To steal an idea from Character Generation, here are the five RPGs that made me the colossal geek I am today…
I’ve no idea what edition it was, and I’ve barely played it since, but Cyberpunk was the first RPG I played. I got snowed in at a friends house one February night, and a Cyberpunk cops one shot was the only entertainment on offer.
I had no idea what I was doing. It made no sense. I tried to ‘make a cop’. This was acceptable. I bought a pair of bongo drums and was suddenly told ‘now you’re getting it’.
I wasn’t sure that I was.
I still have no idea what happened. I can presume that a law was broken, and we started shooting. I could handle shooting. I understood ‘kill him before he kills you’.
What I didn’t understand was that I couldn’t shoot through the solid concrete wall that I was using as cover. Before having at least two limbs blown off, I did manage to shoot through the wall, through a car door and through his armour. I did the smallest possible amount of damage the system allowed. It’s entirely possible the GM just fudged that to give the newbie a break.
Then I got detonated.
From that point I was hooked.
I didn’t quite understand what had just happened, but I did grasp the concept that this RPG thing allowed you to do literally anything you could imagine.
I played a few more games with this group – Call of Cthulhu, Paranoia – but the one that stuck was Ars Magica. Again, I totally didn’t get it. I may have only ‘gotten it’ sometime in the last two years (16 years and two editions later), but it fired me up some more.
Three different classes of characters under my control.
Mid fantasy setting.
Stuff I could learn about without buying the book (Latin, history, folklore, however this did turn out to be my ArM undoing. I worried too much about authenticity).
My first characters were based on Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin, a Merinita magus, Hobbes, Moorish were-tiger companion, and Spiff, a daring grog.
Yeah, I didn’t get it. There’s a theme running through this.
But I loved Ars Magica. I was enraged that the Tremere were a vampire clan in V:tM. I hated that the Order of Hermes was reduced to just one of nine Traditions in M:tAs.
Yet I’ve never successfully played it or run it. I always get bogged down in historical accuracy and my fear of the finer points of the rules.
I hope to change that.
Vampire: the Masquerade revised
It’s with V:tM rev that I became a GM. I hated the game I was playing, basically because the Storyteller was focussing entirely upon the story, at the expense of the rules and player expectations.
Rules were only ever used to tell us we couldn’t do something, not to tell us how we could do something. They were applied inconsistently and unfairly.
It really pissed me off.
So I bought the Revised Edition and a shed load of supplements and set out to show him how a game of Vampire should be run.
Not that I did a brilliant job. I did ok, for a novice Storyteller. I got better.
Song of Steel LARP club
Ok, not a table top RPG, a Live-Action one instead. I played the pilot game in February 1998 (i think it was then) and finally left in early 2003. In the five years I was there I spent three on the Plot team, writing and running adventures, two months as Club Secretary (I was shit, and quit) and a year as Head of the Rules Team. It was the rules position that broke me, and I was totally burned out after it.
Positives, though. I spent three years exploring various adventure ideas, and towards the end had a good idea of what I was good at, what worked and what didn’t, through trial and error. Which means I fucked up a lot, but learnt a little from each mistake. My major error was over reaching, and the best adventures I ran were simple, low resource ones.
World of Darkness Storytelling System
This is what I’m best at. When White Wolf rebooted, I completely ditched all of my old Storyteller games and fully embraced the new WoD.
Yes, I regret giving my 100+ books to charity, mostly because the shop that got them probably didn’t know what they had, because it was a rash decision, because there were some gems that I should have kept.
But I totally get nWoD. It’s second nature to me. I don’t have to think about the rules or the setting, I just kind of default to it. It frees me up to enjoy the game and what the players are doing.