“But then I hearkened back to the origin of all our religions, of all our faiths, and I gave unto him the answer, the answer that has sustained all religions can also sustain us. Why bother? Just ’cause!”
– Worshippers ‘R’ Us by The Frantics
Like most gamers I know, I was first introduced to role-playing games in high school. At the time, I would love to talk about my favorite TV show at the time, which was Robotech, and everyone who’d heard of it asked if I played it. I was confused by such a question. How does one play a TV show? Eventually someone explained there was a game based on the series and novels and that it was very entertaining. Well, why not? I thought. I’d loved games since I was a kid and would likely always love them, and this one was based on Robotech!
My first role-playing experience, however, wasn’t with the Robotech RPG (Palladium Books). Instead, a friend of mine introduced me to Gamma World which he explained was a game similar to Robotech. Eventually I figured out that it was only like Robotech in that it was also an RPG. The experience was entertaining though. My first character was a mutant with regeneration powers and no memory that wandered the wastelands wondering what the hell had happened. Overall the game was fun, in a juvenile sort of way.
It wasn’t long before the writer/control freak in me was unleashed and I wanted to run my own game. As it was, the only other GM I knew used a highly customized more-house-rules-than-official game that was more or less run freestyle. Since this was my only experience, it’s how I thought all games were run. I hadn’t even seen a real sourcebook for games like these and assumed such things were just setting information. Silly me. So while I had no sourcebooks, I had no trouble inventing my own setting: Korgan’s Tower.
Korgan’s Tower was a hack & slash the monsters in the labyrinth game based heavily on the arcade game Gauntlet (Atari Games). I invented stats and rules for determining hits, damage and levels and all sorts of things (all relating to killing things). My friends, munchkins all of them, loved my game intensely despite how bad as it was. Though I clearly didn’t know any better, I do have to admit it was a blast. The best part of it was seeing the excitement in my player’s faces as they experienced something of my own creation. I supposed that’s what ultimately hooked me into these games for all eternity, and why I ultimately seem to play the role of Game Master. I absolutely love that look of excitement on a player’s face.
Eventually, all good things must come to an end, and Korgan’s Tower was no exception. I eventually ran out of ideas and loathed the thought of my players getting bored killing the same monsters again and again while wandering lost through a giant maze (if we really wanted to do that endlessly, I suppose we’d just have played Gauntlet). So I got a job, scrounged up some money and headed out to find someplace where they sell all those sourcebooks I kept hearing about.
Okay, so there’s really these stores that sell that kind of stuff? And they are pretty much “game stores?” Like, their shelves are filled with gaming material with a mere tiny fraction of the remaining space (only 85% or so) taken up by comic books? (Wait… comic books? I thought I had to order a subscription to get those, kinda like magazines… what rock have I been under?) So I check out the sourcebooks and find they’ve got everything. They got grey books about dungeons, brown books about deserts, green books about equipment, silver books about space ships and blue books about strange tentacled things that live in the sewers. What was I to buy? Then I saw it… tucked away off to the side, hidden behind a copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness, was a copy of Robotech II: The Sentinels. I hesitated a moment because I still had in my other hand Ninja Turtles, and you just can’t beat Ninja Turtles… unless you’ve got MECHA!
It’s been around 20 years since then and I’m still playing these games. I could say I’ve played them all, but no one can really. There are just too many, and more being created every year. I’ve played a fair share though, enough I can’t remember the names of them all. I continue to GM more often than I play but, I love doing both. I’ve attended several game conventions and have even worked as staff at a few.
Occasionally I have stopped and wondered. is it all worth it? All the frustration, the sore thumbs from writing, broken leads in my mechanical pencil, the dog-eared and faded notes, the endless hours of the night poring over rulebooks preparing for the next game. Have I wasted half my life on a mere game of juvenile fantasy? No. I must say I have not. Rather I have invested my life, but not in the games themselves. All that time, money, work and frustration have been invested in time spent with friends. Once a week (or more), I gather with a group of people to roll some dice, solve a mystery, defeat the villain and save the day. These people are my dearest friends. Role-playing games, though compelling, passionate and exciting, are just games. Like any game, like any group hobby really, the point is to share a part of yourself with others while they share a part of themselves with you, and have fun doing so.
That alone is worth all the frustration in the world.
– Dust Raven