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Tales of Games Gone By....

S. Foxlore

I may be dating myself here, but I am one of those old pencil and paper D&D gamers that can remember when the game came with chits (little paper cutouts with numbers on them) that you would use to determine hits and damages. These would later be replaced with the various multisided dice. Those dice have been subsequently replaced by PCs. Editions of both regular D&D and AD&D have come and gone and slowly they have made the transition from the "tabletop" to the "desktop".

This transition has had its own changes on the game, some good and some bad. The first generation of games (Pool of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds, etc) captured the rules and feel of the game quite well. They were the perfect scratches for those who had an itch to play outside of their gaming group. The next generation (Eye of the Beholder, Ravenloft, ect) added real time and first person perspective. These were good concepts, but slightly removed from the traditional mode of play. Other games (Hillsfar, War of the Lance, etc) would add even newer elements to the game. But they all lacked the multi-player and teamwork facet of the pencil and paper game. Now with this latest generation of multi-player games (both D&D and other fantasy titles) that aspect has been brought back into play. But unfortunately the aspect of teamwork and role-playing seems to have become overshadowed by the "competitive" (for lack of a better word) nature of the multi-player games. The mere fact of this can be seen in the PK switch debate. A debate which, while fully understandable, was never in question in my old pencil and paper games. As both a DM and a player, I participated in gaming sessions in which player characters occasionally came into conflict and occasionally clashed. If player characters did fight amongst themselves, there was a chance one would die. There was no PK switch. But then again the guy next door could not just barge in, sit at the table, kill a PC or two, shout a few profanities about how much" so and so" stinks, and then go back home.

In defense of the current multi-player fantasy games, they have gone to some lengths to provide options to players who want PvP (player vs. player) and who don't want to see it abused. Nevertheless, these games still have a tendency to be more focused on competition. This is apparent just by looking at the new vocabulary of fantasy gaming terminology that has evolved (Power gaming, kill stealing, camping, PK-ing, tweaking, etc). And upon hearing tales of individuals selling high level characters through on-line auction houses, I began to wonder just how far the multi-player games had strayed from the role-playing games I once knew. It is almost laughable to wonder if I could have ever sold any of my pencil and paper characters to anyone.

Now I am not condemning anyone for liking to play in this manner. I fully understand that each person has fun in his or her own way. And since the popularity of such games and gaming styles seem to be on the rise it is only natural for the gaming companies to respond to the demand with more of the same. Still I am left to wonder if the traditional gamers and gaming values are to go the way of the dinosaur. As for myself, nothing yet has matched the fun of my old pencil and paper games. Yet it is my hope that with all that Neverwinter Nights is promising I can once again have the creativity and flexibility that the pencil and paper system offered. The tools to create my own realm, the ability to make an adventure and modify it as the story progresses, and the ability to play with friends that have since moved away are all key features that I have longed for in a single package. I won't hold my breath, because the one fact that holds true to any game (video or otherwise) is that you can't please all of the people all of the time. But here's to hoping that Neverwinter Nights comes real close.

S. Foxlore

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