Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pursuing Resolutions

During the pursuit of my New Year's resolutions, I found a newly formed D&D Meetup group in my own backyard. I couldn't let this opportunity pass, so on Saturday I trundled across town and met up with six complete strangers and was quickly thrust into the world of 3rd edition, 3.5 specifically.

The intent of the initial meet up was to discuss such matters as what edition the group would play, who would be the DM, how often we'd meet, etc. The hostess was particularly welcoming, and as it turned out, had never actually played D&D before, ever. This was her introduction to the grand game that I love so much.

Three hours of banter and gaming chit-chat commenced after initial introductions had been made. On numerous occasions I made my gaming and D&D preferences known, but I also made it very clear that more than anything else, I was interested in meeting up with other local players and joining a regular campaign, regardless of edition.

I took the opportunity to correct many of the inaccuracies bandied about the group in regard to the game's history, and even explained the logic behind the “experience for treasure” aspect of older versions. More than a few times I had to ask for clarifications on certain modern terms and topics, but all in all I was able to keep up rather easily. I am after all a D&D player of three decades now.

One particular topic that made me really appreciate original D&D was alignment. Here was this group of mostly middle-aged veteran D&D players, and it seemed not one of them could agree on the subject. It reminded me of similar discussions back in the 1st edition days nearly thirty years ago, yet there I was listening to disagreements about alignment again. I added that in my AD&D games alignment didn’t play a big role, that it was rarely even a concern for any character other than Clerics or Paladins. You know I also took the opportunity to exclaim the merits of Law and Chaos, good guys and bad guys, and referee interpretations inherent in OD&D.

During the seemingly ceaseless back and forth on a topic which I feel should be pared down or entirely excised from the rules, I noticed once more that the hostess was quietly and politely listening. I attempted to remind everyone that we had a new player amongst us by saying that I felt we were neglecting her, and asking if she had any questions or comments. Nothing changed and the group dove in once more to discussing the finer points of D&D 3.5.

It was no surprise when the majority cast their vote with 3.5. I recognized fairly early that advocating the old school would get me nowhere fast, one other player suggested d20 Modern, and the hostess had no idea what we were talking about, so 3.5 it was. And I was fine with that. As long as I could roll some dice and kill some monsters, I was going to be a happy gamer again.

That is, until the next morning when I checked email and visited the Meetup page. Our hostess had already left the group. It’s no surprise really. This was information overload, culture shock, and intimidation all wrapped into one five hour event. So now we have a group of six players with no meeting site. It remains to be seen whether this prospective group ever actually gets going or not.

Something inside me wishes I had come prepared to run some sort of basic adventure. Perhaps then the eager to learn hostess would have been able to experience a much more hospitable atmosphere and a proper introduction to role playing. In retrospect this potential D&D player was never given a fair shot at learning our game. We should have been more considerate, after all this was not only the host for the initial meeting, but also the individual who had taken the time to set up and organize everything.

How steep is the 3.5 learning curve? Steep enough to chase off someone willing to not only create and pay for a new Meetup group, but to also open her home to a bunch of strangers for an evening.

I was going to finish this post with a collection of some of the more "interesting" comments I heard during the meeting, but in hindsight there was nothing said that wouldn’t surprise any of my readers. All in all it was a collection of enthusiastic, personable gamers, and I hope something more comes of this session. Who knows, if we can establish a new meeting place, my goal of expanding my face to face gaming circle might come to pass.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee


JimLotFP said...

>>I was going to finish this post with a collection of some of the more "interesting" comments I heard during the meeting, but in hindsight there was nothing said that wouldn’t surprise any of my readers.

Share. Even if it wouldn't surprise us, I think it's important to know what real people say to each other (as opposed to people making comments on the net...).

Sham aka Dave said...

Sure. Let me preface this by saying that I look forward to playing with this group if possible, and that I think a lot of these misconceptions can be corrected.

1. I've never heard of 'Greyhawk'.

2. THAC0 was used in 1st edition AD&D.

3. Nobody likes to start at 1st Level.

4. Talking out of character at the table is meta-gaming.

5. Alignment is important as it defines what can and cannot be done.

6. We NEED a Rogue, we'll have to hire one or be killed by traps.

7. Tunnels & Trolls predates D&D.

8. Original D&D had special rules for each "6" rolled during character creation.

9. Experience for gold doesn't fit in with the concept of D&D.

10. Realism is paramount in fantasy games.

I was taken aback by a lot of this simply because of the circle of gamers I'm associated with on the net. I'm just not used to 3.5 guys.

My goal, should the players form a group, will be to help dispel these misconceptions and share some old school methods.

James Maliszewski said...

It's unfortunate that events took this turn, but I'm not surprised, sadly. Many gamers of long years have spent so long away from the play and culture of the old school that they can't quite recall what they're like or why they used to enjoy them. They've bought into the notion that their fond memories are mostly nostalgia and, far worse, they've invested so much in "mastering" the complexity of the new rules that most discussions of "gaming" almost always turn into rules discussions rather than reminiscences of adventures past.

Hang in there, though.

Christopher B said...

"Realism is paramount in fantasy games."


I've got to give you credit - as desperate as I may be to find "new blood," I have little tolerance for people such as those you describe, personable or not. I would have joined your hostess in excusing myself from that group after the initial GtG. Best of luck to you, though.

It's really too bad that a potential gamer got scared off by her first experience. That, more than the atypical points of view of the others in the group, is the most unsettling aspect of your tale. I do hope she doesn't give up all together...

DMWieg said...

Good luck with your next meet-up. Don't let this setback discourage you too much. I was once involved in a campaign where the DM never showed up after the first session and wouldn't return our phone calls or email. He never expressed any problems to us, and we weren't unpleasant at the table. After a bit of collective head scratching, we picked a new DM and moved on.

dan said...

It really can be frustrating to find a new group. Doubly so if you want to join as a player and not the referee. The local group I was looking into joining recently went defunct so I'm facing the same problem.

KenHR said...

Good luck with the new group.

Though I agree with Christopher B that it's really, really sad that the potential new gamer was turned off. Gamers often interact socially with blinders on, unfortunately.

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

If you can, contact that hostess and ask her if she'd like to take part in an evening or two of solo or small group (if you know another compatible old schooler around the area). She showed interest, she actually hosted, she was put off by a bunch of rules slinging, but I bet she'd be appreciative that you took the time to want to reach out and connect and help.

This is one of the reasons I haven't gone back to 3/4E. Along with D&D becoming rules-bound, the players have become rules-bound. I read some of those accounts on the RPGA style of playing and could identify with what I had seen in my brief 3/4 experiences.

Anonymous said...

Dave, are you in New York City? The NYC Meet-Up crowd had a meeting last Sunday too.

I played 4e with them, but talked up OD&D and the Red Box, and the gang there, while still preferring 4e, nodded sympathetically and with fondness over those old rules.

K. Bailey said...

It sounds like you have a basically good set of people there to game with. Unfortunately the curious newbie being scared off by fun-murdering 3.5E rules plus nerd metaculture unfortunately also squares with my experience.

Maybe you could pitch the idea of letting you run a one-shot session of an older version and see what they think, and invite the would-be newbie to that.

Sham aka Dave said...

JamesNostack: Nope, not in NYC, I'm down in DC.

Thanks for the comments. If the Meetup takes off, it will or should eventually attract more potential local players. I'll drop a courtesy email to the hostess to thank her and see if there's still hope. I remain optimistic for this local gaming scene.

Unknown said...

Dave - where around DC are you? Your profile says Maryland.

I'm in Northern Virginia and am in a regular gaming group that's played primarily 3.5, but also a bit of True20 and even Moldvay Basic and AD&D.


Sham aka Dave said...

Paul: I'm in Montgomery County, Darnestown to be exact. About 15 miles north of the MD/VA line up 270. So, Alexandria or Woodbridge = not so close. Tysons Corner or McLean = very close.

Let me know more details if you like:



Matthew James Stanham said...

I have to admit, the idea of meeting up with a group of strangers to decide what sort of game to play is somewhat foreign to me, at least outside the context of a game club.

I agree with the other folks that you should see about contacting the host outside of the group context and see if anything can be done give her a better experience.

Sham aka Dave said...

I'm joining in the very early stages. Hopefully the Meetup will grow quickly. What I'm thinking of doing now is prepping a new sandbox game and then announcing that I'll be running OD&D every other Sunday at my house and see if that takes off. If I do that I'll advertise it here on my blog, send out emails to my old gaming crew, and schedule it with the Meetup.

Restless said...

I've been a little off-put by the whole D&D meetup group thing. There's one for my side of town, and the group coordinator emailed me if I wanted to get in on a new campaign another member had organized, because he wanted everyone to be in a campaign. He gave me a little info and I realized it was a splatbook-rich 3.5 game. I responded that I wasn't really interested in that, and I would like to see a 1e or B/X game, which is more in line with my interests.

I guess he took me off the notifications or something, because I don't even get messages from that group anymore, even though I'm a member still. Oh well, I guess I shall look elsewhere!

Sham aka Dave said...

Good luck with your group hunting too, Restless. I went ahead and RSVP'd for a 3.5 game this upcoming Saturday. I'll make a decision afterwards if this is for me. Another half dozen or so folks have joined the meet-up recently, so it still might end up being a good resource for locating some players for an original or basic campaign.