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Some Days in the Life - Role Playing Games

Posted 5/22/99

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8:45 am and I've been in the office since eight. I got out of the office sometime after eight last night after a false alarm of going home turned into a need to retype some lost proposal documents. I wasn't actually the person who lost the documents, nor was it actually my proposal (though it impacts my office and I support it), but I'm one of the faster typists who was still here at that hour, and we needed to send an electronic copy of the proposal out within a half-hour of when we discovered the error. I had a hard copy, so I settled in and power-typed for the first time since... well, Kinko's, I guess.

That didn't take long, but then other phone calls came in and work slurped me up. In the name of sanity, I took a long car ride after work (with the powerbook, naturally) to Denny's, where I had coffee and worked on the Ethereal Player's Guide proposal for a while. I'm having a ball with this -- I get to do the bits with Role Playing Game systems that I always liked doing and there's a chance, moderately slight I realize, I'll actually get paid for it.

Note I didn't say the bits of role-playing I liked. For those of you who had a social life, respect, sports commitments and automobiles during high school, role playing games are those wonderful games where you get to sit around a table and roll dice and drink soda. They were also a chance to play let's pretend, and have adventures of depth and mystery, solving puzzles and fighting menaces and creating new worlds and letting people run around in them. They were a huge part of my youth, and were still a part of my life up until I was about twenty-four or so, and then faded out of my life entirely.

I played with a college group, as there wasn't much of a high school group. As time went on, more high school students got involved, but they pretty much joined that college group too. After the first year of play, I became the regular Dungeon Master (we were a Dungeons and Dragons crowd. Then again, this was 1982 or so -- there weren't many other choices. This was before GURPS. This was before Champions. Heck, this was before Deities and Demigods came out). It was pretty amazing stuff for a kid. We had lots of all-night sessions and marathon gamings and at least two college kids flunked out because they were doing this instead of their homework.

The world I'd created was vast and well populated, and I could tell you obscure trivia about it with all the zeal of a Star Trek fan with a receptive audience. When I say "I" created the world, that's only half true -- the other folks in the game were equal participants in it, by reacting to what I'd throw at them. That in turn forced me to make up whatever was next in the world and run with it. They were good times, and a good block of my youth was spent plying these games and plumbing their depths. And the friends... Don and Herbie and Rick, that first year, and Lucy of course and sometimes Cody. Then came the central, core group -- Eric (the other one), Chip, Shelly, Richard, J.P. and Andrew. Collectively we went years together, playing in games epic and mundane and having a grand old time doing it.

After a while, the rules stopped seeming to matter -- we were more just telling a story, and folks took my word for whatever was going on. And then we moved on. Richard died (an essay in itself someday) and Andrew and I went to Boston University and J.P. went elsewhere and now Andrew is the only one of the group where I have any clue where he is, and I don't have huge inclination to contact him.

College came and role playing was part of it too, but in a lot of ways it was already starting to wear on me. It was still the focus for our group's activities for a while -- the first year at least -- but it didn't last long. That was myself and Andrew, Charlie, Matt, Ernestine, Mike and Abbe. Back in the days when any of us were talking to Abbe, of course. Later, Andy (the other one) and Robin joined in. But, those were the days I was getting into writing a lot more, and I discovered the solitary joys of being able to set the destiny of all the characters (especially when players sometimes did stupid things).

There was a resurgence of Role Playing in Ithaca. Frank, Karen, John, Kevin and I had a good year and a half to two years of regular Friday night and Saturday games. It was, as John pointed out the last time I referenced those days, a simpler time for us, and we had a grand time. But, real life and writing and a thousand other little things kept coming up. First a couple of weekends wouldn't work out, then the Renn Faire season would keep us out of gaming for a while, and then we'd just realize a month had passed since our last session. We'd talk about getting together again or running something, but it never seemed to work.

I'm not sure when I officially "retired" from Role Playing Games, but I haven't done it consistently since 1993, and I haven't actually sat in a game session and rolled dice since 1994. What exposure to RPG's I've had since then has been electronic and sporadic. I got into "channeling," a kind of online systemless role playing closer to interactive storytelling than any sort of formal game -- but that wasn't anywhere near the same time.

I've told elsewhere how I got into In Nomine, which is a truly wonderful Role Playing Game. I started playing it online with others, conversed in mailing lists, and got actually enthusiastic about gaming for the first time in years. It's like I rediscovered the sense of wonder that gaming can produce, even if it's private to a few people. Or perhaps because it's private to a few people. It's intimate, and exciting. And the themes of the game haven't been touched anywhere else, and the supplements are well written and interesting and the people who put out the game are fun.

So, I put in a query letter for some work on "Ethereals." (It's a long story.) They solicited a proposal. And now I get to do some of the worldbuilding and filing the edges of the system I like to do, but now I might get paid for it. Which, after all these years, seems apropos.

More news as events warrant.