2008-08-12

Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

Some twenty-six years ago, i had a group of friends that included Dave, and that group of friends and i would regularly descend the stairs into Dave’s basement, as was our wont of a Saturday night, where we would engage in a heady mix of sociological ontology and moral debate, of intellectual strategizing and…

All right, screw it; we were gamers.

One of those nights some twenty-six years ago, Dave ran us through a little adventure titled The Tomb of Horrors, about which you already know everything that can be known, or you probably actually stopped reading this piece at the word “gamers”, above.

What, you didn’t stop? Seriously? Well, here, then.

Our first foray into the tomb, Dave was DM, and in that role, was responsible for the worst mental and psychological ass-kicking that we as a group of players had ever endured. And i bring this up because twenty-six years later, Dave has dropped by the palatial Craig-Gray estate from his homeland in distant and mysterious Toronto, and claims to remember so few details of the tomb that it’s the adventure i’m running tonight for him and the girls (the older and the younger; yeah, my wife games; suck it up).

I’m not an overly nostalgic person, but this has been a good night. Dave is one of the key players in an online play-by-post game i run, but life being what it is, this is only the second time that he and i have gamed face to face since 1986. (Yes, i’m as old as you think i am. Get over it.)

We’re playing the Bruce Cordell-penned v3.5 update of the adventure (available as a free download at the Wizards of the Coast website if you’re curious). Because of the dungeon's killer nature, and because the twain of the online campaign and the home campaign can’t meet without a certain amount of time travel and teleportation involved, we're using pre-gen characters, which is actually always a good idea where the tomb is concerned.

Because two of our players (those daughters o’ mine) are of a bright-eyed age where i don’t want to expose them to the true demoralizing futility that is the tomb at its worst, those pre-gen characters were set up as having been charged with delivering a rod of resurrection to the local king before they crashed on the tomb isle. They've only had to use it once so far, but the group has now collected and shared out complete and multiply redundant sets of fingernail and hair clippings for those embarrassing moments when you find yourself reduced to a pile of ash.

We finished the first half of the adventure tonight — up to the false tomb (spoiler alert, though i guess i’m supposed to say that first, aren’t i?), which provides an unsatisfying nonclimax and the obligatory sense of wondering why there's all those big blank areas on the map. We broke only because the girls needed to sleep. Kids these days…