(Continued from Part 4, read Part 3, Part 2, or start at Part 1)
My cousin is the oldest of three brothers and lived in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. He always seemed about two steps cooler than me. His house was full of fantastic things: boardgames, books, movies, and a computer! Not only did he have a computer, but he had the most amazing computer games. We spent hours with the likes of Police Quest, Shadows of Yserbius, and others I no longer recall. My cousin also owned an impressive library of second edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons books.
For some reason, his basement always smelled like cedar. Even now, that smell brings with it memories of flipping wide-eyed through book after book of D&D goodness. My favorites were the monster books; huge binders full of strange creatures! I was struck by how cohesive everything seemed, as if the authors had developed an entire universe and were slowly leaking parts of it out one book at a time. It didn't seem stupid to me that a Haunt was a different creature than a Ghost, not with all that wonderful flavor text to differentiate the two! Screw Rolemaster, this was obviously the real deal!
My first AD&D character, besides the aforementioned dwarf with no name, was a Minotaur named Andrax. The name was stolen from a less than stellar novel called Stormriders (a Rolemaster novel, by the way). Later, Andrax would be reincarnated as a human wizard (not in the game sense, I just made a different dude with the same name, still with my cousin as DM). There in the cedar-smelling basement, Andrax sneaked through a fortress, stole a griffin mount, and defeated some lizard men. It was tremendous fun.
I eventually started playing AD&D with some of my friends from high school, shelving and later losing track of most of my Rolemaster and MERP stuff. Like many hardcore gamers, I found myself running the game more often than I played it. When 2000 came around, I was an early adapter of Third Edition, jumping on that particular bandwagon with help from rules leaked to Eric Noah's Unofficial Third Edition News site, which later became ENWorld. Those were great times to be gamer, a sort of mini golden age for me personally, but that's a post for another day.
Currently, I'm not married to any particular system, but I've found myself drawn to older and simpler versions of D&D. Games like Labyrinth Lord, Castles and Crusades, and Swords and Wizardry have all found their way onto my bookshelves. I'm not playing anything right now (I'm stuck in a foreign country, far away from home), but I am designing a few things for when I get back. If nothing else, it gives me something to blog about over the next several months. If I come out of this with a megadungeon or a set of rules of my own, all the better.