23 April 2015

A Certain Number of Rings

I find it interesting to think about the progression of one's interests. I was a certified geek from the time I was a small child, obsessing over stories and then Nintendo games and then Dragonlance novels and then Magic cards and so on. It seemed my destiny should then inevitably have led me to the Rome of nerddom: Dungeons & Dragons. In fact my road passed by there a few times. When I was, I believe, 10 years old I somehow got my hands on a copy of a D&D starter pack. All I can really remember is that included was a CD with a narration of a group of players trying the game out for the first time. My friends were immediately turned off, and so back to Magic it was.

Then in college I found out a good friend was a bit of a RPG nerd and attempted to start a campaign for The Call of Cthulhu (I believe it was the Chaosium one). We had one session and it fizzled for reasons I can't remember.

Finally, some years ago, word of The One Ring roleplaying game reached my ears. I looked over Cubicle 7's website, made a half-hearted attempt at locating a local group, then let the interest lay dormant. For one reason or another I got interested in it again, put the core rulebooks on my Amazon wish list for future reference, then felt like a spoiled child when the email notification arrived to tell me that my mom had bought it for me. It was a weird callback to my childhood, not only because my mom bought me a new toy, but because it was like a hole in my nerd résumé, something that had bypassed me as a kid, was being filled in and I devoured the book(s), reading them over the course of a weekend.

My impression was that this should be the perfect gaming experience for me. Tabletop RPGs are games for readers (and writers). It's like somebody said, "Let's have people tell a story together, but add reasons to roll dice so it can be kind of like a game. This will make Derek happy". Never mind the fact that this game is set in my all time favorite fictional world, or that it is an elegant system with beautiful art and a near-perfect depiction of Tolkien's themes. 

So I went about putting a group together. At first I was hoping to join a local crew but the timing did not work out, so it fell to me to cobble a band of adventurers together and shoehorn the sessions into my ridiculous grownup schedule. Eventually things came together -- during the interim I started and attempted a few "play by post" games where the interaction happens on a forum. And the group included my wife. No pressure.

Since then our group has been amazing: four splendid people telling splendid stories. The rigors of being the Loremaster (GM to those uninitiated) are both challenging and rewarding and uncomfortably close to those same rewarding challenges as befall a writer of things. The thing is, though, any time to get together with friends over drinks and food to tell stories is a great time, a pastime that we, as western humans, have all but lost. It has been maintained, and marginalized, in the form of these games and it has only been recently that the form has gotten its just deserts. The fact that we have systematized it is not important, for I will take any time to throw dice and swap stories I can get!

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