It’s surely an indictment of something that the two pop-culture events I’ve been most excited about this year have been a comics series and Doctor Who. Certainly I’ve been spending more time than is perhaps healthy exploring my childhood passions: just after Christmas I impulse bought a copy of The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain in a service station, expecting – and getting – memory-rushes from the artwork.
So what’s going on? It’s one or all of three things. i) the degeneracy of my cultural receptors into soft-option mulch; ii) a period of self-reconciliation before I move on a happier and less guilty man; iii) a tour of childhood things before I become a father myself. Not that fatherhood is impending, hold the congratulations, but that is the plan.
The big question then is – would I actually role-play again? There was a flurry of discussion around this a couple of years ago, which never quite got serious. The idea of various Freaky Trigger writers getting together for a final game of D&D is not a great one: for one thing, we’d just end up getting drunk. (OK, maybe it is a good idea). If I was serious about wanting to play RPGs, I wouldn’t ask my friends; I would look in the Internet for a local group and go along. But I’m not serious about it. Am I? …No. It’s too much of a commitment, it would hardly be the same and by the time I stopped playing I had major reservations with the genre-bound attitude of most RPGs anyway.
So what was I doing last Tuesday downloading scanned-in versions of old AD&D modules? I3-I5, to be specific, the Desert Of Desolation series that touched every Arabian Nights and Egyptology button and provided me with (probably) my peak AD&D gaming experiences. I thought I was doing it to get those memory-bursts I talked about but only the maps and cover art were fully scanned, the rest was typed in (!) by some too-dedicated archivist. And to be honest I couldn’t even remember the covers that well. I vaguely scanned through I4 and felt a bit stupid: if I ever knew anything about module design I’d surely forgotten it. Really I downloaded the modules because they were there. I was so shocked to find them, and bandwidth is so cheap, that I clicked on them without thinking: a snapshot of consumption in a file-sharing age. Of course what I remembered wasn’t the rote descriptions and bits of cardboard, it was what my friends and I did with them. Or it was just my friends.