I have been roleplaying since I was ten years old – that’s over twenty years – and it has formed the core of my spare time and social life for most of that time.
It all started when a guy named Peter moved into my neighbourhood and brought Dungeons and Dragons with him. Yes, Dungeons and Dragons – much mocked, little understood. It was great. My limited social circle were basically only interested in football at that point. And I. Hate. Football. Suddenly we had a regular social activity that I actually enjoyed. Together we beat up carrion crawlers, troglodytes, dragons – whatever random monster of the week came up. It wasn’t really much more than a board game at that point, but it captured my imagination.
Since then I branched out, always creeping closer and closer to the kind of gaming I wanted to do, the kind that was about characters and epic stories, the kind that matched the exciting descriptions you heard about in the marketing blurb for virtually any rpg you might happen to read, but which were a million miles away from the games I played as a ten-year-old. Don’t get me wrong: I like beating up a dragon as much as the next nerd, but it wasn’t what I wanted the core of my gaming to be. Still, it was the thing that brought me and my small circle of friends together in secondary school (which I hated, and which roleplaying made bearable). Oddly enough, I didn’t do much *actual roleplaying* during this time. I devoured dozens of massive textbooklike roleplaying books, learning arcane trivia like what “SCUBA” stands for and the furthest distance anyone has fallen and survived.
It was when I got to university that the hobby really exploded for me. I joined the Oxford University roleplaying games society, and was united with dozens of fellow gamers, all bright, enthusiastic and energetic. They ran games. A lot. I found myself trying out LRP – stood up, in a room full of strangers, physically pretending to be my character. Really it wasn’t any different from an amateur dramatics night, I suppose, but it was very exciting for me. At OU RPGsoc I ran the first proper campaign (in the sense of one that ran for more than a handful of sessions) of my career thus far, a game about an attempt at space colonisation gone horribly wrong. I learned how to manage difficult players, how to manage a team of referees, and I saw some fantastic roleplaying.
I have dozens of friend from OU RPGsoc who I am still close to. It gave me the foundation of the next ten years of roleplaying. Because of it, I had the confidence to show up in London and recruit about a dozen complete strangers to play in First Born, an epic fantasy game. It’s funny, but I don’t think I appreciated at the time what a big thing that was. Thanks to First Born I met dozens more roleplayers, and was introduced to their strange world of 24-hour roleplaying. (Think Blair Witch Project… on second thoughts, don’t. Ask me if you’re interested.)
These days I don’t have time to run LRP events for dozens of players, as much as the idea frequently tempts me. But my entire social circle, more or less, is made up of roleplayers, and an awful lot of time I spend with them is spent playing a fictional character of one kind or another. And it is still the most fun you can have for the cost of a train fare and some snack food.
Strangely enough, my work colleagues are not aware of my hobby. For whatever reason, I have felt that talking about it with them would be A Bad Plan. Every time I go roleplaying I tell them I’m just hanging out with friends, not really doing anything. They must think I have the most boring life ever. I occasionally tell my fellow gamers that I can’t “come out” because I’m a manager and it would undermine my authority if people felt I had a nerdy hobby. Whatever, it’s probably just an excuse. I’m pretty jealous of Admiral Frax, who told her colleagues when she joined her company and has never looked back. If I told people now it would just look weird that I never mentioned it before.
Anyway. Thankyou roleplaying, you’ve been a positive presence in my life all this time and still carry on giving. And by the way, thanks to all the fabulous roleplayers I know, who have made it all so much fun.
This has been my contribution to speak out with your geek out. A day late. Meh, whatever.