Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

This is Me in ’83 – Halloween

Have I mentioned that in 1983, I was really, really into reading my Dungeons & Dragons stuff? 

Inspired by that source material, I cobbled together my own fantasy adventurer’s costume for Halloween:

No parental assistance required: Sweat pants and a sweatshirt that looks like I removed the collar for that deep-V look that’s all the rage among dragon-slayers; cape from an old…bedspread, maybe? I can remember the material was heavy, but also kind of clingy and stretchy; tunic-vest-thing that I cut and stitched together myself out of some burlap-type cloth mom had around; and a belt that I probably wore every other day of the year, too.

The sword? A yardstick covered in aluminum foil, of course. Which means it stands to reason – as if it’s not completely clear already – that yes, I am in fact wearing a foil hat. (Technically, my helm was a white knit hat covered in foil. Still: FOIL HAT.)

And now that “foil” sounds funny, I’ll move on.

If I remember correctly, my fellow D&D wannabe Mike S. wore a pretty slick elf ranger costume he and his mom had made.

More than once, I think, Mike and I took advantage of the trick-or-treat scheduling differences between the village of Hartville itself – where he lived – and Lake Township: One usually scheduled it on Halloween proper, while the other set it on the closest preceding weekend night, or something like that, making it possible for us to hit both of our neighborhoods. I seem to think we also really liked going out in the early hours of trick-or-treat, dropping off our candy haul at home, and then going back out after dark to roam the neighborhood and try to scare the kids we knew.

Other bits and pieces nicely caught up in this photo: The Halloween decorations – store-bought and handmade alike – that my mom put out every year; the long-gone brick fireplace and wood paneling of our family room; the wooden set of coasters in their little boxy holder up there on the mantle (these go back practically to the beginning of my memory).

For all the dorkiness captured in this picture – of me, that is; nothing against our family decor – I remain oddly proud of this costume, since I made the whole thing myself.

Plus: Foil hat.

October 28, 2013 Posted by | 1980s, geek, Ohio, photos | , , , | 4 Comments

Back in the game

OldDice

Earlier this year, a friend asked if I’d be interested in his 1980s Dungeons & Dragons stuff. He’d played a lot back when we were kids – I wish I’d known that at the time – but hadn’t touched the game in years, and thought I’d enjoy having the classic material on hand, since I now play regularly.

So we struck a deal, and I’ve spent a good amount of time revisiting the books and box sets and modules that I either never had or never fully appreciated as a kid. (Bonus: His collection included a Fiend Folio that even has the remnants of a Kay-Bee toy store price sticker, just like mine did!)

Inside the Basic Set was a sandwich bag containing seven dice. The brown 10- 12- and 20-siders look like they came from the same original set. The light blue d4 and d6 are identical to the ones I got in my own red box Basic Set. The two d8s are each a little different.

I was surprised to see how small those three older brown dice looked, sitting next to dice from my current collection -

OldDiceNewDice

- but they felt familiar between my fingertips. And the d4 is numbered the way I remember from middle school, with the digits on the edges rather than the corners.

Thing is, it was only last weekend that I had the realization that These Dice Should Be Rolling! I retrieved them from the Basic box and tumbled them into my dice bag.

Tuesday night’s D&D session was entirely role-playing, but toward the end of the night, we rolled for a bit o’ treasure.

Here’s the result of the d12’s first in-game cast in close to three decades:

BackInTheGame

This One Goes To Eleven. (And landed Culhwch Keepson a Ring of Climbing.)

October 10, 2013 Posted by | 1980s, Games, geek | , | 2 Comments

This is Me in ’83 – Saturday Morning D&D

I started to write up my memories of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, which premiered on CBS Sept. 17, 1983, and then realized I’d really like to contribute this particular bit of recollection to GeekDad.

DDGeekDad

And I’m glad I did, because it’s been really cool seeing the responses on GeekDad, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, and realizing that hey, I struck a nice nostalgic nerve with this one.

We even made the official Daily D&D!

Owly Images

I didn’t want to overload the GeekDad post with pictures, so here are a couple images from the cartoon’s closing credits that I mentioned. Still gorgeous and a little sad, somehow – but in that good sort of way. (And I think I figured out why I love them so much. It’s an amusement park at dusk. Weak spot.)

ddcartoonclosing

ddclosing2

September 20, 2013 Posted by | 1980s, geek, Television | , , , , | Leave a comment

This is Me in ’83 – Seventh Grade

In the fall of 1983, I started seventh grade at Lake Middle School.

8384yearbook

Technically, this yearbook itself is from 1984, since we received them toward the end of the school year. However, since I did pretty much nothing in the way of extracurricular activities, I can guarantee that half the pictures of me in this book are from the beginning of the school year.

I can make this promise because I am only in two pictures. Here’s the first – my official seventh-grade portrait, as it appeared on page 50. Row 6, first column, surrounded by a group of fellow B-name kids that wouldn’t change much over my entire 12 years at Lake. (This guy’s picture is in row 5, column two.)

7thGradeFall

Why yes, those are plastic-rimmed prescription glasses that darkened in sunlight – and apparently, under certain bright indoor conditions as well – because after all, it was August, 1983. And according to my extensive television research, every girl was crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man.

Digression to the future: That seventh-grade me still regularly read his Fiend Folio – with its unforgettable image of Lolth, Demon Queen of Spiders –

LolthFiendFolio

- and other Dungeons & Dragons materials, even if he never actually learned to play. Those memories add another level of enjoyment to this picture, taken almost exactly 30 years later at Gen Con:

MeAtGenCon

Back to the past, then:

My only other appearance in the yearbook is in the photo below.

7thgradeband

I’m thinking I’m second row, third or fourth chair clarinet. My face is hidden, but I’m pretty sure that’s my unruly hair within the red circle:

ImWithTheBand

Seventh grade at Lake Middle School was also notable in that thanks to a shift in student distribution (the middle school had housed grades 6-8 the year before, but handled grades 7-9 in 1983-84) my classmates and I got to be the youngest class in the building for a second consecutive year. Yay.

August 31, 2013 Posted by | 1980s, geek, Ohio | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gen Con 2013: Part Four – Saturday, Aug. 17

Woke up early enough to make myself go do another treadmill run. Only had enough in the tank for two miles, so I at least pushed myself and came in at under eight minutes per mile – barely.

Our first day at Gen Con, Dave had said something to the effect of, “We gotta play some D&D this weekend.”

We’d planned to line up with Kato at 9 a.m. to try and get a 10 a.m. session of Confrontation at Candlekeep, but just after eight, during another hearty hotel breakfast (seriously: I really enjoyed the morning menu), I got a text from Dave: “Just got over here. Line is out the door, erm, gate already.”

I got there a few minutes later, and Kato was there by about 8:45. I think we did wind up sitting down at our table to play a little more than an hour later.

I chose the pre-generated dwarf fighter as my character, since it’s a role I had no experience playing.

We had a great DM – Erica King – guiding our adventure, and I really enjoyed myself. (I don’t have enough comparative multi-edition experience to offer a good opinion on the D&D Next play. I know I had fun.) The only downside was that our party, through some odd quirk of the playtest logistics, didn’t actually get to do battle with the final monster. Erica did a great job of thinking on her feet and throwing new enemies at us so we weren’t just sitting there waiting. Still, again – FUN.

And hey: Sweet new free set of dice from Wizards of the Coast!

These are all my free dice from Gen Con – the blue and white set is from Wizards, the purple one was a Crystal Caste giveaway, and the green one was from ordering off the Pathfinder menu at Scotty’s Brewhouse, which is where Kato and Wendy and I went for lunch. (Love the effort that went into creating the art and copy for this menu. The descriptions are fun and amazing. And if you’re interested, we split an order of Goblin Ears, and I had a Squealy Nord.)

After lunch, I met up with Dave at the convention center again, then tried to catch Jim Hines for his 3 p.m. book signing. Then I double-checked the schedule and saw that it had been an 11 a.m. signing, and I’d gotten my days confused. Dang.

So Dave & I stopped by the Steve Jackson Games booth, where both Steve Jackson himself and John Kovalic happened to be sitting and signing. And I’d brought along my much-loved copy of Munchkin Bites for just such an occasion:

The third signature there is Andrew Hackard. Kelsey and I met Andrew at Penguicon – where he taught us how to play Munchkin – in 2009, and I’d been looking forward to catching up with him at Gen Con. The SJ Games booth was really busy, of course, but we got to chat for a couple minutes. Then he looked at his watch and said, “Hey: You should throw your name in the drawing for dinner at the Munchkin Tavern tonight – I’m hosting.” I filled out an entry card, and then Dave and I went to meet up with Jonathan.

The three of us played Paizo’s demo of its Pathfinder Card Game. At the time, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but in retrospect, I’d like to see how a full game plays out, since it’s an interesting combination of role-playing rules and deck-building strategy.

Not long after, the three of us headed off in different directions, and then I got a text from an unknown number: I’d landed one of the Munchkin Tavern dinner seats!

Via text, Kato suggested that we could fill the time until I headed to dinner with a game of Lords of Waterdeepso Dave and I met him in one of his hotel common areas. I’d never played the game, but I liked it from the start. Easy to learn and a fun theme. Also, I won. (Though with an asterisk – we cut the game short by a couple rounds at 6:50 so I could head over to dinner.)

Dinner at the Munchkin Tavern was a blast. Six of us Munchkin / SJGames fans and Andrew, just geeking out for hours, and enjoying some seriously excellent food and drink. At one point, with his actual Red Pen of Doom, Andrew began creating custom (and Munchkin-legal!) “Go Up A Level” cards. As he’s doing this, he looks at me and says, “Is it ‘E-L-S-E-Y?” Realizing he was personalizing a card for my daughter, I said, “Yep. And you’re awesome.”

His response was to grin and say, “You haven’t seen the card yet.”

It reads, “Beat Dad – Again. Go Up A Level. KELSEY ONLY.”

“Hackaaaaaaaaaaaaard!” (No, seriously: Awesome.)

It was past 10 p.m. when we all left, and the time had flown.

Even though Dave and I were doing another True Dungeon run at 10 a.m., it was the last night of Gen Con, so I wanted to keep riding the adrenaline. “Still up?” I texted Kato.

About 20 minutes later, I got a response: He was heading down to the lobby to meet a couple friends for another Lords of Waterdeep game, and invited me over.

We set up at a table in the bar with Kato’s buddies, who were ordering a late dinner. After they ate, we ordered some drinks and got the game going.

After a bit, a guy came over and said something along the lines of “Hey, I don’t mean to interrupt your game, but…are you having fun?”

And that’s how we met Lords of Waterdeep designer Rodney Thompson. Fantastic!

It was almost 2 a.m. by the time we wrapped things up, and even though I knew it was going to be hard getting up at eight o’clock, I kept thinking, “Yep. This is how you do the last night of a con.”

So I’m heading back to the room, walking east on Maryland Avenue, and there are still a fair amount of people out and about. And I’m thinking about how I’m going to have to pack all my stuff in the morning before heading over to True Dungeon, because checkout time is 11 a.m., and that means getting up even earlier than I’d planned, because at this hour, I can’t pack when I get back to the room without waking up Jonathan, and -

- and there’s Jonathan, standing on the next street corner talking with someone, because he has also spent the last night of Gen Con gaming into the early hours of Sunday. We see each other and crack up with the absurdity of being up this late playing games and having so much fun.

Back at the hotel, I pack up everything I can, and fall asleep around 3 a.m.

August 29, 2013 Posted by | Current Affairs, Games, geek, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gen Con 2013: Part Three – Friday, Aug. 16

Most days, my alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. “Sleeping in” is typically anything past 7 a.m.

So, exhausted as I’d been the night before, I wasn’t surprised to wake up just after seven Friday morning. Knowing that I had fallen behind on my running, and not wanting to lose too many miles, I went down to the hotel’s fitness center and did 3.5 miles on the treadmill. On the way back to the room, I ran into Jonathan as he was heading down for breakfast, showered, and headed down for my own meal.

I seem to think we met up with Dave at the convention center – he was staying closer than we were – and we dove into another day’s gaming.

We passed a good chunk of the morning having fun learning and playing complete games (not just demos) of Dread Curse and A Touch of Evil: Dark Gothic at their company booths.

And oh, hey: Giant Balloon Cthulhu.

Jonathan had an appointment to keep (I think), so Dave offered to teach me Dungeon Command, which he had brought with him. I had actually planned to attend a panel on game writing, but I was really caught up in playing and learning all these new games, so I ate the peanut butter sandwich I’d made – Yes, I did, in fact, bring a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter to keep in the hotel room so we could make sandwiches for during the day. Convention Survival Essential. – skipped the panel, and tried my best to rally an undead army to victory.

At some point, Dave and I also played a quick demo of Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures. Seemed neat and fun, but the demo was awfully short, and nobody got blasted into space dust.

I also thought I’d pop over to Jim Hines‘ mid-afternoon appearance in the authors’ alley so I could say hi and get my copy of Codex Born signed, but I got there about 15 minutes before his shift was due to end, and there was at least a half-hour line – Go Jim! (He also had one more signing scheduled, so I wasn’t stressed about it.)

Dave and I decided to take a break, then grab dinner nearby before our scheduled True Dungeon run at 7 p.m. I walked back to my hotel to pick up the bag of True Dungeon tokens that Jonathan had been given, and I snagged a 15-minute snooze while I was there.

After supper, we met up with Jonathan, Kato & Wendy outside the True Dungeon hall, and for the next couple hours, we fled and fought werewolves and worked our way through a wilderness of puzzling obstacles. I wrote a detailed piece on our True Dungeon experience for GeekDad, but the short version is that we had a lot of fun.

Stopped by the Wizards of the Coast Dungeons & Dragons area for a few minutes afterward to say hello to Lolth -

- then walked solo over to check out the Munchkin Tavern and have a beer. Not long after I arrived, Kato and Wendy decided to come over, too. It was a nice night, and we sat out on the deck for awhile just enjoying the surroundings and the company. Picked up a set of pint glasses, which, naturally, come with in-game rules for use during Munchkin.

Before leaving, we met  John Kovalic, who was sitting at a table inside – bonus points to Wendy for checking Twitter and noticing that he mentioned being at the Tavern. He’s been a Friend of GeekDad for awhile, but this was the first time our paths crossed. Exceptionally nice guy.

We left after 11 p.m., and I headed back to my hotel, since Kato and Dave and I were planning to be in line early Saturday for one of the D&D Next playtest sessions. Jonathan was still in the hall gaming close to midnight.

This was one of the coolest things about Gen Con: The day ended (or didn’t) when you wanted it to. There were still hundreds of people in the convention center hallways and open gaming areas when I was walking past. I don’t know if the center itself stayed open 24 hours, but even if it didn’t, and you wanted to game all night long, there were possibilities everywhere  you looked: Late-night restaurants, hotel lobbies and bars and common areas.

Also making for an interesting downtown scene was that weekend’s motorcycle racing event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Lots of bikers – both of the chrome-and-custom crowd and the racing bike enthusiasts – cruising around and gathering on a few blocks closed off for the occasion. (One of which was right outside our hotel. From six stories up, though, the noise didn’t bother me.) Between the bikers and the game geeks and the costumers, there was some top-notch people-watching to be enjoyed.

Missed parts one and two of my Gen Con 2013 recollections? Here: Part One – Getting There; Part Two – Thursday, August 15.

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Current Affairs, Games, geek, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gen Con 2013: Part Two – Thursday, Aug. 15

(In which John, having reached Indianapolis for Gen Con, unsurprisingly goes to Gen Con.)

Finishing up breakfast with Jonathan and Dave just after 8 a.m., it felt like it should have been much later in the day, since I’d been up most of the night. But I was ready to get The Best Four Days in Gaming under way.

Jonathan and I checked our luggage – we couldn’t check into the hotel until Thursday afternoon – and after  short walk to the Indiana Convention Center later, we had checked into the press room made our way to the main exhibit hall.

Dave & Jonathan are really enthusiastic gamers, and it was fun seeing the two of them walk into this massive space packed with games… and practically freeze with overload. 

Before playing anything, I made sure to pick up my first free swag of the con – this sweet DungeonMorph die:

So, here’s what I remember playing that morning:

Roll For It! – Hey! I won the first GeekDad-played game of Gen Con 2013! (Thanks to a bit of luck – it’s a dice game, after all – and, I’d like to think, some lessons learned from playing too much Tali.)

Walk the Plank – I won this one, too, thus racking up two-thirds of my gaming victories that weekend in the first hour or so.

WeyKick – Jonathan’s Gen Con photo set at GeekDad includes  a picture of Dave and me playing this tabletop soccer game.

Tok Tok Woodman – Here’s another Jonathan Liu GeekDad photo.

Ooga Booga – Silly, silly fun.

Jonathan and Dave wanted to check out Robinson Crusoe – Jonathan included his thoughts on the game in his GeekDad gaming round-up) so I went along and watched for awhile, thinking ahead to lunch and a 1 p.m. appointment in Gamma World.

I was starting to take damage from the lack of sleep, so I excused myself from the Crusoe game table and headed out to find the food trucks that Kato & Wendy had mentioned were nearby.

A couple observations on post-2005 changes to the Indiana Convention Center:

  1. The additional convention space that now occupies what used to be the RCA Dome was most welcome, and made a huge difference in the crowds and traffic compared to Star Wars Celebration III. While there were occasional bottlenecks in spots, for the most part, walking around Gen Con, I spent very little time in those zombie-shuffling shoulder-to-shoulder packs that seemed to fill the main SWC3 corridors.
  2. The rise of the food truck industry has done wonders. One of my huge gripes about conventions is the lack of access to food other than the unremarkable and overpriced offerings within convention centers themselves. While I remember the Indy convention center having decent – if not quick – dining options within walking distance, there was nothing in 2005 to compare to the couple dozen food trucks that lined the neighboring streets this time around.

Right across the road, I found a truck offering bowls of homemade mac-and-cheese ladled over a scoop of pulled pork BBQ, and then baked for just a few minutes to get that nice golden brown top. That and a Coke did me up just right, and I felt much better heading over to Kato & Wendy’s hotel for our scheduled Gamma World adventure.

I’ve written before about Kato’s DM skills, so when he invited me to play in a GW adventure he was creating specifically for Gen Con, he didn’t have to ask twice. I met up with him and Wendy, and we set up at a table in one of their hotel’s public gathering areas. Three of their other friends joined us, and a four-hour post-apocalyptic quest ensued.

My random character generation? A highly dexterous felinoid demon. Naturally, I named him Cattygrumpus.

GWCattygrumpus

It was so meta, and so fun, and Kato’s attention to detail and planning were on full display. The setting was Indianapolis itself, in the ruins of the convention center. After Gen Con, Kato explained it himself via Twitter, and shared some of the cool original art one of his friends – @symatt – contributed.

I collected Kato’s Twitter descriptions and other art in this Storify piece.

And when the whole thing was over, we each got a couple custom Gamma World cards – again, worth reading for the detail.

GWKatoCards

So, having gotten my third wind, I headed off to check into the hotel and take a shower before attending A Night with Dungeons & Dragons

I met up with Kato & Wendy outside the Indiana Roof Ballroom, the interior of which was designed to evoke Baldur’s Gate. And while there was a big puzzle/murder mystery activity you could participate in, the three of us spent most of the evening eating, drinking, talking, and enjoying the surroundings and talking to several nifty game creators.

Shortly after 10 p.m., I caught up with Jonathan and Dave in Hall D of the convention center – the main open gaming venue. They introduced me to The Great Heartland Hauling Co., and we played a game before calling it a day. (The game’s inventor, Jason Kotarski, happened to be at the next table over, and posted this picture to Twitter.)

And that was it: Having been on the go since roughly 5:30 a.m. the day before, I slept well back at the hotel.

August 27, 2013 Posted by | Current Affairs, Games, geek, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This is Me in ’83 – Dungeons! Dragons! Tomfoolery!

This entry likely begins in late 1982, when I was at my friend Mike’s house, and we wound up watching this movie called Mazes and Monsters on TV. (I say “likely,” because while the movie debuted on Dec. 28, I suppose it’s possible the thing was re-run in early 1983.)

So the whole terrible anti-role-playing propaganda of the movie was lost on us, because not long after, I remember Mike telling me one day in study hall that he had learned to play pencil-and-paper “Mazes and Monsters.” Basically, you’d draw a map of a cave or a castle or something similar, with small, numbered notations that corresponded to a hidden list of treasures, creatures and traps. You’d then guide the other guy through, asking him where he wanted to go, and describing what he encountered along the way. I think there may have been some super-basic sort of combat with plain old six-sided dice, but mostly it was kind of like walking the player through a Choose Your Own Adventure story.

The next step, of course, was Mike getting a Dungeons & Dragons basic set, and showing me the cool dice and the character sheets, and The Keep on the Borderlands module.

Since we didn’t know anyone else our age who had any interest in the game, though it was tough for us to play for real. Most of the time we just created characters with artificially-inflated stats and ran through maps and modules in a souped-up version of our “Mazes and Monsters.”

On a semi-related note, here is a Polaroid of Baltek, the Green Dragon:

baltek

Mike and I built him out of homemade green play dough and wrote a story about him (spoiler alert: Baltek wins) for our “Medieval Day” project that year.

We shared a study hall in sixth grade, and somehow, Mike and I started getting passes from our teachers to play D&D either in the hallways outside their rooms, or in adjacent empty classrooms. I remember in particular sitting on the floor with The Lost City awaiting Mike’s adventurers.

lostcity

Then one day, I happened to see a copy of the morning memo that teachers used to get from the office every day. One note read, “It’s springtime! Practical joke time – how about no more hall passes for John and Mike?”

After a couple days of us trying unsuccessfully to finagle passes, one morning, the school heard this over the PA system: “Attention – if anyone has seen John Booth and Mike ___, please let us know: They are missing from the sixth grade halls!”

So we had no luck. And then, Mike had one of his friends ask a teacher for their autograph. And the kid got it. Just her signature on a blank piece of paper. Above which we then wrote, “Please excuse John and Mike during study hall.” Now, being a dork, while I thought this was ingenious, I also knew that some teachers would think it was funny, and some would, well, not. So I said, “Let’s take this to the office and let someone know it’s a joke first.”

Now the really weird coincidence is, when we got to the office – over Mike’s quit-being-such-a-nerd objections – and I told the secretary my name, she said, “John Booth? Your mom just called: She wanted us to remind you that she’s picking you up early today, and you have a dentist’s appointment. She’ll be here in about 10 minutes.”

We never got to find out how our clever fake hall pass would have been received.

Our shared exploration of D&D was pretty brief. In seventh grade, I traded away ten bucks plus my copy of The Lost City for a Timex Sinclair.

It would be 17 years before I created my next Dungeons & Dragons character, and while the game – and I – are different, rolling those polyhedral dice still takes me back, on some level, to 1983.

May 9, 2013 Posted by | 1980s, geek, Ohio | , , , | 1 Comment

Dungeons & Dragons: Into the Unknown

Over at GeekDad, I’ve published a review of Dungeons & Dragons – Into the Unknown: The Dungeon Survival Handbook.

Dungeons & Dragons Into the Unknown

Click the cover image to visit the post at GeekDad.

July 5, 2012 Posted by | Books, Games, geek | , , , , | Leave a comment

Dungeons and Dragons: Wednesday Withdrawal

Sword and dice

Mid-February. Massillon, Ohio: One of the players, Tom, had brought a celebratory cache of cheap foam weapons – short swords, axes, hammers and even flails – along with his usual giant bag of fresh popcorn. The resulting silliness helped offset a little undertone of sadness to this particular Dungeons and Dragons night, because it was going to be this group’s last session, at least for awhile.

I came to this group at Backlist Books as the new guy back on Sept. 7, 2011, and I was a little nervous. The only person I knew at the table was Fred, the store owner and Dungeon Master, and I hadn’t played D&D since summer 2010. It was already week three of the Lost Crown of Neverwinter adventure, so in the interest of saving time, Fred offered me a pre-generated character in the interest of saving time, so I took up the bow of Belgos, a drow ranger.

Belgos was an enjoyable enough character to play, although I feel like I approached him a little coldly – leveling up was all about how he could get better in combat, and I was always more focused on doing well in battle than in actually role-playing Belgos. I’m sure that partly this was because I was the new guy in the group, and I was still getting to know everyone else, and partly because I really had no connection to my character.

Over the course of Lost Crown, though, spending Wednesday nights with this group of people I’d just met became a fantastic, energizing, bizarrely comforting ritual. I’d get home from work, have dinner with Jenn & Kelsey, gather up my dice, pencils and books, and take the back roads over to Massillon. Most times, I’d listen to mixes of 1980s music, because it put me in what felt like an appropriate frame of mind.

The early session was usually still wrapping up when I’d arrive at Backlist, so I’d sit down and pick something off the shelves to read, or sit on the couch in the front of the store, or, if one of our group was already there, say hi and catch up a little on everyday stuff from the past week.

Our sessions were supposed to start at 8 p.m. We were all there on time, most weeks, and yet most weeks, by the time we all caught up with each other, had purchased books or new D&D minis, and stocked up on our snacks and drinks for the evening, it was still closer to – or well past – nine o’clock by the time we actually started playing. If I got home at midnight, I didn’t care: Wednesdays were fine, fine nights in my book, no matter how the dice had fallen.

The group stuck together for the next 14-week adventure, Beyond the Crystal Cave.

This time, though, I wanted to create a character all my own. Thus was born my tiefling hexblade, Azathoth (the first Cthulhu Mythos name I found upon picking up a Lovecraft book). The core of his origin tale came to me almost immediately, and fleshed out a bit more over time as I played the character. I may even write it out sometime in a short story format, just for fun.

During the very first Crystal Cave session, as our characters got to know each other, I made a decision regarding Azathoth’s feelings and motivations, but I opted to keep it to myself and play it pretty close to the vest until about halfway through the adventure. When I finally did make the revelation, several weeks later – and I admit, despite the fact that by now I was really comfortable role-playing with this group, I wondered how it would be perceived – I was ecstatic that the reaction was amusement and support and a recognition that this would be fun to play out.

Our final session was, fittingly, the perfect mix of combat and role-playing and ideal dungeon-mastering that tested our characters’ mettle, allowed for some dramatic heroics, and felt very much like the final moments of a good cinematic story than the end of a game.

Example: My terrible dice rolls were a longstanding joke within our group, ever since Belgos once went for what seemed like weeks without managing to hit the broad side of a tavern with a single arrow. So when Azathoth unleashed an Eldritch Bolt (think “Force Lightning,” but, you know, from hell) that turned out to be the final boss death blow, it was a fun moment. Fred the DM let me keep the figure representing the villain – and though I don’t collect D&D minis, that thing still sits here on my desk like a victory trophy.

Even the post-battle story wrap-up presented opportunities for a few more truly enjoyable moments with our characters.

It’s only been a month since then, but I have missed my Wednesday night Dungeons & Dragons sessions. I miss showing up, seeing my friends, stacking character sheets and dice on the table, popping open a Coke, and passing around Twizzlers and popcorn. I miss sitting down and creating, from the same elements in use by players and DMs all over the country, a story that is totally ours.

I’d like to imagine that in the not-too-distant future, there’s a time when Azathoth finds himself sitting in a tavern reminiscing about that tale, only to have his thoughts interrupted by a familiar voice calling from the doorway…

March 19, 2012 Posted by | Games, geek, Ohio | , , | 2 Comments

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