I got a text from my brother, out of the blue, about a week ago, asking if I wanted to participate in a new D&D campaign that he and his wife were putting together. Now, I haven’t played D&D since the early 90s, when I briefly participated in a campaign that a friend put together. It fizzled out after only two sessions, largely because this friend had just welcomed a new baby into his life, and he’d underestimated the amount of time it would take to deal with a newborn baby. Prior to that, I hadn’t played D&D since the early 80s, in middle school (and maybe into high school a bit).

I discovered Dungeons & Dragons at age 11, I think, when I begged my mom to buy me the D&D basic set, which I saw on a shelf in a store, and immediately decided I must have. I remember my mom looking at the box doubtfully, noticing that it said “ages 12 and up” and expressing doubt about whether or not I was old enough for it. But she relented, and bought it for me. From there, it was kind of an obsession for a few years. There’s a long blog post I could write about my history with D&D, but I’ll save that for another day.

While I gave up on D&D after a few years, my brother kept playing, and is still playing various role-playing games. Apparently, he’s playing Pathfinder now, which is an offshoot of D&D, from a separate company. Over the years, I’ve slightly kept track of D&D and RPG news, mostly when it overlapped with general comic book / sci-fi / fantasy news. So I was somewhat familiar with the whole licensing thing with D&D, and the OGL. And I was aware that TSR had ceased to exist, and that Wizards of the Coast now owned D&D, and that Hasbro now owned Wizards. And I’d heard a little about the recent brouhaha over Wizards’ proposed changes to the OGL. So I know a bit about the current state of RPGs, but not much.

Anyway, Pathfinder is what my brother is playing, so I’m now trying to figure it out, assuming we actually go forward with his campaign. He sent me a guide for the Skull & Shackles “adventure path,” which seems to be a pirate-themed setting. (I just hope he doesn’t make us all talk like pirates. Though I guess that might be fun…) That guide was around 30 pages, and I finished reading it this morning. It assumes knowledge of the general rules for Pathfinder, though, which I don’t really have. A lot of the terminology is familiar, but a lot of it isn’t.

I noticed a few days ago that Humble is running a So You Wanna Try Out Pathfinder bundle right now, so I dropped $5 on the lowest tier for that bundle, which got me their “beginner box” (which seems similar to that old D&D basic set that I got at age 11), a core rulebook, and a few other things. The Humble purchase gets you a redemption key that you need to use at the Paizo site to unlock a bunch of downloadable watermarked PDFs. So now I have an account at Paizo’s site and am presumably now on their mailing list. (So if I want to go further down this rabbit hole, I’m all set…)

If the local game store here in Somerville hadn’t gone out of business last year, I’d run over there and see if I could pick up a hard-copy book or two, and maybe some dice, but they’re gone and there isn’t another similar store around here, so I’m stuck with just PDFs for now. (Which is probably for the best, since I really don’t need more clutter in my apartment.)

I guess I should now try to read the Hero’s Handbook from the beginner box. That’s a little under 80 pages, and includes a solo adventure that I can play on my own to help me figure out the rules. There’s also the Core Rulebook, but that’s almost 650 pages, so I’m not going to read that one in an afternoon…

There’s also on online Player’s Guide reference, and Core Rulebook reference, so I could probably figure this stuff out even without the PDFs from Humble. Really, though, I’m not the same guy who sat down and devoured the D&D basic set, then all of the AD&D rulebooks, and a bunch of supplemental material, back in my pre-teens and early teens. I’d like to figure out enough of this stuff so that I can have some fun with my brother and his wife. But I’m not that kid who could spend hours poring over all of the ridiculous stuff in the AD&D DM’s guide, and take it all seriously.

We’ll see how all this goes. We have a WhatsApp group chat set up for this, so that’s a start at least. We were supposed to do a Zoom session today to go over some basics, but my brother and his wife are both sick, so that might not happen. I’m not familiar with the tools for actually playing the game online, but I guess something like Foundry Virtual Tabletop can be used to facilitate that. So that might be yet another thing to figure out. I imagine that this whole thing could fizzle out, just like that last campaign I mentioned did. I hope not, since i like the idea of spending some time with my brother, and maybe getting to know his wife a bit. I haven’t seen my brother in years, and still haven’t even met his wife in person. (They got married right at the beginning of the pandemic.)

I’ve always thought that gaming might be a good way for me to get out and socialize a bit more, but I never quite manage to get anything going. Maybe this will actually be the thing that gets me back into tabletop RPGs. (Or it’ll just be one more thing that I get a little obsessed with for a few weeks, then fizzles out.)

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