Once I had made the decision to get back behind the DM’s screen, the next logical step was to determine what set of rules I was going to use. As I mentioned in my post regarding my role-playing credentials, I had logged most of my time on either sides of the screen using the Basic, 1st Edition or 2nd Edition rule-sets. When 3.0 debuted, I, like a lot of gamers, bought the three core books. I even ran a couple of short weekend-long adventures for some friends from college using those books. But those few adventures were the exception to my gaming dry period.
I had a set of the 3.5 rules, which I had bought during the time I was playing D&D Online. Since the MMORPG used the 3.5 rules, I figured a hardcopy available for reference would be useful. But I lost interest with D&DO, so the 3.5 rules were gathering dust along with my other RPG books.
Now that I had made the leap to get back into the game, what should I do? Should I go with the AD&D rules that I knew so well, or should I keep up with the kids today and be hip to the new scene?
In the end, I made the wrong choice. I chose to use 3.5.
When I say I made the wrong choice, I mean that I made the wrong choice for me. This is not a value judgment on anyone’s preferred flavor of the game. In fact, I hope to keep myself clear from the “my rules are better than your rules” argument. If it works for you, fine. 3.5 was simply wrong for me.
(Bear in mind this blog is about an old gamer getting back to his roots. We’re not going to dwell too much on either 3.5 or 4th Edition around these parts.)
My mistake in choosing 3.5 soon became apparent as I began to stock the dungeon that I had planned. What used to be a rather quick and easy process became a grinding slog of constantly referencing the rule books, determining DCs, making notes of possible modifiers to skill checks, advancing monsters, determining Challenge Ratings, etc. The two-line stat blocks that I had used in my youth became paragraphs of information, detailing abilities, skills, attacks of opportunity, whatever. Shit. The game hadn’t even started and I was already overwhelmed.
I made another poor decision at this point. I decided to press onward. Instead of just throwing my hands up and returning to what I knew best, I let myself believe that this would just get easier, and the fact that it was giving me so much difficulty was because I had been away from the game so long. Determined to finish this, I kept plugging away. But there was no joy in what I was doing. What was supposed to be an attempt to reacquaint myself with a hobby that had given me so much joy in the past, became something I just didn’t want to spend time on when I got home from work.
I took a venting bitch session with my friend (and current DM) to set me straight. Go with what you know.
I did. Keeping the dungeon and the encounters the same, I went back and started to rewrite everything using the AD&D rules that I was familiar with. Suddenly, it became fun again. Within a week, I had remembered what was so enjoyable about being a DM and watching something you created come to life on the page. While the need to reference my old books was still there, I at least knew where to find things and how to make it work with what I had planned. Maybe getting back into the game wasn’t such a bad idea after all…
What’s strangest about this whole wrong turn in the decision-making process for me was that I’m simply not someone who has to be on the vanguard of new things. I’ve owned a cellphone for less than a year. I don’t own an MP3 player of any kind. Despite a three-year tour of duty as a web designer, I’m not really up-to-date on computer applications or the Web. My job is working with historical documents.
So why this misguided belief that 3.5 was the only way to go?
I think that I had let myself believe that there’d simply be no players interested in the older editions. I figured that 3.5 was the only way to go if I had any hope of generating any interest in a game. I’d also developed some sort of bizarre “support product tunnel vision.” If I was running an older version of the game, how could I use the latest gee-gaws and knickknacks from Dragon.? Somehow, I couldn’t see the twenty-plus years of notes, supplements, and back issues of Dragon that I already owned.
Another factor was that this all occurred before I made the conscious decision to reconnect with my old-school experiences playing the game and to try and infuse my own creation with that self-same spirit. If I had that mindset established before I put pencil to graph paper, it never would have been an issue.
Deciding to go back to using AD&D rather than 3.5 or 4th Edition has made a world of difference for me. Had I decided to stick with the latest flavor, my return to the game would have been very brief and I’d still be missing out on a part of my past that gave me so much pleasure.
If you’ll excuse me now, I have a few rooms to fill one Sublevel One…