Craig O'Brien

I've been playing D&D since I was 11. I still fondly remember my first D&D session, particularly how I told the DM that I was going to swing my sword "as HARD as I CAN!"

I started with Basic D&D (the original red box set), moved up to Expert D&D (wasn't "The Isle of Dread" fabulous?), and then was wooed by the allure of those beautiful hardback books with the orange spines and joined an AD&D campaign. Some of my favourite D&D moments of that time were found in modules such as The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, the DragonLance series, and the tournament series To Find a King / The Bane of Llywelyn.

I rediscovered the game back in 1995 when I met Densial, and managed to drag another good friend Fergus into the game as well. I played Sylstan, a female human fighter, at our first gaming session. Sylstan didn't make it to the second session - our group found a cavern, turned left and encountered a bunch of Orogs (?) that wiped us all out. Bugger. Should've turned right. Oh well, pull out those D6s!

One of my favourite characters of all time came out of that period - Jesek, a swashbuckling Mage/Thief elfmaid with a penchant for falconry, red dresses and acrobatics. She had a half-brother called Eolin, played by Fergus. Eolin… Well, let's just say he wasn't the sharpest tool in the box. However, it was Jesek that foolishly gambled with a Deck of Many Things and disappeared into the Void. She has yet to be seen since…

I helped the group dabble with 3rd Edition D&D in 2000, which was revolutionary. It wasn't perfect, and time proved there were still a few clunky bits here and there but I really appreciated the slimming, trimming and tidying up that the core rules received. No more more thinking "is higher better or worse in this situation?" In the d20 system, higher was always better - end of story. Fantastic! I also think the skills and feats systems were very elegant and made a lot more sense. Probably the only bit I had mixed feelings about in 3E was multiclassing. The updated game mechanic was very, very different from the previous multi- or dual-classing rules. It was intuitive and freeform (anyone could be more or less anything)… but paradoxically while allowing more options, it just wasn't quite as good as multiclassing was under 1E and 2E.

Overseas travel, a career change to helicopters and the birth of my first child pretty much put an end to my roleplaying for many years, but the desire and the nostalgia was always there… In 2007 Fergus mentioned that Gwen's partner Alain was a keen D&Der that just might be interested in joining us for a new campaign… It was so exciting, I just had to let my good friend Tammi know about it. After all, she did have pictures of faeries and dragons all over her desk at work - she might just be crazy enough to give it a try! [Tammi: oh and try she did!! Loved it the first time…and has never looked back!] It was about that time that we changed to 3.5.

I was very interested in the leadup to 4th Edition. Alain even bought me a copy of the 4E Preview: Races & Classes book to read while I was convalescing in hospital - a gift I very much appreciated. The game seemed really interesting. So when June 2008 came around, my Amazon order was already placed and couldn't wait to read the books. When they arrived, I did what I normally do: read them from cover to cover.

I had mixed feelings.

Things I liked:

  • Dragonborn (Dungeons and Dragons now has a playable dragon race!)
  • Tieflings
  • Warlocks
  • Tiefling Warlocks
  • Monsters having roles
  • Minion monsters
  • The "bloodied" system
  • All classes having powers
  • Combat sounds like it's really fun! (Thanks in no small part to the RPGMP3 sessions I listened to. I still smile when I think about Hal's rendition of Splug the goblin.)

Things I didn't like:

  • The reduction of character choices. Pre-3E was arbitrarily limited, 3E was wildly permissive, 4E seems to be some weird hybrid of the two. I prefer permissive.
  • The classes felt homogenised. They had more or less the same attack bonuses, saving throws, damage capability… Only the flavour text changed.
  • The healing surge system. Characters were able to miraculously recover from massive damage without help, and almost without a thought. As someone that lost six months of their life as a result of serious injury, this seriously messed with my suspension of disbelief.
  • Role-playing appeared to have been deprioritised. Everything revolved around encounters. It seemed that if a feat, skill or power didn't have some sort of combat application, it was sidelined.

I was still keen to give it a go, and it eventually found a place as our online game when we couldn't all meet in person. We played online using MapTool, which was fantastic.

When Densial's computer blew up in smoke and fire the 4E campaign died a death, but left a roleplaying-shaped hole for those times when we could not all congregate. This turned out to be a Pathfinder-shaped hole. We kept it very simple: whoever was available turned up and played a published Pathfinder game using one of the published iconic characters. If you turned up and your character survived, they gained experience. If not, they didn't. This experience yielded two rather surprising facts: I like Pathfinder, and I really like Valeros.

Now, we are in the age of Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons. When "D&D Next" hit the news, I was filled with the same hope I found myself with at the cusp of 4E. The mechanics sounded very interesting. The power and freedom from rules to DMs really appealed. I hoped it would find a place at our table. And it did.

Things in 5E I really like:

  • Simplicity everywhere
  • You can bolt on additional complexity as desired
  • Bounded Accuracy
  • Advantage & Disadvantage
  • The Spell Slot system (this really makes Wizards fun to play)

Other RPG systems I've had a crack at:

  • Star Frontiers (TSR has a go at SciFi - basic, but fun)
  • Paranoia (the weirdest game I've ever played - didn't take itself seriously enough for my taste)
  • MechWarrior (It's all about the robots, baby!)
  • ShadowRun (the biggest consumer of d6's I can name)

I spend way too much time on trademe looking to complete my burgeoning collection of RPG stuff.

My current character is Trinn (5E).

I have quite the dossier of previous characters, even only looking back to those played in the lifetime of this wiki. I have played Eko (2E), Barflangaer (2E), Sigil (2E), Rowaine (3.5E), Valeros (Pathfinder), Johnny (5E) and Sildhiir (5E). And I am probably the guy at the table that changes his character the least!

Eko was possibly the most thought-through character I have ever created. I had big plans for him - dual-class plans, plans that never eventuated.

Sigil was Eko's polar opposite in almost every way. He had the potential to be my fondest character yet, with his love of potatoes and other growing things.

Rowaine was my first-ever paladin character, and drew upon the likes of Paksenarrion, Buffy, Barbie and a close friend in Edinburgh as sources of inspiration. Maybe even a touch of Catti-brie. Paladins - they're not always party-poopers :-)

Despite Valeros being a pregen iconic, I found him very easy to roleplay. I knew his 'voice' almost immediately, and he was a blast to play. I still smile when I think of Valeros talking about his Da'!

I had a broody, loner rogue in mind when I was thinking up Johnny, but instead got a lovable rapscallion with a quick smile to match his quick blades. It was through Johnny that discovered that a 5E rogue's action economy is very fun to play.

Sildhiir was my first full caster in quite some time. The sheer number of options this presented at 7th level was staggering, and very fun to play, even though I never felt I quite found the character's voice.

…Which brings us to Trinn. I took quite a different approach to figuring out who she was, and as a result, I felt I knew her even before I sat down at the gaming table with her character sheet in front of me.

[Fergus] Craig is that invaluable player that knows ALL the rules. If you ever want to know something like, "Can a Mage/Druid specialise in the longsword?" Craig knows. He is the one we all look to when learning a new system because he will have read the DMG, PHB, Monstrous Manual and 5 other books cover to cover before we start playing. As a DM he is the uberpreparer. He once showed me a map he had created after we'd finished a campaign and were not going back to play those characters again. We had more or less completed the adventure while exploring I would say… 10% of the map he'd created.. Most of all he is a great player! I have tried playing without Craig and it is never as much fun…

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