Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Role Call

Pen and paper role-playing games have been a formative part of my design brain. In high school (or was it Jr. High?) I made my own RPG called Half-Breed, which could be embarrassingly described as a game about furries, where users could mix any two animal types into humanoid body and playing your own bestial superhero. It was fun, though a blatant rip-off of the Marvel game system (with the fantastic ranking names and all).

Some of my fondest days were spent playing MERP (Middle-Earth Role-Playing) for hours on end, and my best friend Joe was an amazing referee, spinning awesome tales of high adventure that had us meeting Balrogs and Dragons without it ever seeming cheesy or out of place. We ran for our lives and weaved stories unique to our group, that I'm sure all of us could recall in some capacity to this day.

It was also a way to store memories. Joe and I cataloged ~250 superheroes of our own invention using the DC Heroes system for posterity before I went off to college.

And I would just collect source books and read them just because I was so intrigued by the worlds designers made and the rules that made any game possible within them. This was especially true of Shadowrun, a game I bought most sourcebooks for, but never played.

Nowadays it's D&D, just because it seems the most convenient, and I don't have as much time. But for the past year or so, I've been playing the game with friends from the games industry, generating new stories and memories together. There really is something magical about the fact that the game is social, purely a product of your imagination, rulesy enough for an obsessive compulsive to enjoy purely as a game, and utterly unique to whoever you game with.

Does anyone else reading this do the RPG?


  1. I have before, but I have never had (or been allowed, or after I moved out of my parents house, allowed for myself) as much time to play as my friends have had, so the few times I have played I haven't gotten far. D&D is the only one I've played (starting with AD&D and through the editions to 4th).

    I bought the three rulebooks for Epic Role Playing (http://epicrpg.com/) and I would love to try it someday, but as with you and Shadowrun I've never played a game. I think its character creation process is fascinating, though, with a method for generating the character's backstory and with character professions tightly integrated into the world; it seems like it would be fun for a play group to roll random character backgrounds and try to play them to fit.

    It's kind of embarrassing but I've never really been a DM. I tried to create a campaign once a long time ago, but I just got lost in trying to come up with an elaborate storyline and world, and nothing was ever ready for people to actually play. As someone who is designing games this seems like sort of a stigma, but there it is.

  2. Yeah, I've done me a lot of the RPG. In my high school years we played a ton of Call of Cthulhu, Stormbringer, Paranoia, even some TMNT. I ran a vampire campaign through e-mail and message boards for about 10 years post high school.

    Like you, I bought tons of sourcebooks for games I never played, because I loved reading the rule systems and seeing the world creation ideas. (I also ended up with a lot of unused Shadowrun books).

    I self-published a game mainly just to prove I could design a game, and I'm pretty happy with it.

    My friends from high school and I got together this past summer to celebrate our 40th birthdays, and it was funny how many of our fond memories revolved around our gaming adventures and escapades.

  3. I always had the maddest crush of mechs. In junior high I remember making up a role playing system based on Battletech. It was totally broken at first but I remember working out the bugs with friends in a spiral notebook.

    Through high school and college I gamed about at least twice a month. I got into it when the D&D 3.0 first came out and I did little experimentation with other systems. We each picked a setting both which we'd GM from in our rotation of who'd be running it. Mine was oriental adventures though I converted it out of other source books. I still think my favorite is Forgotten Realms because of its shear size and amount of detail.

  4. As kids, my cousins and I used to check out the various RPG system bestiary books from the library and just read through them, making up and drawing our own creatures. Then at 13, my sister, myself and two other friends tried out an RPG set in space. We didn't get very far, but we always wanted to try again.

    Now years later, we are, but with a slightly different crew. My sister's husband grew up outside of the US where D&D wasn't known, and he got familiarized with it through the "Knights of the Dinner Table" comics. I got him a D&D starter kit for Christmas, and at first reluctant to try it, he's now hardcore into the Pathfinder (Paizo) system. My mom, who was just introduced to this genre via Dragon Age, wanted to join in to! So for the past two months now we've got a steady weekly game going with my family. Now we're adding another session to start a new story with my RPG buddy from years ago. It's great! It's something I've always wanted to try again, and I'm so glad we did! It's surreal and fantastic that my mom wanted to play too, and we're having a blast with it. Her character kicks everyone's ass actually. It's a fantastic way to spend an evening, just having an adventure with friends.

    At SDCC this year I almost spent as much money on custom dice sets for everyone as I did on comics.

  5. Wow! Some insanely cool people visit my blog, apparently. These stories are awesome, and totally get my fires going for more pen-and-paper gaming. Thanks.

    @Elias: I've rarely DM'd, and that's part of the reason I asked about RPGs, since I was going to express my nervousness in beginning a session next week.

    @n8: yeah, I often think a fun way to retire would be to collect friends in one place and just play RPGs. They're that memorable to me.

    @Megalaros: I had friends that were way into BattleTech! I've never been a huge fan of the inorganic stuff (Car Wars, too) but the various gear-based upgrading always piqued the interest of my OCD.

    @Gonz: Your mom plays! That f'in rules. Awesome story; those sessions would be fun to watch, methinks.