Monday, 25 June 2007

Role-playing games and me

I got into the hobby from SPI games and thus reading about this D&D thing in the SimPubs UK 'zine in the spring of '76, which was during my first undergraduate year. It then took me six months, finding only a random copy of either Greyhawk or Blackmoor in one of the general games shops in Soho, before I tracked a copy down, and a group of gamers who were using a highly variant home-brew set of systems. Taking it home at the Yuletide holidays that year, I plunged immediately into DMing (mainly for the crowd at my old school), and system tinkering.

I would probably have drifted out of the hobby in a couple of years, as my brother did, but for meeting Karen. Shortly after we had gotten together, she told me about this wonderful game one of her friends had been playing, and wondered did I know about it. I said that I did and advised she probably didn't want to. But she wasn't deterred.

That became the classic 78/9 highly variant dungeon crawling game that really (mis-)informs my opinions of (original, pre-Basic, pre-Advanced) D&D. That in turn drove me to stop tinkering and start DMing again myself, on a regular basis this time.

This early period while still in and around Cambridge was marked by a lot of variously successful home-brew FRP systems, many unrecognisable as derivatives from D&D, as well as some “roll a d20 and see what it looks like” super-hero games (finding Superhero 2044 unusable as it stood). There were attempts at C&S, DragonQuest and TFT which came to naught, and a little variant RQ. Burnout with fantasy by the early '80s, and moving away for work, led to playing a bit of Trav that got nowhere, and then Champions, the latter turning into an open campaign where everyone who had something to run GMd, until the flaws (bricks rule, energy projectors suck) were too blatant to ignore. One off (and never again) sessions in this time also included Call of Cthulhu and Paranoia.

Returning to Cambridge in the late 80s, gaming mainly alternated between myself and one other GM (who has now gone on to run the Saxum Caribetum Ars Magica Saga), with AD&D2 being the default system, but also RQ2.8/Glorantha (later Pendragon 3rd edition), Shadowrun (1st & 2nd), V:tM (2nd), and Ars Magica(3rd), with a little bit of Trav, MegaTrav, and Star Wars (2nd) (this last being used as a generic RPG) on the side.

Gaming keynotes

  • in 1984, while preparing for a “everyone bring a couple of favourite characters” gaming weekend, while others were exercised narrowing down to a couple of characters from a vast portfolio, my problem was coming up with characters to shortlist. I could now call upon the many Champions PCs I later designed - but it established that I was already more the GM than the player
  • my first character of any consequence (as opposed to first that lasted to gain levels at all) was an elementalist mage from the 78/9 game, almost the only mage I've ever played. The later PCs have tended to be simple “walk up to other people and hit them a lot” types, perhaps with a little magic on the side (e.g. RQ characters or AD&D2 priests).
  • the all-comers Champions aside, I've not run or played in a long running “signature” campaign. Too many one-shots that folded ignominiously, and campaign longevity meaning lasting 6 months.
  • In 1995 I went through a serious bit of burnout, and that's why I'm only in 2003, so many years later, actually getting round to scanning and uploading all this stuff.
  • In summer 2003, I went to the Conjuration, the biennial con at New Hall, and saw the demo games of HeroQuest, almost on the 25th anniversary of the original RuneQuest which promised it as one of the few detailed “To be published” sources. And it fired my enthusiasm enough to start to look for players — but these turned out to be thin on the ground, and by the time I'd managed to accumulate a possible quorum (and that needing to take account of players with children having to work around their bed-times), work was going through a “as many hours as it take” patch, and after that, I'd managed to get distracted by watching anime DVDs on the PC, and finding that other things had then arisen to take up my creative energies, away from dealing with flea-bitten barbarians. And so I'm in total RPG burn-out.

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