An occasional series of posts from members of the GROGSQUAD telling their story of getting back into the hobby following a ‘real-life’ imposed freeze. This time, Neil Benson, The Old Scouse Roleplayer himself, talks about how rediscovered the past.
It seems odd now that for 20 years or more I didn’t think once about tabletop RPG’s. House, kids and work kept me occupied and World of Warcraft was enough to scratch my gaming itch.
A game of Mansions of Madness at the end of 2014 stirred the flames for tabletop gaming; it felt so fresh and exciting after decades of video games. The banter, rolling dice, the gorgeous physical components, puzzle solving, strategising, decision making and the elation of surviving were a thrill. I was hooked. like an old addict giving into their habit, feeling that rush, the realisation that I had 20+ years of gaming to catch upon. Most of 2015 was spent exploring board games; I didn’t have a gaming group and so tried a few solo games and watched a few videos, but everything felt very much under control. Funny thing was that during this time, although I thought about RPG’s I never once considered playing them.
Early 2016 a old gaming friend (let’s call him Steve, seeing as that’s his name) offered to run Trail of Cthulhu on this Roll20 thing. Steve lives in San Diego, but said that it would be like playing in the same room. It turned out I was the only player in that first game, but decided to give it my best shot. Within half an hour I felt like I’d hit the mother lode… screw boardgames, this was the good stuff. Ohhh yeaaah…
That game still stands out, the Gumshoe system was perfect, the game perfectly paced, the outcome highly satisfying. I wanted more, and so Steve ran a few more adventures – our heroes moved from the mysteries of Bletchley Park to the horrors of occupied Paris. Great stuff.
Over the next few weeks I became obsessed with the idea of GMing myself, I’d always thoroughly enjoyed running games back in the day. When I turned my attention to DTRPG and Kickstarter I was overawed by how much things had changed in the past 20 years, but was also drawn in by the basic premise still being the same. Technology has made games far more accessible, and the number of games available has increased a hundredfold at least, but it’s still about people, stories, characters, adventure and kickass rules.
Overwhelmed by choice my first purchase was a game that even now just sits on my shelf gathering dust: The One Ring. A beautiful tome of a book, I reasoned that my love of Tolkein’s work would make this my perfect game. But it was too complex for me back then, I needed something simpler. Having played TOR recently at DevaCon I found the game fairly simple and intuitive, maybe I need to give it another look.
My quest for games with simpler systems started with Barebones Fantasy, a modern d00 based game with some clever mechanics. I ran a few games for my old gaming buddies on Roll20, but found it wasn’t for me. I went through others, including following a dead end into PbtA territory with Dungeon World – I still can’t make sense of that game. Ultimately my path took me back to the game that really kicked it all off, D&D (my first game was Tunnels & Trolls but it was D&D that made sense). Or more accurately the retroclones; Basic Fantasy, Tombs & Terrors, Swords & Wizardry and my current favourite, Lamentations of the Flame Princess (which I only tried last year being put off by some of the negative press it received).
Along the way I overcame some of my old prejudices; I had a strong dislike of RuneQuest based on past experiences. But a stab at the RQG quickstarter adventure with Dirk, Judge Blythy and Eddy started to win me over; then a 24 hour game of Borderlands with Dirk as GM drew me further in. I’m now playing in a fortnightly game with @Orlanth_Rex and thoroughly enjoying it.
Con’s have played a big part in meeting fellow gamers as has The Grognard Files and all the events around it – one off games, Grogmeet and vGrogmeet. A friendly, welcoming community has made this whole journey incredibly rewarding and I feel I’ve only just started to scratch the surface.
Perhaps the best thing about my RPG revival is that I’m not obsessed like I used to be, I’m fully in control, honest. Now excuse me while I just pop on over to DTRPG…
Follow Neil’s blog: Old Scouser Roleplaying. The RPG mutterings of an old school roleplayer, to read his play reports, reviews and views.