Thursday, January 20, 2011

The good ol' RPG days...

by Angie
My first Dungeon Master

I was first introduced to Dungeons and Dragons as an imaginative 5 (6 maybe?) year old by my ultra cool Uncle Rob. I think he was babysitting my cousin and I and I guess decided it would be fun to take us on an adventure. We were enraptured. We had the attention of a grown-up, fistfuls of dice, and got to use our imaginations. Win! Our games were really just interactive sotrytelling, and complex rules were not a part of it, but that is what made it so amazing for our young little minds. For years after we begged and begged Uncle Rob to play D&D with us at every opportunity, always wanting to "pick up where we left off". As we grew, our experiences deepened. More rules, more devious dungeons, cooler treasures. We got caught in an endless paradox due to a misuse of a Wand of Wishing. We went to "dinner" at Castle Ravenloft and met with Count Straud and his minions. We explored, we mapped out vast dungeons, we fought, we laughed, and we cried. We begged and pleaded and bargained for more more more.

The making of a lifelong gamer

And then came the books! Rob started giving me my own D&D books. "Old" hand-me-downs as new editions came out were amazing and new to me. I would read and read and imagine all the worlds we'd "seen", and all the worlds still out there to explore. I would ponder over the maps and treasures and dream of grand adventures. A few years later, I had the good fortune to find myself living in the same town as my "favortie DM EVER" and he let me read all his books. Even the new ones! We started a little routine where we would walk down to the bookstore together and pick up the new Gazeteers as they came out. Gazeteers were supplements for the world of Greyhawk that were coming out in the late 80's-early 90's, and each one would be dedicated to a specific culture and region of that world. I remember excitedly looking at maps and pictures and talking about the history and culture of the various peoples of the world. The Elves of Alfhiem, The Grand Duchy of Karamekios, The Five Shires, Northern Reaches, Principalities of Glantri, The Dwarves of Rockhome... and many more. I think there were maybe 14 in all? Anyhow, this world came alive on the pages, and each new Gazeteer would bring hours of enjoyment and oodles of inspiration just in the reading of it. The thing I particularly liked about them was the focus on world-building, maps, and culture. Each one attempted to bring to light a unique region and it's people, and this felt like I was peeking into a living, vibrant world. In my opinion, they succeeded in a way in which very few since have.

Bring it back!

What I would like to see brought back into modern gaming is the wonder of exploring a new world through the pages of an ongoing world supplement. Give me rich histories, detailed cultures, more maps than I know what to do with, cities full of interesting and unique characters. Each Gazeteer was like a piece of the world, and that sense of discovery and intrigue of each new one was one of the prime influences on the development of my own worlds and style as I grew up and learned to "play by the rules". It seems like to me that many game supplements now are focused so heavily on the rules and character builds and new player options and less on revealing a world bit by bit. The campaign settings I've read over the past 10 years or so seem to try to give so much and come in with such little depth. I'm sure some people love that, they have all thier own ideas of how to populate the world and it's denizens and don't want detailed in-depth cultures. For me though, I love it when a game product is focused on one thing; some great examples I can think of are Freeport, City of Adventure and Sharn, City of Towers, but those aren't ongoing series' that round out a world, those are supplements focused on exploring a single city. Althought they do that well, what I'd really like to see brought back into modern roleplaying games is an ongoing detailed, rich world that I can look forward to the next installment of. Something I could spend hours looking over maps and discussing histories of fantastic peoples. I really loved that experience of discovering a world with my Uncle Rob, (thanks for all the memories!) and can't wait to pass along those experiences to my own children. Although I've since taught many younger relatives how to play D&D and various off-shoots, I'm really looking forward to exploring new worlds with my own kids, and would love to have a series as detailed and diverse as the Gazeteers were 'back in the day' to discover with them.

This post is part of an ongoing series of shared topics between our blog and Cool Factor 5, so pop on over and see what roleplaying game feature Julian would like to see brought back into games. And as always, feel free to leave a comment, share your experiences, ask questions, or just chat us up. We love you readers, share your thoughts with us!!!


  1. The Gazetteer's where actually for the Basic D&D known world called Mystara.

    Also if an in depth look at a fantasy world is really your thing then I might suggest you look at Paizo's line of products for their world Golarion. You can convert the setting to your favorite rules if Pathfinder is not for you.

  2. Oh, good catch! Thanks :)

    I think I got Greyhawk stuck in my head because of the Living Greyhawk Gazeteer that came out much later. Also thanks for the recommendation, I'm excited to check out the Golarion setting. What I've seen and played of Pathfinder so far is really good stuff, and Randy has been dying to play with some of the new options in the Advanced Player's Guide.

  3. You beat me to it Jeremy - nice! Almost nobody I know remembers the known world, which was always my favorite setting and the Gazetteer's were just fantastic - well towards the end of the series it started to get a little wonky but all in all just an amazing body of work. Thanks for the blast down memory lane Angie and such high praise - but in all honesty I kind of stunk as a DM and always enjoyed being a player more. But i do remember having you and mike as my captive little audience to try out my new ideas out on. Such wonderful memories of days long past. I wish I still had some of those books today. A lot of the work that was being produce during that era was pretty ground breaking and innovating as the genre was in its infancy and everything that was being created was completely original - now, I guess its all pretty standard - but back then.... wow! Just wow!

  4. Secretly, I still have your old Gazeteers and other books Rob. GASP! Well, some of them anyhow. Many have been "borrowed" by the generation of eager Dungeon Masters that came along after me (ahem Timmy, Beau, Conner) but I still have a precious few kicking around. Maybe I'll let you borrow them sometime ;P

  5. LOL -how very nice of you - but honestly i think they may get better use right where they are at - i have this feeling that there just may be another generation of eager dms on the way up

    love ya kid-o