Sunday, January 17, 2010

Background and History

Our Sunday night Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) group has been together for 30+ years, having been formed in 1978 or 1979 by employees at the Bell Labs facility in Naperville IL. It started as a lunch-time group using one of the local conference rooms, but soon moved to Sunday nights as some members left the Labs for other positions. The group is currently eight members strong, including five people who have been with the group for the duration. I joined in 1986 or 1987 … Mike and Laura M. left a few years later, Bob D. a few years after that, but we picked up Dave C. and Brian S. … our current configuration has been together for well over ten years now.

The current members are (Note: names have been abbreviated to protect the guilty): David C., Joette H., Rich H., Mark G., Scott O., Leo R., Brian S. and myself. All members have taken turns hosting gaming activities at their house in the past, but over time two locations have become the de facto location for game night because of their central location and because of the willingness of the owners. Members take turn bringing snacks and while it could probably be policed a little stronger, everybody shares the cost.

A lot can happen in 30 years, and has. We have all had the shared experience of marriages, divorces, re-marriages, births, schools, colleges, graduations, and now, yes, even grandchildren. Jobs and careers - or lack thereof - have come and gone as well. As we have moved up in years medical issues have become more prevalent as well, so the type snacks provided have changed accordingly (less sugar). Mark moved to
North Carolina several years ago and now joins us via phone and video streaming, although he still has family in the area so it is a real treat when we actually see him once or twice a year. I will post a separate article on the technical issues we have encountered.

The group started off playing the original D&D (OD&D or 1E). We eventually migrated to Advanced D&D (AD&D or 2E) after that and have continued to play this version to this date. Different members take turns DM'ing and we always start over with new characters. This allows players to play different types of characters over time and gives different members the ability to bring a different type of challenge to the other players. There is certainly a plethora of published adventures for 2E, although Mark has written some excellent adventures of his own. The only thing we know for certain is that when Scott DM's that the mysterious mists of Ravenloft can not be far behind.

There was discussion among group members about moving from 2E to D&D Version 3 (3E), and then again when Version 3.5 (3.5E) was released. These versions were very popular across the gaming world, but with the amount of 2E material available, plus the fact that everyone had already bought the 2E version books they wanted, there was not a consensus among the group to spend the money and time necessary to move to either of the newer versions at that time.

Now that the new 4E version of D&D has become available the discussion came up again in early 2009 and this time there was a consensus to at least try out the new version and see how the new rules play out. Several members have purchased the new core books in preparation for a 4E adventure, and in August 2009 Brian and I attended Gencon in Indianapolis where we successfully met our goal of getting several 4E games under our belt to better understand some of the game mechanics that have changed in the previous versions as well as the new rules in the 4E version. I will include a longer Gencon trip in another post.

I have also purchased Keep of the Shadowfell (KotS), an introductory 4E adventure published by Wizard of the Coast (WOTC). However at that time, mid-2009, we were in the middle of a campaign so there was no pressing need to get started right away, which was fine. That gave us the option of finishing what we were currently doing, to read the new material, and for me as the DM to prepare to roll out the next adventure.

We did have a 4E night in September or October when Scott was not there to DM one Sunday. I made up a small map, put together some generic archetype characters for the members to play, and put some goblins in front of the characters and off we went. Much of the night was spent working through the mechanic of play. We were all experienced gamers as far as that goes, so most of the questions were more along the lines of “I used to be able to do this, so what do I do now?” It was a fun night though, plus it gave everybody a reason to go back and reread their Players Handbook (PHB) now that they had a better understanding of how the mechanic worked.

I have promised to post on several topics and some of these are written already, plus I want to start including our weekly summaries. There will likely be an initial flurry of activity here and than things will settle down once I get caught up. What else will appear here? I will likely include book reviews, links to other sites on D&D or gaming topics, plus I am not yet sure of all the technical abilities this blogging tool has. I guess we’ll see where this goes – stay tuned.

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