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Confessions of a 50 Year Old Dungeons and Dragons Player Part IV

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I feel compelled to write more about what was happening in the world of geekdom during the 15 year gap between the time when we stopped playing in Krynn around 1993 and when we started playing again in Fantasy Grounds in 2008. First, we were all able to go back a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...I snuck into the showing of a movie that I did not intend to watch to see the trailer to Star Wars Episode I. It looked fantastic at the time. My final opinion on it after seeing all three? I hung in there for the story arc to see how Anakin became Darth Vader, but after seeing them, I had no desire to re-watch them. And it had more to do than my intense disliking for Jar-Jar Binks. The movies seemed sterile. Too clean. Way too much CGI. The world didn't have a lived in look like the first movies.

I always told my wife, long before the movies came out, that if anyone could make a movie of "The Lord of the Rings" and do it right, they would be incredibly successful movies. So it was with amazement in 1999 when I was in a Blockbuster video store, I picked up a movie magazine and there was the announcement. The Lord of the Rings to be made by...Peter Jackson? My heart sank. The guy that made The Frighteners? This was sure to be a colossal train wreck. Oh, how wrong I was. Peter Jackson did make changes to the story, some I agreed with and some I didn't but I understand certain changes are necessary when translating a book to the big screen. But I was struck over how he captured the spirit of the books. The landscape of New Zealand WAS Middle-Earth. The cast was fantastic and the faithfulness to the books was undeniable. Good beyond hope.

Meat Loaf had come out with Bat Out of Hell 2 and 3. They were good. Three was more up my alley than two. But if I had all three of them before me, I would still reach for the one that came out in 1977. Although his duet with Marion Raven on "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" blows Celin Dion's version out of the water. All I thought at the time when I first heard it was, "Meat Loaf should be singing this". Same with Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart". But I digress.

The gaming landscape? Vastly changed. The gaming world was now the World of Warcraft. Not to knock MMO's, there are many wonderful qualities about them. The graphics of the landscape is breath taking at times. The customization of the characters is very detailed. But they seemed to follow a formula, thus: get quest, kill monsters, get treasure, level up, repeat. The roleplaying aspect is void in these games. Which is not to say I don't play them at times. I do and I like them, but they don't grab me like good old fashioned, roll the dice, theatre of the mind D&D.

Another series of movies came out which are near and dear to my heart. The Chronicles of Narnia. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is simply superb. The next two movies, Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader were good but didn't touch the first one. The gospel overtones were not overbearing, but I love the story because it is an allegory for the gospel. It's unmistakable as to who Aslan represents. This story in particular would also play a part in how I DM'd in the future.

"When I left you, I was but the learner, but now I am the master" -Darth Vader. But back to 2008 and our discovery of Fantasy Grounds. It didn't take me long to realize that I had to DM. I'd never been one, was always a player. I'm a completest. I hate unfinished business. And I have stories to tell. So when I took the wheel of the DM ship, where else was I going to go but back to Krynn? And I'd have to start over from the first module too. But looking at the modules 15 years later brought a very different perspective than when I first played through them. They are excellent modules but the first thing I started doing is incorporating my own story within the Dragonlance narrative. My imagination demanded it. Of course, Fantasy Grounds allowed my friend Randy to play from far away and reprise his role as Evro and my character Shandorf. And of course I had TJ and his son playing along with some others. But they were not there for the original Giant, Kua-toa and Underdark series that Gary Gygax created in the 70's, so I had to start from the very beginning. But I was content. Evro and Shandorf, gaming again.

So when the Dragonlance campaign ended two years later (we only played once a week), TJ DM'd for a few years. But when his schedule got complicated with his job, I had an idea to take my group's character's back in time to show them their origins. I wanted to revisit the old school modules, but they needed to be altered more than the Dragonlance modules. Don't get me wrong, they are great, but played through exactly as written? No. For example, in The Vault of the Drow, if the players find certain badges, all they have to do is show them and they have a free pass in the entire underdark. That wouldn't do. But where else could I go? I had to show my gaming group the old school ways. It had to be Greyhawk, retelling the story of the Underdark. Only, I had to make the stories my own. They were the framework, but I had my own ideas about the bigger story, incorporating other old school modules like White Plume Mountain, Tomb of Horrors, Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. Sometimes I would gut an entire module and just use the map.

Not only that, I chronicled all our adventures in narrative form each week, calling them "The Chronicles of the Crew", recapping the previous week's adventures. I made slideshows set to music and even put together a collection of songs pertaining to each character for a "soundtrack" to the campaign. Anything to make it more cinematic. I was happy. Friends old and new were playing back in the campaign where it all began. We had come full circle.

Concluded in Part V

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Updated February 25th, 2024 at 06:20 by Niles



  1. strike277's Avatar
    K, It's been two days Niles. Where is the last part? LOL. I've quite enjoyed reading these. Thank you for pointing me to them. See you on TS. :-)

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