When I was in high school, I really wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons. I was super interested in role-playing games, because they seemed really really cool.
Sadly, I never played table-top RPGs back then. I think the D&D players at my school were closet gamers, or perhaps there simply weren’t any (though there were a fair number of CCG gamers). My high school wasn’t very large (for a school in my area), and it was a private, religious school. I didn’t socialise with many people, because I didn’t feel as if the majority of people there had much in common with me. The sort of people who went to my school were kind of like the asshats who attended Napoleon Dynamite‘s high school, except more affluent, and possibly more self-righteous (or they gave the impression of being that way). I suppose I could have fallen in with the other ‘outcasts’, and I did somewhat (despite my asocial tendencies), but none of them played RPGs.
There was a comic book shop near my house, and I did know that the owners hosted table-top games at the shop on some evenings. However, I was shy and intimidated by them because they were older and OMG they owned their own comic book shop. I actually wrote a report for English class about table-top RPGs. The aim of the assignment was to do research on something you were interested in. I suppose that would have been my opportunity to play, however I was also fairly shy.
So, despite my desire to get into role-playing games, I didn’t play until I went to university. When I went to uni, I fell in with the live-action role-playing (LARP) people. One of my friends, who was persuaded to attend the first meeting by the guy who ran one of the LARPs, dragged me along because she didn’t want to go alone. She eventually stopped playing, and I stayed on.
The first game I played was a user-created derivative of the World of Darkness. I then LARPed in the Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse settings in the Mind’s Eye Theatre LARP system. I was very nearly dragged into LARPs for Mage: The Ascension and Changeling: The Dreaming. I got as far as half generating a Sidhe character for Changeling, though I admit that the main reason I started generating the character was because she had wings. I was in the Camarilla, White Wolf‘s official LARP club/global campaign, and played Vampire for that.
Thus, my first proper role-playing experience was LARP, not table-top. I LARPed for a several years, for most of my years as an undergraduate, in fact. I suppose I could have tried table-top and done LARP at the same time, however LARP was very time-consuming, possibly moreso than table-top, since many, many out-of-game hours were spending plotting, scheming, and discussing. Eventually, LARP burned me out. The time, travel, and associated financial requirements proved too much for me. I didn’t really have bad experiences or meet particularly offensive people. I think it all just wore me down, and I had too many other interests and priorities to continue with LARP.
LARPing had many positive aspects. LARP exposed me to a lot of unpressured (because it was just a game), and sometimes diverse social situations. This probably would not have happened very often, had I not LARPed. I certainly would not have gone out to the pub as often as I did, had it not been for the fact that our LARP time-ins were at the pub. Pubs are great, but the probability of meeting freakish ‘yahs’ and other unsavouries was high at my university, and it’s always nice to be at the pub with people you want to be around, rather than try to find people at the pub that you would like to be around.
I miss it, actually. I had a lot of fun LARPing, but it would be too inconvenient to LARP regularly now. And there is no pub culture in America, which was a key part of the enjoyment I derived from LARPing in the UK. LARPing in America, due to the distances involved, feels much more structured and time-pressured. You feel like you have to have a checklist of plotting items for your character to get out of the way that evening, or else you would have to wait another month or more to see the characters you needed to deal with. Whereas with weekly (or fortnightly) time-ins at the pub, it was far less pressured, and one felt that one got to know the characters in town a lot better.
I will mention quickly that it seemed to me that there were a lot more women present at LARPs than as compared to what one might find at an equivalent gathering of table-top RPGers. I don’t know for sure, since I haven’t been playing table-top RPGs for very long. I will also mention that I am not, nor have I ever been, a depressed, melodramatic, goth type, though there were many of those at Vampire LARPs.
When I went to graduate school, I was determined to try table-top RPGs (finally) and I just had to play D&D. Luckily, a couple of people in the Games Society were running a D&D game, and they had open spaces. I played in that campaign for a year, and I had an awesome time. The DMs were great, the players were great, the game was great, and I had so much fun.
Since then I played D&D just once more on table-top. The campaign didn’t even finish, and we stopped playing within two months because of player time committments. It was during this game that I realised how much my experiences as a player depended on an experienced DM who took the time to describe settings in detail, and who was patient enough to answer all my questions regarding positioning of objects and the layout of the environments.
After that, I played in a couple of unfinished, but incredibly fun campaigns on RolePlay OnLine.
I think you can still call me a n00b in terms of actual gameplay mechanics and technicalities. I get confused and need help rolling up characters. I get confused about armour class, and damage, and stats and combat. I don’t know all the Character Classes very well. All those numbers mess me up. Whereas I had been used to settling Social Challenges, Combat Challenges, etc. using Paper-Scissors-Stone in LARP games, the use of dice in table-top games did not come naturally at first. I really only know to use a d20, and I don’t know what the other dice are for. If I was told what those dice were for (which I know I was), I always forget, and people have to tell me what to do as if it was my first time playing. I’m hopeless, really.
I certainly don’t know any rules well enough to be a munchkin of any kind. I’m not so into the mechanics that I’ll take the time to actually learn, in-depth, what the most optimum build for a character’s Class is, or whatever. I guess I don’t have the patience for all that, apart from basic rules. I think I have always been like that, even when I LARPed. I just like playing.
I’d like to try other table-top game eventually, but I don’t really know any nerds people (in the area) willing to put in the committment for a long-running game based more on story and not so much on monotonous dungeon-crawling. I don’t even know if I would make the time for it, if I didn’t know at least one person that was involved.
I would actually much rather reprise the character I played whilst I was in the London D&D game. The DM had started an email solo campaign with me, but he became insanely busy, and now my character is languishing in limbo. I’m still very attached to that character, you see… And geez, I’d like to level her up. The campaign is still ongoing, and all the characters are levels above me. I am sad. :-(
Er… So there you have it!