A Life Of Fiction CVII

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work before purchasing it on the Kindle store; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.


How I came to be a role-player: As regular readers of this site may have noticed, there are bits on here about my gas-lamp fantasy role-playing game, as well as the fiction which inspired it. It may interest you to hear about how I got into role-playing games in the first place. Well, I hope that it does, otherwise this is going to be a rather dull post for you.

I started out as a war-gamer, to begin with. I think that somebody bought me a book on war-gaming when I was around twelve years old or so – I’ve still got it somewhere – which I found to be fascinating. I had lots of little Airfix plastic figures, by then, but I did not possess any rules for making war. I think that I liked the concept of rolling dice and that was how many little soldiers you had to remove from the area of play.

I went down to the local library (adult) and found books on war-gaming by Donald Featherstone. Those books, as well as advice, contained actual charts and tables, which I adapted into some very simple rules of my own. Later, when some of those books were sold off by the library, I picked them up. They are still on my bookcase. Although I have not looked in them in years, just looking at the legend on the side of those hardback books brings back memories. They are like a madelaine moment, bringing back the memory of painted plastic figures.

Those figures were not great. The plastic swords of the Celtic warriors used to bend, and the paint would then flake off. Give me metal figures, any day. But I didn’t know of anywhere where I could get anything like that.

My next nudge towards role-playing was when I found magazines such as Battle and Military Modelling. I think that I was fourteen or fifteen at the time. I had bought copies of those magazines because they had stuff which I thought might be interesting to me as a war-gamer. But, inside, as well as details of a Hyboria campaign (in Battle) there were adverts for fantasy metal figurines, by companies with names like Ral Partha. There was also mention of role=playing games – which, back then, was Dungeons and Dragons, basically.

I knew that I wanted to try this fantasy gaming. But there was nowhere hear where I lived where I could get any of the figures, or the games. I could not even get any polyhedral dice. So there was nothing which I could do back then. I could only wait.

Scroll forwards a couple of years, and my two-year durance at King Edwards. I did not really enjoy my stay at that sixth form college. Having been brought up in a Steiner school I found its strictures to be stifling.

One thing, though, was Wednesday afternoon activities. We had to sign up for something. It could be a sport, or chess, or something like that. Looking down the list I saw that one of the activities was role-playing. Out of interest I put my name down for that, hoping to find out just what it was all about.

Wednesday came around, and I entered my first game of Dungeons and Dragons. It was run by one of the teachers. He was the Dungeonmaster.

I loved the game, even though I did not really understand it at first. I did not understand cooperative play. But, then again, neither did any of the other kids who I was playing with.

I think that I played an elf. Somebody else was a cleric. I can’t recall too much about any of the other characters, apart from the fact that most of us survived the dungeon. But it was then, at what should have been the end of the game, that things really fell apart.

We weren’t used to cooperative stuff. We all wanted the treasure. So we fell on each other, fighting between us until only one of us was alive. I suspect that character may have ended up with enough experience to go up a level.

Further games were better than that. We learned to cooperate with each other, rather than treat other player characters as potential enemies. But I really had the role-playing bug by then. Once a week on a Wednesday afternoon was not enough for me.

I found some other people at King Edwards who were into fantasy role-playing. We would play Advanced Dungeons & Dragons most lunch breaks, very slowly advancing our characters. I even recall the name of the character: a dwarven fighter called Red Robbo. Red Robbo was presented to me, and he was fifth level when I got hold of him. I think that I nursed him through the next four levels or so.

Playing the game was not enough, though. After a while I wanted to run Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. I borrowed a copy of the Players’ Handbook over a weekend, and copied out as many of the rules as I could, including all of the first and second level spells, writing them down in longhand. I made my own polyhedral dice out of paper. The d4 was fine, but the others did not roll that well. A few ended up getting squashed.

But I had enough to create characters, and run the game with one of my friends. I was a DM, albeit not yet a very good one. I was now a role-player through and through, and I am still into role-playing now, after more than three decades of being involved with the hobby.


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