24 June 2017

My Personal History of Roleplaying Games

I spent some time chatting with a friend recently. In the course of the conversation, I ended up describing to her how I got into gaming, and which games I've played, in rough order from earliest to most recent.

It occurs to me that this may be of interest to others, if only in part because my path into gaming was so very different from that of most other gamers. So I think I will describe it to you, my faithful readers.

It's all my father's fault, really. When I was a teenager (15 or 16, as I recall), my father brought home a number of Marvel comic books. He was an executive in the regional offices for Hardee's, the fast food restaurant, before it was purchased by Carl's Jr. At the time, Hardee's was considering doing a merchandising promo with some Marvel characters, and so he brought home a handful of issues of various titles for research. There was an Iron Man, a couple of different Spider-Man titles, an Incredible Hulk, and so forth. But the two that caught my attention were the Uncanny X-Men #258 and Wolverine #23.

The X-Men comic featured Wolverine very prominently, and between the two books, I found myself strongly drawn to the character. He was, perhaps, the first example of an anti-hero that I had really encountered, and paved the way for me to be drawn to such anti-hero types in the future. I became quite fond of Wolverine, and began collecting his comic. One day, in one of the issues, I saw an advertisement for the 'Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game Book #3: Night of the Wolverine.' According to the advert, this product allowed you to take on the role of Wolverine as you attempted to thwart the machinations of one of the many enemies of the X-Men.

I was intrigued.

I went down to the local comics and games shop and bought a copy. I rushed home, eager to explore this adventure. Although the book claimed that you didn't need to know the rules to the TSR Marvel Super Heroes roleplaying game in order to play, there was much I did not understand in this volume. I was able to work out some of the details through guesswork, but I never felt comfortable enough to try the game myself.

One day, I happened to mention this dilemma to my friend Blayke. He informed me that he owned a copy of the Marvel Super Heroes core rulebook. He loaned it to me, and I read it. Then, one day, on our lunch break at the high school we both attended, we went across the street to the house of a friend of his, where he GMed the first rpg session in which I ever participated.

After a couple of sessions, I decided I needed to at least try the granddaddy of all rpgs: Dungeons and Dragons. I bought the 'red box,' and brought it home where I began to read the rulebook. I was disappointed to discover that I did not find the game appealing. There were two major complaints I recall having with it: the different mechanics that it had for each different type of roll, and the armour class system.

I found it to be very frustrating that there was a different type of roll for each kind of action. You had to roll one kind of die to attack, and you wanted to roll high, but you had a different kind of die for saving throws, and you wanted to roll low, and a still different kind of die for special abilities (such as the thief's 'find traps' ability), and so on.

Also, the fact that the type of armour a character wears has no effect on the amount of damage that character takes also bothered me. The idea that 'armour class is the difficulty to hit and do damage' never sat well with me. Putting on plate armour doesn't make me harder to hit than if I were wearing leather armour. In fact, it would make me easier to hit, as I'm now a slightly larger target, and slower from the weight of the steel! Furthermore, if I were wearing plate armour, and an opponent struck me with, say, a sword, I wouldn't take as much damage as if I had been hit with the same sword whilst wearing leather armour. But according to the D&D rules, it doesn't matter what type of armour you are wearing: you'd suffer the same amount of damage.

Anyway. After that, I met John. He was a serious gamer, and had tried many different games systems in his life. We became good friends, and he introduced me to many different rpgs: Tales from the Floating Vagabond, Shadowrun, Paranoia, Call of Cthulhu, and Rifts. I read the rulebook for TORG, although I never got a chance to actually play a game of it.

Before long, John and I ended up as roommates. This occurred shortly after he had discovered GURPS. We played that game often, and I became enamoured of the system. It was more realistic than other games I had played, and the system of advantages and disadvantages allowed for a more detailed personality in the characters than I had seen in other games. I began purchasing supplements, and was soon very familiar with the workings of the system.

I continued to game, and played with many more people, experiencing (at least briefly) games such as Albedo, The Whispering VaultCyberpunk, West End Games' Star Wars, Blue Planet, and Toon. But in 1993, my main gaming group began to play Vampire: the Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse. Before long, those were the primary games we played. We'd still dabble in other settings, but for several years, the vast majority of our games were in one of the original World of Darkness settings.

I had at least a taste of other games after that. I've played at least one game of each of  Adventure!, Little Fears, Hero System, and 7th Sea. But after 1995, my favourite game by far was (as readers of this blog will already know) Changeling: the Dreaming. After 2003, it was almost the only thing I played. I tried my hand at the D20 Star Wars, because I was desperate and I had met a couple of people who were playing it. But apart from that, until 2012, when I discovered Fiasco, and then last year, when I was introduced to the FATE system via the Dresden Files Roleplaying Game, Changeling and (to a lesser extent) GURPS were the only games I played.

I know there's not really much of a point to this, aside from explaining why I'm familiar with so many different roleplaying games (and so many of them being so unknown to so many other gamers). But I hope at least that you found it interesting. If not, I'm sorry. Try again next week, when I will talk about something else. Until then,

Game on!

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