Just to avoid any confusion, this is the part of my gaming voyage when a group of friends sat around a table with dice, hex paper and assorted markers & counters. This is not about video game RPG’s, which will always be inferior to the “real thing” (controversial!).
Having been interested in card and board games for most of my life, I was confused when my gaming magazines started publishing RPG related articles. These normally involved lots of stats tables and obscure references to “classes” and “spells”.
I had to understand what this was all about. So, in one of the first Games Workshop stores in London, I splashed out on “Basic Dungeons & Dragons”. I could instantly see the attraction in this sort of game. However, how was I going to find like-minded folk to play with me. I was already in my mid-30s.
I invited a few work mates, who might be interested, to a lunchtime gaming session. I used a scenario from a games magazine which recreated the Fellowship of the Ring’s passage through Moria, climaxing with the appearance of the Balrog. I cut out the passageways and chambers from graph paper so they wouldn’t have to draw anything. I gave them pre-rolled characters representing the Fellowship so we could start playing quickly. I used printed character tokens (no die-cast models then) to give them a feeling of who they were. It went down a storm. It was my first attempt at being a “Dungeon Master” but I remember the real panic amongst the players when I started to describe the pounding drums announcing the arrival of the Balrog. They were hooked :)
So was formed possibly the oldest group of D&Ders in the UK! I was in my mid-30s. The youngest was in his late 20s and we had a couple of guys in their 40s, one of whom had a son in his teens who should have been the one playing. He just thought his dad was bonkers :)
We went on to play the dungeon-style scenario that came with BD&D but I saw the opportunities for storytelling beyond dungeon-crawls and started writing my own scenarios for the group. However , these took time and most of the commercial scenarios were for BD&D’s successor. We had to upgrade!
We bought the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons manuals and entered a more complex world. However, we never let complexity get in the way of playing through a story and having fun. Because we were all “adults” , grinding through a load of scenarios to be a Level 40 Mage held no appeal. I’m not sure anyone ever had a character in double figures. Instead, this was a group of extremely intelligent and inventive people who would choose to do the most unexpected things. It certainly kept me on my toes as the Games Master.
We played for years but life went on and we went our own ways. However, a couple of us found ourselves working together again and started another, equally aged, group going. This was a period of my life I look back on with great affection
I dabbled with other games. Rune Quest was the main competitor to D&D but the game that interested me was Tunnels and Trolls. Since I was my group’s Games Master, I never actually got to play the game, if you see what I mean. T&T had the advantage of having many solo adventures written for it. Ok, that’s not comparable to a real game but it sufficed.
The only other game I really tried was Call of Cthulu. I’d read the H.P. Lovecraft stories many years before and I could see how they could be brought together in an RPG system. Games Workshop ran a competition. I can’t remember the exact nature of it but they gave a premise on which you had to make a scenario. I wrote a CoC scenario based in Scotland involving the rumours around the local Laird and his family, a salt water loch and the things that were said to crawl from it. I tied it in to real Scottish folklore. It was very dark and very ‘adult’ (not in a pornographic sense!). I didn’t win and seeing the traditional dungeon crawl that did, I realised I was getting a bit too old for this RPG world ....