Friday, 29 October 2010

La Recherche du Temps Jeux Perdu

When D&D3e arrived on the scene in 2000, I was both pleased and excited. I cut my roleplaying teeth on AD&D when I started university in 1981, and ever since then the hodge-podge high fantasy AD&D milieu is what I imagine when I think of fantasy roleplaying.

I played lots of other games of course — Traveller, Empire of the Petal Throne, Runequest, Space Opera, MERP, Call of Cthulhu, Champions to name just a few. But AD&D was always the core of my roleplaying experience for some years, until a wargamerish frustration at the limitations of the system drove me to convert all my campaigns to Champions (later to turn into the Hero System, as I will refer to it in future). I've written before about my attraction to Hero's unified point-based character construction mechanics, and being able to use a generic system across roleplaying genres appealed enormously — no more having to learn a whole new system for every game.

Shelf 1: The D&D Shelf - post-earthquake, semi-stocked
Anyway, as I said, it was the systemic limitations of AD&D, not the game milieu itself, that drove me away, and much of my time as a Hero GM was spent trying to replicate that milieu with the Hero System. When D&D3 appeared, it seemed to me to have achieved most of what I was trying to do — a game that provided systemic freedom with the feel of D&D. (How wrong I was; as a friend once remarked, D&D3 is still a straitjacket, it just comes in a range of attractive colours).

I immediately started buying D&D3 material hand over fist. I spent literally thousands of dollars on it. After our earthquake last month, I had to put all those books back on their shelves, and I became slightly depressed that I will probably never use any of those books again. I might possibly convert a monster or two, but even that is somewhat unlikely.

After a few years of playing D&D3, I once again became disenchanted with various features of the system — the byzantine complexity of the Feat Tree, for example; the agonies involved in creating an NPC higher than about 3rd level were really grinding me down. I decided to retreat back to the Hero System, and in characteristic form, start buying Hero stuff hand over fist. And again, I spent thousands on it, over time.

Shelf 2: The Hero Shelf
As I've written before, the mechanistic structure of the Hero System eventually palled, and I started GMing using Swords & Wizardry, which was easier to GM, faster to play, and generally (for me at least) more fun. But again, I was looking at my sad, abandoned shelf of Hero stuff and got a little depressed that I'd quite likely never use any of it again. I'm probably even less likely to use it than my D&D3 stuff.

I suppose I could sell it all off, but when I've done that in the past I've always regretted it. Every single time. I don't particularly need the money (though a little free cash would be nice), and I don't particularly need the space, so they'll probably sit there until I die.

But maybe not. If I've learned one thing about myself, gaming-wise, it's that I'm fickle.