RPGs: Old School Meets a New Technology


I played many a RPG when I was a youngster, and even a young adult.  Back when I had not much to do with my young post-graduate life but having fun, concerning myself only with getting up, going to work, paying bills and whatnot.  In those days, it was not at all uncommon for my friends and I to convene an AD&D game on Saturday day and play literally all the way around the clock, getting up to go out on Monday mornings with all the clean-suited commuters gazing in wonder at this gaggle of bloodshot, haggard looking youngsters going out for pancakes on a Monday morning while they were going out to  their jobs.  Gradually, girlfriends became wives, jobs became more demanding and serious, children started showing up, and we weren’t playing RPGs any more.  Why?  The time it took, mostly.  A single combat could take most of an evening.  Rolling up characters could do the same.  We played AD&D a lot back then, Dungeons and Dragons (old version) being the game most of started with and were still very comfortable with, but also Traveler, Gamma World, Metamorphosis Alpha, Paranoia, Dragonquest, Runequest, etc.  We usually came back to AD&D in its assorted flavors, usually 2.0.  I’ve seen lots of chatter on the web about roleplaying over the years but I’ve not been that eager to jump right in again, being mostly a boardgamer and miniatures player.  And yet.. and yet…

The phenomenal growth of “Old School” gaming in the last few years (in response, I suspect, of the dumbing down of major commercial RPG products like D&D 4.0) has created some interesting alternatives for an “old School” player like me.  Games like Pathfinder and Labyrinth Lord are more familiar to me than anything TSR/Wizards of the Coast has released in the last ten years.  There’s a whole host of more specialized, narrow focus niche RPGs that have come out in the last decade, as well, and some of them are really quite clever, like Fiasco or Munchausen.   Many of them intrigue me, certainly the two I just named do.  I guess I’m just a sucker for the classics.

When Boardgamegeek introduced the notion of Virtuacon recently, I admit I had some interest.  The idea behind Virtuacon is to play in RPG games using collaborative technologies such as Google Hangouts, and the Roll 20 virtual tabletop service.   RPG Geek, the RPG arm of BGG, is sponsoring a wide variety of RPGs over the next month or so, in the attempt to get momentum going behind playing RPGs via collaborative (free) technology.  I have to say I’m behind this idea.  I love the “garage band” feel of this effort.  So what the heck, I browsed the choices available and selected a game called Labyrinth Lord.  This is essentially the old school D&D of my youth resurrected with some new covers and concepts to avoid the publishers getting their asses sued off.

Labyrinth Lord (or L&L??) has a nice visual appeal, which pulls my nostalgia strings:

Labyrinth Lord Cover, the 80s called, and they want their art back!

Labyrinth Lord Cover, the 80s called, and they want their art back!

Inside, the tables and interior illustrations are DEFINITELY old school

Inside, the tables and interior illustrations are DEFINITELY old school

So I’ve joined a special Google plus hang out and tonight we ran the technical checks to see if I could connect. My creaky PC doesn’t have the capability to video camera anyone, but I could connect audibly, and the run through on D20 worked like a charm.

Google Hangout Connect. This is what we'll be talking into, and some will video cam in too.

Google Hangout Connect. This is what we’ll be talking into, and some will video cam in too.

The adventure is called BARROWMAZE.  It's a MEGA dungeon in the Labyrinth Lord universe, and a commercial product.

The adventure is called BARROWMAZE. It’s a MEGA dungeon in the Labyrinth Lord universe, and a commercial product.

Drilling down to the portion of the map where the party enters the dungeon, going over the D20 app interface.

Drilling down to the portion of the map where the party enters the dungeon, going over the D20 app interface.

All of the technology works fine, more or less. My Snowball microphone, which works just fine with this computer, worked as the input device and my flip phones were the earphones. I’ll post more as the campaign actually opens up. I’m liking this!

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