I’ve been an avid pen and paper role-player for many years now. And in many ways, role-playing for me goes hand in hand with Magic: the Gathering. My first foray into role-playing was rather disasterous. My brother had piano lessons once a week at a friend’s house. The two of us went there every week after school for maybe two hours; I would hang out the entire time with my friend, and my brother would join us when his lesson was over. Normally we played Magic, but one day my friend really wanted us to try the Paladium Fantasy Role-Playing Game. It took us weeks to build our characters. And then when we were finally ready to play, our very first encounter with bandits killed our characters! Needless to say, we didn’t try role-playing again for a very long time.
Several years later, someone at school invited me to try role-playing using MERP (Middle Earth Role-Playing). Character generation went much smoother with MERP and my character didn’t die in my first encounter. I don’t really remember much of what happened, other than using a magic ring to levitate onto a building so I could shoot arrows at the bad guys in peace. For me that game didn’t last more than a few sessions, but it did serve to get me interested in role-playing.
So the next time I was at the Bookshelf, the place where my brother and I played Magic every weekend, I decided to look for MERP. They didn’t have any of the MERP books, but they recommended Vampire: the Masquerade. I ended up walking out of there with Vampire: the Dark Ages, which is what I used to run my first game. Since that time, I’ve played and run games in many of the major role-playing systems, from White Wolf’s Storyteller System (Vampire, Mage, Hunter and Werewolf), the Storytelling System (I’ve only played Vampire: the Requiem once but I have all of the core books), Exalted 1st Edition, Dungeon’s and Dragons 3rd Edition (both 3 and 3.5), MERP. Palladium (both Fantasy and RIFTS), Shadowrun and more recently GURPS. I don’t play as much as I used to, but I am still playing with a small group of friends. Having tried many role-playing systems over the years, I know which ones I like and which ones I’m not very fond of. I’ve also discovered that I don’t like getting bogged down in rules debates; I’m there to have a good time and help tell a great story.
And that is the thing that a lot of people don’t realize about role-players: they are there to hang out and have a good time. Sure, there are plenty of examples that I can cite where friends got caught up debating the rules, or where they are sighting different stats in an effort to make the best character. But the real fun comes from recounting your adventures. Off the top of my head, I’ve been a Water Cleric who believed in sacrificing things to her god (the aptly named “Fish God”), a beastial vampire who could become a swarm of bats, an alien mercenary hired by the Empire, a half-human fae who could blend in with her surroundings and a super wealthy woman who is actually a god. I’ve travelled through space, fought monsters and used magic. And through it all I’ve been surrounded by good friends with whom I can later recount my adventures with in all their glory.
Role-playing certainly isn’t for everyone. But if you have an active imagination and some like-minded friends, role-playing gives you the freedom to go anywhere and be anyone.
If you enjoy role-playing, what are some of your favourite memories from your own adventures?