Friday, February 10, 2012

Role-Playing Games

I indicated in my last post that I got into role-playing games (RPGs) in college.  Actually, I encountered game manuals much, much earlier in life.  But I didn't really have a gaming group, or understand how to read them, until the summer before I started college.

Living in Base housing, we had neighbors moving in or out all the time.  Somewhere when I was between 10 and about 14, a next door neighbor held a garage sale.  In among the items they were selling, was a Star Trek role-playing game.  I bought it, read it.  Didn't understand a whole lot about the terminology.  What were these d100s, anyway?

As I got into writing the first time around, in high school, I did try using the books to create a planet, or a character.  But I didn't have a group, or dice, or much of an understanding about character creation at the time.

The summer after I graduated from high school, the sophomore who had "adopted" me had a cousin in town.  The three of us met at her house, where he had some sort of mech-wars RPG set up.  I don't recall whether we created characters, or he gave us pre-generated ones.  But he knew about the polyhedral dice, and what those strange d6, d8, d100 designations meant.

Sometime after that, I stopped by a local bookstore.  They had dice, so I bought my first set.  I kept them in their box, and didn't use them the rest of the summer.  But when I got to campus, and met up with this guy, we started looking at activities on campus to get involved with.  He had played some D&D with his brothers and cousins, but not a lot more than that.  But we saw an ad for the Purdue Fantasy Club, and we checked it out.

At that time, they held Newbie Games on Friday nights, and the regular club meetings on Saturday nights.  The first night, there were three tables of adventures, each with about 8-10 gamers, a GM, and one or two assistants to help us with the rules and the system.  From the second week until about Halloween, we only had two tables.

The Saturday closest to Halloween, the club held a Live Action game, after which the newbies graduated to the Saturday night group.  We had another commitment that night, I'll talk about that next week.

The six years we were involved with the club, Saturday nights were highly variable.  I always remember at least two adventures, and sometimes as many as five.  This meant we could have anywhere from 15 to 50 people show up to play on a given night.  A number of regulars lived in town, so the club met year-round.  If the campus buildings were closed, they'd usually game at Dan's house.

The club has been around since about 1976, and brought in all sorts of people.  There had been many female gamers before I ever got there, and there was usually at least one other woman gamer in my party.  Sometimes two, three, or more.

I had a lot of fun with gaming.  Eventually we branched out to try other systems.  Sometimes with friends we'd met through gaming, other times with other gaming clubs on campus.  Shadowrun.  The original D&D kobold cave.  Two GURPS Wheel of Time campaigns.  RoleMaster.  I didn't have time for Ars Magica, but my husband played it.

One of the things I liked about gaming was that, in a world of imagination and magic, we could be challenged to problem-solve, think about what the right thing to do in a situation would be.  There was a group among the regulars who liked power-gaming, and sometimes would mess things up for the rest of the party.  Ruin and adventure for personal game.  I never really liked playing that way.  For me, gaming was usually about party cooperation.  I have yet to play a villain well, it's not in my nature.  And that may be why I haven't GMed.

As I am getting back into writing this year, I'm realizing that, right now, I do best with micro-stories.  What Julia Cameron would call "cups."  Individual scenes that affect character development.  Right now, I'm not very good at long-running plot arcs, or complicated interweaving tactics.  But I can work on those skills as I keep practicing my writing.