Thursday, June 15, 2017

Los Angeles Gamer Gallery: A New Series at Advanced Dungeons and Parenting

Los Angeles Gamer Gallery is a series of posts discussing the Los Angeles gaming community and some of the wonderful people who play and promote games in Tinseltown and abroad.

Why the Los Angeles Area?

Though the Los Angeles area has long been a vibrant part of the role playing game community, it is often overlooked in histories of the hobby. In my experience the Midwest and Bay Area tend to dominate histories and discussions of the people involved in the promotion of the hobby, because TSR and Chaosium. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I took a few days to drive around the area to seek out game stores and gaming groups. I had expected to find some, but not too many. After all, Los Angeles is a big city with a lot of distractions, beautiful weather, and all sorts of entertainments. Such a place didn't seem to me to be a good growth environment for people who gather around a table to tell collaborative stories. Okay that should read, "to gather around a table to tell collaborative stories without money being involved," as a large part of Los Angeles' economy is based on sitting around tables and coming up with stories collaboratively. I expected hard core gaming to develop in small towns with long winters, where people are looking for constructive things to do with their time that have to take place indoors.

Yes, those were my assumptions. Yes, they are overly reductive and bad assumptions. But I came from a small town with cold winters, and those were my assumptions. What I quickly discovered was that the Los Angeles area had a rich gaming community, one that has been central to several developments in the gaming hobby.

Shortly after the Dungeons and Dragons role playing game was created, members of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society began playing the game and writing about it in their long running fanzine APA-L. In 1975, authors of APA-L branched out to create Alarums & Excursions under the editorship of Lee Gold. Alarums & Excursions is one of the most influential, if not THE most influential, fanzine in gaming.
  1. It was gamers at Aero Hobbies who created the Thief class for D&D in 1974. 
  2. Students at CalTech played a version of the game called Warlock that was published by Balboa Game Company. 
  3. John Eric Holmes, a professor at USC, wrote the first Basic Set of D&D and in his book Fantasy Roleplaying Games can be seen playing D&D at Long Beach's War House game store.
  4. While Superhero 2044 is the first published superhero role playing game Jay and Aimee Hartlove's Supergame was the first point build superhero rpg that was fully playable out of the book. Like Champions, the Hartlove's work is clearly inspired by Superhero 2044 in how its combat system works.
Southern California influenced the early days of the hobby and remains the home to a vibrant and innovative gaming community to this day. I'll leave discussion of Southern California's place in the history of games to those who already make it their career to document gaming history, what I want to do with the Los Angeles Gamer Gallery is to write short posts that highlight members of the community who inspire or intrigue me.

My first post, which will be posted shortly after this one, will be David Nett. I chose David because he exemplifies the way a lot of Southern California gamers incorporate their gaming experience into their lives in interesting ways.

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