Monday, August 16, 2010

It's been a long road...

 It's 1973 and I'm ten years old.

My earliest memory of role playing began for me that summer with Chainmail (albeit that was more a convenience of miniature and rules for them then what most know of today) and my fondest desire was to create my own fantasy world where I was, for lack of better definition, a god.

I hid away like this for three years, designing a region, a manor, even a dungeon slowly growing more reclusive from the trials of the real world, and my grandparents and mother were rather obstinate of this insanity that was growing inside of me. See, I was the type of fella that Tolkien would have considered "queer", I'd much prefer to spend days, weeks, months reading some fantastic story, then go outside and suffer the bane of "playtime". Then in the midst of my revelry my mother married this shell of a person whom invaded my world like the bubonic plague in 1976.

What I discovered in those early days was I truly enjoyed the hours of work put into this world. Seeing the various inhabitants springing to life before my very eyes and along the way I began to round out a place that was truly my own, free and far from the guise of my ignoramus of a stepfather, and closer to heaven than I would ever see - well that is until women captured my attention. Damn them!

My grandparents instilled this idea in me to be a pen pal, so I wrote to people all over the world, some in Scotland, some in England, and others around the corner in Florida and California. When I discovered that some were playing the same exact game that I was, well, my letters/intrigue/interest/mania grew. I suddenly had others whom shared this passion and fascination and when my grandparents found out about this - well, they did the most horrible thing they could have done - they told me to keep writing.

In 1977 stamps were 13 cents each and we mailed on average 20 dollars worth of mail per week. Stop and think about that and we pretty much were keeping the local post office in business. My grandfather got a larger mailbox installed at the end of the lane, and the letters started pouring in. It was around this time that I read in Avalon Hill's The General Magazine about this neat idea called Play-by-Mail (PBM) gaming. So a few friends and I decided to try it out. I sent maps, background material, and even Instamatic camera snapshots of the world to the players in 7 different states. In return, we adventured all over my world for the next 5 years, and along the way I started gaming locally with some other like minded people.

Then I was betrayed when a friend stole my entire gaming collection, and wiped me out.

I continued to play though, and while I had lost everything, I would not give up my world, my place away from the insanity that I witnessed everyday. I kept gaming, traveling to Columbus, West Virginia, and even as far away as Arizona. During one 6 month period in 1989 we played non stop for 135 hours, slept for a day then did another 100 hours back to back. It was bedlam. But damn was it fun.

I refused to place my world on a shelf and forget about it. Even when I was away in military duty the game always was there, in the background - sometimes peaking around the corner of my commanding officers desk just smiling at me. Then, I became a care-giver. I still worked on my world during that eight year period and even when I was by myself, I was never alone. The voices would comfort and plead with me to finish the Castle of Mygi, plan the expansion to the twelfth level of the dungeon and work on the history of the realm.

Just this past Friday I had the opportunity to game locally with a group of players whom were closer to my age, and I discovered that the insanity which had consumed me for the last 30 years was still alive and it was real. Now, if your reading this you may think I consider myself a bit - or perhaps, a lot crazy. Truth be told I'm one of the sanest people I know, and this adoration for gaming is who I am.


So this blog will help to save my sanity. Along the way I'm going to recreate the entire world I have from memory and while I know its a deep hole I've dug for myself, I'm looking forward to the ride. So why the Bloated Blowfish ?.

Well, this was the very first Tavern I created for Isolde, a place that I call home, a place that I've visited so many times that when I walk through the front door and the crowd turns to greet me, Pegleg One Arm doesn't even ask me what I want, he simply pours me a cold Meade, motions to the Bard in the corner and everyone sings "Welcome Home!".

See, I thought that somewhere in my alligator mind the dwarf was sitting at the console reading a penthouse magazine, drinking some crown royal and smoking a stogy - AND that he wasn't paying attention to the neurosis slowly festering there, deep in my cerebral cortex. Turns out he was tired of looking at the magazine, was out of whiskey and needed something stronger than a greasy old cigar. So when I took the time to meditate on this whole thing and came face to face with him, he stared me square in the eye, spat on the ground and said "Where the hell you been, and what did you do with me dice!?"

Indeed, its been a long road...

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