Why We Play

This post is the first in a series from myself and some excellent guest authors regarding roleplaying games and how we got into the hobby and how it’s affected us. What we play to accomplish and more.. Enjoy. 

Summer 2000. I was a tall, skinny kid from North Dakota at a Boy Scout camp in Minnesota. We were sharing a campsite with some other troops, and since ours was fairly small, we had made pretty good friends with the other scouts. Near the end of the night, I saw several of them sitting around a camp table. One of the scout leaders was standing up and gesturing expansively. More ghost stories clearly. So I wandered on over. Paper, books, and pencils were scattered across the table.

Clearly. Not ghost stories.

I was sat down, and someone handed a character sheet. A older scout instructed me in assigning ability scores, choosing a class (druid seemed appropriate), a race (half-elf, because they had cool names), and an animal companion (a badger, our troops animal). It probably took 20 minutes for me to pick my spells, thumb through the Monster Manual to look at my badger and see what was going on, and pick my weapon. Dire flail. Because hell yes. It’s a two headed flail…seriously. So awesome.

So, 30 minutes down, and the rest of my life was utterly changed. Aramil Naell, the half-elf Druid, was the first character I ever played. It was a simple adventure. Hunting kobolds. Fighting a white dragon (I summoned a thoqqua, a elemental fire worm that drills through the earth), and it was over. Maybe two hours of game play total. I remember thinking how cool it was to play a board game where I controlled a character.

I went home to North Dakota. The only stores that carried any RPG books was the Borders and Barnes and Noble in the only mall in town. I saved money I earned for a long time. In the meanwhile (several years), I read every fantasy novel I could get my hands on. Robert Jordan, R.A. Salvatore, Weis and Hickman, David Gemmell, Elaine Cunningham, Ed Greenwood. Anything that had a D&D label on the cover, or a fantasy looking character I devoured. Anything with a TSR or Tor imprint was given a shot and read.

About this same time, a friend introduced me to Warhammer Fantasy. While looking at models at the only hobbystore in town, I saw boxes of dice. I still have the first set I bought. Crystal Green. White lettering. Eventually I spent 100$ on all 3 core source books for 3.5 edition D&D. I still had no play group, and so I eventually taught my younger siblings to play.

After that, it was history.

16 years of roleplaying has lead to a lot of history. I’ve studied the origins of the hobby extensively. I’ve hunted down old editions and bought them online and at cons. My RPG book collection is extensive and covers games from Stormbringer to World of Darkness, to 1st Ed D&D to Pathfinder to Traveller to Empire of the Petal Throne.  Boxes of dice litter my house. All my old characters are in a binder carefully kept and placed. Minis, campaign notes and more are just scattered everywhere.

I’ve graduated from player to gamemaster more often then not, and I relish the chance to play. Everyone is different and plays for different reasons.

It took a long time for me to realize why I played and what I enjoy in RPGs. Story, character growth and strength are great, but what I relish, more then anything, is the chance to be a hero. Almost all my campaigns revolve around heroes. The world needs more heroes, and sadly, our modern society doesn’t allow heroics in everyday life. Roleplaying gives me that out. I play to be a hero I can’t be in real life. But more then that. I want a game that allows for laughter and fun with friends. The realization that all of us are playing a game and telling a story together, and that in the end, a game is just that. A game. A tool to provide fun. It’s a tool that when you forget why you use it, you stop using it right. A good RPG gives every player what they want and need.

Some of my best campaigns were in college with my friends. Staying up late during finals week to hurry and rush the resolution of a campaign before we all left for 3 months. All nighters to finish that epic battle and save the world. Characters dying and frantic rushes to the temples to bring them back. Markus Cryst, my rogue turned thief guildmaster. Ser Dante Alabaster, Paladin of the Ninth Order. Suka Coldheart, Ice Witch and Queen of the Northern Reaches.

Roleplaying has given me life-long friendships. I’ve got shared stories with some of the best people I’ve ever met, and the bonds you forge in the late hours of a night with friends are hard to break even through distance and lack of communication. It’s affecting my writing, my day to day activities and how I handle myself. I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff and let the little things slide. I’ve become more patient, more analytic, and I’ve learned to approach problems in out of the box ways.  I would never change this hobby for anything in my life, and I will always be grateful to the lessons I’ve learned.

Scion has become my favorite RPG. As the child of a God of classical mythology, fighting to save the world, it’s really the game that falls right up my alley. Built to drive cinematic, environment destroying combat, it’s a game about choices against parents who only want to use you as tools in a war, defending your legend against evil and monsters. Awesome powers, heroic feats and so much more. I’ll drop anything to run Scion. The tales of the children of gods. Heroes in the extreme.

For me, RPGs will always be about heroes and villains. Knights in shining armor, fighting alongside knights in battered and dented armor. It’ll be about not choosing evil over good, or the easy way out. For me, it’s how we want to view ourselves.

It’s escapism into a reality where I am more then the sum of my parts. Where the equation is not balanced. Where the words I use to describe myself are ideals, not truth. Synergy into heroism. Indomitable. Honorable. Chivalrous. Gallant.

Why do you play RPGs? What are they to you? Sound off in the comments!