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Our diverse backgrounds in RPG (not Roll20 feedback)

In some other thread Well, I'm curious then what everyone's background is, then. Because we probably all come from a variety of game settings. …snip… It could be what we're discussing is a subcultural difference. That seems like a worthwhile question. Understanding where each other are coming from (and trying to go to) will save us from talking past each other and perhaps even head off unpleasant quarrels. So. What games have you played and do you play, and how and why? What are your style and goals and methods?
I started with various editions of D&D (AD&D, 3.5, and 4e), then moved to Talislanta and Shadowrun 4e. Found out that I liked story games / indie games and have been trying to find players for Fiasco, Smallville, 3:16, and the like, since. I mostly play online, using Skype (text and/or voice), with a variety of tools backing it up (Google Docs, RPGtonight, Google Wave, little bit of MapTool). In college I was introduced to theatrical LARPs, first as a player, then I transitioned to primarily GMing. We ran both four hour games and weekend longs games: almost everything that SIL West produced and a few British LARPS. While I do play longer games (longest is a 54-session D&D game, ongoing), when I GM, I prefer to try out lots of games rather then choose a system or two and stick with them. As such, my goal, going forward, is to be able to play any given tabletop RPG online, from Burning Wheel to Risus, in a manner that is as close to being in the same room as possible.
KS Backer
@Zachary, did you seen Quantum Roleplaying Game on Kickstarter? Might be up your alley, as it's brand-spanking-new (or will be when it's released in a few months).
Thanks for the tip! I'll go check it out.
KS Backer
Started playing AD&D when I was seven or eight (I made my parents play, they were very patient and I was an awful GM). Stopped playing until early college when I picked up M&M2e and played that exclusively for a couple of years. Then I heard someone talking about this new 'Dresden Files' game everyone was excited about and even though I didn't really like the books, I picked it up on a whim. That opened up FATE for me and RPGs as a bigger, broader hobby--from there, I've come to play every brand of game with a strong trend toward narrativist, story games with lots of fiddly bits. My go-to games are currently Marvel Superheroes and FATE, but I love to try out different games and system types. Right now I'm currently playing an offline Don't Rest Your Head game and currently setting up a dungeon crawl with Dungeon World in Roll20. Just got to add that Roll20 is really the VTT I've been looking for forever--the ease of doing things in it so far has far surpassed any other program, but the real delight is how easy it is to just let people click a link and join games. My players are not the kind of people who want to download and mess with fiddly software, so Roll20 lets me use a VTT for the first time, plus gives me something to fiddle with in my downtime.
Started with Shadowrun in the early 90's; I am "self-taught" so to speak, since I just bought the book with no prior knowledge of want an RPG was. I dragged my siblings and some friends into it, and a personal hobby was born. Since then, we played lots of games across the spectrum - SR, Earthdawn, Talislanta, Deadlands, blah blah blah. I never played D&D until 4th edition arrived. Aside from that, we've moved toward rules lighter games over time - Wushu, Hollowpoint, and of late, Barbarians of Lemuria. The last 3-4 years, I've played D&D4E roughly weekly, and almost all of my gaming has been done via VTT (MapTool, primarily, with some "dalliances" to test out new things). Roll20 seems to capture most of the things I really liked about MapTool (although it lacks some stuff to which I've grown accustomed and I automatically expect to be there ) and does so in a slick package with some really great features. I anticipate moving to it a lot more given that I'm playing less complex games these days.
I first came across the idea of RPGs by reading an article by John M. Ford: "On Evenings Beyond the Fields We Know" in the July 1979 issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine . Ford emphasised the literary influences on RPGs (particularly Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover books in his example of play in his fictitious example game "Starquest"). I first got to actually play at school in 1980, joining some mostly younger kids who were playing AD&D in the library. We were awful at it, frankly, and I think the only thing that kept us going was the realisation that it could be much, much better. After buying an incompatible boxed set of Basic D&D by mistake, I got my own set of books in 1981: Players' Handbook , Dungeonmaster's Guide , Monster Manual , and Deities & Demigods (the version with the Lankhmar and Lovecraft material in them). They were expensive, between the exchange rate at the time and the crippling tariff that was supposed to protect the Australian book industry, but that by our convention was the qualification for being allowed to DM. My first adventure was clumsy but okay in the "map with keyed encounters" style. The second was such a catastrophe that none of the players would let me DM again. I had tried to run a plot-based adventure inspired by Fritz Leiber's "Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser" stories: the PCs by a lucky break defeated a monster much too tough for their level (it had been very nearly killed by the preceding, higher-level party that came through earlier in the day) and obtained a treasure much too valuable for their level, but then got into a lot of hot water and had to give up the treasure to escape with their lives. The other players declared, when the monsters from the dungeon started chasing them cross-country, that I wasn't playing right, and they walked out on me. So it was back to playing characters for me. We also played a brief game of Traveller in there (Easter 1981?), which I fouled up by trying to outsmart the GM (and succeeding). 1982 I started at Uni, met a bunch more role-players, and ran a bit more AD&D. But I always ran it story style (or "Wilderness Adventure" as we called it back then), with villains and plots and NPCs with hidden agendas: lots more structure than sandbox gaming, but structure based on story elements rather than locations and murder-hobos. I had a reputation as either a good GM or a very bad character-player, I'm not sure which. Late in '82 I got exasperated by the rigidities of the character-class system in D&D, the oddities of Armour Class, the strange interactions of huge hit point totals with magical healing, falling damage etc., and the fact that the spells were all designed with dungeon-bashing in mind and with too little thought given to what they did to adventure stories, mysteries, and civil life. Also, as my players got more interested in characters like in stories we all got irritated with random character generation. I gave away my collections of AD&D, BD&D, and Dragon magazine, bought The Fantasy Trip , and subscribed to (the ill-fated) Fantasy Gamer . At that stage I was still running intrigue/adventure-based fantasy games with mapped-"dungeon" set pieces. In 1983 I wrote my first detailed, not-a-ragbag-of-clichés gaming setting, and played in other GM's AD&D and Rolemaster games. I let my gaming groups grow way too big (eleven character-players at one stage) and by a combination of GMing failures let my game collapse into conflict between factions of PCs. In 1984, feeling that I could come up with a better sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark than Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom , I examined Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes , returned it to the store for a refund, and bought Justice, Inc. , which was my staple game through to the end of 1986. In this period I ran a lot of exploration/adventure, intrigue/adventure, and mystery/thriller material set in the real world (or at least the real world of adventure movies and stories).Like the adventure stories I read and watched, this material was set anywhere from India and Africa to London and San Francisco, and at any period from Allan Quatermain to James Bond. I didn't play characters much in those years.
In 1986 I started at a new university, and met bunches of people who were running Champions , Call of Cthulhu , James Bond 007 RuneQuest , DragonQuest , and Bushido , and experimenting occasionally with other games, all in plot-driven, not location-driven, adventures. We published a little amateur magazine (to which I contributed an adventure and a couple of artciles on GM and player craft), and collaborated to design and run "flexi-form" modules at the local gaming con. One of those blokes designed an SF game called ForeSight with a fantasy supplement called HindSight , which were very powerful and flexible and became my general-purpose RPG engine. I designed my SF setting and my second (even more detailed and even less conventional) fantasy setting for use with ForeSight and HindSight respectively, and for about fifteen years I ran nearly everything from historical adventures in the Roman Empire to Space 1889 , Call of Cthulhu to James Bond , Noir PI investigations to planet-of-the-week SF exploration, high fantasy in my custom setting to Star Wars and even "I Can't Believe It's Not Highlander " either with or by converting to ForeSight . I did take some breaks, most notably into Vampire and CyberPunk 2020 , Castle Falkenstein , Pendragon , and (briefly) In Nomine , and played in a few die-hard RuneQuest games, but always came back, usually because of the rules not working. Gradually the people who actually had copies of ForeSight all drifted away. I drifted to the HERO System and then to GURPS as being general-purpose rule-sets, broadly capable enough to handle the wide range of settings and genres that I run, and also in print and available to other players. In 2003 I moved from the medium city I had lived in since 1986 to a small country town, where the only games within two hours' drive are Warhammer tabletop wargamers and Living D&D stalwarts. I gave it a go, but couldn't find common ground with them at all. I took up with a group in the nearest medium city, who play a wide range of games from Bushido , WHFRP , and Flashing Blades to Blue Planet , Traveller , and All Flesh Must Be Eaten . Unfortunately, playing with them involves either a three-hour drive each way or playing by VOIP or (more recently) Google+ Hangouts. While I was actually gathering with them in August 2011 one of them dragged out Spirit of the Century , which was a total blast, and which got me interested in the Story Games movement and in using tokens (e.g. poker chips), cards etc. as supplements and supports to player craft in extemporising stories. I have been running RPGs over the InterNet since 1994. My first effort used InterNet text chat as the medium, ForeSight as the rules, and involved a Verne-tech spaceship expedition to Mars in 1896. It flunked because I don't type fast enough, or even read fast enought to keep up with five or six character-players all typing at once. Next (1995) I tried play-by-e-mail, with HindSight as the rules and my fantasy setting Gehennum as the setting. That worked, but it was too slow and took too much effort to keep up, at least at the standard I set. Then, in about 2004 or 2005 I started running games play-by-post on the Steve Jackson Games, using first ForeSight and then GURPS as the rules, in my SF setting Flat Black . That had the same problem as play-by-e-mail, besides enormous difficulties when certain players stopped responding for extended periods. In the last five years or so I've had three or four goes at running games by VOIP, which almost works, but not quite. Those games have foundered over the problem of scheduling people in New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Iceland, Kentucky, Texas, New Mexico, and California all to be on-line at the same time, but a contributing cause is that they didn't run very well without our being able to see people speak and use non-verbal cues as to who was to speak next, and without a way to exchange diagrams, maps, and sketches in real time. The combination of Google+ Hangouts with Scribblink or Twiddla as a shared on-line whiteboard has been working okay (at least since we stopped trying to use a room mike in the middle of one player's living room), but now that we're playing Spirit of the Century the inability to exchange poker chips has become an impediment.
KS Backer
Sheet Author
I am going to keep mine pretty brief... just stopping through as I settle down for the night. I began RPing in the mid-80s, primarily as an inheritance of my older siblings who had been playing a few years longer. Initially, I was told I could play with them only if I got my hands on my own 2nd Edition D&D Players Handbook and dice. I surprised them a few months after they set what they thought was an impossible goal. Since then I've played the original D&D versions, and everything that followed 2nd Edition up until 4e. I drew the line at 4e, as it felt more like a boardgame/videogame than a roleplaying game. I liked the convolutions and elitist bookishness D&D brought out in myself and other players, so seeing it reduced to Tanks and Strikers, etc, really... well, it angered me. So I went to Pathfinder when it arose. But in the meantime of all that, I've played every game in every edition that WhiteWolf had to offer. My first WoD game to play was Dark Ages Vampire, while my first to run was (oh, and it's a doozy) the original Mage: The Ascension. I ran it with only one day to read and prepare for it. Talk about trial by fire. I played the Dark Ages game every Sunday night for around 8 hours, for 4 years; my Mage games didn't quite last as long. Then I took a stab at game design, creating an alternate racial book for WoD called 'Ryshad: Immortality' and ran that awhile. Meanwhile, I continued to play in pickup games. I spent most of the 90s bouncing between Vampire, Werewolf, Palladium's Rifts, HERO system, Shadowrun, D&D, and anything anyone would let me hold long enough to read. I also spent most of the late 90s as a player, then developer and Storyteller on Talkers (similar MUDs) that ran Vampire the Masquerade. When 2000 rolled around, I upgraded as I went back offline, and I also began to question what the games were to me... That was when I started running the old games I'd learned in a more freeform manner. We rolled less. I demanded less; I rewarded cunning and critical roleplaying moreso than number crunching and stat counting, and I converted most of my players into either limelighters or serious thinkers in the process. We began trying out Call of Cthulhu, and I found a Deadlands game to play in. The richer game worlds lead me to create my first minimal-rolling zombie survival game. It had a character sheet, but the way it played felt more like a Story Game. The system of which has gone on to be used for a superhero setting, and was once retrofit to allow the equivalent of an RPG version of Silent Hill. These days I mostly run Pathfinder with homebrew settings, classes, mechanics, etc. I don't use the XP system; I reward in tokens that give players narrative leeway; I grant the occasional out of character player wish; and when we get bored, we play whatever comes along. I was in the beta for PSIrun for example, and a little while back, I pulled out my Jenga and we played Dread. If its fun, and it can be a story, simulation or story game... I'll play it. It is one of the things that most endeared me about this project, it's 'system agnosticism' concept... Whatever works to make a good story happen, y'know?
I started fairly recently by comparison (2006 maybe) with D&D 3.5ed. The first couple of campaigns I ran were Planescape in 3.5, for moderate groups. I then organized a big 'club campaign' thing with multiple parallel DMs and maybe 20 players, also 3.5. I also ended up running a 2ed sandbox D&D campaign for awhile. I was meanwhile playing 7th Sea, L5R, BESM, and a summer-long 1ed D&D campaign. I switched my Planescape campaigns to an adaptation of 7th Sea (7thscape) and ran that for awhile, then started running conceptually very weird stuff in either heavily homebrewed 3.5 or 7thscape rules: an E6 fantasy space-opera game about someone destroying parallel universes to leave only the 'perfect' reality, an extremely high-powered D&D 3.5 game where the players were the souls of the dead in an afterlife where the dead ran the underpinnings of reality (with such systems as the Courtroom, where you could petition the universe to change the laws of physics in the form of the rules of the game), and recently a campaign modeled a bit after the SCP and Warehouse 13 about a world designated by the gods to be the design shop of reality, such that all the artistic endeavors of that world become the creatures, planets, what-have-you of other realms. Generally the focus of my stuff is on figuring out what the heck is going on, using very weird powers/items/bits of knowledge in weird situations to leverage very large effects on the world. Lots of players' actions shape the campaign world stuff. I've played a number of oneshots of various systems including MERP, Paranoia, a homebrew thing called Zen, GURPS, a Babylon 5 RPG, etc. I've also ran a number of oneshots in homebrew systems including something I called COGS (Class-Orthogonality-Game-System), 'Game of the Gods' which was sort of like the god-games you see in PbP form (players create a setting over the course of the game), FUDGE, and another simplified system for a fairytale-style game. I've most recently been playing in a very heavily modified full WoD+Exalted campaign.
I started with Vampire long ago, and then moved to other World of Darkness games, which comprise the majority of my collection. In the meantime, I got introduced to Legend of the Five Rings\7th Sea which I fell thoroughly in love with. I never managed to get into Dungeons and Dragons in any of its incarnations, even if I did try ADD, 3.0, 3.5 and 4th. Maybe because I'm not really into Medieval Fantasy (I did enjoy Decipher's Lord of the Rings, though). Then I ended up experiencing quite a few different genres: Cybergeneration\Cyberpunk 2020, Adventure!, Aberrant, WitchCraft\Armaggedon, Victoriana\Castle Falkenstein. I do have quite a few games more in my collection and played a few others, but those are currently my favourite.
My introduction to pen-and-paper RPGs at the end of highschool at the turn of the millennium was novel, to say the least. A then-friend of mine and others got us together to play AD&D... except in retrospect he just made up the rules as he went along (and pretty much everything else in life as it turned out, the guy was close to being a pathological liar as they come, could fill a message board with the stuff he told, and we eventually tossed him to the winds of fate.) Our other friends were playing 3e and Vampire: the Masquerade so we listened to their adventuring stories and eventually made characters and played a few games with a some of them. The game I preferred from the few I tried turned out to be D&D 3e, and it (or it's variants) is always one I return to. My first stint as GM started shortly after - world-building and campaign-creation was always something I was interested in. The first D&D game I GMd ended up a bit less epic than I hoped as the adventuring party kept having to return to town after several encounters with cocatrice and the same character repeatedly failing his easy saving throws and being turned to stone (they have since been referred to Death Chickens amongst the group). I then got into Warhammer 40k in a big way after dabbling a little in middle school. After 6th Form, I started my first major campaign in 3rd Ed with my best friend and some new friends we'd made in the Real World, and it went well and has some great stories from it, before fizzling out. Towards the end we had started dabbling in other systems, such as Elric of Melniboné D100 system, the then-new iteration of the World of Darkness games, Starwars D20 and the old West End Star Wars system (which out of the two I greatly preferred) as well as a few indie games such as Kobolds Ate My Baby (ALL HAIL KING TORG!). After a while, D&D 4ED came around and we played that a little - I really didn't like it at all. I felt there was very little you could do to personalise how character could act and I hated the combat, I still call it D&D the CCG. Instead we started playing the Warhammer 40k RPGS, primarily Dark Heresy and Deathwatch. Since then our dabblings in other systems have increased again, adding Burning Wheel, Eclipse Phase, Pathfinder and Dragonborn to the mix. That pretty much brings us up to date, where we're now just starting a double Pathfinder campaign (2 campaigns running side by side with the same players in the same setting - I run one random-sandbox campaign with one group of characters, though that will likely become more organised as players decide on a specific goal, and my friend runs the Kingmaker campaign with another group).
Started playing AD&D around 1983 (3rd grade) when my older brother and friends needed another player. Then started playing with some friends who I played with all the way through highschool. AD&D, D&D (early box sets), Star Frontiers, a custom built system we all developed, then in Highschool got into Shadowrun (original version), plus some miniature games like Leviathan, Battletech etc. After joining the Navy, played in some groups, again with AD&D 2nd ed, Champions, Gurps, Battletech, Centurion and some other tactical combat style games. Did play some campaigns in the ancient Swords and Sorcery system (from the 70's), cyberpunk a bit (liked shadowrun better). Played around with other various games, but nothing long term. Shadowrun moved into 2nd and 3rd editions. Started messing with D&D 3.0 when I was getting out of the navy. Didn't play anything from 2002 to 2009, as I moved a few times till I finally settled down here in the Chicago area. I was jonesing bad to play, so I started my own meetup group to find players. Tried a different group, but it was to far away and the people were to umm...."stereotypical" gamers. I finally developed a good core group of good players and people I have played with now going on for 3 years. For the most part we have switched over to Pathfinder for our D&D playing. The one campaign I play in is a custom built world with a modified Pathfinder system. I'm working on my first campaign, a Pathfinder system on a custom world that I will be using Roll20 to GM. I'm sure their are some other systems I've played that I've forgotten about too. Oh, and I'm going on 39 years old, married with a very young son (10 months) who will be a future gamer!
@Sean Davis Yeah I have a young son who's growing up to be a bit of a gamer... keeps wanting to play with my Chaos Marine and Dark Elf warhammer minis. I can't wait till he's a few years older to bring him into our weekend gaming group, I think he'd love it.
@Paul Croyle Yah, one of the guys I game with just started to introduce his ~10 year old son to gaming. So far so good. I know I started young. That and I'm going to turn him into a little gold farmer for my online gaming habits. :P
I started in the early 90s. Dragonlance, Fighting Fantasy and the D&D cartoon had led to the inevitable Black Box, which in turn led to AD&D. That was then pretty much all through senior school, with diversions into Call of Cthulhu (and a couple of other Chaosium games), a few of the Palladium games and some odds and ends along the way, mostly Warhammer orientated. My time was divided about 3/4 behind the screen and 1/4 dice in hand. Then came White Wolf. Starting with Werewolf, then Vampire, we tried pretty much every variation. This then moved to the Dark Ages during Uni and a D&D3 revival shortly after. Since then, life has got in the way and I've not done much gaming until 4E DnD came out. After adapting to the culture shock, we've been binging and fasting with the group being spread out over the UK. Hopefully, Roll20 will teach us a bit of moderation.