Cult of the Turtle

Joe Tortuga's musing on life,tech and gaming

Pen and Papering

January 05, 2010

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][c (unlike my friends Commodores), and I didn’t really have any games on it — Temple of Apshai Trilogy, which someone had copied for me and for which I had no books nor idea of how to play.  I had a copy of some baseball game where I always struck out, and I had Bureacracy which was freaking hard and I never beat.  Not that I didn’t use it to game, no my AppleWorks MegaTraveller ship building spreadsheet was a thing of legend.

As people went off to school and we followed our separate ways, I played pen and paper games less and less. I never connected with the university’s gaming clubs the way my friends did, and anyway, to quote Wolowitz, “I ha[d] 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.