Reverb Gamers: First Time

Reverb Gamers is a project set up by Atlas Games, giving gaming-specific writing prompts for bloggers. This, I reckon, is a great idea, so I'm going to give it a shot. I don't promise to deal with all the prompts, but I'll happily have a shot at many of them. There's a master list of prompts, and also a Facebook page, for further details.

Question #1: What was your first roleplaying experience? Who introduced you to it?
How did that introduction shape the gamer you've become?

Well, let's see. My cousin Brian handed me a copy of The Hobbit during the summer of 1987. I was nine years old. It was a tumultuous sort of year, that; we had moved house the previous summer, and my mother was very ill with cancer. Being a kid, most of this went over my head, but there was still plenty of reason to dive into a good book. I read The Hobbit in a couple of days, and brought it back to Brian to ask for more. He was able to manage that, and provided me with a battered copy of Lord of the Rings. He wasn't sure I'd be able to manage it, but reckoned that I could probably have a go.

I devoured it. I brought it back a week later, and he asked me questions about it, which I answered and expanded upon, and enthused about. After that, I had the notion of fantasy books, and stuck pretty steadily with them. Late that summer, I invented the notion of a role-playing game, more or less, for myself. My thinking was more LARP than anything tabletop, and I was a bit concerned that people let loose in the woods with bows and swords would injure each other. I discussed this with my parents, and between us, we decided that wooden or padded weapons would be better and safer. My plan to buy a plot of woodland and start running these games as a public service was sadly deemed less than practical.

The following year, after my mother's death, I discovered the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks in a second-hand bookshop in Enniscorthy. This was the late 80s, Ireland was in a massive recession, and there were second-hand bookshops, junk shops, and the like all over. Enniscorthy isn't a big town, and it certainly wasn't then, but it still had two decent second-hand bookshops, and three or four more that sold books alongside other stuff. I had, of course, read some of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, but hadn't reckoned they were up to much. The FF books, on the other hand, were written at a different level, and you could lose. That was important.

That summer, 1988, one of the bookshops - not a secondhand one, but still in Enniscorthy - had a book in familiar livery called The Riddling Reaver on its shelves. One copy. It didn't make a lot of sense to me, but I snagged it anyway, and read it in the car on the way home. It was a sequel to Fighting Fantasy - The Introductory Role-Playing Game, but, of course, I couldn't get my hands on that. It didn't matter. There was enough in there for me to get the idea, and my brothers were drafted that afternoon to play, and for most available afternoons and evenings thereafter for years. I would later acquire the basic book, and the Advanced Fighting Fantasy variant, and it would be some years - into the early 90s - before I got my hands on WHFRP and AD&D 2nd Edition, but FF provided everything I needed to start.

I suppose, thinking about it, that the FF books have influenced my gaming even now. I still prefer light systems, and I have a kitchen-sink tendency in my world-building which I have to work hard on restraining. Having to work out the basics from a supplement meant that I've never had much regard for the sanctity of rules. And I took the notion that the world came first, and the game second, pretty seriously, even at that time.

And of course, many of my villains have been insane.

Posted by Drew Shiel at January 9, 2012 1:18 PM

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