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Posts Tagged ‘Earthdawn’

#RPGaDay 13: Describe a game experience that changed how you play.

I’ve been role-playing for a very long time, and it’s hard to pinpoint a single particular experience that really changed how I played.  I’m sure my play style has changed many, many times over the decades through many many lessons.  A couple do come to mind with some thought.  In college, I learned that, by selecting players who generate their own content amongst one another through role-playing well-designed characters, I could offload a lot of the work of being a game master. Ever since the epic Earthdawn campaign, I’ve tried to be a little more selective about who I play with because of that.  Great role-players contribute so much more to the game. Sometimes being a serial GM can feel like a slog. You cand spend part-time job hours preparing for sessions.  I rarely had to do that with the Earthdawn folks.  I only had to give them a small seed and off they went.

A favorite memory from my early days of learning to DM was the time my players decided to teach me a lesson.  I couldn’t have been more than 10 or 11.  For whatever reason, we were playing at my house and we had some foam bricks laying around, leftovers from someone’s crafting project.  In those days, my adventures weren’t particularly elaborate.  They mostly involved me selecting monsters out of the Monster Manual and springing it on the unsuspecting players over and over again.

I had a tendency to over-use the word “suddenly.”  “Suddenly, a dragon strolls out of the woods!”  “Suddenly, you fall into a pit!” After an hour of this, the players had enough, and they declared that they would pelt me with foam bricks every time I said “suddenly.”  A couple hours of that, and they mostly broke me of the habit. To this day, I try to avoid using that word while gaming.

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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#RPGaDay 12 – Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

Rifts.  For me, it’s got to be the artwork for Rifts and its umpteen-million source books (which I seemed, at one point, to own every single one of.  Had to spend my hard earned fast food job money somehow, I guess.)

The first game system I discovered after D&D was Palladium’s ruleset, first in the form of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game.  This would have been around 1985 or so, and I discovered the floppy covered beauty of a main rule book tucked in the back corner of a B. Dalton Books.   This game was a thing before the turtles became major pop icons, and it was far better than it had any right to be.  I made probably hundreds of mutant characters on my own up in my room, filling reams of paper with character sheets generated from their mutant generation rules, which had a weird points buy system to evolve an animal from its natural form towards humans.  Buy hands, and you might not be able to grow bigger.   If I recall correctly, the interior art there was almost entirely original comics art, at least in the main rulebook.

Speaking of the Ninja Turtles, allow me a brief aside for what may have been the first moment in my life where I felt some sense of real public shame: after the release of the TMNT movie, I was obsessed with the theme song from the movie, and I would call our local Topeka radio station a couple of times a day begging them to play it.  One day, the disc jockey asked me to say some of the lines from the movie, which I gleefully recited in my best surfer dude turtle voice.  Little did I know he was recording our call, and while they did play the song, he also played my stupid little impressions.  Hearing them played back before the song was not worth it; I was embarassed as hell to hear myself coming out of the radio.  And that, ladies and gentleman, was the day I became an adult.

So, back to the artwork discussion.  By the time Palladium got around to publishing their batshit crazy Rifts game, the artwork for most of their books was primarily being done by Kevin Long. Now, I know the names of maybe two or three RPG artists, but I learned Kevin Long’s name in junior high because his art was so crucial to establishing the Rifts world. I’d argue that Rifts would not have succeeded or gone nearly anywhere without Long’s artwork.  Apparently, he left Palladium in 1995, and now works in video games, according to Wikipedia. Honestly, if anyone ever wanted to surprise me with a piece of original art that would be like gazing into a well full of concentrated nostalgia, the artist would have to be Long.

Honorable mention would have to go to the early editions of Shadowrun and Earthdawn, which heavily featured work by Jeff Laubenstein and Tim Bradstreet.  I think I once had the opportunity to buy some Bradstreet art but I was broke at the time.  One day…

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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#RPGaDay 7: What was your most impactful RPG session?

These kinds of questions irk me.   I’m just contrarian like that.  So I’m going to come at this one a bit orthogonally.

For anyone to truly understand why most RPG sessions mattered,  they had to be there.  Gaming stories retold are often pretty boring to the listener.  They don’t make good audience material.  Half the spark that makes them so important and valuable is that they happened to you, you were there, man.  We can’t ever recapture that easily for a third party.

That doesn’t mean sessions don’t impact us.  I have so many great memories. Personally, the sessions that I remember the most over time are the ones that made me laugh.  A good group of players can wind each other up with their inside jokes and their running gags to the point where an external observer would assume everyone was high as hell.  Some of my best memories of tabletop gaming involve me laying on the floor, laughing so hard that I was crying.  Literally falling out of your chair laughing is one of the best experiences one can have in life.

The “first, we get a big rock” gag that old Argyle the Scottish-styled highlands troll ran with in an epic Earthdawn campaign comes to mind.  This character was a gold mine of hilarious jokes, as he had the lowest possible intelligence score in the game and player Corey knew exactly how to play that up (with horrible Shrek style accent for extra laughs).  Then there was the time my players in a campaign of Savage Worlds realized that they had accidentally been responsible for the conquering and subjugation of the entire planet Earth.  I could describe dozens more sessions that really mattered to me, that gave me great joy and sometimes even sadness.  Every time a great new character landed on the table, or a favorite one died in a shining moment of glory; I remember them all.  The problem is, I could never convey to you their real importance to me.  You had to be there.

The best thing about RPGs for me is that they’re engines for generating life-long memories.  Personal memories.  I know they can be spectator experiences too (not for me though), but in recounting them, something valuable is lost. That’s what makes them special, I think; the limited scope and ephemeral nature.  It’s so hard to box them up and commodify them (although countless Youtubers seems to be doing a decent job of trying).  Personally, I can’t stand watching other people role-play and roll dice.  I want to be in there, playing.  Nothing beats the real thing for me.

I can remember so many things about my games that I cannot remember about my actual day to day life from those time periods.  That’s not to say that I live my life indulging in pointless fantasies, but they’re real, emotional experiences with other people.  So much of my life as a modern adult is lived in isolation. I don’t have a lot of real world friends.  The ones I do have, I don’t actually see very often at all.  I see my wife and son regularly, but just living and working takes up the vast majority of our time.

The most impactful RPG session is the one I just had, and the next one, just around the corner, might de-throne that one.  For me, in aggregate, it’s impossible for me to convey the importance of all my games that I’ve ever played.  Each one, even the bad ones, served to make me feel a little more connected to other people, a little less isolated.  In a way, tabletop RPGs are the perfect antidote to the ailments of modern, isolated living.  We need more reasons to get together in person again.  We need each other more than ever before.

I would say that the resurgence of tabletop RPGs in the past few years points towards this being a widespread problem.  We could all do with a little more laughter around a real world table, and a little less laughter emoji on our phones.

For the month of August, I will be participating in #RPGaDay. I haven’t posted much on this blog about my love for role-playing games, and for a while, I wasn’t really acknowledging that love myself.  But RPGs were my entry point in the the geek lifestyle, and they are very important to me.  I’ll be exploring my relationship with RPGs all month with these posts.

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