Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

16 April, 2016

Tabletop RPGs, the college years
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 5:16 PM

Yesterday I went over the early years of tabletop RPGs, where I had a forbidden love in the form of D&D.

Now, let’s see what happens when our brave hero leaves home and enters university.

There’s a time and a place for everything, and it’s called college

I got immersed in RPGs truly immersed in RPGs at university. At the dorms I met this kinda weird/kinda interesting guy in the elevator carrying some D&D books, and next thing I know I’m attending a D&D game he was running. This group formed the foundation of a lot of the friends I still have from that era of my life. We mostly played in the Forgotten Realms, but also a bit in Dragonlance and a few other settings.

My first character was an elven cleric/mage. For some reason, I decided to play Evil, and hid the mage part of my character. I was given a Staff of Power as a magic item (a bit overpowered) and I explained that the spells I cast came from the staff. I fomented some party division as a got the evil characters to attack the good ones. We had a meta-agreement in place that whoever lost would roll characters of compatible alignment with the winners. The evil side lost, although I think that was probably for the best. :)

My next character was a Vindicator Cleric/Fighter named Rainlin Goldcrier. He flew into a battle rage, channeling the fury of his god. It was very similar to a 3rd edition Barbarian, but without a lot of the other drawbacks. It was a fun character, and my significant other made a picture of him years later. This is also the character she first met; she played an elven thief, so it wasn’t exactly love at first sight….

I later played a dwarven Cleric of the good drow goddess Eilistraee. The character was converted by an elf she traveled with who longed to have the elves and drow reunite. It was a fun, if confused character. I split with the party when they killed a monster I had befriended; I think it turned out it was the larval stage of some demon, but still, friends are friends!

We also played a bit in the Planescape setting, too. My character was a Bariaur (goat-centaur creature) Ranger using the Explorer kit from the Ranger’s Handbook. This was a great kit for Planescape, because it gave information about how to get around and information about local villages, etc. The downside was that the character was limited to lighter weapons, so he could only wield shortswords. I developed an intense rivalry with one of the other characters, a Tiefling Swashbuckler with a spell called “Blood Lightning”. Basically, whenever he was cut he would do a PBAoE lightning effect, damaging all in the area; and one of those people the area was invariably my character.

My final notable D&D character was an human Evil Paladin. He was Lawful Evil and fanatically obedient to his hierarchy. I played it because I thought it would be interesting to get into such an alien mindset. He believed that might makes right, that the powerful will rule, and that he wanted to be part of that hierarchy near the top. I was assigned to protect the character of my significant other-to-be, who as a half-elf. Of course, most people didn’t know that the other half was demon. ;) My most memorable experience with that character was I met the party and one of the NPCs commanded my character to kill one of the (unarmed) PCs. Of course I followed orders

I played a few other characters, but these were the main ones I remember fondly from those years.

A kingdom of player characters

I ran some games during this time as well. I tended to do rather offbeat things. For example, I bought a lot of the handbooks in college as I had lot of disposable income for the first time in my life. I had bought most of the handbooks, including the historical ones: Celts, Greeks, Romans, Vikings, and Charlemagne’s Paladins. I did a big unhistorical mashup where all these existed the same time in a fantasy world. The players were adventurers roaming the lands full of adventure.

I also ran a game where each player was a vassal of a powerful king. I worked out some rules for how to rule a kingdom, and kept too much player ambition in check with a powerful king. Then, Birthright came out and a lot of my rules got thrown out the window with the improved rules. I did keep a record of the game and put a record of the characters and events into HTML format on this crazy thing called the World Wide Web back in the day! (WARNING: Bad 90s gif backgrounds abound. Also, some broken links.)

I also created a classless character system for 2nd edition AD&D. Pick your abilities, figure your base xp, and then figure out how much xp you need per level. You might remember I did something similar for 3rd edition.

It’s roleplaying, not rollplaying!

Around the time we were in college, White Wolf games became huge. None of us were particularly goth, but we took to the World of Darkness setting. We mostly played Werewolf, but we also played a fair amount of Vampire and dabbled in Mage and Wraith as well.

For Vampire, we mostly played it in the “superheroes with fangs” style that is reviled by a lot of WoD fans. Keep in mind this is the same group that played D&D, so perhaps you can understand this a bit more. And, of course, the group really liked to play Sabbat characters as well. I never played Sabbat, and I was a tepid player of Camarilla characters. My first was a dirt Gangrel who liked to live in the wild. The other character, which I created multiple times but never seemed to go anywhere with, was a Tremere with a laptop looking to create a digital catalog of all blood rituaals.

Werewolf was my real interest, and we played a lot of that. Being a Computer Science student, I loved the Glasswalkers, and played them often. I was always interested in Theurges, the mystics, and played that a lot. One thing I did love about Werewolf is you got a bigger picture of the setting’s cosmology: the Weaver, Wyld, and Wyrm all supposed to be in balance, but all fighting against each other. I loved how this made all the pieces fit together.

I was the oddball who ran Mage and Wraith. Mage was hard to run, especially for people who were used to the structure of D&D’s spells. For Wraith, we had just finished up a D&D campaign, so I told people to make dead versions of their D&D characters. A bit of fiddling with the system and I had it set in a fantasy underworld. But, people didn’t seem to groove on the setting as much as they liked Vampire and Werewolf.

Tomorrow, I’ll post about gaming after college. Yes, it can happen!


  1. My bestest ever friends were made at college, in the dorms, playing (mostly) A/D&D. We may be a continent apart now, but they’re still a huge part of my life. Come to think of it, pretty much ALL my really good, really lasting friendships were made throug gaming (tabletop and online). I’m good with that. :)

    Comment by Ysharros — 17 April, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

  2. One thing I didn’t mention in this post is that most of these same people got into text MUDs as well, mostly introduced by me. They played a variety of games, so I think there’s something similar in the reasons why people like online games and why people like tabletop RPGs. In fact, a lot of early online discussions I participated in were focused on how to capture that tabletop RPG experience in a MUD; I frequented a lot of Usenet groups dedicated to both MUDs and tabletop RPGs, and the overlap was quite remarkable.

    Comment by Psychochild — 17 April, 2016 @ 11:59 AM

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