Back a while ago- like, twelve or thirteen years ago- I happened to get in on the ground floor of something that only in retrospect did I realize would change my life. An acquaintance of mine from high school was putting together a Modern game, since Modern had come out the summer before, and Urban Arcana was about a month from release. A mutual friend knew that I played D&D, and so suggested me to him, if he was looking for more players. Luckily for me, he was, so I was asked to show up.
When I arrived, there was my school acquaintance, our mutual friend, and a few people I didn’t know. At that point, the team consisted of:
- El, Mexican gunslinger
- Hugo, underworld pit fighter
- Hanis, expert hacker
- Snake, military sniper
- Vlad, federal agent
- Jezebel, unregistered nurse
We played a session or two, then the DM bought a copy of Urban Arcana. The method with which the contents of the book became available to us ingame are too ridiculous to recount here, but suffice to say it was ludicrous. Literally the next session, we had a new player. Hilariously enough, the new person turned out to be Pain. That’s actually how, when, and where the two of us met. But that’s beside the point for this particular story. The team at that point consisted of:
- El, lycanthrope gunslinger
- Hugo, drow swordsman
- Hanis, half-dragon hacker
- Snake, half-fraal sniper
- Vlad, revenant
- Jezzebelle, half-celestial divine mage
- Stone, grimlock boxer
Over the next three or four levels, we would switch DMs twice, lose Vlad, and see him replaced by:
- Alec, catfolk drug dealer
And right around that point was when things started… happening. The player of Alec (who also played Vlad until he died) left the game after just a couple sessions, then Jezzebelle’s player quit maybe a month later. Her boyfriend, Hanis’s player, quit almost immediately after that. Then, due to unrelated matters, we took a break from playing for a month or two. When we returned to the game, El’s player was not invited to rejoin. By that point, however, we had found a new player to take over Jezzebelle. So by then (we were around level ten or so by this point, and it’s probably 2005 by then), the team was Hugo, Snake, Stone, and Jezzebelle, with the other four (Alec, Vlad, Hanis, and El) all relegated to occasional NPC appearances.
Over the next couple years, the sessions would happen more and more infrequently, until it was sometimes months between sessions. Eventually, they would stop altogether in approximately 2009, with the party at about level 17. Since then, we’ve played one session- in 2011, I believe- that was left unfinished. All evidence suggests it will remain that way permanently.
Looking back over what I wrote so far, I realize that I probably sounded a bit overly melodramatic at the beginning, talking about how it changed my life and such. But the thing is, it did. If I had never joined that game, I would have never met the people in it (including Pain), I never would have had a chance to play Modern (which, in case I haven’t mentioned, is my favorite RPG). Plus, this happened right after I had started playing D&D. I’d been playing for maybe two months when this Modern game started. I honestly can’t tell you how my life would be different if I hadn’t joined that game, because it’s affected my life in so many ways I can’t even imagine myself without it.
I spent six years with these characters, you know? I saw everything that happened to them. The clones. The aliens. The dragons. The kids. The castle. The mountains. The displacer beasts. (I understand those sentence fragments don’t actually mean anything to you, but rest assured there’s a story behind each one of those phrases that’s long enough to get a whole column out of. Each.)
In about 2010, we created a spinoff campaign that took place in the same canon as this Modern game. As such, it was retroactively dubbed “Alpha” to the spinoff’s “Beta”. The concept was that it would follow an unrelated group of characters while they visited the locations of the major events in Alpha, and saw how things had changed due to whatever had happened there. Unfortunately, in practice, the only connection between Alpha and Beta was that Beta was stated to take place three years afterwards. It turned into a weird amalgamation of Animorphs and Silent Hill. You see, that characters were children- well, teenagers- and they fought monsters like you would expect to see in something like Resident Evil. The characters never visited any of Alpha’s locations, or got involved in any of their old operations, or anything.
Which was kind of a missed opportunity, I suppose. But I have no one to blame but myself (since I DMed Beta, while I notably did not DM Alpha). Anywho, Beta didn’t last long- I have very little confidence in my DMing ability- and the idea of Alpha was basically done for, never to return.
Fast forward to about six months ago. During a writing exercise, I craft a story about Alpha. That brief mention I made of “the kids” earlier? Well, while Alpha was still going on, a lot of the characters ended up having children over the course of the game.
- Hugo married a human and had a daughter, Lily.
- Stone and Jezzebelle had a son, Jewel.
- Jezzebelle also had a son with Snake, Evan.
Anyway, about six months ago, I wrote a story about the three of them adventuring together. And it got me thinking. See, since Alpha ended, the person that played Snake stopped coming around. So it was Hugo, Stone, and Jezzebelle, was all that was left. Each one of them, during the run of Alpha, had a child. And I had always wanted to bring back Alpha. But I know it’ll never happen.
So how about the next best thing? How about a campaign about the children of Alpha- Lily, Jewel, and Evan?
The only roadblock- in the intervening five years, I have not gotten any more confident about my DMing capabilities.
The Chief (there’s another game that, in its own way, is just as important as Alpha is. I sometimes refer to it as “D&D’s Alpha”, since it’s a fantasy campaign. Maybe one of these days, someone will tell you the story behind the Sons Of Fate)