Pen and Papering

My gamer roots are with pen and paper games.  Oh, my family played the classic board games: Monopoly, Life, Connect Four. We later got Stratego and Risk and some more esoteric things — but that was after the pen and paper revolution. We played a lot of card games — Bridge was my father’s favorite, although Mom and I struggled to keep up with him and his mother.  But there was just something about pen and paper games that got to me, and to my friends.

D&D was first, with the red box.  We quickly switched to Traveller, because one of our players (the one with the best play space, at the time) was the son of a Southern Baptist minister and spells and demons were not okay, but lasers and aliens somehow were.  We never told Blair’s dad about his Ultima game collection.

My computer was an Apple] a girlfriend!”  She did some BBS games, and we mudded, and I moved over into computer games where I could be more solitary and still play.   I liked CRPGs, even if I claimed it was a misnomer, since you couldn’t play a role.  Perhaps that’s why I liked Daggerfall so much, as it gave me that freedom of expression that I missed from pen and paper games.

I eventually came back to regular gaming, as we built our poly family — most of whom were gamer geeks of one stripe or another. In Charlotte, we had a regular group of 7 or so who played, enough that we could rotate GMs and games around, and try the occasional something different.  We still wound up on D&D more than half the time, which was comfortable for us, and let us do some things.

But I’ve always loved indie games, with a particular love for rules-light storytelling systems that encouraged role playing over the kill-loot-sale cycle.  I think that’s because the latter is easy to get in video games; it’s ultimately the complete draw to games like Torchlight and World of Warcraft, feeding the gambler addiction and the ever increasing stack of wealth and power.

We haven’t gamed regularly — or much at all — in a couple of years. I’m at a point where I’m ready to ask strangers into my messy home just so we can go to far away lands and kill things.  I mean tell stories. Or something.  We’re still pretty tied up to D&D and kill/loot/sale.  That’s our group, and it’s what we do.  There’s space for more, and I’ve been giving some thought about how to help that sort of thing happen.

In fact, if you read this blog and are willing and capable of travelling to Columbus for gaming, I’m up to talking to you about doing this thing.   Somehow that’s less intimidating than going to the D&D meetup — but then I’ve never had good success at finding a group amongst self-culled gaming groups.  I don’t know, but I’m starting to feel desperate to play some pen and paper.  Computer RPGs are so soulless, and even introverts need to get out once in a while.


  1. For some fairly rules light (2 versions of combat, a basic one & an advanced) there’s Ironclaw &/or Jadeclaw. The furry aspect delights some people & horrifies other. It’s no odder than playing an elf really. There are very few ‘monsters’, except in the April Fool supplements. There’s a few undead and some elementals & that’s it. There’s more man vs man & man vs nature type stuff. And yes, I do really like that game, why do you ask?

    There’s also the Guardians of Order Tri-stat system; like Big Eyes, Small Mouth. Spirit of the Century looks awesome, but you already know about that. There’s also Buffy & Serenity if you like the media tie-in (& yes, the game system is playable, I ran a Buffy game for awhile).

    1. I know that we had a lot of fun creating Ironclaw characters, but the combat seemed really complicated to me. I’ve looked at the others but they mainly don’t have the flavor my group wants. I suspect we’ll play Dresden Files when it comes out, but that’s going to be as far as I stretch them.

      I tried to talk them into Primetime Adventures, and almost made that work. But, ultimately, if there is no loot, I don’t have buy-in. Loot implies killing, and dungeons and lots of other stuff. I think I just need to get what I need out of D&D, and I’m going to talk a bit more about that tomorrow.

      FWIW, I would love to have a group open to playing all those games (well I don’t care about Buffy or Serenity much). I do have some folks playing My Life With Master with me on Wave so that’ll help a bit. The game I’m playing in should be pretty story-centric, too.

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