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?