Sorry folks, but computer-based role-playing games have never done it for me. Not that I won’t play them. I have, and I’ve even enjoyed some of them. But they are momentary diversions at best.
Break out the paper and dice! Dust off those rule books!
I was a little bit late to the D&D party. A friend and I tried for 2 years in high school, to find out about this mysterious new game. We took a bus ride from the suburbs into the city to the local “science fiction book shop” and bought a copy of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook. Then we spent the next couple of weeks, swapping off, reading through it, trying to figure out how to play the game. And failing. We found out, right about the time we graduated, that a friend of ours had a weekly D&D game running at his house. Who knew? Those were the days when “geek” was most definitely not chic, and you didn’t publicize your interest in things like the “evil” Dungeons and Dragons. It wasn’t until a year after I graduated high school, and my friend was home on leave from the military, that I actually had a chance to play the game. He’d found a group at his duty station, and learned the game. Once I got to see how it was actually played, I was hooked.
The original AD&D Player's Handbook
What is it about this type of game that appeals to me? It’s the unlimited choices, the ability to define how your character acts and reacts to every situation. You can try things that no videogame designer ever anticipated, and a good game master can just go with it. I’ve dropped anvils on castle towers, I’ve smacked unruly merchants with sledgehammers, I’ve forced evil knights to undress with a single word, all because a game master was flexible enough to let my character act as I saw fit. You can’t do that in a videogame.
Over the past 35 years, I’ve taken a couple of breaks from gaming. But I’ve never gotten rid of my books, and I’m always hopeful of finding some folks interested in playing. I’ve branched out, trying other games such as Toon, Paranoia and my favorite, the long-gone Lords of Creation from Avalon Hill. Different settings, as well as attempts at simplifying some of the game mechanics, made these games appealing to me and to others. I have played the successor to AD&D’s popular 3rd edition rules, the Pathfinder system, and I like it, but it is extremely complex. This has been, in my opinion, a weakness for role-playing games from the early days. The games are great, but there’s a steep learning curve for them. And I’d like to do something about that.
Stick around. In the weeks to come, I’ll talk more about my proposed solution.