Saturday, June 5, 2010
Secret Origins - Part III
From the first game I ever played in August of 1977 until the summer of 1978, I only got the chance to game a dozen times or so. Between school, family and, well, being 8-9 years old, I really didn't have a lot of control over my time. It wasn't until I started summer camp again in early June of 78' that my passion for RPGs would kick into high gear.
My good friend David Pollack brought the Basic Set of D&D to camp. Although I don't recall which version it was, I do remember it looked different from the one Tom had used to introduce me to the game. When David asked if anyone was familiar with it I said I had played it a bunch of times.
"Great," David said, "you can be Dungeon Master".
Once I was on the other side of the process, creating adventures, characters and worlds, I realized that I had found my calling. I DMed constantly after that, with more and more friends wanting to join the games I ran. Soon, having 7 or 8 players on an adventure was normal for me.
Between 78' and 82' I would play a ton of D&D. I finally got my own copy of the Basic box (Erol Otis cover) in 80' or maybe 81'. In the later half of 82 I began a campaign that would last about three and a half years of real time. I have used, reused and modified that world setting ever since I still run games in it to this day. I also discovered other games like Boot Hill, Gamma World and Traveller. While they were fun, I stuck with D&D for the most part, adding in superhero style abilities and adventures to a world quite unlike medieval times.
In the early fall of 1982, my friends and I made the sojourn from distant Brooklyn to New York City to find a store we had heard about called 'The Forbidden Planet'. A true adventure as harrowing as any we had rolled dice to conquer, we finally found the place after getting lost and walking a mile or two to get there.
For those unfamiliar with the place, its a comic book store, book store, game store, model shop, toy store and much more all rolled up into one. Its older location, the one I am describing here, even more so. I would end up working at its now long defunct but thoroughly awesome Midtown East location from 1989-1992, serving as Asst. Manager at one point. Man those were fun times. Anyway, back to the story...
While at the Forbidden Planet I came across a game called 'Villains & Vigilantes'. It was...could it be?...a Superhero Role Playing Game?! I couldn't believe my eyes and read over every inch of the box at least twice. I reached into my pocket and realized I only had half the amount needed to buy it. I called over my friend Martin Lederman and read him the back of the box, which was illustrated to look like a page in a comic book by the awesomely awesome Jeff Dee. For good measure I read it in my best Ted-Knight-Superfriends-Narrator voice. Once he stopped laughing, Martin agreed to split the cost and we purchased the game.
V&V was very D&D-like, which helped us to understand it and convince others to play. The more I played however, the less I wanted to go back to D&D. It was not long after this that I discovered the Star Trek RPG and largely said good bye to Dungeons & Dragons as my mainstay game.
I guess the reason I wrote these three 'Secret Origin' tales was to give both myself and the reader some perspective on why I write what I write and how my view of things in gaming got to be the way they are.
My motivations and those of my players were not hack-and-slash but based on the heroic fiction we were exposed to at an early age, namely Silver Age comic books and Star Trek. We also understood the dangers of crime and the cold war mentality much easier than we did medieval society, which was essentially alien to lower-middle class, city dwelling, pre-teens of the 70's and 80's. We lived in NY and therefore had easy access to lots of players so big groups and 'splitting the party' was normal and necessary. We didn't focus on the rules but on the fun and creativity of gaming so rules lawyers and a love of crunchy systems was rare. Once we found games stores like the Compleat Strategist and Forbidden Planet and could get there easily by train we spent our allowances or pay on games by the score. Playing lots of different games gave us a different view of what worked for us and what didn't.
I hope you've enjoyed taking this little trip down memory lane with me. Now that the foundations are out of the way, I intend to use the next few posts to illustrate some (hopefully) cool ideas I have for Superhero gaming. Y'all come back now, y'hear?