New Days Ahead

Posted on August 16, 2012 by

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Hi there, interwebs! Allow me to introduce myself, I am Alex, aka Franiac,  and I am very excited to be a new contributing member to DungeonRemastered. I’m currently blogging over at FraniacDM, but I will be closing that blog down to focus exclusively on blogging here at DungeonRemastered.

I could not be more excited to collaborate with my fellow gamer, and good friend, Kyle here. He promises a post three times a week (and knowing him and his work ethic, that’s exactly what we’ll get), and I promise at least one, if not more, a week to compliment Kyle’s excellent posts. I, too, will be waxing poetic on game mechanics, etiquette, and inspiration. We may not agree on every point (GUNS! GNOMES!) but that will make it all the more exciting.

I’ll be transferring my few posts from my previous blog over here over the next few weeks, so if you’re a reader on FraniacDM (yes, the three of you), you will see some re-posts, but also some original stuff. To start off, I’d like to post my introduction from my earlier blog:

Thanks for letting me share this space with you! I look forward to comments, arguments, and unadulterated, embarrassing, sycophantic praise.

Intro to Dungeons and Dragons

Part I: In which a young man discovers the joys of rolling dice and talking in funny voices

This is my blog. It’s actually a redo of my previous nerd blog. I’ve learned recently how successful a restart can be, and I’m hoping that this will prove to be so. As this is my first blog post, I want to start off with something honest; I wanted to explain my love for the ridiculous game known as Dungeons and Dragons, and why I feel the need to write about it.

This blog will not always be about Dungeons and Dragons; I want it to be a general purpose nerd blog, probably with many lists. I like lists. But D&D is a very important part of my life, and thus will probably be a large part of this blog. I’ll tag every D&D post appropriately, and, if it doesn’t work with the flow of the site, make another blog specifically for the purpose of D&D. We’ll see.

But for now, a brief history of me, and Dungeons and Dragons.

I started playing the game at a young age. Really, my first experience with roleplaying games was not with D&D. In fact, it wasn’t with any system. It was just me and a friend, spending our after-school program playing a game: One of us would say what was happening, and the other would say what their character did. Basically, the very essence of all roleplaying games, minus anything resembling rules, visuals, or implements.

My first foray into an established game system was in grade school: My friend, Brandon, DMed a game of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Second Edition, for me and another kid. My father had previously turned me on to the works of Fritz Leiber, particularly the stories of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, at a very young age. Because of this, my first D&D character ever would be a rogue with a sling and a rapier. We fought a beetle in a dungeon. I don’t remember what else happened.

Circumstances, and not distaste, meant that I would not play again for many years. In the meantime, and after, I absorbed both Baldur’s Gate games, which the same Brandon introduced me to. Occasionally in high-school I would manage to find a game, but none lasting more than a single session. Everyone I played with seemed to view the game as something frivolous (shocking!), whereas I wanted something more lasting and involved.

About a year after I graduated high-school, I decided to take matters into my own hands. The year: 2005. The game: Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. I gathered up a few friends, and started my first ever D&D game as a Dungeon Master. The group was altered radically in the first two games, actually, with only two of the 6 players staying through the whole campaign, my friends Jason and Jad. The game was a Planar adventure, taking the players from the material world to the planes beyond.

It was, by no means, a perfect campaign: It was railroaded, clumsy, and unbalanced. But I put both care and time into it. My players were dedicated, my world established, my NPCs detailed and fallible. We never finished that game, but for the next few years, mostly during summers when I came up from the University of Oregon, we played multiple campaigns. Jason was in every one of them. My last year coming home home for the summers was the same year Fourth Edition came out. I DMed my first ever 4E game for a group that had become more or less my regular group, Jason included, of course. I immediately liked the new system. This was the first game where I really started examining the use of a soundtrack, armed with an iPod dock and bevy of playlists for each theme. It was almost my last game in Portland, as I moved to Eugene full time after that, no longer coming up to PDX for summer breaks.

A year or so passed, and I was unable to find a group I meshed with. Unsatisfied, and generally distracted by the rest of my fantastic college-life, D&D slipped from my mind and schedule…until the summer of 2009.

Part II: In which a less-young man realizes the greater impact a game of D&D can have

It’s amazing how things come together. It was the beginning of summer 2009, and I was feeling the ole’ itch again. I very much wanted to get a game going with a really solid group. I had played a few in the intervening years, but I was always disappointed or disaffected with the groups. I decided on a classic tactic: I gathered three friends together. None of them knew one another, and none of them had played fourth edition. One had never played DnD at all. But I knew this was to be my group. Something about each of them, their need to tell a story over their need to smash monsters and “win”.  This group surpassed all my expectations.

My first game with them was incredibly fun. A very sandbox oriented game about a group of towns and one city that were slowly being taken over by creatures from the far realm and the cults that worshiped them. We had no real understanding of party optimization, had no real concrete grasp on the mechanics of this edition. What we knew was that we enjoyed playing this game.

After finishing, we added a fourth player to a new game, one that was a continuation of my major campaign goal: An undead game battling Orcus. I swear, it was less cliche when I started it in 3.5. The game was fantastic, and had some of my favorite characters to this day, but we never finished it. School and life simply got in the way.

One spring night, two of my players, Adam and Tyler, and I stood on a street corner, discussing our next game. We wanted it to be about a ship, flying through the planes. Adam wanted to be a roguish captain, Tyler his first mate, a dwarven librarian. Furthermore, Adam suggested we build the ship for the game. We immediately fell in love with the idea. Adam wanted to name his rogue Caliban, from the Tempest. Along this theme, we decided the ship’s name to be Miranda.

The game didn’t start until summer. One of my players had already left the city. Soon after the first game, another one did. Tyler Adam and I were joined by two others, a friend I had played with before, and his neighbor, Chad.

Sadly, the game didn’t work. The plot was convoluted and confused. Combat was generally boring, and our schedule wasn’t working. But worst of all, the death sentence for the game: Our party didn’t mesh, at all. There was just a level of disconnect about what sort of game we wanted to be playing.

So we broke up. Adam took over as DM for a little while, leading us on a fantastic and disturbing “All Flesh Must be Eaten” game, and then left for Australia. I DMed another game, this time a very frivolous and fun “Barbarian Game”, a concept I’ll get to in another post. We had fun, but we always dreamed of returning to the Astral Sea, and our beautiful Miranda.

Another night, another step on the path to the best game I have ever had the pleasure to DM. It was at a Theatre Arts Thanksgiving party at a friend’s house. I was feeling a bit out of place, being older than almost anyone else there, and having had gotten up at 5am to attend a field trip to the Oregon Coast with my Geology class. Luckily, an old friend, named Kyle, was present, someone I had met my first week at University. We had long known of each other’s interests in D&D, and, though we had never played together, had spoken of it whenever we ran into one another. I told Kyle about our Miranda game, and showed him photos on my phone of the ship. We decided then and there that we would finally have that game together.

When I told him I was looking for a human character to be cast into the Astral Sea, a stranger among a bizarre crew in a new world, he immediately likened it to Crichton from Farscape. Right then and there I knew he was perfect. I contacted Chad, Tyler, and Adam, and we decided to reboot the game the minute Adam returned from Down Under.

Well, we didn’t do that. First things first, we played a very brief campaign, only two games, with Kyle. Part of it was to familiarize Kyle with the 4E system. It didn’t take long at all; while kyle had never played 4th, he had years of experience with every other edition of D&D, not to mention many other systems. I’ll post a story about that particular game at another time as well.

But, finally, the day came. Adam, Chad, and Tyler reclaimed their previous characters, and we added Kyle as a wandering ranger, pursuing an enemy intrinsically wrapped up in the storyline. We also added another friend who had played previously in the Viking Campaign: Andy, our bizarre genasi swordmage.

The reboot was, in every conceivable way, better than the original. The story had far more compelling villains, better encounters and a much more involved and reasonable storyline. The players meshed amazingly, and I’ve been blessed to play in the best sessions of my involvement with roleplaying games.

As of writing this, we’re a month and a half out now from finishing this game. It’s been more than a year now. Trying to make sure every character reaches their final destiny and making sure all the plot threads are tied together is incredibly difficult, but even more exciting. The game is reaching its organic conclusion, and I couldn’t be happier.

And none of that matters as much as what I have gotten out of it. This group has become my community. None of our group knew one another before Dungeons and Dragons, and now we spend most nights of the week together. Our social groups have mixed, we’ve added new friends to our group, and we’ve found out we had  many mutual friends already. Chad and Kyle learned they lived in the same complex. We drink together, go to movies, have dinner parties, non-rpg game nights, and barbecues. We spend holidays together, and support each other’s art. We help each other run errands, pick each other up from jail, even introduce each other to romantic potentials.

It’s become something much larger than a weekly D&D game. But we never forget where we started. And I never forget where I started: A young child, wanting to make up a story of adventure with a friend.

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