Monday, August 19, 2013

Pourin' Out a Little Liquor

I just started gaming with a new face-to-face group about a month ago.  We're running through a Pathfinder campaign right now, and while it's not my favorite system, I do enjoy getting back into face to face gaming.

With that being said, it's always a bit awkward at the beginning, especially when you're joining an established group.  There's an entire world of shared memories and experiences and inside jokes that you haven't been a part of yet and while the longer you are a part of the group, the more of those become your own, at first it can be difficult.

Sorting through all of this on my way back from the game, I began to wax nostalgic about my old gaming groups, so I thought I'd put up a tribute to all my old groups.

My first group was, as I'm sure is common to most of us, a group of kids from school.  Most of us were in the same grade, except one guy that was a grade ahead of us.  Even though we didn't know what a grognard was at the time, we were still able to conceptualize the idea, because he had played white box with his uncle when he was younger and would always talk about how that system was better than this newjack 2e.  The rest of us only knew 2e, though, and we loved it.  We had our established GM who also played his Mary Sue sorta-NPC, the guy who always played a dwarf, another guy who always played sneaky thieves, you know the group.  You've PLAYED with that group.  Anyway, we'd get together a couple times a month at one of our houses and, fueled by soda, candy and potato chips, we'd game until the sun came up, then pass out and sleep until noon.  Eventually, we left 2e behind for other games - Gamma World, Warhammer, Twilight 2000, before settling on Old World of Darkness sometime during High School, and that was our jam until we graduated.  Folks went off to college, and that was the end of that group.

There was a long stretch where I didn't game at all.  Life was pretty hectic, and there just wasn't any time for it.  It wasn't until I was about 25 that I found myself back at my folks' house, digging through the detritus of my youth that I found my old Gamma World 1e box set.  Sitting on my old bed, flipping through it, I remembered spending how much fun roleplaying was.  I thought of the late nights, the laughter and the camaraderie.  I remembered sunny afternoons flipping through the 2e Player's Handbook while Pink Floyd sang about how "Far away across the field, the tolling of the iron bell draws the faithful to their knees in a softly spoken magic spells."

Just like that, I was hooked again.  I called around to my old group to see who was still in town, found a couple of them, and we agreed to start getting together weekly.  A few of the old gang brought some new faces along, and we decided to go with Gamma World, mostly I think because I was the only one who actually brought a game to the first get together.  From there on out, we'd meet in my apartment, which was in a not-so-great part of town that was right next to the bar district, and we'd leave the windows open to let the sounds of the city filter through as background noise.  We spent the better part of a year tripping the light post-apocalyptic before my job moved me to Texas and, for the second time, I had to say goodbye to my friends.

Shortly after I moved to Texas, I discovered the Pen and Paper Games forum, which has (or had, to be honest I haven't been there in awhile) a very lively section for DFW gamers.  Not knowing a blessed soul in the area, I figured this was as good a way to meet people as any, so I started looking for open games.  I met up with the group at a local Barnes & Noble for the first meeting, where we talked through 4e (which had just been released), and the GM explained his idea for the campaign.  The group was mostly older guys, I think I was the youngest one there, but there was good stuff in the mix there. The GM was invested in his campaign, the players were enthusiastic (well, except one Guy, but he was the gruff sort anyways) and we had a blast.  Unfortunately, as time went by, my job got pretty crazy, with 60-80 hour work weeks being the norm, and I just didn't have the time or energy to devote to a game, my future wife, and my sanity.  Something had to give, and it was the game.

The campaign obviously carried on without me, and the GM was nice enough, when it finally wrapped, to shoot me an email containing an afterword he'd written for my character, detailing how his life had progressed after I'd left.

I got word at some point that one of the guys that had been in the group had succumbed to a long illness he'd been battling as longs as we'd known him, and the GM and I saw each other at the wake and agreed to keep in touch.

When my workload eventually lightened, I decided to take another crack at a Gamma World game, and put an ad up on Pen and Paper.  I convinced two of my IRL friends who had never roleplayed to give it a shot, and together with a husband and wife team and their friend and another guy who looked just like the Dean from Community, we started a new campaign.  My apartment had zero parking and wasn't all that big, so after one attempt to run it at my place, we moved it to the husband and wife's house.  The group was great - we probably shot the shit more that we actually played, but we had a blast doing it.  While one of my IRL friends didn't stick with it very long, the other enjoyed the hell out of it, and we ran through 4e Gamma World for about a year.  Unfortunately, my work picked up again, and they lived a half hour away.  In normal times, it didn't bother me too much to play till midnight and then drive home, but after an 70 hour work week, I just didn't have it in me, and I had to bow out of that one.

There was another lull in gaming for awhile as I dug myself out of my workhole before the GM from the 4e campaign called me up and asked if I wanted to try out a game called Labyrinth Lord.  He was gaming with his son and another guy from the old campaign, and we sat around his kitchen table and rolled up new characters for an open world, sandbox style game.  Our first time out the gate, we rolled up a green dragon as a random encounter, people died, and it was fun.  We kept on going, slowly adding people as we went.  The son of the guy who had passed away joined up, and we moved the games to his house.  A friend of his played video games in the background, but was slowly drawn in by the laughter emanating from around the table.  We went from Labyrinth Lord to Stars Without Number, to Traveler.  I tried my hand at GMing again, running them through 2e, then World of Darkness.  At our height, we were getting together six to eight times a month.  This was probably the longest I put in with a group since my high school group, and I enjoyed the hell out if it.

Then it ended.

To be honest, I'm still not really sure why, and at this point, I guess it doesn't really matter.  One week we were gaming, and then next we weren't.  One of them said they were burnt out, and everyone just evaporated.  I was in the process of moving away from the area that we'd been congregating in, so to be honest, it would have been harder to keep getting there, but it was still weird, to have a group of people that you spend that much time with just not be there anymore.

At some point towards the end of the old group, I got into Constantcon style gaming, and got together with (in order of beardedness)  +Wayne Snyder+Edgar Johnson+Adam Muszkiewicz+Bear Wojtek and +Gabriel Perez Gallardi, we have explored deepest darkest Ur-Hadad, Survived Fort Simian, slew Mushroom Wizards and smoked their brains, etc etc.  You had to be there sort of stuff.  It's still ongoing, and it's been epic..  

Still, after the end of the old face to face group, I fell into a bit of a funk, and while I kept myself busy moving myself, my wife, our cats, a condo full of stuff (books), and two storage sheds full of more stuff (more books) into our house (a process which took way longer than it really should have), I didn't do much face to face gaming, or blogging about gaming for that matter.

Then I heard from the husband and wife gamers, who were looking to start up the Pathfinder game.  I am the New Guy in a group that has been playing together for the better part of thirty years, and once again I'm probably the youngest person there, so it can be a bit of a struggle at times, but we're busy creating new things together, so it'll get easier with time.  They've got a Runequest game that they play on alternate weekends that I think I'm going to jump on, and the wife keeps threatening to run a Call of Cthulhu game at some point.   Each game starts with a potluck dinner.  We eat well, shoot the shit for awhile, then kill some orcs for a bit.   It's a good group with good people, and it's good to be gaming face to face again.

So for all the groups that I've gamed with before, this one is for you.


  1. One for me, and one for my homies...

    Hey, we can all relate to gaming groups that have come and gone. Trust me, I go through major bouts of nostalgia for my own old groups, from when I was a young man just getting into the hobby. But if you let the nostalgia lift you up instead of drag you down, it can enrich and encourage your current gaming endeavors, and pay homage to your RPG past!

  2. I think that with D&D gaming, you have your group of friends first, and then they start gaming. In the days before Internet it was very had to find games to join, not like finding a chess club, for example. Of the seven gaming groups I played in when I was young (that took strangers off the street, I might add), three died in childbirth, one was a failed attempt by the DM to make some money and I was banned from his house because I scared his parents, and one game held at public library was horribly boring, involving 20 people and waiting for 1 hour for your turn to act. I quit it. In 2007, I started playing again and ran my own game with a small group of old friends, who never played D&D, it worked well, and it lasted for 2 years. In 2009, I was able to find a public group of retro players, and it was mediocre as hell. What I noticed, was that it was more a social ritual, then an actual game where a story is told and dice are rolled. In other words, all the other social interaction BS, that can take place when you are playing cards, or going to church, or playing chess, is more important than the actual game, and the game events themselves get exaggerated with the re-telling and remembrance. I wanted to run a campaign from beginning to endgame, nobody was doing it consistently, so I started a gaming group of my own. I started recruiting players over the internet. Initial group happened fast, within a week I was able to find 4 players. Then we hit a long dry spell, and after 2 years the game went into hiatus. Part of it was a promotion at my job and a few other changes, but another part of it was that research shows that an average campaign lasts abut 2 years. I had an ambitious plan to keep the thing going to level 12. It might still happen, I am gearing up for the "next season", and I still have the group, we play board games in between D&D sessions, but the lesson learned was that you can find a join a club to play Chess, or play Scrabble, but to play fantasy role playing games, you have to have a small social group first, and the social dynamic of cliquing and getting along is way more important in a D&D gaming group than on Chess or Scrabble.


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