Thursday, January 13, 2011

RPG Nostalgia (Part I): Dungeons, Dragons, Modules, and Rules

Am helping out in a project. RPG.net's Shannon Appelcline is working on a history of RPGs and needs covers -- which is why I'm scanning in books from my collection piecemeal and e-mailing them off.

In the process, I find myself being taken down my gaming memory lane in not-so-sequenctial order. The experience is making me wonder how I got drawn into this hobby and what kind of RPG elements interest me. Let me post some of these covers and share my thoughts an memories with you.

Module T1 -- The Village of Hommlet
Ah, my first RPG purchase. Or rather, the first RPG purchase that I asked my grandmother (God rest her soul) to purchase for me.

I was a young boy studying Karate at a friend's house and encountered them playing a game that I would later discover was AD&D (after much wheedling and whining). Since this was the Philippines during the 70s, I faced three obstacles: availability of the source material, occasional "news stories" on the 700 Club telling me and my family how demonic it was, and a lack of understanding about the actual concept of RPGs!

I didn't read it closely enough, and probably wouldn't have understood why you needed to buy another rules set to use this so-called module anyway. All I saw was the "introductory module" bought, and the cool Jeff Dee art, and I was hooked. By the way, there were other modules there at National Book Store where I picked this sucker up -- classics like the Slave Lord series, the Tamoachan module, and the Vault of the Drow -- if only I'd known what those things were!

My first attempt at gaming was therefore stymied by a lack of a ruleset, but I set about rectifying that by trying to find the Dungeons & Dragons rules that I could use to play this module --

Dungeons & Dragons Basic and Expert Sets (D&D B/X)

-- But I bought these instead. Bummer.

Don't get me wrong, I loved this ruleset. Even today, I'm impressed by the organization, the layout and the art (though I may be biased by nostalgia) and how it all pulled together to draw me into this other fantasy realm and communicated very clearly how that could be done. And the list of books in the back sent me on a hunting frenzy at the local bookstores.

Unfortunately, I was of the mind that you needed the AD&D ruleset to use an AD&D module, so I was a bit perturbed. Thank goodness for the Keep on the Borderlands and Isle of Dread modules that came in these boxed sets.

A couple of years later, I did eventually pick up the AD&D ruleset and while I was relieved to finally lay my hands on the proper set of rules to use my modules with, I must say that this rulebook did a better job in communicating the 'otherworldliness' and sense of wonder in a more consistent manner. AD&D had too many in-jokes and 'break the fourth wall' humor to sustain that epic feel -- though it did exceed the D&D B/X rulesets in key areas (the "Paladin in Hell" image comes to mind). This was my go-to ruleset for that "sense of wonder" fix.

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