Monday, 22 October 2012

In the beginning...

Without a shadow of a doubt, if I'd never started playing RPGs the course of my life would be radically different. Well, by 'life' I mean 'what I ended up doing for a living in any important sense' - but, then again, it all tends to feed into other areas as well. This is something I realised awhile ago and is a view shared by my friend Paul 'Wiggy' Wade-Williams, who is the author of a large amount of RPG material and co-owns, Triple Ace Games.  

It all started 30 years ago...

*Cue 'wooooo' noise and shimmering camera effect à la Scooby Doo cartoons to denote going back in time...*

It's 1981. Picture the scene - two boys with bad hair and some sort of interest in heavy metal meet during their first week at secondary school. Fast-forward a bit to 1982. They now have a friend nicknamed 'Jaffa' (his second name was Gorringe - you can see how inventive kids were in coming up with monikers for people). He gets caught reading Warlock of Firetop Mountain in a maths class by his teacher, Miss Lupton. 

'Pay attention, Gorringe...'
I don't remember if he got detention for that, but that's by the by. Anyway, she asks him if he's ever heard of a game called Dungeons and Dragons, and if he and his friends would be interested in playing the game in an after-school group. This is the point at which pretty much everything starts.

At the time, D&D seemed to be something that was coming out of the woodwork. At least, that's how it seemed to us, living as we were in a somewhat isolated bit of south Somerset. D&D was in the film ET. You'd see adverts for it in magazines and comics. We also got our hands on a book called What Is Dungeons and Dragons?

That's a rather cool Citadel Miniatures Red Dragon, as far as I can remember...

This was a pretty good book, even if it was written by some posh schoolkids from Eton. It gave me a better insight into how the game worked. One amusing part has the 'script' of a game session, in which one of the players (when attacked by a giant locust) says 'I'll cream the locust'. Now, none of us really knew what was meant by that. We assumed he was talking about killing it. It's just that use of the word 'cream' wasn't something that sounded right. On the back of the book it says 'From students to solicitors, punks to professors, everyone is at it!'. This was patently untrue. Only a small group of us (around 8 spotty herberts at most) played it at school and we didn't tell anyone. Why? I'll tell you why. Because of the bloody awful Dungeons and Dragons cartoon that was on TV at the time, that's why. I'm not even going to add a pic of that. Look it up on Youtube. Actually, don't. It's still rubbish. Other kids at school didn't really get D&D because of that, so we didn't advertise our interest.

For a few hours once a week after all classes had finished we'd pile into Miss Lupton's classroom and slog our way through the dungeon she'd created for us (I found out years later that it was actually In Search Of The Unknown). We'd acquired some nice 35mm figures and so, using my imagination to the fullest, I decided to create a character based on one of these. It was a Dwarf fighter and I called him Mystichi Argonshire. Wiggy's character (also a Dwarf fighter) was my brother, and his name was Argos Argonshire. You read that right - his first name was Argos. For my American readers, Argos is a chainstore that sells various electrical, etc things. In that sense, a US-version of Argos Argonshire would be Walmart Argonshire. I think Mystichi was a name I nicked from a Michael Moorcock book I was reading at the time. Along with us was a Magic User and a Druid - my friend Urko was the former, and I think Jaffa was the latter. We spent a great deal of time exploring that dungeon, never really knowing what it was all about but having fun regardless. We started to find treasure, we'd fight monsters, we'd map the places we'd explored and at the end of each session try to make our way back out to the entrance. This was because there was an NPC mentor, the Venerable Bede (who lived in a nearby temple) who would try to explain some of our finds. We'd like to ask him things before the session was over, as waiting to find out on the following week was just too much to bear.

Anway, all of this was the seed from which many other things grew. I will get around to explaining how that developed tomorrow...

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