Gaming Diary – AD&D Character Death.

Gaming Diary – AD&D Character Death.

Last night was pretty crazy. We gamed at Fantasy Flight Games from 4PM till almost closing time at midnight (nearly 8 hours).

We nearly had two Total Party Kills (TPK’s) even though we had 6 players in our group managing 10 characters (old school games are tough and you need to have as many capable bodies as possible!). In the end two characters did die – a player lost their paladin, and I lost my 1st level, half-elf, cleric/fighter/magic-user.

I still have a human 2nd level magic-user, but now I need to create a second character again. In fact, I’ll be creating a third and possibly a fourth character just as a backup(s) to the other two!

I love these challenging games! I suppose for those who make modern D&D characters where they never expect the characters to die because all encounters are supposed to be “balanced,” this old school game style can be a bit jarring. But I have to say it is a real rush when you see your DM rolling on the encounter chart for the monsters as well as the number of monsters and not know what might come up! So many modern games feel like a video game where the random encounters are just “trash mobs” that you are meant to wipe away with no real threat, and if you have to worry at all it will be during the “boss fight” at the end. This makes the game too predictable, in my view, and I think it can get a bit boring. In old school games your random encounter in the woods could be a wandering dear, or ten hungry trolls – you might have a simple encounter with nature, or a total fight for your lives using everything in your backpack, saddle bags, and wagon, to desperately stay alive!

When you succeed at an encounter you feel a much stronger sense of satisfaction, and if you lose a character like I did last night, you still feel a genuine sense as if something was still accomplished. In nearly 40 years of gaming I’ve lost plenty of characters before and I can say when it was happening during the 3E era I got upset and sometimes, I think, felt a bit entitled and would think “you can’t kill my character (again!), I wrote a backstory for him and that story is unfinished!” But as I said above, the feelings are different in old school. Just hours before the game I had written up backstories for both my characters and shared them with my DM – I finally knew more about where they had come from and what they wanted to do – and hours later one of them died. But I didn’t feel that it was a waste, it was simply how life goes in a world that is filled with constant danger. Any sense of entitlement in old school games gets dispensed with quickly, for you are not a hero and not that special unless you actually manage to survive a few levels, before that you are simply a nobody with a dream and the world doesn’t bow to your will. It is a humbling but worthwhile experience.

Gaming Diary – Getting back to the “Basics”

Gaming Diary – Getting back to the “Basics”! 

My first purchased D&D product is a toss up between the AD&D Player’s Handbook and the 1983 Basic D&D red box. Sadly, in 2007, believing at the time that D&D was now forever stuck in the d20 system of 3E, I sold a lot of my classic D&D books like the red box (although I kept my AD&D PHB).

However, the Old School Renaissance is alive and well, people are going back to playing the old, classic, games, and I’ve been spending most of this year reacquiring those books – and more! – that I stupidly sold off 11 years ago.

The 1977 Basic ‘Holmes’ box (the box with the dragon sitting on a pile of gold) has clearly been in someone’s musty basment for the last 40 years. It has everything in it but the dice. On the other hand, the person included a couple Basic D&D adventures they had, as well as their 40 year-old campaign notes and characters!

The 1981 Basic ‘Moldvay’ box (the purple one with the green beast), is virtually brand new. Everything is pristine. Really nice.

The 1983 Basic ‘Mentzer’ set (the red box with the red dragon) is also in really good shape. It’s missing the original dice that came with it (blank numbers that you colored in with a crayon that was included!), however, they were nice enough to include a larger number of old-style dice as replacement (good old fashioned polyhedral dice that you could get in the 80’s and 90’s).

Finally, I have a 1994 Basic Set. This one includes cardboard cutouts, a set of dice, plastic minatures, DM screen, guidebook, plus some extra adventures, maps, handouts, and the previous owner’s campaign notes and character sheets written on graph paper.

I really did well with this! Now I can play any of the versions of Basic D&D whenever I want. Also, I plan to draw on the wonderful artwork from these books and the monsters within them for my Castles & Crusades game!

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