"There are twelve charts in all; it’s one of the longest turns in the game, and I probably overdid it a little, but every time I have to triple-crease the several sheets that make up the move, I smile."
johndarnielle, you distilled in one sentence what I’ve been trying to express about the joy of running RPGs over the past 25+ years. Thank you.
I’ve basically stopped answering the questions on #RPGaDay and am essentially turning it into a personal Bildungsroman of my gaming history. :-/
Okay, I shouldn’t say “never” because honestly, I’ve run Delta Green quite frequently, including even a 6-session mini-campaign. But it’s been this thread for the past 16 or so years since ordering the Delta Green softcover core book from Amazon (my VERY FIRST Amazon purchase back in 1998 while I lived in Toronto) that I never get to run it. But I’ve run lots of one-shots and short-term DG games.
I figure this is the best time to talk about the years in between my time in Toronto and my time in Illinois, when I was back in Boston for a couple of years. I met some of my current gamers, all the way back then! We were trying to figure out if we met through an ad on the board of the aforementioned Excalibur Hobbies in Malden or on the old White Wolf find-a-gamer forums and it turned out each was true for one of the couples I met and started gaming with back in 1999.
We played a lot of games in those two years! I ran Mage: Newbury Agency set in 1890s Boston and Vampire: Dark Ages set in medieval Cumbria and of course our classic 2nd Edition AD&D Planescape game. I really matured as a gamer in this all-too-short two-year period. The structures of the World of Darkness games taught me storycrafting, and my players brought incredible roleplaying, worldbuilding, and character portrayal chops to the table every time we played. And of course we did our share of one-shots, including if I remember correctly a Delta Green game.
I moved to Illinois in 2001, and I did game there, but in a lot of ways my modern gaming identity – sprawling plots, intricate character work, and historical settings – forged right around the millennium. And Delta Green was a huge part of that.
Dungeons & Dragons “White Box”.
Through a bizarre set of circumstances in college that involved my roommate, a professor for whom he was working, and my college car, in the summer of 1996 I ended up in possession of a set of photocopies of the D&D “White Box” and Blackmoor sets. Not much more to be said about this really; I never played it and glanced at it only a couple of times in total. But since we’re going in roughly chronological order with these posts about my RPG nostalgia, why don’t I tell you about my college gaming.
I went to college in the mid-90s, arguably during the pen-and-paper RPG industry’s nadir. CCGs were on the ascendency, and I was no exception to this trend. My roommate brought back the CCG Shadowfist (wow, has that site not changed since the late 90s??) from his internship in Seattle over the summer of 1995, and we played it incessantly junior year of college.
But I also ran RPGs! Some D&D 2nd Edition set in Greyhawk with my roomies and a couple of our significant others. Feng Shui, piggybacking off of the Shadowfist reference above. Some Warhammer 40K, of course, which was also a high school mainstay but obviously not an RPG. I played in my first game of Call of Cthulhu in college, which started a love affair with CoC that remains to this day, nearly 20 years later.
But mostly college was a fallow period for me and gaming. Same with the first couple of years after college (although during that time I picked up Delta Green and my first World of Darkness game (Mage: the Ascension, 2nd Edition, while I was in grad school in Toronto)). It was only in my return from Toronto in 1999 that my gaming life entered into its second stage.
My RPGaDay writing will continue as soon as I am out of these work meetings. I will catch up.
This serves as both “Most Recent RPG Purchase” and “Most Recent RPG Run.” A few weeks ago I picked up an e-copy of Ken Hite’s GURPS Horror setting, The Madness Dossier. It’s about a lost history, ruled by inhuman monsters who installed cheat codes in the linguistic centers of the human brain, and the modern secret agents who keep us safe from these monsters trying to return to conquer our history. It definitely falls in my wheelhouse of “high concept RPGs.” :)
But it played like a dream. I ran it at a games day this past weekend, with some trepidation about using GURPS. But all the players got the vibe that was intended by the setting, and really enjoyed it. We’re set for the second part of a putative “one-shot” sometime soon. :)
It feels a bit jarring to leap from 1989 to 2014 like this, but somehow I think the Irruptors would approve.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st/2nd Edition*
By 1988, my last year of junior high and first year of high school, I was pretty deep into 1st Edition AD&D. I remember clearly picking up at least one of the core books the night of a particularly traumatic childhood doctor’s appointment at Excalibur Hobbies in Malden, MA, the locus of my gaming life (and thus my social life and, well, my LIFE) from 1988 through 1993. Excalibur is no longer extant and there is no site online that rings its praises throughout the ages (its successor shop, Hobby Bunker, is still open down the street, but obviously it’s just not the same), but suffice to say, its back stacks, full of third-party D&D knockoffs and wargaming books, was the center of my worship in the Cargo Cult that was pre-internet gaming.
So this continued apace, but the shift to high school from junior high meant the inevitable shifting in social groups. Players dropped out. New players joined. And in 1989, there was the release of an edition of AD&D that I could call my own.
AD&D 2nd Edition was my edition. My high school game, set in Greyhawk (oh, my love for Oerth is deep and abiding and eternal), started when I met my new core of players at the local video arcade/bowling alley playing Cyberball. You remember Cyberball, right? Anyway, my new gamers and I first started playing with old characters from past campaigns of theirs, and then, eventually, their own 1st level characters. In the first game, I set this massive group of maybe 14 1st level characters (everyone was playing multiple characters back then, as was our wont) against a wyvern and a hill giant, which thinned the ranks considerably. Then it was trips into the Temple of Elemental Evil, the UK series of modules, and every other 1st edition module I’d scrounged from the shelves of Excalibur.
This adventuring group became known, of course, as the Company of the Wyvern.
There were other high school games, of course, but the Greyhawk game was the top one. The one where we played all-nighters pretty much every other weekend, then stumbled out into the daylight at 6 am for breakfast and Street Fighter II at a local deli. They were Big Damn Days. Sigh.
* As I mentioned on Day 1, technically Marvel Super Heroes RPG is the answer to all three of the first questions.
- Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice
(Welcome to the tagline for my Weird California RPG.)