist?

Did you see that pic of my dice bag up there? What do you think? Keep in mind that I’ve lost a few over the years.

Or let’s put it this way, I still feel the itch when I see ads for shiny custom dice on the Internet even though I’ve not played a pen & paper RPG since the aborted attempt to join my friend Greg’s campaign some six or seven years ago. (I think I made it to two sessions.)

  • What rule or mechanic have you never quite wrapped your brain around?

Probably psionics. Another thing found in the Appendix before Bards. Looking over the rules now it doesn’t seem to be as much of a pain in the ass as I remember it being, but back in the day we generally didn’t make use of psionics in our games. Sometimes we did, but not often.

Which is a funny thing to say seeing as that first character sheet I shared up above shows some stats under the Psionics section with a comment that says “See notes”, but the notes section on the back has been erased.

End of the meme questions.

That’s going way back.

I could’ve saved a lot of time if I had just gone with the basic Dungeons & Dragons, which I have also played. It was so basic that Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings were listed as classes instead of races. But that’s not the first version of D&D I ever played. As I said earlier, I got a late start and AD&D had taken over the stage by the time I got in on it.

I believe I got the box set of the basic Dungeons & Dragons from my mother as a Christmas present. She didn’t realize it was an older version of the game. I sat down with a couple of friends and actually played it a couple of times, but there wasn’t a lot of source material for it.

I said that I had some character sheets from other players from games that I DMed. If you’re curious, I’ve included four examples below.

Lastly, here’s a cover to a couple more AD&D related things I owned. One being the official DUNGEON MASTERS ADVENTURE LOG which I barely used because I suck at record keeping. Still, it had some handy charts and illustrations in it. The other being the highly coveted official DUNGEON MASTERS SCREEN.

There, I’ve now spent way more time on this than it probably deserved. There’s probably a grand total of 5 people who would even have an interest in this, but I always say that if you’re going to get all nostalgic and shit then you may as well over do the fuck out of it. All images are clickable to go to their attachment pages where you can then expand them even bigger for a close look at my terrible hand writing.

“Dungeons & Dragons” co-creator Gary Gygax fails his saving throw.

And another part of my childhood passes away:

Dungeons & Dragons co-creator dies at 69 – Yahoo! News

MILWAUKEE – Gary Gygax, who co-created the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons and helped start the role-playing phenomenon, died Tuesday morning at his home in Lake Geneva. He was 69.

He had been suffering from health problems for several years, including an abdominal aneurysm, said his wife, Gail Gygax.

Gygax and Dave Arneson developed Dungeons & Dragons in 1974 using medieval characters and mythical creatures. The game known for its oddly shaped dice became a hit, particularly among teenage boys, and eventually was turned into video games, books and movies.

I’ve not played D&D for years, but I spent years in my teens and early 20’s playing it along with a host of other pen and paper RPGs. I have many fond memories of hanging out with Bill, Bob, Tom, Mark, Daryl, Dan, and Herb rolling dice and consuming vast quantities of pizza and pop and arguing over rule interpretations. Probably explains my addiction to video games like World of Warcraft which is, in many ways, a pale imitation of those older days.

And, yes, I realize the title for this entry is a really bad joke, but you know I had to use it.

Go read “DM of the Rings.”

How the hell did I ever manage to miss an excellent webcomic like DM of the Rings? I only found out about it today and today is when the author is ending the strip to start a new project. ***Dave knew about it and I’m sure he probably mentioned it at some point and I somehow managed to completely overlook it.

Well, on the plus side, at least I can read the whole thing in a single setting without any of that pesky waiting for the next installment crap. The first comic is here so go there and start reading.

What? You wanna know what it’s about? Trust me, just go read it. What? Oh alright. It’s what you’d get if a traditional Dungeon and Dragons dungeon master had cooked up Lord of the Rings as a campaign for his adventurers rather than it being a much-loved fantasy trilogy. It uses screen captures from the films and is a parody of both the movies and what a traditional gaming campaign is like. If you are at all familiar with either the movies or RPG gaming then you’ll love it.

Plus you can read it all at once without having to wait for new installments.

“Dungeons and Dragon’s Fourth Edition” due early next year.

I don’t play pen and paper role playing games much these days, but I used to be quite into them during my teenage years and like a lot of gamers I cut my teeth on the venerable Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game. Countless were the hours that our group of friends spent gathered around a table with our books arguing over rules and tossing various polyhedral dice around. We had moved on to other RPGs by the time the second edition came out, but some of us took the time to play it and when third edition came out several of my friends bought the rule books out of tradition more so than any real desire to play the game, though the release of Neverwinter Nights did provide some justification. A couple of years back I finally broke down and bought the 3.5 edition core rule books on a lark, but only managed to play one session with them.

Nostalgia tends to grow stronger the older you get, however, so it was intriguing to hear that Wizards of the Coast has just announced a brand new Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition set to release in May of next year:

The 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons game includes elements familiar to current D&D players, including illustrated rulebooks and pre-painted plastic miniatures. Also releasing next year will be new web-based tools and online community forums through the brand-new Dungeons & Dragons Insider (D&D Insider) digital offering. D&D Insider lowers the barriers of entry for new players while simultaneously offering the depth of play that appeals to veteran players.

The 4th Edition rules emphasize faster game play, offer exciting new character options, and reduce the amount of “prep time” needed to run the game. D&D Insider includes a character creator that lets players design and equip their D&D characters, dungeon- and adventure-building tools for Dungeon Masters, online magazine content, and a digital game table that lets you play 24/7 on the internet — the perfect option for anyone who can’t find time to get together.

“We’ve been gathering player feedback for eight years,” said Bill Slavicsek, R&D Director of Roleplaying and Miniatures Games at Wizards of the Coast. “Fourth Edition streamlines parts of the D&D game that are too complex, while enhancing the overall play experience. At its heart, it’s still a tabletop game experience. However, D&D Insider makes it easier for players to create characters, run their games, and interact with the rest of the D&D community.”

I’ve been reading various write ups on the announcement from around the web and it appears that the new version is taking some ideas from the ever popular would of video game RPGs such as Diablo II and World of Warcraft. The folks at Wizards of the Coast have some video clips up demonstrating how the new online tools they’re developing for 4th edition will work including the character generator (it looks a lot like making a character for a MMORPG), the Digital Game Table, and so on.

The DGT is particularly interesting to me as one of the problems we had as our gaming group grew older and had to get jobs in the real world was simply finding time to gather at someone’s house to play on a regular basis. As it stands now the group of guys I used to game with are split up all over the place with several of them living in other states. The idea of a Digital Game Table that could be played online using voice chat is exactly the solution we longed for years ago. Though we did have a good time with Neverwinter Nights for awhile, it wasn’t a full pen and paper experience which is what the new tools for 4th edition appear to be trying to create.

I doubt I’ll be picking up the 4th edition rulebooks anytime soon, but it’s still cool to see something I used to spend hours enjoying still out there for new generations to enjoy. If I were to run a game these days it’s more likely to be Paranoia than Dungeons and Dragons simply because it would take less time and effort to set up and run, but this does make me long for the long nights of pizza eating and dice rolling of my youth where many a troll met a grisly fate and more than a few dragons wondered where their treasures got off to.