Sunday, September 1, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 1

They're already starting to appear all over the blogosphere. I'd better get going.

How I got started...

Day 1 of the Challenge. It's a quarter to twelve here in Germany and I'm about to start a trip down memory lane. Yesterday I did some research and found the author responsible for bringing me to the hobby dead for 2 years now. That's hard, I thought. But I should start at the beginning...

"Die Hüter der Flamme" - Band 1

I was 12 years old when I found first hard evidence of The Game. Before that (must have been the same year) I listened by accident to a conversation between to "older guys" who were sitting behind me in a cinema. One was describing how "he" killed a dragon by slicing open it's belly. I was already digesting a lot of fantasy at the time, but without any other context the conversation seemed justifiably surreal. Don't know what movie I was going to see that day, but I do have a very vivid memory of those guys talking about their heroic deeds.
Guardians of the Flame, Vol. 1 (German edition)

Anyway, at the time I regularly frequented a local bookstore with a very nice selection of comic-, science fiction- and fantasy books, spending most of the money I earned as a paper boy (I know, this is so cliché, but true nonetheless) on books. It was only a matter of time before I had to stumble over some D&D fan fiction.

So at some point in 1991 I bought a book because of it's evocative cover: Die Welt des Meisters, by Joel Rosenberg (The Sleeping Dragon, in: Guardians of the Flame, Vol. 1*). It was about a group of people that were playing a strange game set in a fantasy world. Or were about to play it, but then their Game Master did something weird and the group ended up in the bodies of their characters and the fantasy world become very real and dangerous fast. They still had their real-world memories and applied some of that knowledge. I had a blast. Good times.

Also, or even more so, intriguing was the books appendix. I made another picture (yes, I still own the book) and underlined the important words:
First hard evidence that something was out there,
and certainly the first time I read the name Gary Gygax...
They mention 3 games in the appendix: D&D and two German variants (Das Schwarze Auge and Midgard). I had no clue which of those was the best to start with or even where to buy it. There was (of course) no internet and roleplaying games weren't that big in Germany**. So in the end chance decided what would become my first rpg.


It must have been autumn 1992 when me and my brother had some time to kill and went into a toy store in the city. We were in the area with the board games when I saw a familiar name at the lowest possible position in the shelves: Midgard. And it was the basic game, for beginners! I wanted it and I wanted it bad. It was the most beautiful thing:
My first RPG. I love that cover!

We shared the money (close to 40 Deutsche Mark, if I remember correctly) between us and bought it then and there. My brother wasn't that interested, so I became the Spielleiter (DM). I never regretted it. We used the basic game for years before we even had need for the experts set. And we had good times. It's how it all started.

That was 22 years ago...

What followed were conventions, Cyberpunk, my first encounter with AD&D and a 5 years campaign with the Midgard Experts Set. With 3E in the pipes I thought it a good idea to try D&D, which led to Hackmaster (the first retro clone ever!) and Playing D&D with Porn Stars. Nowadays I'm dismantling the Rules Cyclopedia and try to blog something worthwhile about it every now and then. Two decades of gaming. I know, there are guys out there that saw the dawn of the hobby, but it still feels a lot. I hope with more to come. And Rosenberg?

Years ago I found out that there were some more books by Rosenberg in the Guardians of the Flame series (I already owned the first three books) and it needed some effort, but I finally managed to get them. And enjoyed reading them. It's somewhat sad to read that he had died 2 years ago. But researching him for the D&D 30 Day Challenge brought four more Guardians of the Flames-novels by him to my attention. They never got translated. And that at least is a good thing. Now I have to track them down...

*Interesting side note: The Sleeping Dragon was published 1983, this was 1 year before TSR's first official D&D novel (first volume of the Dragonlance Chronicles Trilogy, in 1984) and 4 years after the first inofficial D&D novel (Quag Keep (1978), by Andre Norton). Norton is listed on the Wikipedia page about D&D novels, Rosenberg should be there, too. They're clearly playing D&D and Rosenberg started to write because of D&D back in the day (apparently instead of studying sociology). Just saying.
**The need for translation always leads to selection. In most cases this selection is driven by what is perceived as main stream. Underdogs, if they make it, always need time and a lot of enthusiasm before they manage to get translated. D&D is no exception.


  1. I've always had a hard time reading the Rosenberg novels. I know that a lot of people enjoy his work, but they're very . . . dark.

  2. It was a long ago that I read those books and (as with most books I read at the time) I might have been to young to get it all. That's why I was hesitant with recommending it. Only thing I can say for sure, is, I liked it at the time. Knowing now that he was a gun nut, for instance, will change how I'll read him in the future. But I usually like dark stuff, so that's fine I guess. He did introduce me to the hobby, so he'll always have a special place and all that (it is still strange that he's not mentioned more often in a D&D context...).

  3. It was some years earlier than you, but The Guardians of the Flame was a big influence on my teenage mind. It showed that a magical world was not necessarily a fantasy one - it could be just as dirty and gritty as our own world.

  4. Did the description in that short note about Midgard being the most realistic sway your purchasing decision? Considering how positively that word (and even "complexity") seems to have been used back then, it sounds like the translator was a little biased or spoke to someone who was biased. :-)

    1. They did that a lot, didn't they? But that didn't influence my decision at all. It just was the first game I encountered after wanting one of the three. It was German and it was a light version of the rules (the book was already 4 years on the shelves when I bought it, by then the publisher had changed and the relatively new Edition had a basic and an expert version). I don't know much about "realism" (low fantasy, there were dwarves, elves and wizards and all that) but it has definitely some complexity. The description might be a bit biased, but it is a good game.