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Gamers and the Real World

A Return to Fantasy

by Josh Epperson
Oct 30,2003


A Return to Fantasy

by Josh Epperson

Welcome to Gamers and the Real World. In this column, I will compare the view of gamers with the views of mainstream entertainment, and discuss how to bring them together as one.

My first experience with role-playing games was with the old red basic Dungeons & Dragons book back in 1987. I was eight years old, and my friend's brother let us play because he was short a couple of players. Three hours and one strange dungeon later, I was hooked. After that, I jumped into Joe Dever's Lone Wolf series. I told everyone I knew about these cool new games, and soon we had a respectable group.

In 2000, Wizards of the Coast released Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition. This gave us the d20 license and caused an explosion in the gaming world, for better or for worse. Suddenly it seemed that game books were being sold in every book store I went in, and I was in paradise. Before this time, I had to mail order any book that I wanted, and the extra costs were just not worth it. And the d20 games probably couldn't have come at a better time: MMORPGs such as Everquest, Asheron's Call and Ultima Online had recently been unleashed, allowing people all over the world to live out alternative lives in a digital universe. The basics of role-playing games had been introduced to thousands of new players.

The typical RPG has evolved since their creation. The stories and settings are now deeper and more fleshed out. The available genres and gaming worlds are nearly limitless. They have become smoother and easier to play. And the artwork has become more beautiful. Dont believe my claims? Go pick up a supplement from 80 or 81.

The turn of the century has also seen a rise in the popularity of the Fantasy Genre as a whole, which really is the core of the role-playing community. Old standbys like Tolkien, as well as R.A. Salvatore's Forgotten Realms novels, can frequently be found on best seller lists. Also, the recent release of the Lord of the Rings movies has brought an unforgettable fantasy world to countless masses who have never imagined the crushing of an orc army. However as we know, fantasy is just one part of the gaming industry. In the last three years, we have seen massive boosts in many of the realms of imagination. Comic book based movies that gross more than $100 million (and are actually good) have become common. There has been an increased interest in new Sci-Fi as well as a renewed interest in old sci-fi series; for example, the recent release of the Battlestar Galactica DVD set. Yet once again this is all just part of the whole. Role playing itself has gone more mainstream and more sophisticated.

This brings me to the main theme of this column: the opinions of non gamers and how we can help to clarify the truth and possibly bring new players to the table.

You Play What?

Is that the thing where you sit around a table, rolling funny dice and pretend to have swords?

Seriously, how many of us have heard this (or worse)? Personally, I usually get a laugh and a look of "You cant be serious" when I tell someone I play role playing games. But statements like this are true; simple, but true. So don't deny it -- sugar coat it. Let's run through a few examples.

Example 1: The person mocking you is a complete stranger, heckler, or bound in a straight jacket.

Solution 1: Who cares? Run away from them, quickly...

Example 2: The person mocking you is a friend who is an avid video game player.

Solution 2: I run into this more than anything else. At first I was shocked; after all, they played games such as Final Fantasy, Fallout and even Neverwinter Nights. I carefully explained that role-playing games are essentially the same type of game, except a game group is more open and non linear than the limited play from any video game.

Example 3: Close minded bigots who think it's a tool to open the gates of hell!

Solution 3: Sadly I know no solution for this case. Seriously, don't even bother; you will just enrage them more, and the last thing we all need is more real violence in the world. Furthermore, if they are religious, don't try showing them one of those new Judeo/Christian based games. In my experience it has never helped the situation.

Example 4: A member of the fairer sex has said this to you.

Solution 4: Rate her on a scale of 1 to 10; if she passes your acceptable mark, toss the book and spend the money on a date.

Example 5: No seriously, a female asks you this question.

Solution 5: In my opinion, we can't have enough female gamers, and their numbers are low. If they seem put off by an RPG find out what their hobbies are, and compare the role-playing possibilities with them. Are they a thespian? What better way to hone those acting skills then with a rousing game once a week.

Now let's assume you have actually succeeded in interesting someone in Role playing, either through the promise of a more open-ended game then they've ever played, or by enticing them with the thought of playing the role of another person for a few hours. You may even be getting a bit excited at the idea of having some fresh faces at the gaming table. At this point I must stress: don't blow it by pulling out a half pound of dice and a back breaking stack of rule books. Save that for later. Start simple. Think back to your first experience, then think about some possible modern gaming aids. Think of something, unique, something silly, or just something quick and fun. I suggest something like Everway, Amber or Tri-stat (You all should at least have a copy of Tri-stat on your computer; if not, go download it now!) Dont jump straight into dragon slaying or star fleet battles. For a simple idea, turn on the TV, or thumb through a newspaper or tabloid. Or in the case of this month's example, use an appropriate holiday theme. Dont be afraid to try it. You might actually like it. You might enjoy it enough to use the idea in your regular gaming group.

October is known for three things: corny monster movies, Halloween, and tooth decay. So this month's adventure is a classic survival horror game.


Players: 2 to 4 besides the game master. The players don't even need to create a character. Just have them write a paragraph describing their character; if at this point they aren't comfortable playing someone else then they can play as themselves. Give each character five hit points (explain to the players that all characters are not expected to survive the game). If a character does die, allow them to play the role of another one of the locals: a police officer, farmer, or teenage local.

Game Master: You will control the Psycho, the police and any and all locals the players run into throughout the game. The Psycho monster should be big and/or ugly with some kind of sharp or pointy weapon. He has 10 hit points and has +1 to all attack rolls.

For Combat use 1 six sided dice (cause everyone has these). A roll of 1 or 2 is a miss, a roll of 3 or 4 does one damage, a roll of 5 does two damage and a roll of 6 does three damage

The Scenario: Player characters should be high school/college students attending a harvest party in the old town cornfield when the crazy psycho attacks. But don't kill them right away. To allow the game time to give the players a chance to try it out, suggest that they should run quickly if they haven't already. As soon as they make it back to town in one piece (more or less) let them role play an investigation of the psycho. Perhaps he attacks once every 20 years, or perhaps he just escaped from a hospital or his mother's basement, or whatever. Go with your typical campy horror scenario. But the players should probably be able to figure out if the monster has a weakness that allows them a bonus to their attacks against the monster.

Game Over: You ran the game and the players stopped the psycho. What now? If they had a good time and seem hungry for more tell them about Call of Cthulhu, Hunter: The Reckoning, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Beyond the Supernatural or any other survival horror game you can think of. And go from there.

'm sure some of you are cursing my name for wasting your time on something so silly and trivial. However think of it this way: to someone who would like to test drive role-playing, this could be perfect. Perhaps they are intimidated by a stack of 200 page rule books ringing in at 30 bucks a pop. These guidelines may just be the encouragement someone needs to enter the wonderful world of role-playing.

Until next time, eat cheese and drink malt-flavored beverages to find the key to happiness.

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What do you think?

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