173: The Dice They Carried

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The Dice They Carried

Russ Pitts remembers the last time his d20s came out of the bag, and it involves a grown man acting like a kitten.

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Well, Russ, if you have some time off and want to play again, I do have some friends who run games in America...

And if you've never been to the REAL Camp David, or been in "An Ecumenical Matter", I'm sure they'd welcome you with open swords...I mean, arms.

I've only ever played D&D once. And then, didn't even finish a quarter of the campaign. Maybe it was the people I played with. Maybe it was because I didn't own my own equipment. All I know is; reading that made me want to try again.

Finishing a Campaign is rarely important, I've been gaming with the same group for 5 years and we have yet to actually finish a campaign. We've given up "long running" games in favor of "Episodic" games, where we play the same characters in loosely continuous adventures, where Experience, Equipment etc. don't matter and what's important is fun roleplaying and explosive action.

I never knew until this point that we New Englanders had a reputation for aggressive driving. I assumed everyone on the road was out to cut me off.

TomNook:
I never knew until this point that we New Englanders had a reputation for aggressive driving. I assumed everyone on the road was out to cut me off.

Yeah, it doesn't work like that everywhere else. When I was growing up in Texas, we pretty much assumed anyone who drove like an a-hole was from the Northeast, and that anyone with Northeast plates, would drive like an a-hole.

Now, when I go home to Texas, I drive like a Northeasterner. Such is life.

Heh, I too have my dice in a leather bag. It originally belinged to my portaPros, but they didn't quite fit in it, so I found some alternative use for it.

I absolutely loved it. I've always wanted to try tabletop rping, but I couldn't get my friends to play it. That made me want to try it once again.

My group eschews gamer superstition, we have a giant basket of dice that everyone plucks dice out of. There is an exception though, we have an epic saga of an evil die known as the Gem of Chaos. It defies all logic and probability.

Gamers in Texas don't own swords? You must have gamed with different people than I did, since I was about the only one I gamed with who didn't have a bedroom decorated lovingly with cheap Chinese steel.

Main differences between 25 years ago and now?

1) My dice used to be plastic. Now they're solid metal.
2) Way better snackfood at sessions.

Just to show how much a geek I am, I bought a set of the metal dice(I chose the brass ones cause they looked closest to gold). In fact, I was at GenCon this year(my first time, and I had an absolute blast) and one of the primary things I bought were dice(I found a really cool set of dragon dice along with the metal dice I bought).

Anyway, I know about the RPGer in the closet feeling. Being an old-schooler myself, it's hard to see past the old attitudes and prejudices of days past. However, a funny thing happened while I was at GenCon. I realized how many different NEW people were into role-playing now. It used to be, as you say, role playing was a dark and closeted thing, something only the "weird" people did. The stereotype was always a bunch of fat, ugly, no-life geeks clustered in the basement acting out a bunch of childish fantasies over some dice and paper. However, when I was at GenCon, I was shocked and amazed at the number of "normal" people that were into role-playing. There were even people that I would consider to be more the trend-setter types that were into role-playing(they especially seemed to like the more story-teller heavy systems like Exalted, Vampire the Masquerade, etc. that are based more on socialization than dice rolling). Yes, there was the share of the stereotypical role-player; however, the population was much less than I expected. There was also a much large population of hotties than I would have ever expected.

Role-playing, from what I can tell, has definitely become more mainstream. More people are into it, and more different kinds of people are into it. The entire hobby has expanded beyond the closeted geek in the basement and has become a serious activity enjoyed by many different people from different walks of life.

After my experience at GenCon, I became proud to say that I'm a role-player. I no longer felt I needed to hide it and would gladly admit it to anyone met. I felt refreshed and invigorated by the new life and the new generation of role-players that I saw at GenCon. It was quite an eye-opening experience, and I look forward to going again next year(I just need to save up because it is quite an expense).

Oh, in our RP sessions now, I always use my metal dice...haha!

@geizr: It sounds like you've had some similar late-in-life experiences to mine. I should add, extraneous to the events mentioned in this article, I've had some really good, uplifting RP experiences with people I'd consider "relatively" normal. And the folks in the game group in the article also had moments of clarity. They weren't complete freaks, they just allowed their eccentricities to take center stage a bit more than I'd consider appropriate. I'm completely willing to accept, however, that I'm the odd man out on that score. I mean, if you can't put on costumes and meow like a cat at your D&D session, where can you?

I'm a huge fan of the Escapist AND Russ,
but I've got to disagree with you on the bladed weapons point,I shoot Pistol and Shotgun(for fun,I'm a lousy shot,I'm not from Texas mores the pity I'm Irish and guns aren't as common at home,but I've lived in Thailand for the past two years and rarely pass a couple of days without getting some shooting in),and am also a Martial Artist and fan of swords,knives,axes,throwing knives,throwing axes,shurikens etc,and I'd have to disagree with the "When you grow up holding a firearm, bladed weapons seem silly" line,but that's mainly because I have some throwing knives that weigh as much as my Para Ordinance .45 does(loaded) and I can draw and throw one faster than I can ready and fire a pistol and hit a target just as consistently...Thats 4-5 pounds of razor sharp,foot long steel travelling at speed,not something I personally find silly :)...
Bear in mind I'm not a great shot or as familiar with firearms as a lot of people from the Lonestar state would be,indeed I have Thai friends(Ipsc shooters)who can draw,load and shoot at astounding speed,but to balance that out I have Martial Arts buddies who could slice your arms off with a Katana before you could blink...let alone draw a firearm,so that kind of negates the "Knife to a Gunfight" type idea.
I realise you were talking about people who own swords more as costume than part of a Martial Art,
but consider how you'd feel if I confidently threw real firearms into the same pot as 6mm plastic bb guns-as I've had done to me on Youtube in the past(I had someone compare his plastic Spas 12 with the real mc coy that I'd fired numerous times on an Army base in Bangkok...he said he would be able to hit targets faster with his toys than I could...ignoring the massive differences between REAL weapons and toys),
anyway I don't want to come across as a mouth breathing Ninja wannabee dickhead...
just wanted to point out that not all bladed weapons are silly.

My current campaign is a hilarious stereotype stew.
It's 4e, and features a human paladin, an elf (Eladrin, actually) wizard, a tiefling warlock, a shifter longtooth fighter/cleric, and a halfling rogue. I'm playing the (female) rogue as something along the lines of Mel Gibson from Conspiracy Theory with added kleptomania, gold fixation and alcoholism. Half the people involved in the campaign appear normal.

I don't actually own any swords or engage in LARP, but I have cousins with a good number and a brother with one.

My biggest problem with rolling again is that I know it won't be the same.

Me and my friends who played were of different ages, went to different schools, or had different classes to one another, and our D&D sessions were a way to come together as friends, like blokes meeting at the pub. Half the time we'd just get stoned and mess around.

Playing with a different bunch of people never seemed right, even back then.

Over here in England i didn't even find out what DaD was till i played neverwinter nights.
It sounds like i missed out.

I've recently restarted DnD with a different group than the guys I played it with (on and off) for some ten years going and finding it to be a weird experience. Same rules, completely different game.

Like FunkyJ we were a disparate group of friends who made it a habit to play DnD at some undefined point.

No swords and costumes or anything though, in either group.

I've been interested in the idea of tabletop role-playing games for a long time, but I never got into it that deeply. A number of problems existed when I tried to roleplay during secondary school.

Firstly, I was only ever available for single scenario games, which we'd never finish because we'd get into discussions or arguments instead. Therefore, I never really connected with the groups that I played with. Then again, I doubt that we really would have got things going - the DMs that I played with had inflexibility and lack of experience.

Secondly, my interests later became more focused on Western science-fiction and modern-day combat systems, such as the GURPS system and the unofficial pen-and-paper version of the Fallout role-playing system. The problem was that everybody else wouldn't have played these games, especially GURPS, which requires a group which are willing to tolerate dice-rolls for just about everything, and able to accept that their characters will be very much mortal. Great for me, a person who appreciates realism and challenge, but not so great for the other players, whose experiences of DnD and other role-playing systems which emphasised heroic characters.

But I'll try again some time. I've joined a university group formed for these tabletop games, so perhaps I'll find a game that I like to play, and a group willing to play it.

Ah good old AD+D, back in the good old days. The rules were never important and only caused arguments in our group. Once we realised that we enjoyed ourselves much more. In the 21 years I've been playing I've only finished one campaign and still love it!

May your dice roll high!

Thanks Russ, what an excellent article, I really enjoyed reading it. Quite an emotional read as well, as it reminded me of a similar experience I had two summers ago.

I was in Japan teaching English, and quite early on I made a friend who turned out to be as big a geek as I am (and he was just as proud of it). We got together with his flatmate and another friend on a muggy summer night in the Osaka suburbs, a gathering of geeky English teachers with the core rulebooks, a couple of bags of dice, and plenty of Kirin. I don't remember why I brought my dice bag to Japan - a rustic old Blue Mountain coffee bag that had sat in a drawer for years - but I was very glad that I did.

I'd only played 2nd Edition about 10 years beforehand, but I'd played it a lot, and I knew a bit about the 3rd Edition rules from Neverwinter Nights, so I was pretty much OK. I can imagine that playing with people you've never met before would be quite nerve-racking to begin with, but thankfully these were people I knew fairly well so we were all excited to get going. I was the elven wizard, and we also had a ranger, a thief, and a cleric, all humans.

We played every week for a couple of months, all through the summer. It was a real challenge at times as we didn't even have air conditioning, and if you've ever been in Japan during the summer months, you know that can be a nightmare. We didn't finish our "campaign", but we got a couple of adventures done and had an amazing time. We had to abandon it due to a couple of the guys having commitments elsewhere, but it was a truly memorable experience while it lasted. My dice are now lying dormant - I wonder when they will roll again!

So it's not our group wherein people play hilarious stereotypes of themselves without realising (most of my closest friends):

Dan - big, overweight guy with a short temper and lvl 70 in aggression (but essentially a great guy) always plays Druid/Fighter/Heavies/Dwarf.

Ryan - small, hyperactive, incredibly fit tends to always favour ninja/thief/rogue classes.

Adam - overly confident pretentious asshole is predictably a mage or psychic type.

Paul - little ex-goth musician & nicest guy in the world, anything that lurks in the shadows often has 'monster with heart of gold' syndrome.

Me - intentionally rebellious and way too controlling, and I always go for the gruff every-man hero. I've realised I always try and assume a leadership role or actively reject it and fuck with whoever does.

Perhaps the Escapist can look at the possibility of computer games having the same role play and immersion effect that table top does. I have heard from many sources that it's just not possible to get the same effect from playing a computer game as you would roleplaying. However, this is simply not true. Playing a multiplayer Neverwinter Nights (1 or 2) with a DM is very similar. In fact the added level of seperation provided by the computer can help people role play better. I have table top role played for many years, yet the best role playing sessions I have ever been a part of occurred playing Neverwinter Nights on a persistent world at aussienwn.com.

This would be interesting to pursue for ludological reasons.

Good read.

It's been a long time since I picked up my dice as well. And I miss it.

I tried doing an online tabletop game via Skype and some "tabletop simulators" and it was hard to get the feel right. All you hear is the voice, and all you roll is a text command. No sense of comraderie, and no real sense of purpose. At least, when you are all there at a table at someone's house, or a game store, you are there to game. Online, there are so many distractions just from not being in the same room; girlfriends, pets, the uncertainty of how long someone will be AFK...

Nothing will replace gaming with good friends at someone's kitchen table or living room. No technology can replace that.

slimer:
Perhaps the Escapist can look at the possibility of computer games having the same role play and immersion effect that table top does. I have heard from many sources that it's just not possible to get the same effect from playing a computer game as you would roleplaying. However, this is simply not true. Playing a multiplayer Neverwinter Nights (1 or 2) with a DM is very similar. In fact the added level of seperation provided by the computer can help people role play better. I have table top role played for many years, yet the best role playing sessions I have ever been a part of occurred playing Neverwinter Nights on a persistent world at aussienwn.com.

This would be interesting to pursue for ludological reasons.

Agreed. Playing the digital pc version of D&D also has another few benefits to role playing:
- there is no possible way you can argue about the rule set, the game forces everyone to adopt the same set
- you can let the rules just play automatically in the background and just focus on being your character

With regards to the article, that sense of dusting off the dice seems to happen everytime for me with pen and paper sessions, where I live it seems exceedingly rare to find out that any one else is interested in playing, let alone allowing a new person to attend their story telling time. Russ, I think you are more fortunate than I, I get the sense much more so that I am excluded from any participation in any new group. There is a group recently that I hope to be a part of, even if it is only as a part-time observer - fatherhood and scheduling conflicts bring on their own unique challenges.

I've only ever played Neverwinter Nights, which is the closest you get to Digital D&D right now, especially since you can build your own modules. I've always been interested in PnP though, and roleplaying.

This was an awesome piece. I almost feel like digging out my own old dice, cursed as the are. I swear, I never had any kind of luck with those damn dice. :)

Speaking as someone born and raised in Boston who lived there for 25 years, allow me to defend our drivers as wicked awesome. 128, 495, and 93 are Darwinian constructs. Survival of the fittest, and a mortal lock that you'll get home wicked fast.

Out on the Mass Pike one sunny morning, my friend was doing 90 in the second lane and a cop went whipping by her at a speed of at least 110, not bothering to pull anyone over. You can get from Boston to Albany in less than two hours if the traffic cooperates, and to the Connecticut state line in one (you could drive to NYC in two hours if the Connecticut state troopers weren't such money-grubbing sticklers for the speed limit.)

On-topic, 2nd Edition AD&D FOR LIFE. Life without the possibility of parole or those 3rd edition "enhancements" that dumbed the game down. I haven't played in 15 years---when my friends and I traded D&D night for seven-card stud, that was the end of it for me.

slimer:
Perhaps the Escapist can look at the possibility of computer games having the same role play and immersion effect that table top does. I have heard from many sources that it's just not possible to get the same effect from playing a computer game as you would roleplaying. However, this is simply not true. Playing a multiplayer Neverwinter Nights (1 or 2) with a DM is very similar. In fact the added level of seperation provided by the computer can help people role play better. I have table top role played for many years, yet the best role playing sessions I have ever been a part of occurred playing Neverwinter Nights on a persistent world at aussienwn.com.

I'd have to disagree with you. I find that D&D is primarily a social experience, and stripping that away leaves you with just another RPG, albeit one that you can control. True, the roleplay isn't as advanced as one over teh computer, but it still will give you a more fulfilling experience in my mind if you play with a bunch of buddies from work.

This would be interesting to pursue for ludological reasons.

I'd have to disagree with you. I find that D&D is primarily a social experience, and stripping that away leaves you with just another RPG, albeit one that you can control. True, the roleplay isn't as advanced as one over teh computer, but it still will give you a more fulfilling experience in my mind if you play with a bunch of buddies from work.

It was really nice reading, a little "Sunshine story" before bed bedtime. Amasing how many nerds are out there, including me. I have played D&D only a couple of times, but played several other "ruleless" scenarios ranging from student of Hogwarts to Spacemarine or British solder in WW2, thus pen&paper are great they don't have the same epic thrill as LARP's do. and I prefere to actually swing a sword(even if it's just made of latex) to rolling dices.
I'm sure that others would agree with and some disagree.
But defending Bretonnia with your regiment and 200 other people against the Empire is just not as epic when your sitting around a table.

Everyone in my entire family are DND Fanatics. Not only that, but my friends and I have started a DND club at my High school. May DND live on!

Nightfalke:

Nothing will replace gaming with good friends at someone's kitchen table or living room. No technology can replace that.

I enjoy Pen and Paper immensely, but it's mainly a social event. For role playing I recommend you try a persistent world on a role playing server with Neverwinter Nights 1 or 2. It is the most intense role playing experience, especially if you get a good DM and it can be quite social as well.

Flying-Emu:

I'd have to disagree with you. I find that D&D is primarily a social experience, and stripping that away leaves you with just another RPG, albeit one that you can control. True, the roleplay isn't as advanced as one over teh computer, but it still will give you a more fulfilling experience in my mind if you play with a bunch of buddies from work.

I have tried LARP and Pen and Paper, until you have attempted role playing with NWN 1 or 2 don't count PC games out.

If anyone would like to partake in an on line role playing session using NWN2 please message me.

I don't LARP.
And I wasn't trying to harp on NWN, and I have played it, just so you know :)
I was simply saying that I think that it's a bit too impersonal. I found playing with my friends a bit more fun, since we could tell variations in voice level, and could add accents without making our friends attempt to read our bastardized attempts at a drunken dwarf's ramblings.

I've never played DnD-- although I've always said that I would if I ever found an active group to join. I do, however, participate in a GURPS campaign every Friday-- it's the highlight of my week.

After several years of no roleplaying, I joined an online campaign using RPTools and Ventrilo. It's not perfect, but the DM is fantastic and makes the most out of the mediums we use. He becomes a one-man sound effects board, since we can't actually see him making all kinds of noises it actually works out well.

I have a fatalistic approach to my character. I would like him to go far, but I look forward to rolling up my next one when I get him killed.

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