Friday, May 29, 2009

At The Gates--An Introduction to the SHARK EMPIRE


The SHARK EMPIRE is my blog, where I will be using it as a creative spring-board to provide all sorts of material and such for "Old School" AD&D game campaigns, as well as stuff for 3.5E. I will be working on NPC's, monsters, adventures, treasure, items and all kinds of things that may be useful and hopefully inspiring for your own AD&D campaigns, as well as for 3.5E.

In addition, I will also develop the SHARK EMPIRE blog in a format that provides interesting discussion and commentary, primarily about gaming, but also about history, philosophy, politics, and whatever other topics I feel inspired to write about.

Well, I suppose a bit of background is good for readers to know where I come from as far as gaming experiences and history, so this is a good place to start! Hopefully, it adds some color and context to my articles as to how, where, and why I have developed particular philosophies, besides merely from whim or preference. As a historian of ancient and medieval history, for example, it isn't surprising to see a good deal of inspiration and elements from the ancient world throughout my campaigns, from characters to milieu development, adventures, and so on.

I started gaming in general, as a boy from my parents, playing chess, and other games like Monopoly and Risk. I soon added wargames to my hobbies, especially Rise and Decline of the Third Reich, Advanced Squad Leader, and Panzer Blitz, by Avalon Hill. Yeah, that was way back in the day...then, a friend of mine introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons--AD&D, in about 1979. Soon, my parents bought me the basic rulebooks, and I can remember my mother taking me to a local hobby store--it was called Games People Play, and they had all kinds of games, books, chess sets, as well as miniatures, made of lead, naturally. I was thrilled with D&D, and my friends and I played for hours and hours, with the typical all-weekend fests and overnight marathons and such! Good times, my friends, good times indeed!

Over the years, I also added in new Role-Playing games, like Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Talislanta, Rolemaster, and Pendragon. All of this, generally speaking, was before the internet or computers became widely available. I bought dozens and dozens of books, modules, and game supplements, building up a diverse collection. I also developed a formidable army of miniatures, which, try as I might, I could only ever succeed in painting a small fraction of the damned things! Then, as time and such progressed, I got into 3.0 D&D, and then 3.5 D&D. I bought dozens and dozens of books and supplements for 3.0 and 3.5, and have built up a huge library of gaming books. Nowadays I often laugh, that I usually have a better selection than most hobby and game stores that I venture into!

I got into computers, and started contributing articles and discussion over on ENWorld, posting as SHARK. Now, Wizards of the Coast have developed the 4th Edition of D&D, known as 4E. I haven't gotten into 4E, and I am relatively ambivalent about doing so. As a gamer, and DM, running a campaign for 20 years and more now, the whole 4E just doesn't grab my interest much. In thinking about switching over yet to another edition of D&D, it seemed to have just overloaded me with a sense of apathy and being a hamster trapped on a giant commercialized treadmill, and looking to buy an even greater avalanche of books and supplements, being produced in ever-greater quantities by Wizards of the Coast.

It hit me like a glass of ice-water, as I looked at my vast library of 3.5 books, some of which I had yet to even read thoroughly, let alone actually develop and use in my campaigns! I still love 3.5E, and have had endless hours of fun with the system. I never really thought that 3.5E needed a *new* edition, as I did not see the problems being sufficient to warrant a whole new edition. However, having said that, 3.5E certainly has problems, mechanically and systematically, especially at higher levels of game play. For example, rolling up characters is a basic time-crunch problem, taking generally hours to do so fully. Statting up characters and scenarios at higher levels generally slogs up so much time, it begins to feel much more like work than fun--and that's even when a person generally enjoys writing and creating stuff, which like me, I do--but it reaches a point of time and labor where even for someone like myself, and many others, it becomes a constant problem with no easy solution. I was hoping, reluctantly, that if Wizards of the Coast did follow through with the development of 4E, that it would fix these problems. Well, I suppose Wizards did fix these problems--but created many more in the process, and have created and marketed a new edition of the game that leaves much to be desired, by many long-time gaming fans of D&D, as well as myself.

It was then that I realized that perhaps I was no longer part of the market audience that Wizards of the Coast sought with the new 4E, and I suppose I was content with that realization, while being disappointed and wistful at the same time. I have gradually developed a new-found--or perhaps simply rediscovered!--a sense of enjoyment for a much cleaner, easier, free-form system of gaming, and a less complicated, rules-intensive system for running D&D games.

At that point, I realized that I was increasingly interested in revisiting "Old-School" gaming--the game system that started it all for me, almost 30 years ago now--AD&D. AD&D, also known as 1E, seems to have endured quite well, and even resists many of the implications of "newer" developments in game-design over the years. Thus, I brought out my old collection of AD&D books, and have been having a great time developing a new campaign using the classic rules and system given to us by the late Gary Gygax.

Thus, it seems, that I have come full circle back to my roots.