Monday, November 26, 2007

Save or Die: An Introduction

Welcome to the first installment of Save or Die!, a blog devoted to Dungeons and Dragons in all of its myriad permutations and incarnations. My name is Nathan, and quite obviously I'm the man who'll be writing this thing every few days or so.

Over the next few weeks I have a lot of topics lined up, and with the semi-recent announcement of a new edition of the game I have plenty of content fodder. Aside from that I'll be talking about what I liked about the older editions, what I hated about them, and pretty much anything else related to the Great Game.

I suppose the first thing I ought to do is talk about my D&D background. I started playing in 1989 at the age of 10, after receiving the Basic D&D Boxed Set in all of its glory. You know the one - red box, Larry Elmore art, solo adventure where Bargle kills The Hot Cleric. My Nanna bought it for my birthday, and I must say she seemed a bit miffed that it only had a couple of books and some dice inside - I think she was expecting some kind of lavish board or something. Personally I was spellbound: it was just like the Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks I loved so much, only you could play it in a group! Finally, my friends and I could stop whacking each other with sticks while we pretended to be orcs. (We didn't stop, but that's another story entirely.)

I have to stop for a moment to sing the praises of the Basic D&D Boxed Set, as written by Frank Mentzer. It is without a doubt the best product for introducing youngsters to the game. I taught myself how to play, and I'd be pretty impressed if a ten-year-old could do that with the current rules.

Anyway, fast-forward to the beginning of school, and I'd managed to rope my three friends into playing through my dungeon. One of them had played a fair bit already with his older brothers, and we were all obsessed with Fighting Fantasy and the Forgotten Realms, so the basic D&D tropes were all pretty embedded in our minds. I was the Dungeon Master, but I was itching to play as well, so I created a Dwarf named Duergar. (I'd read Streams of Silver by this point, and I filched the name. My sole moment of creativity with this character was to have him wield a sword instead of the stereotypically required axe or a hammer.) I can't remember what characters my friends had, but I do remember that they gamely ventured into my dungeon, and made a good show of slaughtering their way through Level One (of Three).

As for the dungeon itself, I remember few details. There was a goblin city on Level One, and the king wielded a sword that could fire lightning bolts. Even at that early stage I had my Rat Bastard DM hat on, because I had the sense to make the weapon melt after the King was killed. I remember the trap on Level 2, where the floor of an empty room would ascend to crush anyone still inside against the ceiling. I remember it well, because it claimed my first ever character! The first of many Save or Dies... And then on Level 3 was the White Dragon, which quickly used its breath weapon to blast the intrepid 1st level party into oblivion.

Despite our unsuccessful first adventure, we had a great time, and D&D quickly became an obsession. We graduated from D&D to Advanced D&D, just shortly after 2nd Edition was released. Our group remained steady for a good 8 years, and we all managed to get characters in the vicinity of 20th level. To tell the truth, though, we weren't really playing AD&D at all - we were playing a mix of D&D rules with AD&D races, classes and spells; the version of D&D that just about every group I met at the time had developed. Sometimes I was DM, but most of the time it was one of the others, and we never had what could accurately be titled a compaign. Most importantly, we always had a good time, except when we didn't.

After high school ended that group stopped gaming together, but I pulled together a new bunch of guys with myself as the regular DM in a full-blown homebrew campaign world. We started with 2nd Edition, and migrated to 3rd when those rules came out. I'm still playing with that group, though not as regularly as I would like, and I'm still the DM, even though I'm burning out on the current edition. But more on that in later installments.

So that's me, and a small taste of my experiences with the game. It's been nearly 19 years, and I still love the game in all its forms. Hopefully I can convey that in my blog, and provide an entertaining reading experience. Feel free to comment, whether it's to praise me, to suggest topics, to praise me, to offer money, or to tell me I completely suck (but please don't do that on Mondays).

Welcome to SAVE OR DIE!

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