July 10, 2002
Me & Gaming Throughout the Years

This ramble is inspired by Scott, who's blog I stumbled upon last night and stayed at (and couldn't resist commenting) because of his ranting about Notes (hey, after 8 years of working with the product I *had* to say *something* right??).

So after Ginger and I stumbled over to his blog, Scott discussed his history of gaming.

And since I haven't done that yet in my blog, I thought hey, that sounds like fun. *smiles*

I started gaming when I was a kid, really. I've always made up stories, and always played my own version of let's pretend. I am an only child, so for a long time, the best companions I had were the ones in my own mind. I would practice viewing the world in different ways, and writing mini-stories, by taking on a personality for the day. I would create an entire persona, and I would then walk through the day looking at the world through her eyes. It was fun, and creative, and in retrospective, my very first attempts at playing a role.

I discovered a more formalized gaming when I was 12, in 1980 or so. I was already reading science fiction and fantasy. Someone at school tried to start a AD&D game -- I made a character then we never played. When I told my parents about it, my dad gave me his copy of the original D&D pamphlets. I read them over and over... and then incorporated them into my own version of gaming.

My best friend and I were into computer adventure games. Y'know, the one with the map and two word commands ("Go N" or "Get Book"). We'd lay out our own maps and puzzles, and I started using monsters and ideas from the D&D stuff my dad gave me to populate my games. Basically, one of us would be the computer game, and the other would play. We didn't know it, but yes, we had created our own dungeon crawls.

The best part was, if we wrote our notes in these little notebooks we always had on us, we could continue the game at any point, mark off the save place, and then pick up again later. We did this a lot -- making up new games during boring points in classes, and trying them out at lunchtime.

Since Julie and I only really had each other to game with at that point, things dropped off. I heard about a gaming group that met at our library, but when I heard it was all boys, I wimped out and didn't go. [Yes, anyone who knows me now may LAUGH considering the demographic of my friends, but then I was *shy*.] Julie went, for one session if I'm remembering correctly, and met our friend Glen, who would later become important in both our lives. [Damn I wonder where he is now and what he is doing... wouldn't it be amazing if he somehow bumped into this online and said hi?]

We really got into formalized gaming again when we were 15. Friends were starting up a game, and so we joined that. It was me, Julie and Sheila, and then there were John, Tommy, and Glen (yes, same Glen). This was my first REAL introduction to AD&D. The group grew and shifted over the years as I met more people who gamed, and we went in different directions. I realized that I didn't like AD&D as much as I liked Champions -- something about getting into character in an alien vs a familiar setting. And Champions, being modern world, was familiar.

When I got to college, I wanted to find people with similar interests. I hadn't really been thinking about gaming -- I'd actually been looking for people who READ the same stuff -- but I ended up at the games club at Union College anyway. Met one boyfriend, then another, then another (yes, total three throughout the years at Union). Met Dave through gaming. Eventually, when I went on to RPI, I met Kevin through gaming. Handy, that -- I don't think I can imagine being married to a non-gamer. *shudders*

While at Union I discovered GMing. And I discovered that when I GMed, I could twist the way the game worked. I could make it more roleplay and less puzzles. More talking and less dice. I started this with the Champions game I ran my junior year. I remember having long one on one conversations in which the other party never doubted that I was a sort of jock college junior guy.

I'd discovered I had a talent for it. For becoming someone else when GMing. And for drawing the other player into the fantasy as well.

I ran my first campaign starting in um, fall of 1988 or so, and I've run on and off ever since. I really LIKE running. But I also like playing. And I've found I don't run well if I'm not playing -- its like it gets my creative juices going. I need the energy.

I played in two AD&D campaigns while at Union, one of which became the basis in part for a world I designed for Amber (the dragons of Fires of Home). I played in a Superworld game which is one of the few games to have a scene which actually made me cry. That was when I discovered deep roleplaying -- falling into my character and just sinking into her until the lines blurred for those moments of speech and she took over my mouth, and my eyes. Oh man, it was wonderful. I remember that first blush of discovery of what roleplaying could be, what the potential was. For that reason, Cassie (The Artful Dodger, my Superworld character) has a special place in my heart. And I'd have to give kudos to Marc's GMing skills -- he really read me, and played me well, and I loved it.

I ran Champions again briefly at RPI, but the players were different. Its hard to play Champions with a bunch of engineers!! *grumble* *laughs* Then again, they taught me to min-max. *grins* I ran White Wolf, as soon as the first Vampire book came out. That game seemed to run forever, with a wonderful cast of characters and a well developed world that bears little resemblance sometimes to the published White Wolf version of the world.

By the time that game ended, I had completely removed the dice from it. By then, my friends had discovered Amber, and I had been brought into the second campaign (that would be playing the infamous Jenny). And we did well without dice. Me? I developed an addiction, both to Amber and to diceless gaming. But that should be another blog entry entirely, I think.

We played Amber and more Amber and more Amber. Then there was Shadowrun -- which I determined I didn't like, and therefore wouldn't play. Some more Champions (never let the GM put all your points into one weakness -- I think Harmony ran into the possibility of drowning at least once a scenario! *laughs*).

Then I ran my wonderful diceless fantasy game -- Artifacts of Winter. This used a world I'd created back in 1988, and am still using today for the sequel game run over PBEM -- Between the Lines. AoW practically ran itself. Up until I got pregnant, everyone moved away, and then Dani was born. *sighs* So we finished it up, and I took a little break.

Then I was back with Amber again. A game which has come and gone. Now I run primarily at cons -- I haven't the time to do the proper world building for the AD&D game I want to run so I can try out the new D20 system.

Full circle, huh?

I've learned a lot about my own style over the years. I like character oriented roleplay. I like puzzles, to a point. I don't like futility plots (hate them, really). I don't like pure hack & slash. I despise dungeon crawls. Mostly I like it best when the plot takes on a life of its own simply because of the characters (PCs and NPCs) involved.

I do play board games, and card games, as well, which is especially good since so does my husband. *smile* I'm always looking for new and interesting ideas. And ways I can still game with a family -- its hard with the kids! Its not just finding the time to game, but the time to *prepare* for the game at a time when I'm coherent (like oh, not midnight! *laughs*).

So here I am, 34, and refusing to give up the hobby. I'm already trying to figure out how to run light games so I can teach my kids how to roleplay. Dani knows what it is, and talks about it, but hasn't shown an interest yet. But then, she's only four. But at least she's learning a lot about the difference between fantasy and reality!!

Back on the age thing -- I don't see a reason why I *should* give up the hobby. Its creative. Its cheap. And its fun. Its certainly better than a lot of things I *could* be doing. And besides, I enjoy it, and it relaxes me a lot. Which is all a very very good thing!

Posted by Deb Atwood at July 10, 2002 10:32 PM

If you have to give up gaming when you're 34, I'm doomed. I don't seem to show any signs of it, though.

Posted by: Ginger on July 11, 2002 07:42 AM

They would have dragged me away in chains at 34 if it was illegal to be gaming. :)

Normally I write in a more elegant style than I did yesterday -- when I'm at work, things get really clipped. One of these days I'll give a true history of me as a gamer -- from D&D and Greyhawk to the Masks of Nyarlothotep; from cheesy villains in V&V (Champions is one of the =few= games I've never played, much to my chagrin) and Superhero: 2044 (an old chestnut if ever there was one), to Storm Knights in TORG, I've done a lot.

It's odd how we've returned to 3rd Edition, too. I discovered last year that it's =fun=. Sure, it has its problems, but I find I really enjoy it. I perused Amber some time back as our friend Gareth has a copy, but we never tried it out. We also have Aria, which conceptually sounded stunning, but we only have one of the two books needed. You need a PhD in anthropology to play this one.

Runequest and TORG are my two great loves, though, for gaming. Nothing beats Glorantha for a game world with the possible exception of Tekumel/Petal Throne, and TORG with its reality/genre-blending cannot be topped.

Ahh, good games. I totally grok the bit on losing one's self in a character.

Posted by: Scott on July 11, 2002 07:54 AM

It's cheap?!? Cheap?! Somebody tell Scott that! ;p

I'm not sure how old your kids are, but you might try ElfQuest with them. Scott and I plan to start ours (when we have them) on that one.

Posted by: Kim on July 11, 2002 10:47 AM
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