Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Hobbies and Not

Most people have a hobby.

My roomie and bestie, Linda, makes a hobby of the Space Program. Her knowledge of the intricacies of it could put many phds to shame.

I used to have a lot of hobbies. I used to collect many things; it's a human thing to collect.  People collect stamps, comic books, matchbook covers, you name it.  Everyone collects something somehow.

I used to collect comic books, and I used to collect games.  For 13 years, I worked in the gaming industry; first for Chessex game distributors, then for Games Workshop.  During that time, I also worked for TSR: the creator of Dungeons and Dragons. (D&D)  During those years, I had no shortage of people with whom to play games, and so I played often.

This is the first D&D box (well, it looked like this)

After moving back up to Pennsylvania in 2003, I had no one to play with; all of my former friends up here had either moved away, or had families, or died, or in other ways going on with their lives.  I lost touch with them all, and driving down to Baltimore was no longer an option, especially given that I didn't have a real job.

So I lost most of my hobbies, and as I wasn't making that much money,the comic books also faded away as well.  I sold most of them to cover expenses. I still love reading them, and will occasionally pick up a graphic novel when I can afford it,  but nothing near what I used to buy.

In any case one of the things I enjoyed doing all through my teen years, my college years, and after was playing D&D. I started playing in 1978 with my friend DrD and few others.  I played through college as well (at Penn State not Drexel.)  In fact, some of my most memorable times at Penn State were playing Dungeons and Dragons.  We played every Saturday night while we were in school, starting at 6 and going until midnight.  At midnight, the game would break and people went to parties. Midnight was still early for parties at Penn State at the time, especially at the fraternities.

The only picture I have from gaming in college.  This guy played the wizard.

In any case, in Baltimore I had a group of players and I was the "Dungeon master." I really enjoyed those games, and the players and I, aside from being co-workers, became very good friends.  I made a lot of very good friends through gaming over the years.

However since moving back up to Pennsylvania, I hadn't played D&D.  All my friends had dispersed, and, because of many reasons, I just simply didn't want to.  Once my feminine side reawakened, D&D became my excuse to go out.  I told wife that I was "going to play D&D" on the third Saturday of every month. It was a very plausible lie, because I used play every Tuesday night, so playing once a month was reasonable, and she very much encouraged it.  Besides it got me out of her hair.

As the years went on, and the lies became unbearable, I told her the truth: that I hadn't been playing D&D- that I hadn't played ever since moving back up to PA; that This was the truth- that Sophie was that truth, and that I'd been lying.

The lies tore me apart, and they affected her as well.

In any case, in an effort to fight the darkness that I've been fighting for such a long time I decided to try my hand at gaming again.  D&D is now in its fifth edition.  The last edition I attempted to play with 3rd Edition, and I did not like it.  2nd edition was I played (well in college I played first edition, but afterwards I played second, and that was the edition that I worked with when I was with TSR.)  I know that system backwards and forwards, so much so that I can just improvise as I go along.  However, since second edition was so long ago (It came out in 1989) not many people play that Edition.  Even less people still have the books.

I managed to talk a few of my friends into playing.  They played second edition long ago, and had since moved on, but they were willing to allow me to DM 2nd edition. I also asked one of the former players from my group all those years ago back in the early 90's, and she was more than happy to join us. I just figured we needed one more person to play, and so I started advertising that I needed a player.  Eventually, I found a meetup group for Philadelphia Area Gamers, mentioned on there that I was looking for a player, and someone responded!  This person even lived in my hometown! Even better, this person said that they had two other Gamers willing to play! So I went to meet this person at a restaurant.  We spoke, and while I had some misgivings, I was willing to give them a chance.  We decided to play at that person's place, as they volunteered to host.  This person has a disability, and it easier just to play there.  A few weeks back was the first session, which was really just an "everyone in the same room getting to know each other" session, in which we introduced each other characters and then a little gaming.

We were draped all over the furniture, and on the TV was Game of Thrones.  Loud.  I usually don't like that kind of distraction when I'm dungeon mastering.  At most, I'll have a CD of Medieval music playing, but as it was not my house, and we really weren't seriously gaming, I did let it go.  So on Sunday the 16th was the second game, when we would actually start really playing the scenario that I had put together.

I arrived almost on time, carrying my gaming stuff, a cooler filled with drinks (soda), and some CDs.  Well the host didn't have a CD player.  Ok.  They have a dog and maybe cats.  The house smelled of them.

I had them do a character building exercise ("Who would play your character in a movie, and why?") while I adjusted a few things.  Then we began.

The scenario in a nutshell- the group was going to a "Haunted Hall" in the side of a mountain.  (The adventure was based on an old TSR module called The Haunted Halls of Eveningstar)  Adventurers had been going there for a long time to "cut their teeth" and yet there was always more to explore.  Hmmm...  In any case, the party had been hired to retrieve an object lost by a previous party in the Hall.  Near the Hall is a small town.  As so many adventurers kept flocking to this dungeon, I figured that the village economy would center around these adventurers.  Why else would there be 3 inns?  So, the "gatekeeper" to the Halls would charge a fee for adventurers to make an appointment to speak to him.  He had been to the halls many times, after all!  Essentially, the whole town would try to empty the coin purses of visitors, in an honest way, of course.

They made their way to the largest of the Taverns, where their contact would meet them.  In the large public room, there were several tables filled with interesting looking characters, probably all adventurers.  One of the tables had four elves having a heated, yet quiet, argument in Elvish.

One of the characters in our group was a Elven Rogue (thief.)  He decided to go butt into their conversation.

Did I mention this player had ZERO social skills?  He reminded me of Dorfman rushing Delta Tau Chi.

And like that movie, the elves just glared at him.  Eventually they went back to arguing.  He got upset- after all he's an elf, so they should welcome him with open arms, right?

As this is happening, the dwarf player spotted their contact, and walked over to the booth where he sat.  he conversed with the contact- a warrior- and waited to be invited to sit before doing so.  Common manners (and this guy demanded courtesy!)  They spoke for a while, came to a price for meeting the Real contact, and all was going well... when the elf came over, plopped himself down and started making demands.  The Warrior did not take this well, saying "I didn't invite you to be seated."

The elf then angrily stormed out of the pub, mounted a horse, and left town.  Essentially, as things weren't going Precisely his way, he was taking his ball and going home.  And... if the other characters wanted him back, they had to bribe his character.  As his character was of Good alignment, this was completely out of bounds.

Even though the elf character wasn't "there", the player kept suggesting things to his two friends- directing how they should play.  He was trying to run the whole game, despite packing up and "leaving."

At this point, I decided to wrap up the day.  I had enough.  I was not having fun-  and, by the looks on the other players' faces- neither were they.

And if no one was having fun, what was the point?

I ended the game, packed up, said my goodbyes, and left.  It was HOT outside, and the smell of the house was on my clothes.

Of the five players, two are the old friends.  As I said, I had three of them in the game, but one dropped out.  We decided, the two who played, to go get some dinner at a local Mexican place.  The one friend picked up his wife (who was the person who'd dropped out) and we went to the restaurant.  I stopped at my apartment first for a very quick shower and to change clothes, as that smell wasn't going away.

As the four of us sat at the table, we talked about many things.  We did NOT talk about the day's adventure.  And that is what sealed it.  If I, as Dungeon Master, had done my job, they would be talking about the feats their characters performed, and this happened, and wow!  No- we talked about other things.

No one had fun.

I decided right there to end the group.

Maybe I'll try again some other time.  To fill the time I would've spent playing and preparing, I signed up to drive for Lyft.  If I'm not going to have a hobby, I may as well make money.

Hobbies?  They're for rich folks.

Be well.


  1. Back when I played RPGs, we often met at a friend's house who had a ton of cats. So, yeah, I'll always associate D&D with that smell. :-)

    I'm sorry things didn't go like you hoped, but try not to let one rotten apple spoil the bunch. Gamemastering for a group you don't really know is really hard, so the odds you'd nail it the first time out were really slim. Groups need time to find their balance...I think maybe you'd have had more fun if one of the people in the group that knew each other GMed and you just played to get a feel for the group.

    It's a shame you didn't have a chance to ask the group about the troublemaker when you were away from the game at dinner. Not accusingly, but more like, "Hey, what was up with John? He seemed frustrated. It's he always like that, or did I just catch him on a bad day?" (It might also be interesting to know why the one friend's wife dropped out. It's possible she has a low tolerance for those shenanigans.)

    Anyway, I'm glad you made the effort to reach out and give it a go. Hopefully it'll go better the next time!

  2. Sophie -

    At the gaming meetup I attend each week, one of the people makes things awkward for everyone. Last week, it got so bad that another attendee refused to ever be in the same room as "Mr. Awkward". The hostess is going to ban this fellow from the meetup and tell him to go elsewhere.

    What does this have to do with you? Well, we can't always control what happens in a group of random people, but we can control how we respond to things. And if the place reeked of Dogs and Cats, I wouldn't want to have been there either. I hope you will try doing something like this again - but with a better location and a better group. You deserve to have some fun in your life!


  3. Not all hobbies are reserved for people with money ~ OK mine are as musical instruments are expensive! but visiting galleries and museums (at least in the UK) parks and many gardens are free. Many groups (LGBT+, Church, choirs etc.) will run meet ups at no, or very low cost. Don't let a bad experience cloud your whole view of humanity.