Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Growing Up in the d20 Dark Ages (Part 3)


A Relic from the Dark Ages: Page 3 of The Eclipse, a short story
I wrote sometime in 6th Grade. Rough Draft.


After my brother stopped running games for me, my interest in D&D didn't languish, but I didn't play for awhile. I had my brother's AD&D books. I read through them. I even had his old hand-written adventures (still do!). What I didn't have was a group of players, at least not for awhile. A lot of other stuff was going on at the time, moving on to 6th grade at the Middle School and all the pre-adolescent angst that goes along with it.

Living in a low-income apartment complex that was separate from the rest of town by a highway also made it a little difficult to get players. Other kids about my age lived there, but they didn't seem interested in D&D, as I recall. I also didn't trust many of them; some of those kids were outright thieves. Fortunately, later on, I found some friends in the mobile home park next to the apartments. But that was later.

D&D did keep me busy and inspired. I wrote a couple short stories that year, which took place in a campaign setting, apparently called "Buttercup" (I had a really hard time coming up with names, though "Mantle Castle" doesn't sound too bad.). The map you see at the bottom of the page above came from a map of the campaign setting itself, drawn on poster board in pencil.

For some reason, I loved the idea of the hero of the story started off on an island away from the mainland. The island itself is split in two by mountains, and the hero(es) must travel over or under them to reach civilization. I don't know why this is. But it keeps coming up in my stories, and the various incarnations of Domikka.

The first adventure I ran stuck with this idea. I only had one player. I ran it at his house at his parents's dining room table. The mission: An evil yuan-ti and his tasloi minions were going to attack the town with a siege tower. I bet the player remembers more about the adventure than I do (I hope). The player character when through a series of caverns. I remember, for some reason, I ruled that his axe broke, but I don't remember why. He stopped the yuan-ti in a fight on top of the siege tower itself. For some reason I just really liked siege towers.

The same player ran through my second adventure alone. I don't remember why, but he had to get to the mainland. He had to travel through two mountain ranges to get to the port city on the other side of the island. He had to find the Giant Slaying Sword in the caverns beneath the first mountain chain, before confronting the hill giant guarding the pass of the second.

I don't remember being too overly concerned about the rules. When his first level character confronted the hill giant and his ogre minion, I just thought, "Well, he has a +2 giant slaying sword. The giant should die with one or two hits." So he killed them and found 25,000 gp, which was just enough to buy a large galley and sail for the mainland. I think he tried, instead, to buy a war ship, which was 15,000gp cheaper than the galley. But I wouldn't let him.

Yeah, nowadays I'd call that fudging, railroading, even munchkin/monty haul/powergaming. The reality: I really had no clue what I was doing. I just wanted the game to be fun for my sole player.

I don't think he played again after that. I don't remember why. Maybe I was just a lousy DM. Maybe it was all that adolescent drama at that time. I just don't remember. Throughout middle school I had a rotating roster of players. A couple stayed for the long haul, up until we graduated from high school. Others came and went.

For awhile I thought was doing something wrong to turn them away. Maybe I was. Yet now I know that things happen that are beyond our control. It was an angsty time, with lots of diversions. I also wasn't in a centralized area for many players, who didn't have cars. By 8th grade, though, things started to settle down somewhat. But that is for another post...

One final note to all writers and artists out there, especially the young ones: keep everything you create, no matter how insignificant it seems. I have little of my writing before 8th grade, and nothing of my D&D notes. I threw a lot of that material out, thinking it was embarrassing, not good enough. You never know when it will become important again. All those adventure notes, the maps, the character sheets from my first 2-3 years playing D&D are gone. They would have been helpful, some 22 years later, in writing this blog.

We all may live in the d20 Dark Ages, but those early years of my writing, when I didn't keep much of anything, are my Dark Ages.

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