By the late 80’s, I had given up on my love of D&D.
It remained my first RPG obsession, but I couldn’t get my friends interested in playing the game I loved. Sure they played D&D, but it was AD&D1e, a game with such minute and bizarre rules that I just wasn’t interested. I was still in love with OD&D and B/X D&D – and used the AD&D material as additional options for the game (race and class as separate items for instance), but tossed the stuff that I felt slowed down my game – segments, multiple segments of surprise, weapons vs armour tables, weapon speed, weapon length, hundreds of spells to choose from…
In 1988 I bought R. Talsorian’s CyberPunk RPG and put my D&D stuff away. Sure I would pull it out now and then, but in reality it was once or twice a year. I felt like a traitor to my RPG roots, seeing my pink and blue D&D boxes in a milk crate that almost never got accessed… Top Secret, Palladium and Traveller had already taken a chunk of my gaming time, and in the late 80’s instead of looking to 2nd edition AD&D, I moved on to CyberSpace, Twilight 2000, Shadowrun, and then in the early 90’s the appearance of Vampire changed the gaming scene completely in my neck of the woods. Sure, I still loved D&D, but it was a love I rarely shared with other players, because everyone else associated D&D with the AD&D franchises and not the game that drew me in.
Vampire was a throwback to D&D for me – strong on archetypes, light on rules. And the focus on “Storytelling” clicked for me and a bunch of people I gamed with – we had giant sandbox campaigns set in gothic cities working the power politics of the undead. Some of the biggest and longest running sandbox-style games in my RPG resume are Vampire chronicles, often focused around the evolving role of the assamites through the various editions. I also played and ran a hundred other RPGs through the 90’s, but Vampire was distinctly out “go to” game.
It wasn’t until 2003 that I got back into D&D, 15 years after leaving. I was invited to a friend’s 3rd edition game and he ran it the way I ran B/X D&D – fast, easy, and smoothly. He had the system down so smoothly that we just showed up and played. Sure, there were too many spells and feats to deal with, but I liked the skills a lot (for the first 10 levels of play at least), and the unified mechanic was easy to use and … worked. We played a lot of 3.x, in a lot of settings. We never used miniatures though, which may be one of the reasons we felt the game was so in tune with our old B/X games. But the icing on the cake was that other players noted this also, and we pulled out the old B/X books and started playing again.
2006 was the year that we finally got back into a proper old school D&D campaign. Since then I’ve run and played in a bunch of them, and have even been back to try out AD&D1e again (still don’t like it) and 3.5 (still do like it). But best of all, I don’t feel like I’m betraying my true love by keeping my classic pink and blue boxes in that ugly green milk crate anymore.