Entry for June 13, 2007: Games people play

Friends, I hope you're having a good week. Last week, college friend Stuart C.G. took the Acela train from New York to Boston and went sightseeing for a few days before meeting Dexter V.H., Janice, and me. He also met Thomas K.Y. for dinners and to screen the anime movie "Paprika," which has gotten good reviews.

On Friday, 8 June 2007, Stuart got a ride with Thomas to my second duplex in Needham Heights, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, Dexter's Fung Wah bus was again stuck in traffic, so we had to pick him up from the Riverside "T" station and ate a late dinner at the Ground Round.

We stayed up much too late that night, and Dexter went to meet a friend at the nearby Sheraton. The next morning, Janice cooked a nice breakfast, and we gradually got ourselves organized for Saturday's D20 "Mutants & Masterminds" 2nd Ed.: "Drake's Port" superhero scenario.

Dex and fellow role-player Beruk A. have had problems with overlapping characters in the past, since they're both attracted to grim vigilantes of the night. In fact, the D20"M&M"2e: "Drake's 7" one-shot was a compromise choice, since several of the local gamers wanted to do a higher-level D&D3.5 "Vanished Lands" fantasy mission but couldn't decide on just one. The danger with any compromise is that nobody is pleased.

Still, even with Beruk/"the Stranger," Byron V.O./"Arcturus," and James B./"Sid the Kid" absent, I hope the assembled group had fun. The existing team (Paul J./"Capt. Oblivious," Greg D.C./"the Electric Slide," Thomas/"the Righteous Fist," and Brian W./"Le Cafard") managed to integrate new metahumans: Dexter/"Mayonaka/Ara," Stuart/"D3/Triple-D," Alex J./"Crowley," and Serena/"Bellatrix."

Although the plot device of evil cultists has been overused lately, it did bring together the costumed metahumans fairly quickly. Since Stuart, Alex, and Serena are big comic book fans, they had little trouble getting into my setting, which features some "named" characters and storylines from recent D.C. and Marvel comics. See the Yahoo/eGroups Web club for more details: http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/DnD3VanishedLands/

I also had some constructive criticism from and for Dexter, who'll likely swap his Dark Elf Beastmaster back to a human ninja next time. He did run a scene in a museum, which I hope will help satisfy his desire to serve as Game Master until he can help me with the D&D3.5 "Temple of Elemental Evil" module.

Speaking of gaming cohorts, at least two groups were represented this past weekend. "Falcon's Nest" included Dexter, Stuart, and my former roommate Ken P.S., among others, from 1988 to 1990. In the latter half of my undergraduate years at the State University of New York at Binghamton, we mostly played "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" 2nd Ed., but we also tried numerous other rules systems and genres.

Then, as now, I ran my "Vanished Lands" heroic fantasy campaign setting, and Dexter had a parallel campaign with his "Land of Lost Souls," also inspired in part by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, the "Dragonlance" novels, and in his case, "Palladium Fantasy."

Stuart collaborated with us on various superhero games, including "Champions" (now Hero System 5th Ed.), "D.C. Heroes/Universe," and "Marvel Super Heroes." After I graduated, they also played the complex "RoleMaster," as well as numerous video games.

Dex and I tried running the espionage game "Top Secret: S.I.," and we had many misadventures in John Z.G.'s AD&D2 "Gwynedd in Greyhawk" and Bill A.R.'s AD&D2 "Dragonlance/Kara-Tur" groups. Our circles of acquaintances at that time provided a big pool to recruit from, and our shared interests in folklore, heroic tales, and some horror informed our fictional world-building.

Ken tried his hand at dark fantasy "Warhammer," and he and I had some successful "Shadowrun" cyberpunk/fantasy sessions. As you can see, we had the benefit of free time for weekly role-playing, plus a balance between long-running parties (mainly in AD&D2) and experimental games. Board games and wargames were among our other options at the time; collectible card and miniatures games became popular in the 1990s.

More recently, the "Seekers of Lore/Broken Chains" arose from the remains of the "Liberators" and "Dragonslayers" in the Boston area during the past two or three years. Thomas, Brian, James, and others joined Paul, Alex, Beruk, and Greg, who have played in my game since the early 2000s.

Play by e-mail with Carolyn M.P. has become play by teleconference with Byron and Dexter. At the same time, the "City of Heroes" online multiplayer game has renewed connections with college friends in Upstate New York and Northern Virginia.

Most of the current gamers strongly prefer "Dungeons & Dragons" Edition 3.5 over other systems, although we have tried the Generic Universal RolePlaying System (GURPS) Fourth Edition and the aforementioned D20"M&M"2e.

The most recent "Broken Chains" Arabian fantasy sessions have gone well, as the former slaves explore the dangerous ruins of Tel Silat in search of a lost temple of feline goddess Bast… While I've missed the occasional rule because of fatigue or distraction, I think the current party has been challenged and entertained fairly well.

Back to my weekend visitors: On Sunday, June 10, after Janice got back from volunteering at the animal shelter, we took Dexter and Stuart into Cambridge, Mass. We stopped at Pandemonium Books & Games and had lunch at Border Café before dropping them off at the train station.

In other news, fellow role-players and Game Masters Tim M.B. and Ted A.H. each became parents for the second time, Steve M.R. has moved, and Robert A.S. and my brother Peter are preparing to do so! Of course, I'm trying to talk friends into moving to New England, but the cost of living is a big deterrent: http://wbztv.com/local/local_story_162094519.html

Work has continued to be busy, and although my new caps are finally in my mouth, I have yet another follow-up dental appointment scheduled for early next month. In addition to my family's gathering next week in New York City, Ron J.K., Steve A.L., Steve M.R., and Byron have all expressed interest in visiting the Boston area in the coming months! Coming soon: "Fantastic Four 2," summer genre television, and Manhattan…