Walt Whitman and the Amityville Horror – an Abby’s Road anniversary!

Walt Whitman and the Amityville Horror

Five Years Ago Today … an Abby’s Road anniversary

 

            September 30, 2009. The baby was due tomorrow. Of course, by now the baby’s delivery date had been delayed and cancelled more times than a Jeff Beck concert, but we were cautiously optimistic. As with our visit to Theodore Roosevelt’s home several decades before (Esther insists it was only ten days), we … well. I … wanted to get in some last bits of sight-seeing…

Starting at page 143:

whitman

            “We spotted the signs for Walt Whitman’s birthplace on our Sunday drive. It was closed that day and Monday and Tuesday, so we went back on Wednesday. It had a small museum but it was packed with information about a person of which I knew very little. I read “Leaves of Grass” in high school. That was it.

            His father built the home over 200 years before (between 1810 and 1814) and Esther and I enjoyed walking through it. It was just she, me and our tour guide. He was a very nice gentleman who could not be budged from his rehearsed lectures. He ignored some of my questions until we got to that part of his lecture.

            We had fun befuddling him, though. You could tell he was used to school children or adults who were not raised as lower-class mid-westerns. 

            He picked up a piece of wood. “Can anyone guess what this is?” “A bootjack” said Esther.

             “Umm, that’s right… This?” He held up a large metal cylinder with a rod in the middle.

             “Fireplace rotisserie.”

            “Ummm, yes… “

            …

***

amityville

            Also during our Sunday drive we found Amityville. Yes, that Amityville. I was tickled. I am a horror fan from way back. I wanted to go back and find … the house.

            During the week I found out what I could about “The Amityville Horror”.  The story generated a lot of controversy in Amityville. The city itself wants nothing to do with the publicity and sides with the debunkers. The city changed the address and the house was extensively remodeled. Horror fans still found it – the back of the house still retains the distinctive peaked roof.

            Esther went with me and smiled at my joy in finding the street. We drove it a few times until I was sure I had found the house. I went to the next street around the estuary where I spotted the dock, the boat house and peaked roof unchanged. I took photographs from the car. I didn’t want to get out in case it annoyed the neighbors. If they were as kind as other Long Islanders we met, I suspect they would let me take my few pics as long as I left when I was done. I did.

            Amityville is a lovely town! Lots of boutiques and places to eat.  When we go back in years to come we’ll spend more time there to thank them for their patience in letting a giddy horror fan snap some photographs from his car.”

***

cover

“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.


Abby’s Road is available at Amazon here: 
http://www.amazon.com/Abbys-Road-Long-Winding-Adoption/product-reviews/0692221530/ref=cm_cr_pr_top_recent?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending


at Barnes and Noble here: 
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/abbys-road-the-long-and-winding-road-to-adoption-and-how-facebook-aquaman-and-theodore-roosevelt-helped-michael-curry/1119971924?ean=9780692221532


and at Smashwords here:
 https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/457270

 

Copyright 2014 Michael Curry

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Potter and the “why the hell isn’t my daughter born yet!?”

Another anniversary! Five years ago today …. from page 128:

Harry potter 

           “On Thursday September 24th we wanted something different to do. What about a movie? What was playing? Not much. Some miles east of Bethpage we found a theater playing movies from the past summer. We found the theater online and the only thing that we wanted to see was “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”.

            I was in a sour mood after no-baby-on-our-anniversary. So much so my Facebook post that morning quoted Lawrence Grossman, “You wait for a gem in an endless sea of blah.”

            Later that morning, our anticipation of the movie was made known to our Facebook friends.

            Mike: “It has come to this: we are going to see an afternoon matinee of Harry Potter and the Last Temple of the Crystal Jedi, or whatever the hell it is…”

            Esther: “…and Mike are going to go see the new Harry Potter movie – hopefully this will “induce” a phone call. If not, I’ll finally get to see the movie.”

            Mike: “Oh Lord, if you are a kind and benevolent God please let us get the phone call before I have to sit through – er, rather – before we get to the theater!”

            The theater was in a plaza with a Barnes & Noble and other shops. We stopped in the book store until it was time for the movie.

            Esther’s cell phone rang as we stepped out of the car in the theater parking lot. “It’s the attorney!” Esther said. Valerie’s attorney!

            I stood next to the driver’s side door; Esther by the passenger door with the phone on her ear. “Uh-huh…”

            “Uh-huh … That’s good…”

            By this time I was trembling and smoke was coming out of my ears. “For god’s sake provide some exposition!!”

            Esther shook her head. I took this to mean no baby news. After the call Esther said he was calling to give us an update. After the Sunday night fiasco he probably decided some kind of control and oversight was needed. He was right. He was a week too late, but he was right.

            “He said Valerie was feeling just fine.”

            “Oh goodie,” I said without further comment. We were still standing beside the car.

            “He said he was sorry for our extended stay, but we were going to go home with a baby.”

            “Twenty one dollars!?”

            “That’s total,” said the lady in the ticket booth.

            “You think I’d be more outraged if it was twenty-one each?  Is Rowling going to sit next to me and narrate the damn thing!?”

            Popcorn and two drinks cost even more than that. They had to have some way to pay for the mortgage on the theater. The place was immense! The auditorium was the size of a small baseball park. The chairs were larger and more comfortable than mine at home. Esther and I could barely reach to hold hands during the movie.  Sweet!

            Three hours later, after a myriad of commercials, previews and the main attraction, I saw “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood formerly known as Prince”. I haven’t been this lost since I saw … well … “Lost”. The bit after the credits was cool though – Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury invites Harry to join the Avengers.  I tease — the movie was pretty good, but it took Esther explaining most of the back-story to me on the way home to understand it. It’s getting to the point in the series that non-fans of the books should probably just stay home. Alan Rickman’s revelation that he is the half-blood prince almost seemed tacked on at the last minute, “Oh, shoot! We’d best explain the mystery of the title of the movie. At the time the best analogy I can come up with is if Lucas called the first Star Wars movie “Attack of the Sandpeople” —yes, but it was so dwarfed by the incidents of the rest of the movie as to be incidental.

            Later I thought of a better analogy – what if the book was called “Harry Potter and the Potions Class”.

            And yes I gave away the secret of the movie – it was from 2009 for god’s sake, chill out! Rosebud is a sled; Darth Vader is Luke’s father; the chick on “Crying Game” was a man and Norman Bates’ mother is dead.

            So there.

            Esther checked her phone all through the movie, dinner that night and throughout the evening. No emails, no messages. No baby. Not today.”

 

***

 cover

“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.


Abby’s Road is available at Amazon here: 
http://www.amazon.com/Abbys-Road-Long-Winding-Adoption/product-reviews/0692221530/ref=cm_cr_pr_top_recent?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending


at Barnes and Noble here: 
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/abbys-road-the-long-and-winding-road-to-adoption-and-how-facebook-aquaman-and-theodore-roosevelt-helped-michael-curry/1119971924?ean=9780692221532


and at Smashwords here:
 https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/457270

 

Copyright 2014 Michael Curry

 

 

… and how Theodore Roosevelt Helped! A big Abby’s Road anniversary!

gravesite

With all the hubbub of Ken Burns’ Roosevelt documentary on PBS last week this Abby’s Road anniversary is appropriate!

September 23rd is our wedding anniversary. On our honeymoon we stayed at the outskirts of a major eastern US city (Boston) and visited the homeplace and burial site of a major US President (John Adams), the subject of a great book by David McCullough.

Five years ago today, we were awaiting the birth of our soon-to-be adopted daughter, and on our anniverary, we stayed at the outskirts of a major eastern US city (New York) and visited the homeplace and burial site of a major US President (Theodore Roosevelt), the subject of a great book by David McCullough.

September 23rd was the baby’s original due date. “It was meant to be,” we said a lot that summer. So if we were going to be caring for baby we had better see the sites we wanted to see now! The baby wasn’t born that day after all, but we still had a wonderful day together!

From page 120:

sagamore

Sagamore Hill was the home of President Theodore Roosevelt Jr.  He bought the land and built the house in the early 1880s and lived there from 1885 until his death in 1919.

Theodore Roosevelt is that one guy on Mount Rushmore that isn’t on any money.

TR is one of my favorite presidents, if only because his life was so fascinating. If I wrote a novel about a character whose life mirrored Roosevelt’s no one would buy it. He was his own “Mary Sue” character; a pulp character in the vein of Doc Savage. It would not surprise me if someone discovered TR put on a mask and cape at night and fought crime.

He died in his bed in 1919.  Here, at Sagamore Hill.

It’s a beautiful place. The lawn is manicured, sidewalks roll throughout the park; all dominated by the huge blue house. There are also out-buildings, barns, a smokehouse and a small windmill, too; but the house dominates.

We were early and the first tour of the house did not start for 45 more minutes, so we walked the grounds and took pictures.

bricklayers

We sat on a bench and watched the caretakers mow, pick up litter, sticks and leaves; we watched a turkey cautiously walk past. It was a beautiful day – not hot, but warm enough for me to still wear shorts. I savored where I was and Esther and I held hands and basked in each other’s company.

The porch was huge – bigger than most living rooms. TR would use this porch for lectures and speeches. There was plenty of room up here for chairs for other dignitaries. I stood looking beyond to the Long Island Sound; imagining Roosevelt pontificating and banging the podium with his fist.

The words “Qui Plantavit Curabit” were carved and painted in gold over the main entrance. I think it means “bananas are good for you”.

bananas

                The tour began at the side entrance – where they bricklayers were restoring the driveway. We were told not to speak with the bricklayers as they were busy working. We had been talking to them for the past twenty minutes…

… We saw the bedrooms where the children and servants slept. We saw the bed in which TR died. We saw his study; the walls of which were lined with his trophies and memorabilia. Two feet in front of me was a glass case with his Rough Rider uniform. I gazed at it for hours, it seemed.

An elderly gentleman had a hard time climbing the many narrow staircases and asked everyone else to go first. I did not mind and motioned him to go ahead of me – it gave me a chance to look at the many pictures on the wall and the many roped-off rooms while I waited.

Esther was even more enthralled.  She loves old houses and antique furniture. She didn’t want to leave. (She was also the prettiest site I saw that day … or any day!)

prettiest

I’m not that much into old houses and furniture unless there is some historic significance to it.

“Do you want to tour a Queen Anne-style house built in the 1880s?”

“No.”

“Do you want to tour a Queen Anne-style house built in the 1880s that Teddy Roosevelt lived in?”

“Heck, yeah!! Try to keep me away!”

 

***

 

The cover of Abby's Road

The cover of Abby’s Road

“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.


Abby’s Road is available at Amazon here: 
http://www.amazon.com/Abbys-Road-Long-Winding-Adoption/product-reviews/0692221530/ref=cm_cr_pr_top_recent?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending


at Barnes and Noble here: 
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/abbys-road-the-long-and-winding-road-to-adoption-and-how-facebook-aquaman-and-theodore-roosevelt-helped-michael-curry/1119971924?ean=9780692221532


and at Smashwords here:
 https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/457270

Copyright 2014 Michael Curry

 

The cover of Abby's Road

The cover of Abby’s Road

September 21st – another Abby’s Road anniversary!

cover

Five years ago today we thought our baby was being born! From page 116:

“{ring ring}. Esther’s cell phone went off at 3:00 that morning. It could only be one thing.

Jonathan called – he was taking Valerie to the hospital. This was it! Battlestations! Battlestations! We washed and got to the hospital (having already driven the route – you see? smart…) about an hour after the call.

The only part of the hospital open at 4:00 Monday morning was the ER. Esther and I were the only people there. Strike that, we were the only conscious people there. Two men were asleep on the couches. They must have been homeless or visitors or both: they weren’t bleeding and they didn’t seem to be waiting on anyone.

I got impatient and walked to the other rooms. After fifteen minutes a nurse (maybe a nurse, maybe not, but some kind of lady-in-scrubs) finally appeared at the window.  We explained that Valerie checked in some time in the past hour – she was going to have a baby. She made a call and showed us to the elevators. Maternity was on the third floor.

I wonder what ever happened to the two men on the couch.

The waiting area of the maternity ward consisted of a faux-leather loveseat and a large sectional shaped in a right angle. There was a coffee table, lots of out-dated magazines and the omnipresent television on which someone was selling knives.

A few attendants walked through the lobby – we tried to stop as many as we could to let them know we were here for Valerie. They said they would do what they could.

Around 4:30 a man walked into the waiting area. He wore a sweatshirt and sweatpants. He was tall – taller than me and I’m 6’3”.  He was big – well over 300 pounds, maybe 350. He looked like a friend we knew from our old church named John. Thick glasses, salt-and-pepper hair cut short; a beard. A few teeth missing.

It was Jonathan. He asked if we were Esther and Mike and we said yes. He told us Valerie was fine and it was another false contraction. They were getting ready to send her home.

So that meant we should go home too. We thanked Jonathan and took the elevator back to the emergency room and out to our car and to the motel.

We were never supposed to meet the birth parents. I guess we were lucky Valerie wasn’t leaving at that time. “I don’t want to meet the adopting couple; I don’t want to see the baby.” We respected her wishes and wanted to honor them. Valerie must have known we were in the waiting room – some nurse or attendant must have said she had some “friends” out here waiting to hear how she was.

When the doctor or nurse told Valerie it was a false alarm, did she ask an attendant to tell us to go home? Did Jonathan say, “I’ll go tell them. Don’t worry.” Did he describe us to her? Or did she stop him, “I don’t want to know.” That’s silly – we sent her photos so she knew what we looked like. But if you think about it, photos don’t really say much. A thousand words. How can a thousand words really capture someone’s personality?”

***

“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.


Abby’s Road is available at Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Abbys-Road-Long-Winding-Adoption/product-reviews/0692221530/ref=cm_cr_pr_top_recent?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending


at Barnes and Noble here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/abbys-road-the-long-and-winding-road-to-adoption-and-how-facebook-aquaman-and-theodore-roosevelt-helped-michael-curry/1119971924?ean=9780692221532


and at Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/457270

Copyright 2014 Michael Curry

September 19th: An Abby’s Road Anniversary!

The cover of Abby's Road

The cover of Abby’s Road

Friday September 19th marks the 5th anniversary of our flying to Long Island New York to await the birth of our daughter. She will likely be born by the time we get settled into our motel room. Where’s that spooky music coming from?
Starting at page 105:
“Airplane travel. All those stand-up comedians are right, you know. How can I add to the litany of complaints made by guys in sport coats in smoky rooms saying, “What’s the deal with flying?”
Get in line to have your luggage irradiated and your anal cavity inspected. Get in line to get your line ticket. Get in line to get in the airplane. Wedge yourself next to a man with pointy elbows and body odor. Drink your shot glass of Coca-cola. Eat the 6 peanuts from the sealed snack bag. Try not to sneeze on the bald head of the guy in front of you whose seat is pushed back to your chest. Wish the guy in back of you who has been talking since he sat down would have a stroke. All while hoping you don’t die ablaze in a corn field.

(Seated in front of us) …were two men in their twenties roaring drunk and talking as if they were sitting in a bowling alley next to the ball return. They discussed baseball, football, hockey, then back to baseball. They asked the stewardess for drink after drink.
By the end of the two-hour flight they sucked the plane’s stock dry. Imagine if this were a movie – each would be played by an obnoxious Vince Vaughn in a split-screen. That comes close. One guy had a voice very much like Vaughn’s from “Wedding
Crashers”.
They had a three-seat row to themselves – no one sat between them. Good lord, who would want to? Maybe they did that on purpose: act as loud and obnoxious as possible and you get a row to yourself.
After an hour they eventually turned into Charlie Brown adults. “Wah-wah, wah wah-wah-wah.” I leaned my head against the window to watch the world pass underneath hoping to drown them out.
It worked somewhat – the trouble was now I could hear the old man behind me.
The Describer.
For the next hour the gentleman behind me described the landscape to (presumably) his wife sitting next to him. Every few seconds a low raspy voice would sound out…
“There’s a bean field.”
“There’s a baseball field.”
“That house has a swimming pool.”
“There’s the Atlantic Ocean.” Ah, that’s what that big blue wobbly thing going to the horizon was …
We both brought paperback books to read for the trip, and Esther managed to read peacefully. I barely managed two pages.
<read read> “wah-wah-wah, wah-wah”
<read read> “that must be the Potomac”
Hell. Hell, I tell you! I was never more eager to get out of a plane. But de-boarding provided no solace. As with any airline trip, the same yahoos sitting around you in the plane also follow you through the gate and onto the terminals.
After two plus hours of boarding and flying I had to use the bathroom. Esther did too, but she said she would wait. She watched the luggage (all carry-on; we checked nothing) while I went to pee. The restroom – the last bastion for peace and quiet for a man.
Or so was the hope, until the Describer walked up to the urinal next to me.
“Urine is going through the urethra; passing the penile tip. I’m urinating now.”
I finished, washed my hands, left the restroom, told Esther it was her turn, sat by my bags and wept…”

 ***

“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.


Abby’s Road is available at Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Abbys-Road-Long-Winding-Adoption/product-reviews/0692221530/ref=cm_cr_pr_top_recent?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending


at Barnes and Noble here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/abbys-road-the-long-and-winding-road-to-adoption-and-how-facebook-aquaman-and-theodore-roosevelt-helped-michael-curry/1119971924?ean=9780692221532


and at Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/457270

Copyright 2014 Michael Curry

 

 

What am I writing? An “Abby’s Road” 5th Anniversary Day!

WHAT AM I WRITING? An “Abby’s Road” Anniversary!

The cover of Abby's Road

The cover of Abby’s Road

September and October are big months for our family. And since this year marks the fifth anniversary of most of the events of “Abby’s Road”, celebrate with us as I post the fifth anniversary of book events as they occur! I hope you enjoy the posts over the next month and enjoy reading (or re-reading) it in the book!


Today is the 5th anniversary of the events starting on page 99 of “Abby’s Road…”. 

              “On Tuesday September 8th we received a call from Cary.  Valerie was having stomach pains.

                Def Con 2! Homeland Security Threat Level Mauve! Red Alert! Red Alert! Ah-oooga! Ah-oooga!

                Stop! It’s only the 8th; the baby isn’t due until the 23rd. What gives?

                It is possible, even likely, that Valerie will have the baby early. Why? A secretary told me her theory: I’ll sound like a complete mysogynist but it was her theory, not mine. Let me put this nicely –this is Valerie’s third baby. The trail has already been blazed, so to speak. Abigail will be boldly going where other babies have gone before. The tubing has been loosened a bit. Get it? Whether that has any medical merit I have no idea and I am sure I will be corrected if wrong.

                But we have to be ready in case the baby is born over the weekend. By now we had websites bookmarked and knew exactly what we needed to do. If the baby was born in the next few days we could fly out of St. Louis via Southwest on Saturday the 12th. The cost was fair even at this short notice. We could reserve a car with a baby seat at the airport. We picked an Extended Stay motel in Bethpage – it was nearest the hospital and had a kitchenette and two queen-size beds. For the trip home we could take Amtrak on the weekend of the 20th.  I preferred the New York-Chicago route with a bedroom, but another route – New York-Washington-Chicago was also available. Then the train from Chicago to St. Louis (a five-hour layover).

                We would be home by our wedding anniversary!

                An obstacle appeared that evening when we checked availabilities. I should have realized it would be impossible to make reservations at a motel in New York over a September 11th weekend. Uh-oh.

                Where will we stay until Monday or Tuesday when the weekend is over? In the hospital? Will Valerie and her parents put us up? Doubtful. There’s no point in going until we can secure a place to stay – the baby could be four days to a week old by the time we get there. Will she still be in the hospital? A foster home? Our little girl being held by perfect strangers? Wait, we’re foster parents. Our little girl being held by people like us? I’m going to be sick! Again!

                There were no close friends or relatives anywhere nearby. My Aunt Iris did have some distant cousins in that part of Long Island. If she were still alive our problems would have been solved. “I have a cousin still living there. You’re going to stay with his son’s family in the pool house.”  At the airport we’d have been met by a small shivering man holding a sign saying “Curry”.

                “We thank you for your hospitality,” we would say, “but you don’t have to put us up, we can get a motel room.”

                “No, stay with us. You don’t understand. Do you know what will happen to me, to all of us, if Iris finds out you stayed in a motel? Oy vey iz mir …”


Luckily, we learned it was a false alarm before we could head to the Big Apple. We would not be so lucky in the next few weeks!

***


“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.


Abby’s Road is available at Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Abbys-Road-Long-Winding-Adoption/product-reviews/0692221530/ref=cm_cr_pr_top_recent?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending


at Barnes and Noble here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/abbys-road-the-long-and-winding-road-to-adoption-and-how-facebook-aquaman-and-theodore-roosevelt-helped-michael-curry/1119971924?ean=9780692221532


and at Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/457270

Copyright 2014 Michael Curry

 

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition: The Apology

What Am I Reading: Dungeon & Dragons Player’s Handbook, 5th edition

Part Five: Now, where were we?

 

                I started to write a simple review of Dungeon & Dragons Player’s Handbook, 5th edition, but it grew into a series of blogs about the history of the game itself! Refer to my previous blogs for some of the terms if you are confused.

                We’re sorry, really really sorry. We won’t do it again. Can we go back to being friends?

                This is what WotC seems to be saying with its 5th edition. The Player’s Handbook is out now and the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual are coming in the next few months.

                When they realized that, good or bad system notwithstanding, their 4th edition was failing, they had to decide what to do. Should they scrap everything they have done? Yes. Should they just go back to 3.5? That wouldn’t be a bad idea, but Pathfinder has filled that niche now. Not only as a game, but their Pathfinder Societies has created gaming communities. Not only is Pathfinder a game, but it is something like a club – GMs and players can accumulate points as they play. They can get free stuff. It’s like the Boy Scouts or the Illuminati.

                Let’s go way back, they may have said, go back to first edition – really make it rules light. No, there are plenty of companies that do that already. Pits and Perils (http://www.oldehouserules.com/), Labyrinth Lord (http://www.goblinoidgames.com/labyrinthlord.html), and (my favorite) Basic Fantasy Roleplaying (http://www.basicfantasy.org/).

                Let’s keep the d20 system, WotC said, but make it lighter than Pathfinder. We’ll find our niche there. Something for the non-number crunchers. We’ll streamline 3.5 and they’ll forget all about 4th edition.

                They’re off to a good start.

5th ed players handbook

 

                Now I can finally begin my review of Dungeon & Dragon Player’s Handbook for 5th Edition. It’s a beautiful book solidly bound – beautiful art, excellent layout and easy to navigate. I would expect nothing less from D&D – the bar is raised higher for them than, say, an upstart retro-clone. There I expect cheap …  and am usually not disappointed.

                The book starts with a lovely explanation of role playing – what it is and how it works. I usually skip over this part – the necessary intro to any RPG. It’s boring and repetitive to me (“…this is a movie in your mind … you help write the script…”), but if this is your first foray into tabletop role-playing, this has a solid intro.

                The races are more or less back to the basics – Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Human, Gnome, Half-Elf, Half-Orc. From 4th edition they kept the Dragonborn (the whiners who demand to be able to play a dragon as a player-character is too large a lobby group to ignore) and the Tiefling.

                The classes are back to those listed in 1st edition AD&D with some Unearthed Arcana thrown in (although the revised names are used): barbarian, bard, cleric, druid, fighter, monk, paladin, ranger, rogue and wizard. They also added sorcerer and warlock.

                Backgrounds are added – you could call these character kits harkening back to the class kits of 2nd edition. Did your character start his adulthood as a soldier, an urchin, a sage, an artisan? If you do, you have some ready-made skills, tools, and traits and flaws. I like the traits and flaws – it helps with role play, not roll play. It’s there for flare.

                The usual equipment lists are canny and necessary for any game. I skimmed through that part.

                The combat hearkens back to oulden times. Nothing new here – I mean that in a pleasant way.

                Skills are down to 18 in number. Wow, 18 – and each are limited to certain classes. If you are proficient in a skill, you get +2. No slots, no purchases, +2. The idea of a proficiency bonus is a nice, slimmed-down touch. If you do anything well, if it is your proficiency, you get +2. Class or race attributes (Rogues use Dexterity, Warlocks use Charisma – smart move there. Unless you played a Paladin Charisma was always the low-roll dump of attributes) or skills – +2. Simple enough.

                Feats are down to 42 in number. Still too much, but at least it’s lost some weight. As with 3.5 you only gain a feat every three levels. A player is given an interesting choice – every third level you can either pick a feat OR increase an attribute by one. Hmm … some of the feats are pretty tough – you can reroll damage and pick the higher roll, you can increase your hit points to the same number as twice your level. Some of these feats will be huge at higher levels!

                A minor quibble: the XP needed to level is ridiculously low. 300 points to make second level?  The XP value of creatures and monsters must have suffered quite a bit of deflation since 3.5…

                WotC did a smart move by frothing up support and buzz for 5th edition through their Adventurer’s League: a structure of organized, public play sessions. Encounters is a short, weekly session at local game stores, Expeditions is for regional conventions – usually an all-afternoon event and Epic for major cons lasting days. For Encounters players meet at a game store and play a pre-set module sent to the DM directly from WotC. Both the DM and the players receive points for their play. Eventually, the gamers will run through the entire adventure path (another name for long module that will get you to the highest levels). Pathfinder has the same thing with their Pathfinder Society. The exact same thing. I wish WotC luck in this – but it seems no business gets ahead by copying its competitors. Pathfinder copied 3.5, true, but only after WotC abandoned it.

                The expunging of all things 4th edition is underway. The gaming community is starting to forgive them.

                I’m too far away from any game store to do the Adventure group thing. And with my baby girl I doubt my wife would let me run off once a week to play anyway. Maybe when she is old enough to entertain herself.

                To say that 5th edition is weighed down by what has gone on before is an understatement. But they should look on it as a legacy, not a burden. Embrace and respect the past. But note the future. Right now they are copying Pathfinder – with their lighter version of the rules and their Society-like Adventure teams. When you are in a parade – you never march behind the horses. But D&D is in a position it had never been in before – an upstart follower instead of a leader. They may still claim to be the premier world leader of RPGs, but the Sumerians were the premier world leader of … um … world leaders. You see where Sumer is now … or isn’t. As with any upstart, they’ll have to fight their way up. They may never make it back on top, but at least they are on their way to giving it a good try!

                And I think they are on their way. If Player’s Handbook is any indication, they can create their own niche of a Rules-Light d20 game. They are already past the point of being completely “rules light” with their skills and feats – diminished as those are. Leave that to the retro-clones (and I hate that phrase as being too negative, but it seems to have caught on without a taint. Those companies use the phrase as a badge of honor).

                I’m already looking forward to playing a Tiefling Warlock with the Great Old One patron…

                Happy gaming!

Cthulhu DM shit

Copyright 2014 Michael Curry