RPG a Day – Day 3: First RPG Purchased

Day 3 of #RPGaDAY

3. First RPG Purchased

This is another entry for D&D, but that’s a pretty accurate reflection of my early roleplaying experience.  It took me a while to discover that anything outside of D&D existed other than as pictures in RPG magazines, and it fundamentally shaped my initial ideas of what an RPG was.

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My first RPG purchase was the Player’s Handbook for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition (Revised), closely followed by the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide for that edition.  This was my first venture into the world of full, complex RPGs with none of the supporting trappings of a starter box, and it took me a little while to get to grips with it.

The rules proved a bit of a challenge, with the sheer wealth of information and the somewhat inconsistent nature of AD&D 2nd Ed being quite a lot of my 13 year old self to take in, not helped by having no-one to show me how to play the game (something RPGs of the time seemed to expect, and something they’re still not great in general at avoiding).  But it did great things for my vocabulary (I’m far better versed on the names for assorted types of polearms and pieces of armour than I’d otherwise be), helped me with my mental arithmetic, and most importantly gave me the tools to build on foundations that the starter boxes had put in place.  I started putting rules to my campaign setting, writing adventures (well, jotting down some vaguely coherent notes), and helped my dad and brother stat up characters.  My dad’s character, Frolesworth the troll wizard, was a particular highlight, even if he did require large quantities of house rules to work.  I blame all of the Discworld books we were reading at the time, and yes he got smarter the colder it was…

Unfortunately this campaign didn’t last long, but my brother and I would intermittently play D&D over the next few years, roping in one or two of our friends here and there.  I picked up a range of supplements for 2nd Ed, with campaign settings being something I was particularly fond of.

The Dragonlance and Dark Sun settings were particular highlights for me.  Dragonlance tied into the Dragonlance Chronicles novels and short story collections I’d read years before I even knew what D&D was, and sat well with my heroic and Romantic sensibilities.  Dark Sun on the other hand was something notably different, darker and edgier than the high fantasy of most D&D worlds, and brought with it an attitude and raw survival angle that I’d not encountered before. Importantly, it also came with a printed fabric map of the Tablelands of Athas, which became a key prop for pretty much everything I ran in Dark Sun.

This thing just shouted "Adventure!" at me every time I looked at it.
This thing just shouted “Adventure!” at me every time I looked at it.

Needless to say, elements of both crept into – or more accurately were blatantly plagiarized for – my own campaign setting.  Like most peoples’ first attempts at world building, it was heavily based on “medieval” Europe and Arabia, mixed with large quantities of Lord of the Rings and whatever fantasy book I’d read most recently.  My brother’s contribution to the setting was more distinct, grounded in Celtic mythology, fay magic, and the dangers of travelling in the wilderness.  For an 11 year old, he had a deep and quite dark imagination.

My interest in RPGs remained at a high (read obsessive) level for the next few years, but I didn’t really have anyone to game with on a regular basis.  My brother’s other hobbies started to take up more and more of his time, my dad was busy with work, and my other friends were never really all that into roleplaying in the first place – certainly not enough for it to survive teenage social lives and getting boyfriends and girlfriends.

However, we got an Internet connection at home in late 1998 and I spent a lot of time on EN World (or rather “Eric Noah’s Unofficial D&D 3rd Edition News Site” as it was at the time) in the run up to the release of 3rd Edition D&D.  This in turn exposed me to a lot of other roleplayers around the world, new and interesting ideas about how RPGs worked, and let me play and run a lot of Play by Post forum RPGs.  I’m a much better GM today because of this experience, which gave me the confidence to run RPGs for people I barely knew when I joined the UEA Games Society in 2005.

But while D&D may have been my first RPG purchase, it certainly wouldn’t be quite as prominent in my collection as time went on.  Certainly, it’s not my most recent RPG purchase…

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