A few months ago, I realized that I’d been role-playing for just about 25 years. I started in 3rd grade. 3rd grade! I have played and/or gamemastered tons of games. I never seriously tried to design my own, however. I mean, a couple of times, I threw some ideas together, but I never really put any effort into them.
My most notable (and latest) attempt was in high school, about… 13 years ago or so. And even then, it wasn’t going to be entirely original. The setting was that of Joel Rosenberg’s Guardians of the Flame series of novels, and the origins of the system were gleaned from the first book of that series, when Andy-Andy is creating her character.
I started role-playing because of my older brother. Well, actually, it was due to an even older kid who lived down the street. His name was Andy, and looking back, I can’t even think of why he would hang out with a couple of younger kids like us. He used to bring us pirated copies of games for our Commodore 64, he brought us tapes of music he was into (he’s to blame for my interest in Genesis and, therefore, Peter Gabriel), and at one point he brought over a role-playing game.
Andy started by running for my brother and his friends. I’d sit and watch whenever I could. The game he was running was called MERP (Middle-Earth Role Playing). It was too complicated for me, but I liked to pretend that I could play. I’m sure I was very annoying-little-brother-like. Eventually, Andy brought over Marvel Super Heroes, and said that I could play. I have no concept anymore of what happened. Who I played, if I made my own character or used a pre-generated one, what the adventure was, any of it. But it obviously made an impression.
I convinced my parents to buy me (or let me buy) the Advanced Set of Marvel Super Heroes, and soon I was trying to convince my own friends from school to give it a try. By middle school, I had run Marvel, Warhammer, Call of Cthulhu, Star Wars, Talislanta, Paranoia, and maybe a few others. I’d also played in games of Top Secret/SI, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Shadowrun, Wizards, and, again, likely many others. I can think of about 10 people that I played with over that time, usually in groups of about 5-7.
As high school neared its end, the inevitable loss of contact with many of these people set in. Over the next few years, I role-played very little, except for occasional romps with my buddy, Adam. Even these were generally solo adventures. We didn’t know anyone else that would join us, that we’d care to have join us.
A few years later, Adam and I were both working at a movie theater. Adam was befriending a guy there named Stephen, who I didn’t know that well. Turns out, he was a gamer, too, and was trying to put together a D&D game. Adam and I signed up, but he wanted more players. An old mid school gaming pal named Phil started showing up regularly at the theater, and I approached him. Not wanting to get too bogged down here, very soon we were playing. (And no, this isn’t 100% accurate anyway – there are some timeline fluffs.)
Since then, we’ve played many of the same games, plus been introduced to several more, including Exalted, Legend of the Five Rings, Scion, and Unknown Armies. During this more recent surge, I’ve found myself more concerned with character and story than I was when I was younger. Hack’n’slash wasn’t doing it for me anymore (I wouldn’t actually say that what we did prior was “hack’n’slash,” but for simplicity’s sake…).
I also began to comprehend game systems a little better, and see how they interacted with the setting. I knew of generic system games, like GURPS, but never played any, with the exception of a very brief attempt at Rifts. I was beginning to understand the need of synergy between system and setting.It would still be a while before I got it, though.
Now, while life is getting in the way of any kind of regular game, I’m still very invested in this hobby. I listen to several RPG-related podcasts, including Happy Jacks RPG Podcast, Fear the Boot, and Postcards from the Dungeon. I’ve also just attended my first gaming convention, Fear the Con in St. Louis. More on that soon.
This is a hobby that I love, and I’m ready to start contributing to it in more direct ways, through design and, who knows, maybe a podcast or other project. The future awaits….