Lazy Luddite Log

29.11.19

Gaming Anecdotes

I have written much on the topic of my most recent and longest role-play game. But tonight I will be describing a number of other disparate role-playing experiences and I will start at the very beginning...

Maze Games

I refer here to the Fighting Fantasy brand of solo adventure gamebooks. The first I ever got was The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain in late primary school (via one of those 'book club' order forms school encouraged our parents to patronize) and it served as a sort of appetizer for true role-playing. Character was only a by-product of ones imagination as one read ones chosen adventure outcomes but it did generate that sense of immersion that role-playing is renowned for. I remember that spending too long in bed reading that dungeon crawl would give me a mild sense of claustrophobia. Such power was enticing.

Fighting Fantasy also prompted me to make my own 'maze games'. I would draw a basic map of some setting filled with rival combatants and develop a very basic dice-rolling game mechanic for them similar to that in Fighting Fantasy. Recently Lukas and I came across one we had co-designed called Labyrinth. I cannot tell exactly how it is all supposed to work and may need to reconstruct its basic rules.

You Appear On A Road

It was in intermediate secondary school that I first encountered Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. I had seen the rule books in a Dandenong department store and been intrigued but school provided me with my chance to play. An entry in the Daily News sheet announced a D&D game was starting at lunchtimes in a particular classroom. I went along with a few friends to discover that two senior students were in charge (with the imprimatur of a teacher) and would be running some games for us. We were walked through the rolling up of characters and I have always found this activity alone to be fun. Following that we were thrown into an adventure together. I think the first was the classic module The Village Of Hommlet.

Our Dungeon Master (DM) was a harsh one and we all too easily would die. But that was okay - we could always devise a new character and jump right back into the action. The DM was hardly the biggest fan of back-story - he would introduce a new player-character into the game simply by saying 'you appear on a road'. It was as if he was drawing attention to the virtual and ephemeral nature of our characters. It was hardly the most nurturing GMing but that just drove us to keep at it and soon a few of my friends (Steve and Guy) were running our own games at homes on weekends. And we made sure to give our characters back-story.

Anarchy

One day at school an emergency teacher never showed to our class. We had an entire period with nothing to do. Everyone just sort of sat in groups and did whatever. In my case a few friends turned to me and told me to somehow just run a role-play game. I declared we needed dice and somebody made some six-sided ones from eraser. I then started to describe for them a scenario in which they were themselves in school wasting time. It was more 'situation playing' than 'role-playing' with the game starting identically both in and out of story. The ensuing adventure involved a neutron bomb exploding over Melbourne and throwing the less effected outer suburbs into 'anarchy'. Ridiculous scenes included attacking a school librarian with a stapler, looting an Aussie Disposals for guns, and car-jacking an open-topped purple Volkswagen Beetle decorated with pink flames. Yes games can promote violence and crime but only within the game itself. Fun times.

Till All Are One

I got into both role-playing and Transformers as an adolescent so it is hardly surprising that I designed a role-play game inspired by that toy and cartoon franchise. It drew on its third season for setting and the toy packaging 'tech-specs' for character game mechanics. I cannot recall the content of any sessions I ran for friends but still have the hand-written notes - here is an illustration from its folder. I'm thinking of incorporating original aspects of that content into my concept of the Titans Of Titan fiction within a fiction.

In A Flashback You Cannot Die

Into our uni days I continued playing AD&D with Guy and Steve. We also played with Sean and between the four of us we took turns GMing over a few years. The Spelljammer box of rules (involving fantasy space ships) allowed us to shift the game between the campaign settings each of us preferred running games in. We were pretty much power-gamers back then and indulged in such excesses as hunting and killing inter-planar immortals. However we could also share the odd joke. For instance I once had a non-player character merchant justify his prices by saying they were determined by 'supply and demand'. Next thing I knew the characters played by Guy and Sean returned to the shop in disguise and declared that they were the personifications of Supply and Demand and that prices must fall.

Sean went overseas for several weeks and we wondered what to do with our continuing campaign. I offered to run one origin adventure each for the characters of Guy and Steve. Steve then declared gleefully that 'in a flashback you cannot die'. This made me decide to surprise him. In his origin game he played a rookie assassin given the job of finding and eliminating a maverick assassin new in town. This enemy of the guild of assassins possessed a magical dagger which allowed him to assume the form and conscious memory of anyone he slew with it. Steve discovered that his beloved character had been an imposter all along and had killed his namesake ages ago (while also losing the dire dagger). The look on his face! The guffaws that emerged from Guy! It is to date one of my best plot-twists as a GM.

Capricon to Unicon

I role-played on campus as well as off. At Monash I sampled games as diverse as Call Of Cthulhu, Paranoia and Champions thanks to the Monash Uni Role-Players (MURP). I mostly stuck to short games held at 'infernals' (internal tournaments) or conventions but the only such events I went to were those that MURP was involved in running - namely Capricon and then Unicon. I co-ran a more advanced form of Anarchy with Damian at one such con - it involved a group of stoned peace activists creeping into Pine Gap to discover that it was in fact a secret missile silo. At other times I played Kryten in a Red Dwarf game and Orko in a Masters Of The Universe game. I got an award for playing Horse in Monkey Magic - I managed to convince the GM that if I could be arse-slapped forward into my human form then I could also be arse-slapped back into my older dragon form and this helped us in our final fight. What silly fun that was.

Never Enacted Concepts

I have mostly stuck to running fantasy games in a variation of D&D. But sometimes I imagine other settings and scenarios that would be interesting. One is an urban fantasy tinged with horror drawing on Gnosticism for its secret reality and Jim Steinman songs for its retro-modern setting. Another is a science fiction game inspired by obscure TV show The Starlost in which a many-segmented inter-generational ship has forgotten its mission and each huge segment has regressed into a distinct and isolated culture. It is more likely however that my next game (short or long) will involve returning to The Lands - after all I have invested much into that fantasy setting.

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