Saturday, March 20, 2010

Jozan come lately

[To better understand my perspective on games, it might be useful to know a little history about me. I apologize in advance if these preliminary "throat-clearing" posts are boring, but I can't seem to get started without organizing my thoughts this way. Please feel free to skip ahead if you like.]

I'm a relative latecomer to tabletop RPGs, having only started playing about four years ago. I had wanted to play for a long time, but various factors prevented it. Probably the greatest obstacles were:

1) In the 80s, for those of us who grew up in Christian environments, playing D&D was considered a hop, skip and a jump away from sacrificing virgins to Satan himself. My parents knew such a thing had no place in a good Baptist family like ours. They let me know in such stark terms, I never even asked for the game. I didn't personally feel that playing would make me start painting pentagrams on the floor with the blood of a black goat, but I was a good kid who minded his parents.

2) Apart from the religious condemnation of RPGs, the social stigma attached to those who played D&D and other games remained strong. So even when I felt more freedom in college, and when churches weren't quite so preoccupied with the dangers of D&D, I still stayed away. Call it a lack of self-esteem or self-confidence, but I actually was worried if playing RPGs would hurt my chances with the ladies. In my mind, it was bad enough that I played scifi/fantasy video games and read scifi/fantasy novels, actually pretending to be a wizard myself would be too much of a risk for my social life.

So fast foward a few more years to when I'm married. My wife has a few quirks of her own, and in a lot of ways doesn't feel bound to convention. She knows I like fantasy books and games, so when I ran across an announcement for a D&D 3.5ed one shot game through the local RPG Meetup group, she actually encouraged me to go.

I went, and I loved it.

We didn't get very far that day, as the DM (Norm, of Troll and Flame fame) had to walk me through character creation, and I'm sure I annoyed the other players with my constant questions. But it was a ton of fun anyway. I still recall how our entire party nearly got wiped out by a few flame-breathing kobolds. They were sitting at the top of a tall makeshift barricade made from the piled remains of broken furniture and other trash, and I could not make a Climb check to reach the buggers to save my life.

So now I've been bitten by the RP bug, and I'm trying to play catch up for all the years of gaming I've missed. I've played in a D&D 3.5e campaign, and have played one shots of Savage Worlds, Tunnels and Trolls, Mutants and Masterminds, and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. I'm currently playing in 3, yes 3, rotating D&D hybrid 1e/2e campaigns. Because that's not enough, I've got couple of Labyrinth Lord one shots lined up, and I'm joining another group playing Call of Cthuhlu.

In the posts to come, I'll give a more complete recount of each gaming experience. I plan both to blog about what I recall of my older games, and also give a comprehensive overview of my current games. I'll use these as a base to explore the mechanics, styles and flavors of the different systems, as well as the experiences they produce.


  1. Huh, I had forgotten/didn't realize that was your first game.

    I should have tried harder to be better. But I guess I was good enough to not drive you away.

    Awesome that you started playing.

  2. No, I thought you did a great job. Partly because right off the bat you challenged some of assumptions about play. When those kobolds started breathing fire, I recall a moment of confusion, because even back then, I knew that kobolds didn't have breath weapons. I'd played enough Baldur's Gate to know that. But came to understand that while D&D had rules, including rules for what a kobold is supposed to be able to do, that we aren't bound by those rules. We can change them as we like.

    That adds more than a touch of realism and danger to games, as you never really know what you're going to face.