Saturday, March 21, 2009

Welcome to the Citadel of Eight

For as long as I can remember, I have been playing role-playing games. I was introduced to the world of Dungeons & Dragons in the late 80's, when my much older cousin ran some games for my brother and his friends. I was deemed too young to play at the time, so I had to watch as the first game unfolded.

I could not know it at the time, but this was my cousin's own rendition of the D&D module T1 - The Village of Hommlet. During that first game session, my brother and his friends were exploring the catacombs under the town's cemetery. My brother, who was playing the adventuring party's magic user, soon found the game horribly boring and decided to stop playing altogether. He left the other players fending for their lives to their own devices.

I had been mesmerised by the tale spinned before my eyes. These guys were actually the heroes of a medieval fantasy... I just had to step in. Find a way to play. When my brother gave up abruptly and left the room, I knew this was an opportunity. I jumped to my feet and quite passionately begged my cousin to allow me to play my brother's magic user and join where he left.

I must have been quite persuasive because my cousin ultimately gave in to the idea. I played this wizard exploring catacombs with his dagger and light spell... I could hear the drops seeping one by one through the cracks of the stonework. I could smell the rot and stagnant mud all around. I couldn't see anything beyond a few feet as I waved my magical light. I was there. Somewhere where I was a hero in the making. The feeling was overwhelming. Ecstactic. I turned a corner... and got backstabbed by a skeleton waiting in the shadows.

The skeleton killed my character instantly.

That was my first role-playing game. I was hooked.

What exactly does it have to do with the Citadel of Eight? Well, this moment in many ways represents a place in space and time where role-playing wasn't so gamist, so complicated, so entangled in a miriad of rules, variants, and different games out there. I didn't know anything of role-playing games, and somehow, that's what at this precise moment made role-playing games feel so right to me.

The Citadel of Eight originally is the name of a group of adventurers from the very first D&D campaign ever. The Greyhawk campaign, or Lake Geneva campaign, included people who would make the game's earliest history and quite literally build it from the ground up. You might have heard the names of these (in)famous characters: Mordenkainen, Robilar, Bigby, Riggby, Yrag, Tenser, Serten and Otis.

Since the name could also be understood as a location instead of a group's denomination (the original name coming from Mordenkainen's Obsidian Citadel), I decided it would be a brilliant symbol of my own journey's ultimate destination, the rediscovery of my own gaming roots, of this moment in time when role-playing games made the most sense to me.

This blog is intended to be a testimony and a reminder, a trace relating this journey as it unfolds. It is not about some objective definition of what "old-school" gaming may or may not be, though I surely would be able to elaborate on a personal definition of the term. I leave this debate to other experts and pundits to discuss. No. This is about what "my" old-school, my RPG home, so to speak, is all about.

This blog's header (the gray hawk and shield above) is a symbol of this journey as well. Currently used by Pied Piper Publishing as the logo for the original Lake Geneva campaign, I added my own arms to the shield to symbolize that, even while I search for the origins of this hobby, what this quest truly is about is for me to reconnect with my own, personal roots and being.

Here I go on my way. The Quest has just begun. As I document the twists and turns of this journey you will hopefully find food for thoughts, enlightenment, and most importantly, entertainment in your daily lives.

Simply put, I just hope you enjoy the ride!


  1. Great start Ben, I'm hear listening :)

  2. Awesome, Chris! Thanks for being a part of it.

  3. The Lord of the Green Dragons is not too far away with "Otto's Irascible Eye' upon you, as well.

  4. This free man will try to make his work worth such welcome scrutiny, my Lord!