17 March 2015

... And Then Everyone Went Home

I've wondered how much to say about my first ever session of OD&D but, to the best of my knowledge, none of those individuals are currently active gamers. So, here goes.

After selling my parents on the idea of having friends over for a game, I eagerly laid out all my materials on the table in the breakfast nook. They were used to me taking over this area for constructing Estes model rockets and pretty much whatever else had caught my fancy. Our religious beliefs didn't take a dim view of the game, though I was to run into one that did (and hard) within a year or two of this time. One by one my nerdy friends from the Chess Club, the euphemism for wargaming club at my high school, began to show up. They'd heard me talking about this "new game" and all were eager to give it a try.

There were 7 of us in all. A brief explanation of the dice, mapping, and character creation followed and we got to work. Character creation took longer than I thought it might but we muddled through. Already some troubles were beginning to show. Two of those present, "D" and "R," were arguing with every little aspect of the rules ... rules laywering as it came to be known as the hobby caught on.

With a bit of time D began to relax and get into the flow of the game. He was the fellow who'd taught me wargaming with Avalon Hill's Blitzkrieg and quickly came to realize bickering over the rules was a fruitless endeavor. On the other hand R never caught on to that bit of wisdom.

It wasn't subtle, even from the start, his voiced objections growing increasingly strident as the party progressed from equipping themselves, to the 2 game hour trip to the actual dungeon, to entering the huge ruined pile, a vast castle built by generations of mad wizards and insane geniuses. As the player-character party stood outside a dungeon room door arguing with R about how to proceed, I rolled for a band of wandering monsters. The rest of the party wanted to sound retreat but R's fighter (18 STR!) attacked the group of berserkers. He was quickly slain with the first exchange of blows and the rest of party retreated with no further losses, pursued by the berserkers as they fled the dungeon.

R was glowering at me, interrupting me constantly as I tried to run the pursuit. As soon as the party was deemed safe, he exploded. Red-faced and shouting, he demanded an explanation of how his 5 hit dice fighting-man (original nomenclature for the fighter) was slain with but a single blow. Puzzled, I ask why he believed his first level fighting-man was 5 HD. He pointed to his character sheet and the PC's rolled hit points. Five of them. As I attempted to explain the difference between hit dice and hit points he got angrier and louder and the rest of the group began to snap and snarl at him.

The situation was spinning out of control so I attempted to take charge. Quieting everyone down, I calmly explained his error again and politely asked him to respect my ruling as the referee. When he began yelling again I managed, with great effort, to quiet him for the last time. I understand your frustration, I told him, but you must believe me. I've read and reread these rules every day for the past week since I'd bought them and you're just wrong.


That word hung in the air like the aroma of rotting eggs. His face, already flushed, became even more red, his eyeballs bulged, and the shout became a scream as his dice whistled past my face.


Maybe I should have used the term "incorrect" instead of "wrong"?

No, I do not believe it would have made any difference. Chairs were knocked over and my rulebooks thrown to the ground as he made his exit from the room, slammed the door open and shut, climbed into his car, roaring off into the night in a blind fury. To call the stunned silence in his wake awkward would utterly fail to hint at the shocked speechlessness filling the room. In a daze I gathered the fallen dice and rulebooks, righting the 2 chairs he knocked over in his flight. My dad casually wandered through the breakfast nook with a look promising a long "talk" with me later.

... and then everyone went home.

The post script to all this: the friendship between R and myself was forever damaged that night. I tried to patch things up with him but he was convinced I purposefully killed his character, we never again gamed together in any capacity. I tried, and I believe he tried too, but the continued strained interaction killed what little goodwill we had left for each other. The rest of the group continued to meet, though there were some nervous smiles the next time I ran a combat for them. Our group otherwise thrived until I moved from that town a short while later. I was off to University and at the same time my family moved out of state. As a result of this I subsequently lost track of them all. Except R, as fate would have it. I've run into him a few times over the past 40 years since I left [small town in Texas] and, though we've never spoken of the incident, it seems time has finally healed that wound.

For both of us.

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