aka pastor guy: the gaming stuff

The really good gaming stuff from my personal blog, aka pastor guy... if you want the non-gaming stuff, you'll need to find your way to http://akapastorguy.blogspot.com.

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The Best Diplomat I Know is a Fully-Loaded Phaser Bank...

Mark Jackson
United States
Goodlettsville
Tennessee
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...my review of Star Trek: Fleet Captains is live on the Opinionated Gamers website:

http://opinionatedgamers.com/2011/09/23/the-best-diplomat-th...

a couple of highlights:

- "I know I sound like a broken record – but the theme comes through so strongly from every element of the game. This is especially true for the power adjustment mechanic, which allows you to vary your stats to send power to Sensors, Shields, Weapons or Engines… which makes me feel like I’m sitting in the captain’s chair myself."
- "I think that Fleet Captains does what it sets out to do and does it well – the game gives you a great big Star Trek sandbox to play in and fills it with a truckload of thematically appropriate “toys”: ships, encounter, crew, etc."
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Fri Sep 23, 2011 6:54 pm
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Five & Dime 2010: A Map So You Can Find Everything (So Far)

Mark Jackson
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Goodlettsville
Tennessee
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Here's the links so you can find the Five & Dime 2010 reports... btw, there are more coming next week on aka pastor guy (http://akapastorguy.blogspot.com)

Most Played Games (1st-25th)
http://opinionatedgamers.com/2011/04/25/five-dime-2010-most-...

Most Played Games
(26th-50th)
http://akapastorguy.blogspot.com/2011/04/five-dime-2010-most...

Dimes... 10+ plays (1st-25th)
http://opinionatedgamers.com/2011/04/26/five-dime-2010-dimes...

Dimes... 10+ plays (26th-50th)
http://akapastorguy.blogspot.com/2011/04/five-dime-2010-dime...

Nickels... 5+ plays (1st-25th)
http://opinionatedgamers.com/2011/04/27/five-dime-2010-nicke...

Nickels... 5+ plays (26th-50th)
http://akapastorguy.blogspot.com/2011/04/five-dime-2010-nick...

Fresh Faces... new to the Five & Dime lists
http://opinionatedgamers.com/2011/04/26/five-dime-2010-fresh...

Joining the "In" Crowd
... games that rose in % play this year
http://opinionatedgamers.com/2011/04/27/five-dime-2010-joini...

Lo, How The Mighty Have Fallen... games that dropped in % play this year
http://opinionatedgamers.com/2011/04/27/five-dime-lo-how-the...

Decay Rates... how games fare over time
http://opinionatedgamers.com/2011/04/27/five-dime-decay-rate...

Peak Performance... the top 50 games by their highest % play
http://akapastorguy.blogspot.com/2011/04/five-dime-2010-peak...

This Time It's Personal... my own 5 & 10 list
http://akapastorguy.blogspot.com/2011/01/five-dime-2010-this...

The Q&A... the FAQ for the Five & Dime lists
http://akapastorguy.blogspot.com/2011/02/five-dime-q.html

The Oldest Established Permanent Floating Statistics-Driven Gaming Party on the Internet... closing out the posts on the Opinionated Gamers website & saying THANK YOU to all the folks who made it possible
http://opinionatedgamers.com/2011/04/28/five-dime-2010-the-o...
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Fri Apr 29, 2011 8:34 pm
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Five & Dime 2010: The Results!

Mark Jackson
United States
Goodlettsville
Tennessee
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Here's how to follow the results of the Five & Dime list for 2010...

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/646123/five-dime-2010-the-re...

I'm posting the big stuff on the Opinionated Gamers website with some
added lists over on my personal blog...
http://opinionatedgamers.com/2011/04/25/five-dime-2010-most-...
http://akapastorguy.blogspot.com/2011/04/five-dime-2010-most...

If you're so inclined, let folks know it's there. Give the Geek forum
some thumbs.

And for those of you waiting for more of the Teenage Dungeon Master series, you'll have to hold on a little bit longer... sorry.
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Mon Apr 25, 2011 5:00 pm
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I Had Such Big Plans...

Mark Jackson
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...but they've run smack dab into the reality of Holy Week, completing the Five & Dime Report and life in general.

Stay tuned for more "I Was A Teenage Dungeon Master" posts coming soon...
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Mon Apr 18, 2011 10:28 pm
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Desert Island Expansions

Mark Jackson
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This is my portion of a much longer (and well-worth reading!) article over on the Opinionated Gamers website (http://opinionatedgamers.com/2011/04/14/what-are-your-desert...)

NOTE to Jonathan F… Anno 1503: Aristocrats & Pirates?! Really?! – That’s one of the few expansions I’ve ever traded away while keeping the base game. (I think Anno 1701: Das Brettspiel does the same thing he tried to do with the 1503 expansion, but better.)



1. Memoir ‘44: Campaign Book, Volume 1 – In a scenario-based game, it’s the quality of the additional scenarios that can make or break a game system. So imagine my joy when Days of Wonder not only published a book filled to the brim with new scenarios but also created a way to link battles together into Campaigns (4-6 battles) and Grand Campaigns (3-4 Campaigns) to make for an extended good time. I’ve played nearly every scenario in the book & am longing for Volume 2.



2. Zooloretto: Exotic – I love the base game & have enjoyed the way that Michael Schacht has freely expanded on it with simple add-on/giveaway expansions. But the expansion that turned this into a real nail-biter is Exotic – now, decisions about what to take & where to place animals have an extra level of thought… and the endgame becomes trickier as you have more things to avoid (esp. if you filled your jungle path early!)



3. Canyon: Grand Canyon – The original game is a light family trick-taking game (based on Oh Hell) with a scoring portion that is a canoe race around the bend across the rapids above the falls. Grand Canyon adds Cosmic Encounter-ish powers to the game that allow each player to bend the rules in a particular way each round – and those cards change hands depending on race position. I won’t play the game without them.

Of course, I had to leave off the games that really are nothing but expansions that I dearly love: Heroscape, Tannhauser & Summoner Wars.
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Fri Apr 15, 2011 12:30 pm
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Splitting Hairs: My Opinion of The BGG Top 100

Mark Jackson
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Here's how I'd split up the Board Game Geek top one hundred games as of yesterday morning (April 13th, 2011)... your mileage may/will vary!


Games I've Played (61)


ON MY PERSONAL TOP 100

* Agricola (2007)
* El Grande (1995)
* Memoir '44 (2004)
* Pandemic (2008)
* Puerto Rico (2002)
* Race for the Galaxy (2007)
* The Princes of Florence (2000)
* The Settlers of Catan (1995)
* Ticket to Ride (2004)

PROBABLY IN MY TOP 200

* 7 Wonders (2010)
* BattleLore (2006)
* Claustrophobia (2009)
* Dungeon Lords (2009)
* Galaxy Trucker (2007)
* Ra (1999)
* Small World (2009)

WOULD GLADLY PLAY THIS

* Arkham Horror (2005)
* Carcassonne (2000)
* Combat Commander: Europe (2006)
* Commands & Colors: Ancients (2006)
* Die Macher (1986)
* Dixit (2008)
* Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (Deluxe Edition) (2006)
* Space Alert (2008)
* Space Hulk (Third Edition) (2009)
* Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries (2007)

WOULD PLAY IF SOMEONE ELSE WANTED TO

* A Game of Thrones (2003)
* Battlestar Galactica (2008)
* Civilization (1980)
* Dominion (2008)/Dominion: Intrigue (2009)
* Endeavor (2009)
* Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage (1996)
* In the Year of the Dragon (2007)
* Notre Dame (2007)
* Power Grid (2004)
* Samurai (1998)
* Stone Age (2008)

EH (could be talking into playing but only if some sort of bribe was involved)

* 1830: Railways & Robber Barons (1986)
* Crokinole (1867)
* Descent: Journeys in the Dark (2005)
* Dune (1979)
* Shogun (2006)/Wallenstein (2002)
* Steam (2009)

NOT SURE WHY PEOPLE LIKE THIS SO MUCH (will only play under duress)

* Acquire (1962)
* Advanced Squad Leader (1985)
* Battle Line (2000)
* Blood Bowl: Living RuleBook (2004)
* Go (-2200)
* Modern Art (1992)
* Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization (2006)
* Tichu (1991)
* Tigris & Euphrates (1997)
* Ticket to Ride: Europe (2005)
* Tikal (1999)

ACTIVELY HATE THIS GAME

* 1960: The Making of the President (2007)
* Amun-Re (2003)
* Cosmic Encounter (2008)
* San Juan (2004)
* Taj Mahal (2000)
* Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) (2005)

Games I Haven't Played (39)

WANT TO TRY

* Cyclades (2009)
* Hansa Teutonica (2009)
* Twilight Struggle (2005)

WOULD TRY IF SOMEONE ELSE WANTED TO PLAY IT

* Glory to Rome (2005)
* Le Havre (2008)
* Navegador (2010)
* Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game (2010)
* Ticket to Ride: Märklin Edition (2006)
* Troyes (2010)
* YINSH (2003)

AM UNLIKELY TO TRY BUT WOULDN'T REFUSE TO

* Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! Russia 1941-1942 (2008)/Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel! Kursk 1943 (2009)
* Imperial (2006)/Imperial 2030 (2009)
* Paths of Glory (1999)
* Up Front (1983)
* War of the Ring (2004)/War of the Ring Collector's Edition (2010)

HAVE ZERO INTEREST IN TRYING

* Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery (2007)
* Antiquity (2004)
* Automobile (2009)
* Dominant Species (2010)
* Goa (2004)
* Hammer of the Scots (2002)
* Here I Stand (2006)
* Indonesia (2005)
* Merchants & Marauders (2010)
* Napoleon's Triumph (2007)
* Railroad Tycoon (2005)/Railways of the World (2009)
* Roads and Boats (1999)
* Struggle of Empires (2004)
* Warhammer: Invasion (2009)

REFUSE TO TRY

* Age of Steam (2002)
* Brass (2007)
* Caylus (2005)
* Chaos in the Old World (2009)
* Runewars (2010)
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Thu Apr 14, 2011 8:10 pm
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The Teenage Dungeon Master Will Return Next Week

Mark Jackson
United States
Goodlettsville
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I'm really enjoying the series & have a lot more to say as we transition from RPGs to board games... but I've got a review to write (Animal Upon Animal: Balancing Bridge) and the Five & Dime lists to finish compiling, so I'll repost a couple of things today & tomorrow and we'll get back to original material on Monday!
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Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:56 pm
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I Was A Teenage Dungeon Master: DW, Bill Cosby & Evercrack

Mark Jackson
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Quote:
You don't want to get me started on Dungeons & Dragons and Satan; or D&D as a corrosive element in modern youth; or D&D as an addictive force that generates slack-jawed losers who, as they age, become increasingly inept at social activities that don't focus on hit points, class, alignment or leveling up.

Back when I used to sell street bikes for a living, during the very early days of my game store, I was asked by a friend who hated motorcycles if I had any ethical considerations about selling 100 horsepower bikes to 19 year old kids suffering from adrenaline overload. All I could say was, Hey! I own a game store. I sell D&D. If I'm burning in hell someday it isn't going to be because of a biker kid who overcooks it into a corner and gets introduced to a logging truck. It'll be because despite what TSR and industry PR-Schmoes say, D&D really is a force of evil on the planet.


from Game Store Confidential: Dumb Gamers by DWTripp on the blog Gone Gaming - http://boredgamegeeks.blogspot.com/2006/01/game-store-confid...

Folks in the gaming world are not going to mistake me for
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. (Let's just say that DW is, well, colorful - and that color is often a bright & lurid shade of blue.) Don't get me wrong - I enjoy (most of the time) reading Game Store Confidential... DW's a funny & insightful guy when it comes to games & the business of games. Still, there's not much chance of us being twins separated at birth.

And then, some months back, I read his comment about Dungeons & Dragons (abbreviated for the rest of this post as D&D). I laughed, not just because it's funny... but because I'm a former D&D player & Dungeon Master (hereby abbreviated as DM) - and he's partly right.

However, this wasn't a conclusion I came to until much later in life. Here's the primary reasons I think that D&D is a "corrosive element" (if not a "force of evil on the planet."):

The Bill Cosby Factor

To explain my reasoning, I need to quote noted philosopher Bill Cosby from his film Bill Cosby Himself:

Quote:
I said to a guy, "Tell me, what is it about cocaine that makes it so wonderful?" and he said, "Because it intensifies your personality." I said, "Yes, but what if you're an a*****e?"


It's my humble opinion that D&D works in a similar way: it intensifies your personality. In most board & card games, whatever mess you've got going in your own life doesn't tend to surface at the table. (There are, of course, exceptions - usually negotiation games.) But in D&D, you are pouring your heart & soul into a character which you create not just for an evening of play but for extended periods of time. (In the words of Eeyore, "weeks, months, years... who knows?")

With that kind of identification over time, the game can easily become a place to act out unresolved issues from your "real life." For example, one of the guys I use to roleplay with was the youngest brother in a family of macho brothers... and was mercilessly picked on, both emotionally & physically. When we played D&D, he treated the rest of the party and the NPC's with the same kind of disdain that he received from his brothers. (It was a "safe" environment... if challenged on his buttheadness, he could - and did! - rationalize that he was "just playing his character.")

Now, if you're playing with mostly healthy individuals, this probably isn't a big deal. But my personal experience as a pastor and gamer lead me to believe that if we drew a Venn diagram of the subsets "emotionally healthy individuals" and "rabid D&D players", the overlap would not be, shall we say, large.

Of course, the Bill Cosby Factor implies that this is true of role-playing in general, not just D&D. I'm not sure that's the best way to read my theory. The anecdotal evidence from my own life is conflicting:

* Many of the same guys in my D&D group also played Traveller, with much less frustration, stupidity & rudeness. Was it the system... or was it the way I ran the two games differently?
* OTOH, when I ran a boardgaming club in Nashville, we shared our in-store night with two RPG groups... one who played D&D with the store owner DMing (which was as "normal" as those kind of things go) and one that played a variety of RPG systems - and managed to get in rules fights & personality clashes on a regular basis. It didn't matter what system these guys played... there was a better than even chance of these guys getting ticked off at each other, spewing venom & anger on themselves and everyone around them.

"So, what's the problem?," you ask. "OK, I'll buy that D&D allows more borderline personality types to act out than, say, El Grande, but that just means that the chances of you having a bad personal experience with the game is enhanced." True, which leads us to...

The EverCrack Factor

I thought I had seen addiction at its worst during the height of the Magic: the Gathering craze. It's a little scary to watch people plunk down hard earned cash for a tiny foil packet, rip it open, sort quickly through the cards... and then grab another pack from the display and fish for their wallet again. And again. (Granted, this was wonderful for your average brick & mortar game store - the CCG addicts paid a lot of light bills - but it still is disconcertingly like watching a junkie scrounging around a toilet for the fix he dropped.)

But CCG addiction was minor compared to the effect of EverCrack aka Everquest. This online role-playing game had some guys in our group refusing to come play boardgames... or do anything else for that matter. A typical day for these guys was:

* wake up
* play Everquest while eating breakfast
* go to work
* think about Everquest while working
* come home
* play Everquest while eating dinner... and then well into the night
* fall asleep and dream about Everquest
* lather... rinse... repeat... (of course, by using this metaphor for doing the same thing over & over, I am not implying that those who were addicted to EverCrack remembered to shower...)

Look, I know that any game system can be involving - even in the Euro gaming community:

* those groups that refuse to play anything but Settlers of Catan
* the Puerto Rico snobs who openly ridicule "substandard" opening moves
* the Heroscape addicts who pester store managers on a near-daily basis to see if the latest expansion has arrived (admission: I've never actually pestered a store manager, but I've sure thought about it)

But there is a special quality to games that create an ongoing "virtual" world that is seductive & interesting... and can lead to some seriously obsessive behaviors. Like refusing to have a real life because your "virtual" life is so much better.

So, combine intense identification (sometimes to the point of transference) with obsessive/addictive behavior... and you've got DW's "corrosive influence." D&D has the potential for bringing out great creativity in those who play it - while at the same time talking some folks "over the edge" into a "virtual world" where they attempt to hid from their real world issues behind stacks of manuals, graph paper & polyhedral dice.

I am not saying that "D&D turns everything it touches to crap." Many folks involved in roleplaying live normal adult lives. They are able to have a conversation without bringing up their character and his latest adventures. They have relationships that center around feelings & responsibilities, instead of trying to get their girlfriend to wear a chainmail bikini and planning their employment around their gaming sessions.

I'm just saying that it has the potential for harm... handle with care.

The Ozzy Factor

You'll notice that I didn't list "Christianity vs the occult" as my reason for agreeing with DW. (Man, I can tell I have two young children... every time I type DW, I think about Arthur & Buster.) If I'd chosen to do that, we would have had to title this post DW, Ozzy Osbourne & World of Warcraft.

I'm not saying that this isn't a questionable area. I've had friends who found D&D to be a stepping stone into so-called "white magic" and a passle of other activities which are clearly forbidden in the Bible. It just wasn't the primary reason I found compelling in my own life.

For some of you, that's bothering you... a lot. In my role as a pastor, I should be thundering down the Mountain of Truth, riding my noble steed, Zeal, (armed with a double-edged "sword") as I tear into these godless pagans who would actually be involved in "fantasy." Sorry - that's not gonna happen. (I'll talk about the positive use of fantasy in another post.)

OTOH, some of you need to stop snickering behind your hands at Christians who take a strong & consistent stance on cultural issues. You may or may not agree that avoiding the works of J.K. Rowling & J.R.R. Tolkien is an intelligent decision, but you need to acknowledge their right in a free society to do such a thing - and their courage to forego "fitting in" to stand by their convictions.

Note to both sides: that's what tolerance REALLY is: letting people believe other things without verbally and/or physically attacking them for doing so. You don't have to agree with them... goodness knows I think Al Franken is a funny man who should stop trying to be political and that Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer who was the first to figure out that nobody was catering to the political views of 50% of Americans. Either way, they both have the right to speak - and toleration means I don't try to shut them up via legal or illegal means. (I just turn the dial back to Jack 105.9 and/or slip in some David Crowder Band.)

And, in a final parting shot, what tolerance is NOT: making sure everyone expresses thoughts that everyone can agree with, or at least pretend to agree with.)

This post originally appeared on my personal blog on July 12, 2006... as anyone who knows Al Franken's current employer would easily guess.
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Tue Apr 12, 2011 12:30 pm
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I Was A Teenage Dungeon Master: The Day I Quit Playing D&D

Mark Jackson
United States
Goodlettsville
Tennessee
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Last week, I outlined a bit of my personal Dungeons & Dragons history: read about it in Games yadda yadda, bought the blue box set yadda yadda, nearly 3 years of DMing yadda yadda, and I quit. No yadda - in fact, I promised to tell that story in this post.

So here it is.

As in many D&D groups, our group had evolved over time. We began as excited newbies, passing around the blue book rules & taking turns making up dungeons to explore & plunder. (It was during this time period that I created one of the few player characters I remember using, a Dwarf fighter named Ecnad Tsal... which is "Last Dance" backwards - yes, another clue that I came of age during the late 1970's.) The group grew as we added friends and girlfriends.

My sixteenth birthday party consisted of eating a cake my mom made with a dinosaur model on the top - the closest thing she could find to a dragon - and playing D&D with better quality snacks than usual. Yes, we were pretty much the title characters from Freaks & Geeks. (BTW, I've never actually watched a full episode of Freaks & Geeks - set in 1980, my sophmore/junior year of high school, it was just too painfully close to reality to be enjoyable.)

Over time, the less-dedicated (read: less obsessive) drifted away & the majority of our adventuring took place with four of us:

* Mark (aka fluff daddy and/or pastor guy), the Dungeon Master
* Jim, the neutral human druid
* Tom, Jim's younger brother who went through a variety of characters... I think most of them were elves who were chaotic good (which pretty much described Tom himself)
* Dave, our oddly lucky with the ladies (esp. for someone who played D&D) friend who played a halfling thief of variable alignment (Some other time, I need to y'all about Dave's dating life & the vaguely Calvinist theory of dating the rest of us developed in response to his success.)

The characters had continued leveling up nicely but not quickly - I was not a Monty Hall DM. (For the uninitiated, that means I didn't give out gold, experience points and/or magic items lightly... they had to work for that kind of stuff.) Again, I'm fuzzy on the details, but all three of them were 10th level or better and had been running those particular characters for 2+ years.

So, one afternoon after school, we're upstairs in Jim & Tom's bedroom, playing D&D. (Chances are we were listening to Pink Floyd's The Wall or Jethro Tull's Aqualung... being the ubergeeks that we were.) Anyway, they were exploring a volcanic island... an adventure of my own creation. Turns out that the smoke issuing from the volcano was not from molten lava but from a red dragon who was sitting on a pile of treasure.

Anyone who has run a roleplaying game knows what is about to happen - you, as the game master, work to create an open scenario and yet, with subtle or not-so-subtle clues, limit some of the options so that the players will follow the story without feeling herded. Invariably, one of the players decides to push the boundaries... and you have to follow through.

Dave had a history of using his thief like a fighter - and this afternoon was not an exception to that foolhardy tendency. What I had intended to be a "smash & grab" of some small (but valuable) magic items became Dave's grand stage - he masterminded a plan to kill the dragon & take all of the treasure.

I threw up red flags: my descriptions of the dragon became more horrific and NPC's (non-player characters) who were their servants issued dire warnings. But nothing would deter Dave from his plan.

And so the battle began. For a while, things worked out for the party. Then the dice started going bad, they tried some desperate maneuvers... and Dave found his halfling in front of the business end of a red dragon.

A couple of shakes of the dice later, and the halfling was a crispy critter, incinerated beyond recognition. Dave demanded that Jim (the druid) resurrect him. (There was some magic item they had that could help.) But I ruled that without a physical body to resurrect, there was nothing they could do. Dave's character was dead.

Jim & Tom figured out what was happening faster than I did... as they grabbed Dave as he lunged toward me, spitting & cussing, threatening to beat me senseless for killing his character. I can still remember thinking, "This is just a game. It's just a character on a bunch of pieces of paper. And this guy wants to beat me up over it?!"

What I don't remember is what happened next... how we got Dave calmed down, whether or not we kept playing that day, if I got home in time for dinner (which I wasn't always good about). None of it - it's like my memory banks are wiped clean.

What I do remember is that I quit D&D that day... I was done. Any game that could potentially cause bodily injury to me was just not worth it. I piled up my stacks of manuals, scenarios & folders full of graph paper dungeons... and, weirdly enough, gave them to Dave.

So, that's the story.

But it probably isn't the whole story. There were a number of things contributing to the demise of my roleplaying career, not the least of which was getting an actual "real world" life which included crushes on girls, major parts in school plays, and the stunning realization that high school was almost over.

In another post (to be published tomorrow) - which was more difficult to write than I anticipated - I've attempted to analyze what bothers me about D&D and the primary reasons I give for warning people away from it.

And, yes, the picture with this post is from the aforementioned birthday party. Sigh. I was young and had less fashion sense than I have now - which isn't saying much.

This post originally appeared on my personal blog on June 25th, 2006.
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Mon Apr 11, 2011 12:30 pm
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I Was A Teenage Dungeon Master: Apples & Oranges

Mark Jackson
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You may or may have heard of The Apples Project (http://applesproject.blogspot.com/)... it was/is my attempt to recognize great games based upon their theme or mechanic rather than on the year that they were published. Back in 2002 (the first time I did The Apples Project), I added a category that was not well-received... but fits right in with our discussion here: "D&D in a board game". The winners were:

* Drakon
* Dungeonquest
* Heroquest/Advanced Heroquest
* Lord of the Rings (Knizia)
* Wiz War

If I was going to make up a similar list today, here's the five games I'd put on it:

* Catacombs
* Dungeonquest
* Heroscape
* Prophecy
* Return of the Heroes


Your mileage may vary. :-)
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Fri Apr 8, 2011 12:30 pm
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