Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Roll Your Own Life (3) - A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away...

I started with Traveller - around at JR's, someone I knew from school who was in a different House, invited by our mutual friend, Crud. You'll have to forgive the nicknames - they weren't great, they weren't always flattering, but it's how we knew each other. Hell, there were four in the group with the same first name, we needed nicknames just to keep things straight!

I don't remember how old I was, but it was before I moved house because to me, the trek to JR's may as well have been to Mordor. It was the other end of the sleepy little seaside town, right to the very edges of civilisation. It's only about 10 minutes walk really, but to my childlike, Hobbit-legs it seemed like forever. 

I can remember it must have been before I moved as I have a distinct memory of trying to create a new RPG based on TRON the moment I saw it at the cinema - so I must have started gaming around 1981-ish. (My first attempt at creating my own RPG, the TRON RPG started with the thing that I equated was most necessary to run a game - a map. I started designing the game grid on graph paper... and that's about as far as I got.)

There was a second Traveller session, where I created a character that I have no memory of - I don't really remember any of my Traveller characters, they all seem to be ex-Navy in their 50's who died the first time someone pulled a gun. However, after the second Traveller game I was invited to the new group's other game, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.

Some of The Eight, circa mid 90's at one of our many reunions.
I have to admit, this was all new to me, and most of these people were unknown to me except in passing at school, but there were three active RPG groups in the town that we knew of. I was blissfully unaware of the third group until I started chatting with my fellow gamers this week to refresh my memory for these posts. Anyway, there were three groups - one was the group I'd joined, and you'll have to forgive me if I get this wrong - (JR, Pete, Jinx (who didn't hang around long after I'd joined) and Crud), another was running on the other side of town (Milo, John, Campbell, Norm, Gladys), while a third had splintered off from the first group - they quickly discovered things like home-brew and girls and stuff, while we remained (mostly) dedicated to the gaming cause. While the two main gaming groups were geographically disparate, there was some interchangeability between the members as some of us (Bragi will agree with me on this) discovered we needed more gaming than one group could provide. Why just go to one game a couple of times a week when you could be in two groups and game up to five nights a week? Awesome.

Anyway, I digress...

Pete ran AD&D at his place on the kitchen table with the largest, most epic DM's screen you'll ever see. It was 3ft tall, and possibly 4ft wide with a single fold in the middle. Made out of something like chip-board or kevlar or something, it was the biggest and most over-the-top screen I've ever seen in all my years of gaming. I think there were charts and tables and stuff taped to the inside but no one ever saw around it. It was the screen of doom. 

It towered over the table casting its shadow like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, driving us poor gamers into a killing frenzy. All orcs must be destroyed.

It appeared that Crud had come up with an epic mission, to actually see the map that Pete was using to DM, and began chiselling away at the side of the screen with the metal nib of a propelling pencil. By the time I'd started playing with the group, the successful hole had been filled with what must have been an entire tube of Araldite epoxy resin that had solidified into a strangely organic sculpture that Giger would have been proud of.

Pete's voice boomed from behind the screen and I remained fascinated as strange 10' measurements were translated by Jinx carefully onto squared paper and the map of the dungeon was unveiled before us.

AD&D was completely unlike Traveller to me. I hadn't really read much fantasy as a kid, but I'd been given an existing character - Ivanhoe. He was a 9th level Paladin, complete with armour and +5 holy avenger. He'd been in the group for years, levelled up from a starting character, and had been passed from one player to the next when they'd become bored with the prospect of being a goody-goody. To me he was the ideal character. It would shape my gaming for years to come, and despite some dabbling with rather rubbish barbarians (thanks to Unearthed Arcana) or inept thieves, I always returned to playing Paladins. In fact, I kinda played paladins in other games as well... Star Frontiers? Paladin. Runequest? Paladin. 

Of course, this would finally change with one of the most memorable games of our gaming history - Odyssey. But we'll come onto that later.

[With thanks to Milo for the photo]


RPGbericht said...

I'm having trouble visualising this epic GM screen you mention. I don't suppose you'd have a photograph of it somewhere?

David F. Chapman said...

I don't have a photo of it, but I've sent a request out to the rest of "The Eight" to see if any of them have a pic I can share to illustrate its epic size. Stay tuned, I'm hoping one of them will be able to help...

RPGbericht said...

I'll stay tuned! It's a lot of fun to read your trip down memory lane. I started playing RPGs in the early 90s so I never experienced the true old school days myself though we were still pre-internet.