Rediscovering RPGs

An assortment of old-school RPG books and zines

I played Dungeons & Dragons as a kid. A lot. I still remember the excitement of opening that D&D Basic set in 1980, when I was 11. And the cake decorated with lead figures* for my 12th birthday. And when I wasn’t playing RPGs, I was usually reading, writing, drawing or dreaming about them.

In the mid-80s, a big fan of Citadel miniatures, I started playing the shiny new Warhammer (first and second editions), switching to the wonderful WFRP first edition as soon as it came out. I felt straight away that WFRP was my game. I’d discovered it myself, but there was more to it than that: characters had far grittier and more realistic backgrounds, the game was set in a fascinating and coherent world based on our own, and best of all it was packed with wry humour and an unmistakeable whiff of Britishness (at a time when it felt like British gamers were second-class citizens to the Americans who wrote most published RPG material).

But by the time I left university, in 1991, I’d given up RPGs. I don’t remember why – I suspect that my increasing dislike to High Fantasy and the fallacy of good vs. evil may have had something to do with it. Plus having less time in general. I joined in with 4 or 5 games of Runequest in my mid-20s (which I enjoyed very much) but essentially I’ve not played an RPG in around 30 years.
Fast-forward to 2020. Coronavirus. Lockdown. I got bored. So bored that I tidied my office… and stumbled on a trove of old role-playing books, zines and supplements, some of which are pictured above. The pictures, the smells, the names… Proustian stuff! That original D&D Monster Manual… I’d spent weeks, months, years, colouring it in as a kid – every single picture. And every single monster brought back memories of games past.
Gradually I hankered to play again.  I admit, I’d been a little snobbish about RPGs, but had been warming to them again for a few years, while discovering that more and more people I love and respect were RPGers.

I posted on Facebook, asking if anyone had a game I could join. I ended up playing in a 5e campaign with a bunch of people around half my age, none of whom I’d known until then. They, and the campaign, were – are – amazing. Playing a plague-refugee ranger in the continent of Hartia became my highlight of the week.

At first I was happy just to play in this campaign. I thought about running my own for about 2 seconds before going “whoah, way too much work”. Within a month I had joined two three more campaigns. Another month and I’d started writing a campaign of my own. Next I had pipe-dreams about running it as a PBeM (already play-testing this with half-a-dozen people, hush hush but the name of this blog is a clue). And now I’ve started writing stand-alone adventures with a view to publishing them. Quite a journey in three months.

Along the way I’ve rediscovered my fetish for reading all sorts of RPG stuff. And I’ve hit a goooood deep vein of stuff. I’ve also discovered what things like 5e, OSR and LotFP mean (although I’m still in the dark about B/X. My biggest bugbear [5d8+5HP] about any new hobby or workplace is the overwhelming flood of acronyms**).

On this blog I’ll be sharing some of my learnings along the way. And, in time, I’ll be sharing some of that sweeet sweeet content that I’m writing.

* I do not recommend trying this at home. Lead’s not great for your brain. Although iT NevuRH DoNe mE ANiE HaRum.

** I know they’re called initialisms actually, but language evolves, grandma.






6 responses to “Rediscovering RPGs”

  1. Tom Van Winkle Avatar

    Greetings! I'm with you.

    I hope you have great fun.

  2. dansumption Avatar

    Hey! Nice one. I had a good old dig through your blog last night, which is one of the reasons why I did this today. Really appreciate all of the research you put into the OSR stuff – I learned a lot.

  3. Tom Van Winkle Avatar

    Thanks for the kind word. Let me tell you as one returnee to another, there are some serious bullies out there now involved in the gaming industry as publishers of amateur work and reviewers. Probably you've caught at least a whiff of this by now. If you are like me and trying to get your bearings in a changed hobby, there are now sects of gamers who release vile language at each other on the internet. It's really weird and toxic: the people who bully gamers are now other gamers. We just have to stay out of the cesspool or save versus poison. I'm guessing your level is high enough that you have no worries!

  4. dansumption Avatar

    Thanks for the heads up! Yes, I'm starting to get a sense for a few… characters out there. Seems to be the case just about everywhere on the internet these days. Fortunately I have some Bracers of Defense which ought to help me out 😉

  5. Tom Avatar

    I remember that birthday cake

  6. dansumption Avatar

    Haha, there's a photo somewhere, I'm sure! Wyvern riding out of the top of it.

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