June 6, 2012

Did I hit it? RPGs and Writing

13. Did I hit it?”, I asked.

Depends, what’s your THAC0?

Some of you will get that and others are definitely already lost. THAC0? What the hell is that? Those of us who know, still ask (it's an over complicated RPG [Role Playing Game] game mechanic that stands for: to hit armour class 0... as if that clarifies it).

I think RPGs are a big part of why I like to write. Over complicated game mechanics aside, RPGs are a way to tell stories. I’m referring to the pen and paper table top kind, not the videogame kind, or rocket propelled grenades (in case you missed it above). It is and always has been the story that draws me to the table whether I'm playing the game or running it.

I’ve been playing RPGs on and off for a good part of my life. My first character the way I remember it was a chaotic dwarf called Rolf. I was 2 (I’m exaggerating… slightly). Many characters have followed Rolf, too many to remember, unless I sat down and went through them methodically... A few stand out.

Necrelius Ravendark, who killed enemies of the state until he was deemed one and rose up to fight for himself and slowly the people, a classic story. Then there was Xarynish, a migou-human hybrid who was treated like a dog on a leash by his “employer”. His loyalty stemmed from Stockholm syndrome. I have played all sorts, most of them odd and conflicted. They are strange and unusual heroes dreamt up around the RPG table, or nowadays our forum. They have a past and motives, but no predetermined future and no future I can control entirely. The RPG story unfolds - collectively.

My RPG beginning was during the time when RPGs had a stigma because of the ridiculousness portrayed in movies like Mazes and Monsters with wunderkind Tom Hanks. Not that they don't have a stigma now, or maybe they don't. Whether you like Tom Hanks or not it is undeniable that he was a huge success… but that movie is on my list of worst movies ever. Youtube it. Troll 2 may be worse, but it is still better. Watch the documentary. The silliness that Mazes and Monsters, along with other media, had somehow released into the minds of adults… made them think RPGs would break our brains...

My awesome older brother introduced me to gaming, so any good or bad influence that it has had on my life falls entirely to him (I refuse all responsibility even if it is my life). Fortunately, he wanted to do other things than run games for his younger brother and his annoying friends and that drove me to tell my own stories. As a result, I learned how to read. Anyone unfamiliar with RPGs should now be made aware that each system often has hundreds of pages detailing over complicated rules, setting elements and other facts relevant to the world and the things that inhabit it. You can also just take the rules and homebrew the rest. My current favourite system is FATE.

I have been creating my own plots and story arcs to feed to my story hungry friends for years now, on and off. It is part of my origin story as a writer. I'm certain others have been infected with the creative bug in completely different ways. Also, am I alone on the feeling that RPGs are great for stories? I doubt it. Of course everyone has probably had at least one terrible GM. 

Oh and sis, you never introduced me to RPGs, but you're cool too.


  1. For my friends growing up, that on terrible GM was probably me.

  2. Seems to me, being your mother, I worried a lot about those games ( named Dungeons and Dragons). I guess you both turned out alright. Shouldn't have fretted so much I guess- less gray hair and wrinkles now! Proud of all three of you. Love Mom

  3. Reading that article was like reading having a flash-back. My older brother also introduced me to RPG'S...and the story was the whole game, it was everything. A good DM could create mood, tension, dynamic's. Everything you needed for a good game. It was also a huge contributor for my need to write and read.
    RPG's, you're the best!
    ..Oh, and as bad as Mazes and Monsters was -and I remember watching that in anticipation only to be destroyed- what was far worse was my friends mom forcing him to burn his D&D Basic & Expert box sets.
    Man, I'd love to have those back....that had to be '80 or '81...