Saturday, January 10, 2009

Saturday Feature: Dudgeons & Draggings

It's a dumb name (you might even say it's a symptom of Dumb Name Disease), and it doesn't make sense, but I get a kick out of it, so there ya' go.

No, I think it's extremely unlikely that you would say anything about Dumb Name Disease--it's something I read in a Paizo messageboard thread back in March and can't now locate for a link. It was a curse that afflicted the world of Greyhawk, I believe.

Enough dithering! Today marks the start of International Traditional Roleplaying Week which, schedules permitting, I'll be participating in--by weird coincidence, I got a wild hair to try OD&D with my regular group, and our first scheduled game falls during the week that TARGA picked. But you don't care about any of that.

My goals in this are twofold: to learn from the original D&D rules what magic in them made them so popular in their faddish days, and to play one or two of the old modules, whose names I hear in reverent whispers, but were showing their age even before I ever rolled a twenty-sider.

(Let us digress a moment and run over my history with D&D: 1984, while at the Mountain Home landfill with my grandfather, I find the Moldvay Basic book, fall in love; my grandfather (whom I adore, so don't get the wrong idea) apparently never having heard of anything ever, is horrified by the description of a Medusa--Medusa, of all things!--particularly the line 'live snakes growing from her head instead of hair' which he quoted as reason for taking the book away from me. For the rest of the 80s I'm supplied by my mother and paternal aunt with the Mentzer basic rules boxed sets, the covers of which are redone on several years' of birthday cakes by my step-mother's aunt. Did you notice that I mentioned four different women abetting my D&D love? Why couldn't I just reduce it one and save you the headache?

(In high school ('90-'94), all my friends are in to D&D, and I get to play with them a couple of times, but other than an extended two-person campaign with Erik, who DM'd a Dragonlance game where I brought Ebony Manrend to the Imperial Throne of the Minotaur Islands, they determined that they preferred to play without my self-indulgent and infantile disruptions. I don't blame them, but I still wish I could've played.

(After high school I DM'd a semi-successful Dangerous Journeys campaign in which a certain fellow called Sup played a Babylonian/Arab sorcerer who wielded a dagger called The Horrible Thorn. Ask him if he remembers the Arabic name.

(And then, not much playing at all, until my quite-a-bit-younger sister, who had caught the bug from me, brought her own life-long love of D&D to college--but it's 3e for her. If only I'd known the old school ways, I could have saved her! And we've been playing 3.5 . . . 4e for a couple of years).

I think I've blown my word count on that little digression. Good thing I don't have a word count.

So, this new old-school campaign I'm launching will begin in a roadhouse (drawn up with James Raggi's excellent Random Inn Generator from Fight On! #2) on the Borderlands, just down the road from the Caves of Chaos. I wanted to have the characters meet in a tavern because it's cliche, or rather because it's an well-known convention and I want to establish a mood of tradition. I suppose it's also a crutch of lazy or unimaginative referees--are there really people who want to run D&D games who are unimaginative? Maybe not completely unimaginative, but there are degrees--but in this case, I chose it, so if you want to call it a crutch, then you want to fight. And I will hit you with my crutch.

My problem with module B2 (The Keep on the Borderlands, for those just joining us) is that it's peopled with tons of humanoid monsters --goblins, hobgoblins, orcs, kobolds, gnolls--which I'm sick of. Once upon a time you could throw some of those monsters at players and they might get a taste of novelty, but in the ages since everybody has killed billions of those same monsters and I for one don't need to see any more. So, seeking to present challenges the players have never seen, for assistance I again turn to James Raggi and his (also exceedingly excellent) Random Esoteric Creature Generator for Classic Fantasy Role-Playing Games and Their Modern Simulacra.

The first two things to crawl out that infernal grimoire are the Invisible-Skinned Lamprey-Tentacled Cave Lamprey and . . . something that came out almost exactly like Warhammer's skinks. I like skinks. I even have a 7" record by a "band" called Prehensile Monkey-Tailed Skink. I would be kind of rad to scan the cover and show it to you.

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