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Once Upon A Time:

Late Bloomer

by Murray

In which the author explains that entering gaming a little later than most can be a long and often difficult journey.

I came late to role-playing. I had heard about it at school and early in University and was interested, but was restricted by the fact that no-one played it much. A friend of mine had a few of the books at school which I read through, but I didn't really know what was behind it. All the numbers and statistics appealed to me and it looked like a game I would love to play. Even better was the idea of getting to be a wizard or a warrior and acting out some fantasy books.

I had a few friends at university who role-played, but they never seemed to be involved in games at the time. Some of them tried to explain the ideas behind it to me but I still didn't really understand some concepts, such as the GM. How can you just make it all up? How can you make sure it's fair? I was very naive back then.

Despite misgivings at the time, SSI games like Pools of Darkness were hugely successful in bringing new players to the "real" RPGs

My first role-playing was really on the computer. I played a TSR game called Pools of Darkness. I still remember it fondly. Not only did I play it by myself, I also did a bit of group role-playing on it with friends. We each had a character, and all gathered around the computer. We would all decide where the characters were going, and when combat occured, would each control our character. It was fun, but we didn't get too far (in part due to the fact that I kept accidently kicking the powercord of the computer out of the wall.) We also MUDded together a bit. This also had some of the aspects of real role-playing, and was probably about as close as I had gotten to it so far. But it still wasn't the real thing.

It was through these friends that I finally became involved in my first real game. One of my friends was playing in a new adventure with fairly low characters and I was invited along. I borrowed a copy of the players handbook and some class handbooks and poured over them for several days. I don't know how much I understood at the time, but I was certainly pretty confused come 10 o'clock on that Saturday morning, when the time came to create my character.

The attributes were rolled in the traditional method, and I think there was a 17 in Dex, so I decided upon a thief. This led to long and difficult decisions on the splitting of skill points among the thief skills, followed by the choice of equipment given my meagre funds.

Out of curiosity, did anyone out there ever actually use the six iron spikes and hammer? Let us know!

Character creation has always been one of my favourite parts of role-playing. A character may not always do too well in a campaign, might not be that fun to play, but at the moment I am creating I can see all the many possible ways that the character could be brilliant. The creation of a personality, a history, and the limitless possibilities of that character in the role-playing world is just a wonderful thing. I know a lot of people who create characters that they probably won't ever use in a campaign. I think this is why.

As far as I was concerned, my character certainly had limitless possibilities then. He could hide in shadows, he could detect noise, he had sharp daggers and a short sword and he knew how to use them (although not particularly well). The character was created and I wanted to play. Unfortunately there was still a lot to do. We spent about half an hour working out a plausible way for the characters to come together (the GM was a bit of a stickler for details) and there were a few problems with some of the characters but we eventually managed to get going.

As we left the town, I was trying to do as many of my thief things as possible. I was scouting ahead, hiding in shadows, detecting noise, probably making a complete nuisance of myself for the GM. Then a wagon came down the road, and I can't remember why, but there was something suspicious about it. I was up ahead of the group, and I decided to jump up on the back of the wagon at exactly the same time that the mage of the party decided to blast it with a fireball. My very first game of role-playing and within five minutes, my character had managed to get burned half to death, literally from friendly fire!

Many of us have funny anecodtes about how we got ourselves wiped out fairly quickly in our first game. Why not submit yours to this column?

Later in the afternoon, I discovered what a power-gamer is: a third level mage with a hellhound for a familiar. Meanwhile, we had also encountered a large battle in which I became very good at backstabbing. We were outnumbered five to one, but the odds were cut down quite quickly when the mage threw a couple of spells. I saw an enlarge spell used to enlarge a priest's armour and stop him casting spells, which I thought was quite clever, and my character managed to survive, if only just. Looking back, it was a fairly good introduction to role-playing: a large group of people who knew what they were doing and a GM who had a decent balance between fluidity and organisation.

Unfortunately the group broke up and never continued the campaign, but at last, I had played! Other campaigns were started by people in that group and I also found some other friends who were starting campaigns. At university, the height of my gaming career, I had 3 role-playing groups that were all semi-regular. Since then I've played about 4 or 5 different systems and a score or more characters in a dozen campaigns. I've even GMed.

At the moment, though, my role-playing is at a lull. I have had to move and leave my groups behind. I haven't been actively seeking out role-playing, because to me it was always something that I did with friends, not just for its own sake. But I am sure that one day, one of my new friends will mention something about his tenth-level mage-thief elf, and I will know I am again among the initiated. And then the adventures will begin once more...

Murray has been gaming for only a few years, during which he has played far too much AD&D for his own good. He enjoys dressing up as characters from The Princess Bride, and is addicted to Quake II.

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