Monday, January 13, 2014

Holmes Homecoming

Saturday was so amazingly nice that I had to gut check my Slavic patrimony (nope, optimists are still those who think things can't get worse). It was a brilliant, mellow wintry sunny morning, my week of solid sleep deprivation had been whipped and best of all thanks to Mack of Super Galactic Dreadnought infamy I had a chance after 33 years to play Holmes Basic again.

I have not done nostalgia well in the last two years.

Way back in the hoary, time-misted year of 2008, when giants walked the earth and playing old school D&D was still a bit of an insurgency (or reaction)--you know when things were cool and you weren't there--I will freely admit to the sweet, sharp pain of nostalgia being a major draw back to reentering the hobby.

Six years later, though still playing more or less the same system, the campaign has grown out way more complicated than that simple back-to-basics pull. And I have seemed to break--with relish even--just about every rule I set out in the beginning not to do (have I told you about my 60-plus page Hill Cantons setting book recently?).

But sentimentality has a way of sneaking up on you. Over the holiday break I had a chance to make up to my mom's aging ranch-style house outside Fort Worth. To my more than I care to admit excitement she had a single box of my old roleplaying collection that she salvaged from the clutter demons of the garage. And in that box, coverless and heavily marked with urgent penciled in notes, was the Holmes rulebook that started all this at the ass end of 1979.

Long wind up here, Mack running his game (apparently his first DM role since the 1980s which you would never guess by the smoothness of the session) hit exactly at the right time. It was refreshingly..umm...“basic”.

It was the old 3d6 in a row. I promptly, and not-so imaginatively picked the same race and mandated class I always did back then, and never have since, an elf fighter/magic user. Even named him the same as my perennial character back then, Evaro IV. (Evaro I and II died quick unmemorable deaths in the Caves of Chaos, Evaro III graduated to AD&D and had a long, full life on the Wild Coast).

It was also all about the dungeon, a “wizard did it” affair and nameless “town.” For four hours the six of us fought, bullshited, retreated, skulked, and explored a surprisingly-large number of rooms (I guess I have become too used to the slower pace of online games). There were skeletons with mysterious keys on tethers, a witch-polymorphed “frog”, a gnome-whipped gnoll, a terrifying harpy and innumerable fights and near-calls.

It felt like coming “home”--and it was hella fun.


  1. Elves: still The Best. :D Glad you had a rocking time!

    Anything else awesome make it out of that box?

    1. There was some priceless things in there like my first issue of Dragon mag (#40 which had that Bachmann article I go on about) but kind of a bust in terms of personal archaeology. The only homebrew thing in there being some kind of letter-code puzzle for a dungeon and an outline for a Gamma World building site. I have hope that there are more things in that super-cluttered garage.

  2. Ready Ref Sheets! Love those. Sounds like a great time.

  3. Thanks for coming over! It was great to return the DMing favor, and I'm glad you had a good time.

    If anyone's interested, I've posted my own thoughts (the first part, anyway) about running the game for the first time in forever over on my blog.