Confessions of a Gamer: In the Beginning

In the recent post about Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay I revealed a few facts about my gaming history including that WHFRP was probably the game that influenced me a lot in how I see roleplaying games today. So I thought it might be fun to tell you a bit more about how I became a roleplayer. These are my confessions of a gamer, so to speak. 🙂

It all started when my friend S (I’ve decided not to use the full names of people here, out of respect for their privacy) asked me if I wanted to have a look at Battletech. I think I was 15 or 16 at the time. I believe I already had heard about the game already mostly from the ads in books I’ve read at that time. So, I went over to his place, where we met R. I actually knew R since early childhood, but haven’t talked to him for years at that moment. He was also a few years older and already had his own car (which came in very handy). We then drove to a nearby town to meet the other Battletech players.

I believe it was a Saturday afternoon in 1990 or 1991 when I first sat down to play a game of Battletech. Although I was a pretty bad tactician, I enjoyed playing Battletech a lot and I made fast friends with the other gamers. We then met every Saturday to play a few games of Battletech where I ususally used a Rifleman mech, which was my favorite. Alas it usually ended with my mech being the first to blow up since I tried to go toe-on-toe with better armed and armored mechs. I think I mentioned that I was pretty bad at this back then.

Sometimes during our meetings the others talked about another game called Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. I haven’t heard about it before and just found out that it was not a game like Battletech but a fantasy roleplaying game. I’ve heard of D&D of course, but I only new RPGs from the computer. My friend S was actually part of the group and I regularly begged him to tell me about the game and what has happened during their game session. I also begged and pleaded to be allowed into the group, but alas the GM didn’t want me to join until they’ve finished the adventure. I believe they were running “Death on the Reik” or “Something Rotten in Kislev” at the moment.

My first chance to participate in a roleplaying session came in 1992 when we went to PhanCon. My friends S, R and me decided to give Torg a try, since the GM seemed to be a nice guy and S has played with him on the day before. So I rolled up my first roleplaying character. It was a private detective from the Nile Empire. I don’t remember exactly what the adventure was about aside that it featured zombies and I belive we were in Orrosh. This was also the first time I encountered a gaming jerk. From what I remember he was the kind that kills the mood especially for the newbies by telling them what to do and he boasted with his knowledge of the background and robbed us of the opportunity to make our own mistakes. But nevertheless the session was fun and I was hooked on roleplaying.

You may have already noticed that I started playing at a much higher age than most US gamers. From what I remember tabletop roleplaying games weren’t as widely known back then and especially when you come from the country, you didn’t have a lot of opportunity to meet roleplayers. My first experiences with RPGs were on the PC with games like Ultima and Bard’s Tale.

I think it was in the same year when I finally joined the WHFRP group. We started playing “Power Behind The Throne” and I rolled up an Elf called Nimron Ellion who turned out a coachman. Ok, it was a bit strange to play an Elf wielding a blunderbuss and driving a coach in the Empire, but we made it work. In the course of the adventure we uncovered the plot to overthrow the current rules of Middenheim, made friends with the local celebrities, fought a lot of evil doers and in the end where knighted. So my Elf made the career change from coachman to templar knight. Usually a career change like that is not allowed in 1st Edition WHFRP rules, but it was made an exception because of being knighted.

So in many ways WHFRP was to me, what the original D&D is to a lot of US gamers. I’ve played and later run WHFRP for many years and aside from TORG it was the first roleplaying game I actually played. I think my love for grim and gritty settings and percentile systems comes from that time.

This concludes the first part of Confessions. Please let me know what you think about this new column in the comments. When you enjoy reading about my gaming history, I will try to post another Confessions post every week at least. And please take everything I write in this column with a grain of salt. The events I wrote about happened over 15 years ago and my memory is of course not perfect. Especially if you where one of the members of that group back then, please don’t be too harsh on me, when I get things wrong.