The Roleplaying Adventure of an Actual Lifetime

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Where did your journey with roleplaying games begin?

Mine began in a book. No dice. No maps. Just a book which asked you to choose an action that sent you off to a different page and ultimately led to success or, more frequently, death! Choose Your Own Adventures books, published by Bantam Books, were my first taste of taking control of a story, and they were followed closely by Steve Jackson’s Fighting Fantasy books which did include character creation and dice rolling and collecting treasure - the key parts of my early roleplaying game experiences.

I grew up as the middle child with an older brother and a younger sister. We were raised with role models such as Luke Skywalker, ET and the Keaton family on Family Ties. When our mum brought home a banged-up box of Dungeons and Dragons we set about devouring it and kicked off a long career as roleplaying fanatics. I’d say we had a solid ten years of game play before drifting away from RPGs, although we’ve kept coming back to them as adults.

My brother and I quickly discovered that gaming was much better when there were three or more, so my younger, more reluctant, sister was suddenly the most important person in the world. We used to bribe her with royal titles (princess, queen, empress, whatever!) as well as magical unicorns, wondrous inventions and items that coaxed her into play. She’d always get tired of it though, so the hours of bribery really only netted a few hours of game play.

As we got older we started playing with our friends, and then we branched out into other games, whether they were T.M.N.T., Palladium, Marvel Superheroes, Cyberpunk and pretty much anything else we could get our hands on.

The earliest characters I can remember creating were a family of adventurers for the Dragon Warriors game, which was a link between Fighting Fantasy books and Dungeons and Dragons. The rules were in books but the games were run mostly in the imagination of players and not on the page.

The characters were Skylark, his wife Catlen and their children Melina and Lance. I have no idea why I decided on a family but it fell into place, each one taking up a different role: barbarian, mystic, sorcerer and knight.

When I moved on to Dungeons and Dragons I created Francois Prince de les Enfants. I made him French because it sounded more impressive (and I had access to a French dictionary). I wonder why I chose to create Francois and why I needed him to have a story hook, that he was compelled to defend children from the monsters of the world. I don’t think it was because my twelve year old mind thought that children were needing protection or that I’d already developed a defender of the underdog mindset (although I had!). I think it was because I wanted more than just a bunch of numbers and words on a page.

I wanted my character to have character.

I’m an adult now, although still a staunch defender of the underdog and roleplayers. I’ve got three kids of my own who have come along on the roleplaying game journey with me. We started early with interactive, cumulative storytime - building a series of characters from a made-up world and setting them off on adventures where they met other characters and other stories. The world we created there was Lyona, which was the name of my little sister’s character from Dragon Warriors. The stories became very complex but my kids remember them even now, including Ash the dragon, the unipegs (unicorn/Pegasus hybrids), the Jade Kingdom and castles in the sky.

We moved on to games like Top Trumps and a homebrew Teen Titans Go game we made up, and from there we started on the classics like D&D and Icons. Now they’re all teenagers and have their own interests, even in gaming. The eldest is a traditionalist and plays Dungeons and Dragons (as well as home brewed games). My daughter prefers more narrative-driven games like Kids on Bikes and Bubblegum Shoe. And the youngest is happy playing Icons and other superhero games.

Watching their style has been interesting too, whether it’s my eldest son’s tendency to choose dark, brooding ranger-type characters; or my daughter trying to replicate characters from TV shows; or my youngest trying to min-max every character.

The journey continues, and I’m sure they’ll take it on their own paths as they leave home and start their own lives. The games have been great for bonding between siblings, between parents and children, and between friends. Some of my best friendships have been forged in nights of corn chips, soft drink, chocolate and polyhedral dice.

Have you got your own roleplaying game story?

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A blog about reading, writing and the superhero life.

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