Saturday, July 9, 2016

Further Introduction - Gross' Recall Of Something Serious

Welcome back, readers!

As my Original School gaming is remembered, I have been reaching out to my fellow gamers, "old" and new alike, in the hopes of recording their characters' names so that I might add them to my World of Greyhawk campaigns. As much fun as having the likes of Mordenkainen, Tenser, Melf, and Robilar showing up in my Greyhawk games could be, being the sentimental guy I am, I like giving a nod to those who shaped my gaming persona. Thus, I privately asked some friends with whom I have gamed or talked gaming to lend me their old PCs' names or a substitute of they preferred not to share. I am contacting folks little by little, so I don't overwhelm myself trying to remember whom I have sent requests. If you are interested in allowing your PCs of old to be added to my game, feel free to say so in the comments below! If I know you but you have not yet been asked, be assured I plan to do that in the future.

I have two eras of gaming history. I hope to only ever have two. The first was that to which I alluded in my last blog, which lasted from 1980 - 1990, when I went off to college. After a 10-year gaming hiatus from summer 1990 through summer 2000 , my brother and I resumed gaming with the advent of the Third Edition of Dungeons and Dragons (AKA 3e). That coincided with my brother's return to civilian life after 8 years of service in the US Marine Corps. He called and asked me about the new game. I had heard about it and checked it out at the (now-defunct) gaming store at the Deptford Mall. I purchased a pair of Players Handbooks and we were gaming again. Instead of his adventuring solo, my brother and I brought our sister and my first wife into the hobby.

We had a fun time,  at first, as we all learned the new iteration of D&D. My brother & I tried to align "how we played back then" with the new game. The original party consisted of a monk (my brother), wizard (my first wife), sorcerer (my sister), and an NPC barbarian. When the monk recklessly threw himself into battle against some ogres and perished before the remainder of the party could join the melee, the dynamics of the campaign changed. My brother was happy to have tried a monk but relieved to change tack. His new character choice was a dwarven fighter. It was decided by my sister that the wizard was a better spellcaster than the sorcerer and her PC was redundant. So, she said her PC's mother had turned ill and the sorcerer had to retire from adventuring. She was replaced by my sister's halfling thief ("rogue" in Third Edition, but too often spelled "rouge"). Finally, the NPC barbarian, good friend of the monk, took news of his friend's death back to their native lands in the West (Bissel). He was replaced by an NPC cleric. I provided the name for this worthy, Zudrak, and that has been my screen name on almost all gaming fora ever since. My first wife's wizard was joined by these three and adventuring resumed.

As the campaign went on and the PCs increased in level (much faster than I remembered in AD&D, but most of our books were packed away in our parents' attic). The adventures became less and less fun to prepare as the mechanics of the game compounded as the PCs leveled up. It was at this time 3.5 Edition came out and we all pitched in to but the newer books, hoping it was the answer to fixing the DM's malaise. Instead, the game continued on as before, only I was getting burnt out.

I ended up visiting EN World and asking questions of Col_Pladoh there. Col_Pladoh was the screen name used by none other than E. Gary Gygax. I had emailed Gary several years prior about the Lejendary Adventure game. I mentioned that when I asked him about the current state of gaming and the issues I was having with the current version of D&D. Gary -- along with gideon_thorne, AKA Peter Bradley, artist for Troll Lord Games (TLG) -- steered me towards the Castles & Crusades game published by TLG. I ordered the Player's Handbook that day and soon was treated to a refreshing take on the d20 system, reconfigured for more of an "Old School" feel and a lot less number-crunching. It put  the rules and rulings back in the hands of the game referee (Castle Keeper/CK in C&C, Dungeon Master/DM in D&D, Game Master/GM just about everywhere else except for judge, administrator, and referee).

I did not get to play the new game for some time, though, as my first wife fell ill around the time the book arrived. She was diagnosed with CUP (Cancer of an Unknown Primary) in March 2005, after months of thinking she had something else. Eventually, after trying and then changing oncologists, she felt well enough to game again in summer 2006. She only made it to one game, felt that the game was enjoyable enough for her liking, but never was able to sit long enough to play again. Mary Gross passed away in May 2007.

(I am loathe to turn the blog this way, because my faith and her faith are/were such that we believe we will be reunited one day in Heaven as brother and sister in Christ, but I did not want to simply skim over the time in my blog, either.)

Our son, 4-1/2 when his mom died, needed some help learning his letters in time for his first school year, 2007-08. I ended up creating a game using C&C and wooden blocks to help him. In time, he would play, too, and soon my sister, her boyfriend, my brother- and sister-in-law, and my first wife's mom were playing C&C by 2008. It was a way to all get together and heal together. My brother found it difficult to play, but he chipped in as a sort of caterer. The man can cook!

My mom introduced me to my wife and I remarried in June 2010. Circumstances and availability have changed the gaming groups to those I mentioned in the last blog. As time has gone on, though, and as I have had time to reread the original Advanced D&D Monster Manual, Players Handbook, and Dungeon Masters Guide, my preferences have begun to regress to those I last had in 1990: a house-ruled Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game at my table. The difference being that it is totally influenced by my experience with 3e/3.5e (mostly in what I do not want to do) and Castles & Crusades (in what I want to do via the borrowed ascending Armor Class from 3e and the saving throws from C&C's "SIEGE Engine" [or "SEIGE Engine," as it is too often (mis)spelled]). My hope is that, one day, I will succeed in convincing my wife to try tabletop role-playing games with me. She has played console video games like Fallout (3, New Vegas, 4) and The Elder Scrolls (Oblivion, Skyrim) as well as the very cool Munchkin card game -- so that's a start!

Currently, I am reading my AD&D books in the order they were released while taking notes. I am doing this for two reasons. The first reason is to reacquaint myself with the rules, but this time in the way the original fans of AD&D had to learn them: Monster Manual first! The second reason is in honor of the 10th Anniversary of OSRIC (Old School Reference and Index Compilation). I want to go over the OSRIC book after the three AD&D books and suss out where they differ. It's an exercise in curiosity, mainly, but maybe it will help others, too.

I plan on writing blogs weekly, as that seems to be the frequency at which I am able to write, at the present. In the coming blogs, I hope to touch on my findings of reading the AD&D books, my thoughts on Groo the Wanderer and Snarfquest (from Dragon magazine and beyond), and my current gaming campaigns.

Until next time...

Happy gaming,


  1. Another nice post! Writing introductions are hard, but you did so with class. From my own perspective, we played AD&D our way for years, so we tried it as written, just to see how it worked, and found that much of it was way better then what we had been doing. I never moved on past 2e, I looked over 3e and it was just so picky and inflexible. AD&D gives use so much more freedom, and everybody plays it in different ways. Looking forward to your perspective.

    1. Thank you, Ripper! I appreciate the kind words.