There’s a lovely initiative during August (the month of GenCon, the big tabletop games convention in the US) to write about an RPG each day, according to a schedule of prompts. My schedule being what it is, I’ve not managed to get a start until day three, so I’m gonna play catch up. If you want to join in, check out the original #RPGaDAY intro from its instigator, David F. Chapman.
#RPGaDAY 1: First RPG Played
Without spoiling day two, I didn’t get to actually play an RPG until I got to university, where I’m pretty sure my first proper RPG experience was a game of Vampire: The Dark Ages, using the Mind’s Eye Theatre LARP rules. I wasn’t familiar with Vampire but my friends talked me through it. I was playing, suitably, a very young, newly Embraced (i.e. recently transformed) vampire, and I remember being offered shelter by a character who gave a few of us communion blood. I drank it, not knowing any better. I think I played a vampire of the Brujah clan, but since I only played the one session and was still learning the ropes that didn’t really matter. I recall it was exciting and new and it felt just like the World of Darkness books described it: a game of personal horror. I was a vampire and on a sort of adventure, but I was still cursed and lost and afraid in the night. It was great.
#RPGaDAY 2: First RPG Gamemastered
I started out as a GM, mainly because when I discovered roleplaying games in early high school, I didn’t know anyone else who was into them – or so I thought. I somehow found Dungeoneer!, aka Advanced Fighting Fantasy, an extension of the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. Fighting Fantasy books, like The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, are like a cross between an RPG and a choose-you-own-adventure book and were hugely popular, but as far as I can remember I never owned any of them. And that was a bit weird – Advanced Fighting Fantasy more or less assumes you’ve played them, and builds on your knowledge of how they work. It’s pretty simple as RPGs go, but even after reading through it around twenty times and still wasn’t sure I understood how it worked. I managed to persuade my brother and a couple of his friends to play, but I don’t think their hearts were really in it and we didn’t get very far.
As I mentioned above, though, I only thought I didn’t know anyone else in RPGs. It turned out another high school friend owned a couple of very different games: the fourth edition of Champions, the Hero System superhero game from I.C.E., and the third edition box set of Paranoia, both of which ended up in my hands (and are still part of my collection). I loved both of these games, but it was Paranoia we eventually played, in a session that devolved rapidly into the players accusing each other of treason and mutation, and eventually throwing the dice at each other. (We were convinced the d20 left an upside down “18” on someone’s forehead, and tried to take a photo as evidence, but viewing it now – we’ve reconnected nearly twenty years later over Facebook – the evidence is disappointingly unclear.) It wasn’t a full campaign, arguably we barely got through a whole session, but it was so much fun! I never played with those guys again, but I knew roleplaying was gonna be one of my things.
#RPGaDAY 3: First RPG Purchased
I’m going to assume I didn’t buy Dungeoneer! for myself, and as explained above I kind of inherited/stole Champions and Paranoia. I played a lot of World of Darkness stuff at uni, and the student university library had a pretty great collection of all the second edition stuff, but then the revised editions started to come out in 1998 and it seemed like a good time to start an RPG library of my own. So I suspect – though I can’t be sure – that the first RPG I purchased was Vampire: the Masquerade Revised. There were lots of other games I was playing or buying to read (I have always read way more games than I’ve had a chance to play) around that time, but I think that was first.