I was cruising around Saratoga Springs, NY on Google Street View tonight checking out the area around Union Ave. by Congress Park to see what the pink palace was looking like these days (thats what we called the Skidmore dorm Moore Hall in the early ’80s when I was there over the summers) and I just happened to end up in a position in the west bound lane where the Google Street View car seems to have passed by just as crews were working on tearing it down. A quick search turned up this article in the Times Union and this story on the Skidmore site confirming that the old building is now gone.
I was first introduced to D&D in 1979 by some friends in school and was soon addicted. I spent inumerable hours creating maps and dungeons for my buddies to explore, and rolling up characters to populate my own worlds or to play in another kid’s campaign. I played straight through high school but only occassionally when I’d return home from college. After college our group switched to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (a Games Workshop game for which there were some awesome modules being written at the time), but I’ll never forget the real thrill of adventure of those early D&D sessions. Perhaps in a bid to recapture some of that spirit, or maybe because my own kids have expressed an interest in the game I recently picked up a couple of books about the history of the creation of D&D and its legacy.
The first, Empire of Imagination is a short book by Michael Witwer which focuses on the life of one of the creators of D&D, Gary Gygax. Its a biography of sorts, as well as an entertaining history of D&D, Gary’s life, how he made his passion for wargaming into a business, how he lost control of that business, and his legacy. Witwer does a fairly good job of recounting the history of Gary’s personal saga but it seems to be written from a fan’s point of view and comes off a bit one-sided. I would have liked to see more interviews and stories from other perspectives – especially from Dave Arneson, the main co-creator of D&D who is painted in a less than flattering light. All in all though my main gripe about the book is that it was too short, which is a criticism all authors should strive for.
I then read Of Dice and Men by David Ewalt. Ewalt treats the subject of roleplaying with an obvious reverence which all gamers can appreciate. He includes interviews with a wide range of folks, reports from the field from gaming conventions, and recounts his visit to Gary Gygax’s home town and the memorial Gary Con. Obviously targeted at folks who don’t know very much about roleplaying, the book is heavy on explanation of the topic which might make it slow for hard-core gamers. The story is sprinkled with vignettes describing the heroic actions of various gaming personas using in-game prose which gives a real flavour for what roleplaying is all about. Entertaining and informative, the book does tend to center very much around Ewalt and his personal experiences which can start to read more like a blog than a history, though his boots-on-the-ground investigative work and extensive footnotes counter this to some extent.
These books reminded me of how much I miss playing D&D regularly. Both provide a lot of references which have already led me to several lost nights of investigation on the internet researching the colorful cast of characters who surrounded Gary and have continued to create great games since those early days. I can recommend both!
Its been a while since I’ve written anything here. I’ve written plenty on various social media (G+, twitter, reddit mainly) but these places aren’t under my own control and eventually whatever I write there will likely be lost as these companies grow, change, acquire and get acquired and their priorities change. Usually the longer I take a break from writing here (in my own journal so to speak) the harder it gets to write here because I have to think of some singular topic that I can write about, but as there has been so much time between posts, I’ve done a hundred things and writing about just one of them seems to be giving that one topic too much gravitas. Instead, I end up summarizing a bunch of things I’ve worked on, then none of them seem very important and certainly aren’t described in the detail I’d like to provide.
One thing I need in a vehicle is a working radio. It doesn’t have to be flashy, or even have bluetooth or a touch screen – I just need it to be able to tune in AM and FM radio and have a clock in it. The Van of Doom didn’t have a radio. It was supposed to have had a radio, but when I went to pick it up (at a used car lot that sells these kinds of used workhorse vans) the radio had gone missing. Probably it had found its way into another van on the guy’s lot for some reason and by the time I was there and wheeling and dealing I just couldn’t be bothered with that detail. I’d been looking for about 2 months and various vans had slipped through my fingers for one reason or another, and this one was just what I was looking for… minus the stereo. I had some funny idea that I would put one of those amazing new touchscreen models in there, maybe with a backup camera since the Van of Doom is very large and ponderous to back up. But when I finally made it to an audio shop to price it out it looked like I wasn’t getting anything installed for less than about $600 and $850 if I wanted that backup camera. Theres no way I was going to drop that kind of coin into this old hunk – its just for hauling stuff around! So I headed over to the local junkyard.
Continue reading “Junk yard radio is good enough”
Several years ago the transmitter for my car alarm died. Before I got around to changing the battery on it the plastic loop by which it would hang on my keychain broke. While my car has an alarm, I had put it permanently into valet mode a long while back because it was just a pain. I would use the power lock button to lock the doors, and the key to unlock the door, so at some point I practically forgot I had an alarm and took the transmitter off my key chain.
I almost always carried a bag of some kind so I just kept the broken transmitter in the bag. At some point I stopped carrying that bag, got a bigger one and didn’t move the transmitter over to it. Then one day my car battery nearly died at work (it wasn’t dead, but didn’t have enough juice to start the car), but I got it jumped and went to get a new battery installed. The tech asked for the transmitter and I didn’t have it, but he was able to get it into valet mode (I now know the trick as well but didn’t at the time) to get the job done.