Saturday, July 17, 2004

Role Playing Games I Have Played

Yesterday I talked a bit about role playing games. I have to admit that I played very, very many I was younger. And I must also admit that I have fond memories of my time spent playing them. I can remember most of them fairly clearly.

Oddly enough, while AD&D was the first role playing game I ever played, my memories of AD&D games aren't as clear as those of other games. Like most people I played a succession of characters. When it came to fantasy role playing games, the group of people I played with came to prefer Rolemaster. What set Rolemaster apart from AD&D was that it had many more character classes (classes are something like the character's occupation or profession) and an extensive skill system. This allowed players to create characters who were unlike any other characters in the game. I remember my favourite character in the game. He was an elvan "noble warrior," a class of fighters with special ablities. His name was Thorne and he was a deadly character. I also GMed ("Gamemastered" or refereed) my own Rolemaster campaign for a few years. I think I enjoyed GMing it almost as much as I enjoyed playing it. Rolemaster was published by Iron Crown Enterprises (I.C.E. for short), which went out of business a few years ago. I think that was unfortunate, as they produced some good games.

Our group of role players never did get too much into science fiction oriented games. We did play Traveller a bit, but none of our campaigns lasted very long. When it came to science fiction role playing games, I preferred I. C. E.'s Spacemaster. Our Spacemaster campaign only lasted about six months. I played an escaped replicant (think Blade Runner) who became a pilot. I had a good deal of fun playing that character, particularly ducking the corporation who legally owned me.

For some reason we had much more success with the Western genre, around which Boot Hill was based. I GMed a long running Boot Hill campaign as well as played in a few Boot Hill games myself. And I had some favourite characters came from that game. One was Captain Adam Caine, a Texas Ranger who could be aptly described as the Old West's answer to Dirty Harry. Caine was not only fast on the draw, but deadly accurate too. His partner was Captain Eben (short for Ebeneezer) Able. Caine and Able's relationship was something like that of Doc and Festus's relationship on Gunsmoke. They were always taking digs at each other, but always the first on the scene when the other needed help. Another character I played in Boot Hill was on the opposite side of the law. Jason Hammer was a gunslinger and an outlaw. He was fast and accurate with a gun. Unfortunately for him, he never pulled off a succssful crime in his life. This was due to his partner, John Tyler, who was strong as an ox, but not particularly bright. Hammer would come up with a scheme and somehow Tyler would figure out a way to spoil it. Somehow, despite Tyler's stupidity, they both evaded the law.

The longest campaign I ever GMed, and perhaps the longest anyone GMed in our county, was a Daredevils campaign. Daredevils was a game devoted to adventures of the sort found in the old heroic pulp magazines and movie serials. It was published by Fantasy Games Unliimited. My games essentially played out like a pulp novel or movie serial, compete with cliffhangers. The heroes of the game belong to the Curran Detective Agency (ran by Maxwell "Max Dog" Curran), who regularly faced an array of criminal masterminds and supervillains. I think I may have enjoyed Daredevils more than any other game I GMed.

I also enjoyed a game named Chill, even though our campaign did not last that long. Chill was based around the horror genre. My character was Vladimir Stanislav, a former KGB agent who had the misfortune of encountering a werewolf on one of his missions. He defected to the United States and joined a organisation devoted to investigating the supernatural. Despite this, he was more James Bond than Fox Mulder and carried an array of gadgets he had kept from his days as a spy.

Of course, when it came to horror, very few games are as scarey as Call of CthuluCall of Cthulu was based around the mythos created by writer H. P. Lovecraft. While in many games the challenge is just keeping one's character alive,  the challenge in Call of Cthulu was simply keeping one's character's sanity. In the world of H. P. Lovecraft, there are gods, demons, and even forbidden books that can drive one mad. My character was a private investigator often in the employ of Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts. He was often out of his depth when investigating cases, but he at least knew what to avoid. Perhaps becuase of this he kept his sanity when many of the other characters in the game had been sent to the mental hospital.

We also played role playing games devoted to superheroes. One was Champions, in which we had a few long running campaigns. In one the various players played a rotating roster of characters, ranging from White Lightning (think The Flash as a drunken womaniser) to The Meteor (what if the Silver Surfer was a down on his luck actor). Another was set in a world in which every single conspiracy of which one can think was real. In that game I played a character called The Black Blade, who wielded a sentient (and, unfortunately, evil) sword. Loving comic books as much as I do, I enjoyed Champions a lot. We also played another superhero game called Villains and Vigilantes. My character in it was the Cat Lord. The Cat Lord was the King of the Cats. He not only had the abilities of a cat, but he could shapeshift into any feline that ever existed and, naturally, he could talk to cats. He was a fun character to play.

I played many more role playing games. In fact, I am not sure how many I have played in my life. I do know that I enjoyed most of them. I cannot say my time was wasted playing them. I honestly think they helped exercise my imagination and even made me a better writer. Indeed, there are times when I do miss role playing.

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