Confessions of an RPG addict
From the desk of Kristine Hassell, Twitter administrator
My first foray into the RPG realm was in the fledgling months of my relationship with my current boyfriend. We were together for a month or so when he said he had a confession to make. My mind raced. What on earth could he have to confess? A penchant for Hummel figurines? A love of angsty teen dramas on the WB? While I don’t judge the love of those fat little ceramic children or Stars Hollow, it wasn’t either of those things.
He explained that he was a role-player. As he talked, I remembered kids in my junior high back in Texas who’d gather during lunch with their bags of dice and character sheets safely ensconced in plastic sleeves. My eyebrow arched and I shrugged at his confession.
I didn’t understand the big deal. He said that his last girlfriend found the pursuit to be silly. Because he loved me, he wanted me to experience the fun of rolling up a character and playing. In essence, he wanted to introduce me to his greatest passion. And he did!
My first game was Big Eyes, Small Mouth, or BESM. I was nervous at first but my boyfriend and his good friend (a long-time RPG buddy) were patient and made me feel safe. I remember in the first game I ever played with them, my character had to battle some ninjas that broke through the school’s defences. They were many and my base stats were on the lower side. It didn’t look good for my character until I was informed of a game rule that said if I “acted” out the action to the best of my ability, I could succeed in that task, or something along those lines. I exhaled deeply and repeated, “So my character could get the stuffing knocked out of her or I can suck it up and be totally silly in front of you guys?” They both nodded.
I excused myself to go to the kitchen where 20 agonizingly long minutes passed. Neither of the guys were going to hurry me, which was definitely appreciated. My boyfriend did check on me, but left me there in the kitchen as I thought about it. I returned to the living room and took a deep breath. I put my hair up in a high pony-tail, explained my attack that involved using aforementioned pony-tail, and then proceeded to make multiple high-pitched battle cries and yips while flinging my hair around. After about 30 seconds or so, I was done. The two players looked at each other and without prompting from the other, erupted in applause and laughter. Ninjas defeated by my insane kung-fu hair attack!
I exhaled deeply and broke out into a smile. It was then, I got it. They weren’t there to laugh at me, they were there to laugh with me when my character did something funny, or to “ooh” at me when my character did something epic. We were there to have fun together, doing things through our characters that we probably couldn’t do in real life. I mean, my hair might be awesome but it doesn’t issue forth with ki blasts that knock ninjas from their hiding places!
After that first game, there was another and another… and soon I came to realize why RPGs were so much fun. Buy a book, roll some dice, inhabit the world of a character whose conception was solely your creation. Your initial investment might seem pricey, but that sole rule book had infinite replay value! We continued to play and, in time, I outgrew BESM. My boyfriend introduced me to another set of rules, CP2020, with his lengthy modded house rules. My character? A taciturn yet very effective vampire assassin.
Now bear with me, dear readers, while I get off topic for a moment. I feel it’s crucial to explain why you’re accompanying me down my RPG memory lane but I’ll hasten you along to our destination. The events were as follows: my boyfriend and I were reading the Harry Potter series, Episode II was released and disappointed us immensely, and after that film, he came up with an idea for a game: Hogwarts for Jedi. We were hooked and that game lasts until this day, nearly a decade later… seriously, do an Internet search for “Tanake Trang” to see my beloved Jedi.
Somewhere in that epic galactic soap, he needed a break from GM (Gamemaster) duties. We got into Buffy the Vampire Slayer and eventually Angel. My boyfriend bought me another RPG book, this one with Cinematic Unisystem rules. Now my love for the Whedon know no limit, but the fact there wasn’t an Asian slayer that wasn’t a caricature or a footnote to a main character… well, that rankled me a little as an Asian-American.
I created Bebe Adame, a dynamic Filipina from the Bay Area that ended up at university in Toronto. The game was set after Season 7 of BTVS ended. A couple of sessions in, Bebe got her slayer powers, which amplified her daredevil streak, much to the chagrin to her boyfriend and de facto watcher.
My boyfriend still continued to GM for myself and our roommate at the time, ironically the same guy who was present for my first foray into RPGs. One night, while he was working on the next session, something dawned on me. He ran game after game after game but never got a chance to play in them himself. During his breaks from work, I began to ask questions. “How do you know how long to make a game last?” “How scripted are your character interactions with the PCs?” “What happens when combat goes awry, do you roll with it or do you have contingencies?”
It didn’t take him long to figure it out. I was as subtle as a hammer. And after several Q&As, he finally asked me if I was going to run a session or not! The idea had appealed to me for some time, but with this simpler system and two players that I already knew? I decided to go for it. I finally felt confident enough to take the reins and GM. But how would I begin? Could I enthrall my players with my PCs and my story? Would I be any good or would my first session be a fancy version of “Choose Your Own Adventure”!
Tune in next week, dear readers (same bat-time, same bat-channel) to read part two and learn about my transformation from a RPGer to a GM!