#RPGaDay2017 Day 13: Change is the one constant

Hello readers! Thanks for dropping by on Sunday for the next question on #RPGaDay2017. Today it’s all about change, specifically a game experience that changed how I play. The question read as follows:

August 13: Describe a game experience that changed how you play.

Let me think… In the past, I’ve touched upon similar subjects. For RPG a Day 2016, Day 11 I wrote about a player that challenged my expectation of solving everything through combat when I started playing D&D. I’ve told the story of how I became a killer GM, and as recent as this month on Day 7 I reposted about an incident that also affected how I play.  Thinking of another experience that changed how I play sent me on a trip down memory lane… All the way back to the summer of 1988 and the Hammer of Thunderbolts incident.

That summer was the summer after my freshman year in high school. I had been gaming for two years, I had a new regular gaming group with my friends from school, and I ran the 2nd version of my long running homebrewed campaign (which turns 30 this year, but that’s a topic for another post!) using AD&D 1st edition. The regular players were an Elf Fighter/Magic User, and two Rangers. There were other characters that came and went, but Luis, Gary and Emilio where my three steady players, and we played almost every day that summer.

Rolling randomly for magic items after an encounter, the players ended up with a Hammer of Thunderbolts. You can read the description from the D&D 3rd ed. SRD here. It is much more succinct and similar to the one in the AD&D 1st edition DMG which reads:

Hammer of Thunderbolts appears to be a regular hammer of largish size and extra weight. It will be too imbalanced, somehow, to wield properly in combat, unless the character has 18/01 or better strength and a height of over 6’. The hammer then functions as +3 and gains double damage dice on any hit. If the wielder wears any girdle of giant strength and gauntlets of ogre power in addition, he or she may properly wield the weapon if the hammer’s true name is known. When swung or hurled it gains a +5, double damage dice, all girdle and gauntlets bonuses, and strikes dead any giant* upon which it scores a hit. When hurled and successfully hitting, a great noise as if a clap of thunder broke overhead will resound, stunning all creatures within 3” for 1 round. Throwing range is 1” + ½”/point of strength bonus for the gauntlets and girdle, i.e. 6 + 7 to 12 = 13 to 18 × ½” = 6½”, 7”, 7½”, 8”, 8½”, 9”. (Thor would throw the hammer about double the above ranges . . .). The hammer of thunderbolts is very difficult to hurl, so only 1 throw every other round can be made, and after 5 throws within the space of any 2 turn period, the wielder must rest for 1 turn. (AD&D 1st ed. DMG, pages 168-169)

How very specific… Reading those Magic Item descriptions was something else. But I digress…

Gary, playing one of the Rangers, had Gauntlets of Ogre Power and a Girdle of Giant Strength, so he promptly said, “I have 18/00 Strength, I can wield it!” and thus he claimed the Hammer of Thunderbolts. I’d like to say it was called Chochibaina (we were teens, what can I say), but I’m not 100% my memory is correct in that regard.

There was one slight problem, Gary’s character didn’t have 18/00 strength, let alone the 18/01 needed to weld the hammer, he had 17 in strength, but erased the 17, wrote down 18/00 and showed me the character sheet.  I should have remembered this, but we were mid-session, weeks into the campaign, playing every day, and I totally missed it.

It wasn’t until some years later when Luis, who played the elf in that campaign, told me about this and had a good laugh… I should have laughed too, but I didn’t. In fact, I felt deeply betrayed. For some reason that cheating and the good laugh they saddened and infuriated me! Ah to be young and naïve again, one should never feel like that about a game, still, hindsight is 20/20.

That changed me. I became incredibly untrustworthy of players. I asked to check and double check their character sheets. I even asked to keep them at one time, not letting plyers take their character’s home. More than anything, that revelation, fostered a sense of antagonism between me and my players. It felt as concrete evidence that they were out to get me.

Again, we were young… But I admit it colored my perception of my relationship with players for a few years. Thankfully I grew up, matured, and began playing with other players. Mind you, Gar and Luis continued playing with me for some years. But integrating new people into the group, maturity and the bonds of friendship that develop as you grow up together, means that such trifles were left behind.

These days I play with friends whom I trust to manage their characters and to participate in the game in a way that makes it fun for everyone. The Hammer of Thunderbolts incident may have changed me for a moment, but it ultimate allowed me to learn to let go of such worries and enjoy the game!

Now all I must do is get Gary to ply again and lower his Strength! That will show whim…

Remember that at the Desde la Fosa YouTube channel you can see our video reply to  this and every other question for #RPGaDay2017 in Spanish. The whole team at Desde la Fosa is participating so you’ll often get different perspectives from what I write here. We are grateful for your views and your shares!

What experienced changed how you play? Let us know in the comments. See you all tomorrow.

3 thoughts on “#RPGaDay2017 Day 13: Change is the one constant”

  1. A game/gaming-event that changed how I play…

    During most of the 1980s, I was looking for that ultimate “do everything” system. Not narratively, per se, just everything. I tried to warp things into Rolemaster/Spacemaster/Cyberspace, basically. I wished Cyberspace had been a more Spacemaster game, heavier instead of lighter. Because heavier seemed “more complete” to me. That was my measure of games: more rules and system = more complete. And if I want a game that does everything, it needs to be the most complete.

    Then I went to the 1989 Dragon*Con, and two things happened:

    1) I played Supremacy. It’s like Risk with resources and nuclear weapons. A complete empire building game, on two sides of a single sheet about notebook sized.

    2) I witnessed a game that was playing out a miniatures game between Civil War ironclads. It was a very rich game… whose rules took up 1 side of a notebook sized sheet of paper.

    It changed my entire way of looking at gaming. That more rules don’t mean better, that lots of charts get in the way, and that I don’t need more in order to do everything. I immediately switched from “Rolemaster/Spacemaster” to “how to make MERP and Cyberspace function as generic universal rules.” But even that needed to be reduced, and the assumptions of those games got in the way of being “generic”.

    (some of my friends consider(ed) HERO (Champions, etc.) to be light, but I think it’s actually too heavy in terms of prep-work and math; I can do the math, but I know a LOT of gamers who aren’t engineers; I think of HERO as a system for engineers and accountants.)

    Eventually, I found Fudge, and then Fate. And OSR games. Still haven’t quite found the perfect fit for me, but … I definitely look for “light and infinitely flexible” over “heavy and/or rigidly implementing one story world.”

  2. (the only real exception I make to “light and flexible” is … the official main-line D&D family, which I sometimes walk away from when I get tired of the heaviness and inflexibility of certain things)

  3. I must admit I came to rule light games later in my time playing, and the core of my long running group are NOT fans of rules light.

    Thanks for the comments!

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