Saturday, June 26, 2010

Grymvald's Pedigree - More of the Early Years

Seems to me, if I recall correctly, that I discovered Tolkien around the same time I began playing D&D (the original three little booklets in a box).  I think we had a game of Chainmail where we were recreating The Battle of Five Armies and it prompted me to read The Hobbit.  Hooked by that immediately, The Lord of the Rings was soon to follow.  I was also reading various sci-fi and fantasy one-offs around that time and I recall Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions coming to my attention, and also The Broken Sword.  This could quickly bog down in a whirlwind of relevant links, which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but suffice it to say, these were the early influences that were joining Howard and Frazetta as RPGing joined with my wargaming.

On that front, so to speak, I had already been playing Tactics II, Gettysburg, and Blitzkrieg, but now Kingmaker, Wooden Ships & Iron Men, Rise and Decline of the Third Reich, Invasion: America, and before too long games like Civilization and others would join the ranks.  I think it significantly influenced my RPGing style and concerns to be such a hardcore wargamer during those early RPGing years.  Although at its heart, RPGing is about playing a single character, the games in which we played often included elements of nation-building and socio-political influence.  A character was rarely just a sword-wielding maniac with a cadre of maladjusted buddies running into a crypt to steal some treasure with the intent of blowing it all on wenches around the gambling tables of some tavern.  Sure, sometimes that would be a goal but only sometimes.

Well, those were the early years and influences on my gaming that I feel were particularly instructive in how I went about the process of world-building as a Referee/DM/GM/Facilitator of RPGs.  I won't deny that there were other less direct factors, most notably my academic interests, such as they were, and going to some conventions as well as participating in game clubs locally, near military bases, certainly had a lot to do with the gaming landscape in which I thrived.  As I get into the eighties, the post-high school years, things were somewhat changed for me, so I will leave that for what I will probably call the middle years of the Grymvald Pedigree.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Grymvald's Pedigree - The Early Years

The first fantastical elements that influenced my impressions of the fantasy genre were the stories of Robert E. Howard. I had been a fan of the short story for sometime, having read much of Isaac Asimov's shorter work, many Ray Bradbury pieces, and all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, when I discovered Howard. The illustrations by Frank Frazetta on the covers of the late sixties paperback editions from Ace Books caught my eye in the bookstore and I tore through the ones I could get my hands on in a matter of months. Although they did not quite measure up to Howard, I even enjoyed the stories in that series from Lin Carter, L. Sprague de Camp, and others. I think I might have actually enjoyed the series all the more for its putting the edited tales and well-massaged fragments into a chronological order for the rise of the hero rather than chronologically as they were written by Howard.

I was also very much into war games at that time and just getting into miniatures, particularly medieval fantasy miniatures, with dragons and giants and scores of knights, heavily-armored and armed, clashing in great charges across felt-strewn battlefields. When Dungeons and Dragons came along in 1974 it was only natural I would heed the call. A friend of mine would act as Dungeon Master for his two brothers, another friend or two, and myself as we battled through the early, very deadly, games. We did not find it frustrating when those first characters died in the bottoms of ten by ten pits with poisoned spikes or when they succumbed to the terrible creatures we stalked beneath the cold earth in bewildering maze-like tombs. It all made a certain strange sense and we took the passing of multiple characters in stride.

But the reader and writer in me longed to create a setting of my own. I did not want to write a story to be used in the game. I knew from my short time as a player that the characters in a game needed to have a certain free rein to go where they wanted to go, to do as they pleased and deal with the consequences. What I wanted to do was develop a world where the characters could wander as the various aspects they discovered took their interest. That was the goal and this blog will be primarily devoted to the results.