Thursday, April 9, 2009

My gaming history

One of the reasons you got the "Googling" blog on Monday is because I wanted to make sure that this blog didn't get pushed back too far after my "Yes, You Can!" blog. After I posted that one, I realized that you guys might be interested in what got me into gaming in the first place. So here it is.

I didn't start gaming until after high school. I didn't start doing much of anything until after high school, but that's a different therapy session.

It was actually my girl who got me started, in a way. When we were still feeling each other out (we didn't really date, we just hung out a lot) she brought along her copy of GURPS Wild Cards. She was a fan of the Wild Cards novels and the book was a convenient reference work on the series. She had played a little D&D in high school, but had no experience with GURPS at that time.

At the local game store, I would browse the used books section, because I didn't have the money to buy any new stuff. That was where I first saw the Dream Park RPG. Looking throught it's "What is roleplaying?" section, I had to shake my head. There was no way that roleplaying was as simple as it was described there. There had to be charts and tables and miniature figures that take days to paint! All those things that hurt my brain and cost too much money! (Turns out I was wrong on every single count, but I wasn't there yet.)

Remembering her GURPS book, I picked up a used copy of GURPS Horror (first edition) as something of a present. It might still be around here somewhere, but I haven't seen it for a while.

When she left for college in LA, I went with her. She got a job on campus and I discovered the joys of the internet on the campus library computers. We started picking up the GURPS core books, mainly to figure out what the supplements were talking about (being supplements, they had lots of things with ST scores, for example, but no explanation of what an ST score was and how to tell if you had a good one) and partly to see what other options were available (lots, it turned out).

Via the internet, I discovered a variety of other roleplaying games as well. The main one that I still recall from this period is Forgotten Futures, which is still being supported after all this time. (Thanks for making me feel old, guys.) I also connected with a roleplaying group in Culver City (still part of the Los Angeles metroplex) and got my first taste of roleplaying with the RoleMaster system and the old D&D Temple of Elemental Evil. My human paladin was built for me via a computer spreadsheet. I heard some muttering about how hard it was to build a character in the rules. I didn't discover exactly how hard until I tried to build a character under those rules myself many years later. After two hours, I gave up.

It was during this time that I started development of my own roleplaying game. Me and the girl had the idea of a comic book, with me writing and her drawing. I thought it would be fun to put a simple RPG in the back of the comic. Each issue would contain the basic rules of the game, plus a little more information on the world or stats on a certain character. Nothing ever really came of it, unfortunately. I still have the RPG rules somewhere, but it would take quite a bit of work to make them really usable.

Fast forward now to the wondrous Year 2000. Although the flying car did not debut in that year, the third edition of the Dungeons & Dragons rules did. Even though myths about roleplaying games had been shattering right and left, I was still intimidated by the granddaddy of them all: D&D. One more myth shattered when I picked up the Player's Handbook. Here was a version of D&D that was comprehensible.

Not long after, I joined a group and created my first D&D character: Konrad the Barbarian. It's more like he was a Barbarian named Konrad, but some people have no sense of subtlety. He wound up being the only character that I played for any significant length of time.

Because another role was forcing itself on me. The role of Dungeon Master. At the same time I was playing in that group, Another group of friends thought it would be fun to play our own game, and the role of DM fell to me. So I picked up a Dungeon magazine and picked an adventure out of it to run. I can't say I did the best job. Heck, there are times even now when I feel I could be a better Game Master.

But it was a role I've been kind of stuck with. A few years after that, I discovered the Fantasy Gamers Guild at the local university. I wound up joining a group with a DM who was the worst stereotype of the D&D gamer. Fat and smelly and no sense of story. Our characters woke up in the dungeon (an old game board) with no idea how we had gotten there and no real memory of what brought us there. All we knew is that there were monsters.

I wound up hijacking the game out from under him by bringing in games from my growing collection and trying to tempt the other players with them. I finally found a winner with IronClaw. The DM wound up making a character with the Smuggler career, but was disappointed that I didn't give him much to smuggle. He dropped out after a few sessions. On the one hand, it could be considered not much of a loss, and I really didn't miss him much at the time. In retrospect, however, it could be seen as my first big GMing failure. By failing to reach out and accomodate players, I basically drove him off.

Another part of it was that I was still going from prebuilt adventures. I ran D&D using scenarios from Dungeon Magazine (The encounter and treasure building system still intimidates me, so I would use published scenarios if I ran D&D today). The IronClaw adventures were from the scenarios printed in their supplements. When I ran GURPS Prime Directive shortly thereafter, I dug through my collection of Star Trek RPGs for scenarios.

I didn't create my own adventures until I started running Exalted. I had every supplement, but there were no real published adventures for it. One of the players suggested that something had been stolen from each of the characters and they joined up when they realized that it was the same thief. This led to a pretty epic and awesome storyline. But then, Exalted really is an epic and awesome game.

I ran several games over the course of my involvement with the Guild, including GURPS Wild Cards (the game that somewhat started it all), and my little comic book RPG (which did not go well and convinced me that I couldn't design settings at all).

I never really got much of a chance to play a character, though. Once I started going to DunDraCon, I got to play a few games there. Occassionally, my girl would run D&D for varying lengths of time. Every so often, Fishgod (one of my regular players whose name I'm not going to drop without his permission. Plus, it's a funny nickname) would change things up by offering to run something to help me recharge my GM batteries. I have mentioned this to him at least once, but Fishgod is the kind of GM I want to be when I grow up.

More recently, my confidence in my ability to design settings has been restored as I built a setting for a pulp fantasy game. It started as an experiment to try out the D6 System, but my play group decided that the system was not working out well for us. We wound up converting the game over to the Cartoon Action Hour rules and we had much more fun that way.

Now I'm on my second attempt at running a game that I've designed and it's going much better than the last time. Probably because it's a much stronger idea than the previous one. A system tailored to a specific setting and set of ideas. Fishgod has even offered to run a session of it himself to see how it stands up to a devious mind like his.


librarian said...

are you still in Culver City?

Oz RPG said...

No, that was many years ago. Although I've tried to escape a number of times, I currently live way up in the northern end of California. Almost to the Oregon border. I do have family around that area, though.

librarian said...

Gotcha. My dad used to live in Hornbrook, right around the corner from Yreka (as those things go up there...). Now he moved to Ashland. I lived in Culver City in 1995, and then moved down to the Torrance area to start my game store down there.

Oz RPG said...

My time in the LA area was late '98-early '99. My game store of choice was The Last Grenadier in Burbank.

Right now I'm living in Eureka, a but farther north that Yreka.

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