In a fantasy world, paths can lead anywhere for an adventurer. The paths I have taken in my own adventures have led me to change. Over the decades I have spent in role-playing games, I feel I have evolved and matured a lot. That’s not to say I consider myself mature… I can be childish as hell. No, this is more about some of the experiences I have had in the different games I have played.
As stated in a previous post, my first experience sitting at a table and role-playing was without a game system. No dice, no books, no limits other than our own imaginations. On weekends, two friends and I would pass our nights sitting at a table coming up with elaborate stories and worlds. Our method was round-robin storytelling – one of us would come up with the initial story plot while the other two created original characters and then we would cycle through and take over the story-telling. Collectively, we would spend hours describing, in depth, our struggles against the latest villain(s) designed. Due to the fact all three of us sucked at drawing, the villain was usually drawn on the back of a hastily sketched map and scribbled out as they were defeated.
Years later, I stepped into established game groups and found my first experiences with game systems – Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and Vampire: The Masquerade. Though none of my characters made it through the AD&D games I was involved in, I knew that I loved the fantasy settings and worlds that were created and placed before me. Admittedly, my characters in AD&D were directly influenced by books and movies and initially, there wasn’t a whole lot going on in the creativity department. My first character was based on what I envisioned Merlin to be like in his early years and my second was basically Madmartigan (from Willow). I just wanted to learn the game and play. Also, Madmartigan!
It wasn’t until I started playing Vampire: The Masquerade that I really created any truly original characters. It was a very rough start though. Along with my friends Andrew, Ken, and Steve, I spent a long time figuring out the rules for character creation and combat. A lot of the first months were spent making characters and fighting. Our first characters were… lacking.
Out of the first four characters made – two were hitmen turned vampire, one rarely spoke and carried a guitar everywhere, and the other was a government agent who developed amnesia after being embraced. We were young and had yet to realize all the other interesting possibilities, but it didn’t take us long. We just had to get through that initial “ultracool” character phase of carrying melee weapons and guns in guitar cases and trench coats – and the black… I think everyone except Ken’s character constantly wore black leather. Props to you Ken… you were the innovator before any of us. My first character that I truly came to love spawned from those sessions. Christian Dade – a Brujah contract killer, who carried four guns and a sword under his trench coat like he was a damn extra in The Highlander. Guilty as charged, but he lived on to develop a deeper story and background. Eventually, we figured it out. We hit a gaming groove and regularly played Vampire, occasionally augmented by Werewolf gaming sessions thanks to Ken.
Soon thereafter, while looking into RPGs online, I found out about IRC and started roleplaying in chat rooms. Eventually, I found my way to what I considered to be the best Vampire role-playing game on IRC – #vampireknights (NOT related to the anime – this was five or six years earlier). There, I was welcomed as a newcomer and introduced to the most beautiful and complex storytelling I had witnessed yet. The storylines were great, the players were amazing, and I met good people all around the world to play with. Within a week, I was hooked and felt I had to tell my friends. So Andrew and Ken joined me on IRC – real life friends connecting to the internet to take on new personalities and join others in an ongoing game based in Seattle.
Above all, I think playing in that chat room made me a better gamer. It was where I truly evolved and realized not every game session needed to have a door kicked in followed by combat. The storytellers and players placed more emphasis on role-playing and character development than anything. An aggressive and combative character typically didn’t last long or found themselves exploited by others or both. I also discovered how entertaining it could be to have to struggle in a game. I truly enjoyed seeing my characters put into bad situations and then being stuck in character to work it out, meanwhile laughing and joking with everyone about it in the out-of-character chat room. Role-playing on IRC is also responsible for me learning to play outside of what I usually played. From this, came two pivotal characters that changed the way I looked at stories and character evolution – Victoria Delizan, a Spanish vampire whose concept was simply “Manipulative Bitch” and then Jeremy LeBlanc, a west-coast native and mortal detective who walked into the wrong club and never quite got away after bumping into a mysterious blonde.
Now I find myself back at Dungeons & Dragons, changing from 3.5 to 5th Edition (I avoided 4th Edition like the plague) and setting up a very long campaign on roll20.net. I have played many different games between science-fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. In all this time, I’ve played characters I have come to love, grouped with characters to form parties that could drive a successful book or film franchise, and faced countless villains and horrors in my adventures. Overall though, I’m glad that I have changed over the years – I find more pleasure in the telling of a good story that just happens to have combat, than a good fight with story filling in the blanks, but I realize some people prefer the opposite. When it comes to gaming though, I always feel the best is yet to come.
Do you feel you have changed as a role-player and what has pushed that evolution (or devolution)?