Entry for April 18, 2007: Teeth, travelers, and another look back

I'm still recovering from my latest round of dental work yesterday morning (see my earlier posts for more details). While the appointment was ostensibly to get some molds for new caps on two teeth, it still involved gum cutting, tooth grinding, and drilling.

My next follow-up will be right after CW's annual editorial offsite retreat in two weeks. After the doctors get done with my top teeth, some worn molars on the bottom are next, assuming we can get my insurance to cover it. Sigh — few more months of chewing on one side of my mouth…

Janice and I have also been busy coordinating various guests and travel. As noted previously, we've hosted role-players Byron V.O. and Dexter V.H. this past month, and Dex may be back in the Boston area this coming weekend. We've met capital crew members Ben P.S. and Tim M.B. downtown, and Mark A.S. may fly in from New Zealand right around the time of my offsite meeting!

We'll be seeing my family in Virginia at the end of this month, as well as in New York City in June (finding affordable and well-located hotels another story). One of my sisters in law said she and her family would like to see Boston early next month. I also hope to join Janice at a conference in Seattle this coming autumn, but I'm not sure we'll have enough vacation time or money by then. With the cool and damp late spring that we've been having in the U.S. Northeast, any change in venue or weather would be welcome.

Between the D&D3.5 "Vanished Lands" fantasy sessions on Tuesdays (face-to-face) and Wednesdays (by teleconference, plus some play by e-mail) and the "City of Heroes" online game on Thursday nights and Sunday mornings, I estimate that I've been spending 12 hours per week playing various games. I hope to cut back a bit, mainly to free up time for Janice and other interests. At the same time, much of my socializing has been caught up in the gaming circles, so figuring out what to cut is a challenge.

But how did get into this hobby in the first place? My freshman year of high school, 1982, was a banner year for genre entertainment fans. The fantasy movies "Conan the Barbarian" and "The Dark Crystal," cyberpunk "Tron" and "Blade Runner," space opera "Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan," and SF classic "E.T." and horror remake "The Thing" all came out that year.

Since my father is a medievalist, I already had some exposure to real-world mythology and folklore. My paternal grandfather gave me a paperback edition of "The Lord of the Rings" novels for my birthday. I started playing the boxed sets of "Dungeons & Dragons," which had been around for almost a decade.

Along with friends such as Jon and Bill B., Carlo R., Reinaldo C., and John F., I helped found our Westchester, New York, high school's gaming and computer clubs. Yes, we were geeks or nerds, but we were also part of a creative movement still going strong today. Our shared interests in "Doctor Who" and early D&D (and "Star Wars" and "Star Frontiers") shaped our future tastes and social circles.

In freshman year of college (1986), I got my entire floor in my dorm playing "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons," and soon made many friends watching reruns of original "Star Trek" episodes, playing foosball, and through roommate John Z.G.'s AD&D2 "Gwynedd in Greyhawk" game. We also experimented with other rules systems such as Palladium, Champions/Hero, RoleMaster, and D6, as well as other genres, including westerns, espionage, cyberpunk, and space opera.

Most of my current friends date to that period in Upstate New York, even though many are no longer active role-players. Most of my students at NYPIRG's Queens College-CUNY chapter also played in my D&D "Vanished Lands" heroic fantasy campaign setting, setting a new record for the most people in a successful group.

In graduate school and into the 1990s, the AD&D2 and GURPS (Generic Universal RolePlaying System) parties in Virginia grew amid another burst of creativity and interpersonal conflict. Steve M.R., Erik B.L., and Tim M.B. were among the Game Masters of that period, and we were eventually joined by several college acquaintances for fantasy, cliffhanger/steampunk (GURPS "Arth" and "Gaslight Grimoire"), and time/dimension travel ("Voyagers II") campaigns.

I mostly ran fantasy and the GURPS "Supers: S.J.I." scenarios, and played in Jon W.P., Josh H., and Hans C.H.'s "Vampire: the Masquerade" goth game, using the "Storyteller: World of Darkness" system. In future posts, I'll explain what's good about role-playing, why I like certain games, and how the Boston-area groups got to their current state…