Dungeons and Dragons 4e: I like it because that's what the group plays. In my experience, it's a good game for a few short sessions. It's fun in a miniatures, wargamey kind of way.
Microlite20: Is tons of fun for an old school, rules (very) lite style game. I've only played it for a short while, so my perspective might be a bit skewed. But man, I had an assload of fun running it!
Castles and Crusades: This was the game that I stumbled upon, and eventually chose, after my disassociation with Dungeons and Dragons when WotC announced the release of 4e. It's a great game, but you know what? I almost think that microlite20 could conceivably take its place. I'm weighing the options.
I digress. This isn't about what system I'm into playing at the moment, but rather this post was spurred by a dragon's foot post about the "first game" you played in. I think I've written about how I started, about Jim and his Napoleonics games and his love affair with everything Tolkein.
But my first game... What was that like? I remember the guys: Fish (our DM), Dave, Wayne, Shawn and myself had all gathered around Fish's kitchen table. I had been introduced to the rules (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook) by way of Fish handing it to me in the Jr. High (I was 13) gymnasium and saying "Here are the rules. Read em."
Now pause for a moment and imagine that. Someone handing you a book like the old PHB with the only explanation being that it's a game about Elves, Dwarfs and Orcs. He told me that the first few chapters were all I needed to read. First few CHAPTERS?!?
I'd been a war game buff for quite a few years at this point, and therefore was no stranger to rule sets that needed a few readings for clarity's sake. I dug into the PHB with relish when I got home that night. I loved parts...and I hated others. I was stunned at the difficulty. The book was pages upon pages of small print. Yeah there were really cool pictures in there too, and that helped motivate me somewhat.
I spent a few days with that book and read the first few chapters, as I was told, and then skimmed the rest. Confusion reigned. I was so completely lost that I thought I'd never ever understand the game. But I went to the first session anyway.
And had an absolute blast. I rolled up a magic user. We used the old 3d6 in order method and I apparently had a high intelligence. I don't remember his name. I don't remember much about him at all, other than he had magic missile and a dagger.
Fish (if I remember correctly) was either using Quasquetron, or that dungeon out of the back of the Holmes rules. He'd expanded upon it quite a bit using graph paper and I think he had numerous levels. The structure was totally cool, it was a maze of rooms and passages, some worked, some natural.
And at the end of one of the levels? A room with a hydra and a secret door, behind which was a staircase leading down to the next level! Oh man...that was seriously the coolest thing in the world to me at that time. I mean, a hydra! Whoa. And it was quite obviously guarding something REALLY amazing.
One thing I'd forgot to mention, I was late to the party. What I mean is, the other guys had been playing for a little while before I joined, they had a few sessions (at least) under their belts and had a slight inkling of what was to go on. I on the other hand, was clueless.
I remember that the most confusing thing for me was initiative. When Fish told us to roll for initiative Shawn picked up a d6 and rolled. I remember being completely baffled at the outcome. We rolled high, we won. But what did we win? It took me some time to come to grips with that concept.
I fell in absolute love with the game though. I was an instant convert. I adored JRR's works and I voraciously played war games when I could. You might say that I was the perfect target market. A 13 yr old boy, from a small cow town, surrounded by brainiacs of like mind, who all LOVED the genre and had VERY fertile imaginations. (Fish ended up getting a doctorate in lasers. Dave an engineering degree then an MBA...and the list goes on. Very very smart folks taught me the game.)
So what happened? I don't remember the specifics. I think we fought some orcs. I zapped one and fought off a few with my dagger. Shawn played a 1/2 orc fighter with an 18/00 strength, he was the rock star of the party, dealing out killing blows left and right. I was back row fodder. I honestly don't remember what Dave and Wayne played.
In the end though I got munched by a giant ant. It must have been either the first or second session. I know it was early on. But holy hannah, what a blast. I rolled up a ranger for my next character and named him Sparrow Hawk. (Can you guess what I was reading at the time?) I kept that character alive somehow and played him all the way through Jr. High school, through High School and on into University. I eventually retired him at 16th level, but did I ever get some serious mileage out of that guy. I still have that character downstairs in a folder.
It all started way back in '77. To think, I've been playing this game for 31 years, and I don't see any sign of stopping anywhere in the near future...I'm now teaching my daughters. ;-)