I was never really into D&D. I’ve played roleplaying games for years, apart from a hiatus that started a few years back as our family grew and I had to concentrate on work and school and other adult things. I recently got back into playing roleplaying games when I found some guys local at the university I was going to be attending to finish my degree. I started playing with them, and they were playing D&D 3.5, so I started playing D&D.
This wasn’t my first experience with D&D. In fact, my very first roleplaying game ever happened to be a game of red box Basic D&D back almost 30 years ago; a friend told me there was this cool game that I should play with him and friend of his. I had no idea what the hell I was doing during the game. All I knew was that there was a dragon that wanted us to do something and would reward us quite handsomely. One adventure, and after that, I never got back to roleplaying games until I hit secondary school and a friend there re-introduced me back into the games when I was 14 years old. Knowing that I loved the magazine 2000 A.D. and Judge Dredd, he invited me to a game his neighbor and friend was running. It was Games Workshop’s Judge Dredd, and after I sentenced my first perps and fired my Lawgiver using rubber ricochet bullets around corners, I was hooked on roleplaying
I never touched D&D again, although I played many other games and systems. My fantasy system of choice was Rolemaster. I was a fan of the critical tables and the Shadow World setting, and ran a huge campaign that played almost every weekend for two years. This was during my golden years of gaming, when I had no other responsibilities. To say that I was heavily invested in roleplaying is kinda like saying the sun is a kinda hot ball of gas. I ended up playing lots of other systems, but our firm favorites within my main group was Judge Dredd, Star Wars, Warhammer and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I eventually founded a Saturday gaming club and then had two groups to play with. Rifts, Shadowrun, Werewolf, Earthdawn and all manner of other games were bought and played. I played games almost half of the week, and almost all of the weekend. My parents were fine with it, although I’ve never really asked them why, but I’ll bet it has something to with being harmless in light of other activities I could have been up to.
We didn’t play D&D. Other guys played D&D. At the other club that ran on Sundays where we went to game, we’d see up to a dozen people around a table with square paper maps and miniatures out, all moving them around and taking forever to get anything done. We didn’t want to be involved with those guys. That wasn’t how we gamed. We did it all in our head, and it was much faster, better and more involved than using miniatures. If we ever did use miniatures, it was for playing Warhammer Fantasy Battle or 40k. There were a couple of rare occasions where we used them for Judge Dredd and Star Wars game. But miniatures weren’t needed to play, and as we were young and had little money, we didn’t really get into them as much as an aid to play. Eventually life as an adult got in the way, I started having jobs and girlfriends, and roleplaying fell by the wayside. I kept my books, even bringing them across the Atlantic when I emigrated to America with my wife and baby daughter in 1999.
Skip forward to the end of last year and these guys at Ohio State are playing D&D and invite me to play with them. I had picked up the core 3.0 books cheaply along the way, but had never really used them. These guys were playing D&D so if I wanted to get back to roleplaying, I’d better as well. I read through the books, and joined in some gaming with them. These guys whet my appetite, and so I started picking up other 3.5 books on the cheap. Getting my head around a lot of the rules proved to be bothersome. I’d forgotten how much roleplaying was like being in school and studying. There’s a ton of material to read, understand, collate and make sense of, and then apply. Reading through the D&D 3rd Edition books felt like I was slogging through a 300+ level university course. Considering I was already in university, and working, with a family with three kids (who I wanted to get into roleplaying), this was a lot of extra work for me. When you’re already taking four classes at university every quarter, the last thing you want to do is take on a fifth self-imposed class, even if that class is grounded in a fantasy world.
At Christmas, I bought the core set of 4th Edition D&D game books for myself.I had no intention of buying any more of the 4e books, even although the books were very pretty. I bought these because I was curious about the system. I was playing 3.5, and there was a murderous outcry amongst long-time 3.5 players in the D&Dosphere regarding 4e and how it changed the entire system and gameplay and broke everything that they had invested time and energy and money into. Without really reading too much of 4e at that pointand understanding 3.5 deeply, I could see where they were coming from, and I sympathized. Fourth Edition seemed to be a money-grab, changing the game to be little more than a roleplaying system bolted onto a collectible miniatures system. Roles were established for player characters that seemed to limit who could do what. The games I had always played allowed anyone to play any character desired, even with template characters, and we made the group work. Now according to the latest edition of the system, players needed to fill pre-defined roles to allow for successful adventuring. Failure to do so pretty much guaranteed death for the group. It was blasphemous.
And then I actually read the books I had bought.
I completely changed my mind.