Tuesday, November 29, 2005


I'm skipping cooking to get my teeth into the real monster topic of this series of prologue-blogs: roleplaying. 'Dungeons and Dragons' for the one or two people who might read this blog, knowing me and not knowing what it is, and thus needing a reference point.

I've been roleplaying since I was around 12-ish. Thats 22 years of dice-chucking. I can remember vividly reading the D&D cartoons in the back of my comics on holiday in Berwick and desperately wanting to make the jump from Fighting Fantasy to D&D. I even found the Basic set in a toy shop in Berwick but my parents would never allow me to buy a game without a board! It was only later on my birthday, when I had control of my own cash that I bought the red-box D&D basic set and my life changed forever.

From that moment on, I was a roleplayer. I have roleplayed in some way, shape or form from that day on till now with one three-year gap at University* The one constant in my life has been roleplaying. My closest friends have always been the people that I roleplay with - it has just been natural. Some men play golf, some men get drunk - I pretend to be (inevitably) a bard!

My position in gaming has been well established since my youth as well. I am the DM, GM, Referee, Storyteller - whatever you choose to call it, perennially, thats me. Not all of the time, admittedly, but most of the time. When we are at a loss as to what to play next, it's usually me that comes up with the idea. One of our current stalwarts has even dubbed me 'The Iron DM' - which I find hilarious.

I'm in no way a roleplaying purist. I have done online RPG via NWN. I found this both highly enjoyable and intensely frustrating because whilst it delivered in many areas, it never quite had the pace that I desired. I have done play-by-email gaming, which I found to be a superb outlet for my roleplaying needs and my writer needs! Two birds with one stone. I have done 'e-fed' gaming, where you play a wrestler. Awesome stuff but it can be a little time consuming for something that shouldn't really be. I have done Live Action Roleplaying... the 'Vampire' sort rather than the 'Rubber Swords' variety. Great experience but I wouldn't do it again seriously as the consequences of the interpersonal developments in the game were mostly negative.

And I have done TONs of tabletop gaming. Oodles of it.

I could write vast missives on what I have done in the past, but I will focus in on the current group and what we are (or rather are not) doing at the moment. This group has been around since 2000/1 and was brought together when the new D&D 3.0 rules offered a focal point to a number of people who were a little disjointed about their gaming. Since that day we have lost one member to a job move to Sheffield, another to basketball and another to real life caring for his wife. And we have gained one member from my Raw Deal shennangins. We currently sit at 5, which for me is the perfect number.

We started playing D&D 3.0 in a self made setting called 'The Crescent Sea' - 20 weeks of high fantasy, high adventure, global war, toil and romance ensued and it was good. Really good. As a group learning to game with each other, it was great. We then moved onto two seasons of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG. This, for me, was probably the high point of our gaming. Great games, great laughs, great characters and something that actually started and finished and kept a common voice throughout.

We have done some other stuff - Shadowrun, D&D, WHRPG V2, Werewolf and Exalted - but none have stuck. Indeed, we seem to have come to a timetabling and concept impasse as a group. It's hard to explain in a few words, so I reserve my right to use many.

1. We've all grown up a lot recently. One of us started as a bog-standard teacher and is now head of department at a prestigious school. One of us was recently a student but now is a manager at a call centre. One of us was 'between jobs' in academia and is now a Senior Lecturer. I myself was a simple educational admin and now I'm the grandly titled 'Marketing and Development Manager'. One of us even emigrated to Australia (and came back!). Theres a lot of time and energy being drained from us and that has had an impact on our gaming - either we cancel a lot or we are too knackered to get into it properly. OK, we have identified that masses of pizza and pop probably wasn't helping and have switched to a new 'fruit and fibre' style of gaming snack, which helps but it's a lot to do with work burnout.

2. Some of us, me included, may have got our heads a little trapped between our buttocks when it comes to 'quality of gaming' issues. We have found a style of gaming (low planning, lots of player input, definitely player lead stories etc) that we love but now the style seems to have become the focus rather than the activity itself. We are concerned about some things which, to be honest, are ephemeral bullshit that we never needed when we were playing The Crescent Sea. We never cared about the tone of the campaign or the medium-term character development goals of the druid - we simply wanted to see whether the Baddie Gods would be able to eat all of the people before the goodies could save the world! The rest came naturally.

3. We are having severe self doubt issues - a bunch of young middle aged men wondering whether they will be able to perform again? Hmmm..... couldn't see that one coming. A degree of fatalistic malaise has beset some of us - the game is cursed, I can't commit to making another character for a game that will not happen, you guys game without me until I have time - we've said and done it all. What we need is that gaming equivalent of a good hard drunken shag!

So where are we now? Well, at the minute we are just about to start playing the third and final season of Buffy. Well, 'just about to' is a relative term. We were planning to start on 04/11 but one person could not make it so we did the character conversions and upgrades. Then the next time, someone else couldn't make it (me, because of the parents evening) and then our host has been condemned to Work Hell until mid-December.... you see how it goes?

However, roleplaying has ONE significant benefit over the vast morass of other hobbies I practice. I'm not stopping roleplaying for anyone or anything. I've been a gamer since I was 12, I;m now 34 and when I am 56 I thoroughly expect to still be a gamer. Therefore I can wait. My ideas for games can only get better by sitting on them for a little bit. When our host is ready, so will I be and then we can go - thats all very cool.

In the meantime, I might try something else?! Word has reached me that the old efed I played in is about to reopen. Excellent! I might try to persuade someone to try some one-on-one playing to see whether that works. You see, because something will - eventually - work well again. As long as we keep trying and keep focused that we ARE roleplayers and we DO want to roleplay, then we will.

And thats one thing that I am 100% confident of, in this blog of doubts and misgivings

Roleplaying stays.


* I discovered that the gamers at Uni were all members of the Goth Society, the Rock Society and the Occultist Society and each and every one of them was a sociopathic wanker. I decided for the good of my health and theirs to not game with them and instead to have copious amounts of sex. Good call!

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