Sunday, December 06, 2009

Goin' Old School

Sometimes it is the simpler things in life that give the most enjoyment. I have often blogged about my experiences with playing Massively Multilayer Online (MMO) Role Playing Games (RPGs), namely World of Warcraft (WoW). Within the last two to three weeks, however, I have logged into WoW only a few times, finding myself getting very bored, very fast. I started playing WoW over a year ago as a way of being able to game with my friends who are now scattered all over the U.S. with whom I would have been playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) or some other similar “paper & ink” RPG. The problem with computer based games, whether online or not, is that once maximum level is obtained, there generally becomes a limited amount of content to experience, at least until the next patch or expansion is released. It is this fact that lead my best friend and I to seek a way to play D&D despite the fact that he lives in Atlanta, GA, and I live in Fayetteville, NC (to spare you having to find a map, that's roughly a 6-8 hour drive or about 370 miles; not exactly conducive to being able to sit at each other's kitchen tables once a week. To further exacerbate the situation, everyone else in our gaming group was just as far away or farther from both of us (one in Charlotte, NC and another in Michigan!). So, this is about how we found a way to go old school RPG in the information super-highway age.

Goin' Old School in New Ways

As I mentioned before, we were beginning to get bored with WoW; no new content had been added in a couple of months nor was scheduled to be released until weeks later. We also found ourselves in a guild that seemed to be unable to move forward on high level raiding content due to scheduling conflicts, and our efforts to find a guild to raid resulted in basically finding people who were, shall we say, less than friendly (i.e., they were douche bags). So, we decided to check out Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO), mainly because it had just changed to being a “free to play” MMORPG. Playing DDO made me feel nostalgic for the old days, and I began mentioning to both Rob and Jere that I wished we could find a way to play D&D via a chat room or something (yeah, I know, chat rooms are so 90s). Our search netted us to pieces of software to aid us, Ventrilo (which we had been using with WoW anyway) and OpenRPG. “Vent” would give us the ability to talk to each other, while OpenRPG would give us a virtual table top on which to place (digital) miniatures and roll our dice. Perfect! Some additional hunting on my part turned up a program called Redblade, that not only is a D&D character creation program, but allows for export to a standard HTML document, making it very easy to share character sheets via email. Now we just had to get the group together.

We're Rollin' Now

I'm not going to drag out all the details of the few weeks it took us to put it all together learning how to use Redblade and OpenRPG to our satisfaction, Rob getting his server setup for us to be able to use Ventrilo without having to buy server space, relearning the 3.5 edition D&D rules, finding people to play, etc., etc. Suffice it to say, it eventually went off without a much of a hitch. Last night was the first time in years I've been able to play D&D or anything else like it, and I have to say, it was pretty awesome. Sure, it lacked some of the nuance of sitting around a kitchen table in someone's house where we could all drink beer, eat mass quantities of chips and just enjoy each others company as we enjoyed the game, but still, being able to get together with old friends who share the hobby of gaming is fun no matter how it's accomplished. We figure from here the sky's the limit. OpenRPG isn't D&D specific; it's just a virtual table top with virtual dice rollers. There are a plethora of RPGs out there that we used to play. It's just a matter of pulling them all out of storage and refreshing our memories and our imaginations. It's not high tech. It's not all noise and lights and endless questing for better gear. It's simple, old school gaming like we used to do before there was Internet and gaming consoles. And you know what? I love it!

~ JC

Next week: My second review of the Motorola Droid; it will have been almost a month since I bought, so I'll let you know how it's performing and what apps I like and don't like.

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