15 April, 2016
One of my big passions is tabletop gaming. It has been a significant part of my gaming life and career, even if I’ve never directly developed a tabletop game. Well, yet, at least. :)
Let me take you on a little journey and talk about what tabletop RPGs mean to me.
The heroic origin story
I got started in tabletop RPGs with D&D, in a roundabout way. When I was young, my best friend was a fundamentalist Christian; that meant no rock ‘n’ roll (that’s a whole other story) and certainly none of that demonic D&D stuff! Of course, I was young and nerdy so we couldn’t leave the forbidden fruit alone, although we found ways even under the watchful eye of his parents.
My first RPG purchase is pretty funny in retrospect. I saw a the module “Starspawn of Volturnus” for the game Star Frontiers on the discount rack at Target. I liked the art and bought it, but of course I knew nothing about game not having the main handbooks so I didn’t really understand much about it. I read through it, but without any understanding I could actually play it. Plus, according to my friend, it was guilty by association since it was made by TSR.
But, my friend was also a bit nerdy and creative, and we did love computer games. Lots of those computer games were inspired by D&D, so we ended up making our own (often non-computerized) versions; copies of derivatives of D&D. We made little mazes on notebook paper and graph paper, had stats for characters, although we didn’t use much randomness or dice. But, we were able to slip off into our own little imagined worlds in a shared creative experience.
Even when we played, we carefully skirted using “real” magic. I remember coming up with the idea that a wizard might have a wooden staff infused with some mineral allowing it to act like a match in order to “throw fireballs”. Yep, major nerd even at a young age.
Older, but no increase in WIS score
My formal introduction to D&D happened later in high school. Attending church, I met this other awkward geeky kid and we hit it off. He talked about playing D&D, but of course his mother was worried that he was too into that game. He also introduced me to other games: Doctor Who (the show as well as the tabletop RPG), Paranoia, TMNT (and other Palladium games). Often we’d play with his brother and mother, who were sometimes willing participants.
We also shared a passion for the NES and played a lot of RPGs together on there; we got through Wizardry on the NES together, although he did end up buying the hint guide! We also played The Bard’s Tale along with the original Final Fantasy; he took on the nickname “Akal” because FF1 only allowed 4 letters for a character’s name! I’m sure if personal computers with internet connections had been more widespread, we’d have found some way to play the online games of the time.
We did play some D&D, but usually without the rest of his family. I remember him talking up Drow, and Paladins, so I made a Drow Paladin. Of course, it was one of my first characters, so I was absolutely not playing Lawful Good as you were supposed to; I remember roughing up someone to get information out of them. He informed me I displeased my god, and chided me about trying to play an overpowered character. I remember being grumpy because it felt like that was the character he was telling me to play!
I did dabble a bit in RPG design then. Still having an aversion to “devil magic” in D&D, I did some research and came across the magical properties of herbs and wanted to use that as the basis of a magic system. As I like to joke, I was introduced to witchcraft because I was trying to avoid D&D! My friend and I also worked on with a game we called “Places of Darkness”, which was an pen and paper game similar to the old “Friday the 13th” TV show about recovering lost cursed artifacts. I remember typing up a character sheet in my computer science class in high school. Sadly, none of my notes have survived from that, but I really did like the idea.
Then I went off to university. I’ll continue that tale tomorrow.