Role-playing games and me


I got into the hobby from SPI games and thus reading about this D&D thing in the SimPubs UK 'zine in the spring of '76, which was during my first undergraduate year. It then took me six months, finding only a random copy of either Greyhawk or Blackmoor in one of the general games shops in Soho, before I tracked a copy down, and a group of gamers who were using a highly variant home-brew set of systems. Taking it home at the Yuletide holidays that year, I plunged immediately into DMing (mainly for the crowd at my old school), and system tinkering.

I would probably have drifted out of the hobby in a couple of years, as my brother did, but for meeting Karen. Shortly after we had gotten together, she told me about this wonderful game one of her friends had been playing, and wondered did I know about it. I said that I did and advised she probably didn't want to. But she wasn't deterred.

That became the classic 78/9 highly variant dungeon crawling game that really (mis-)informs my opinions of (original, pre-Basic, pre-Advanced) D&D. That in turn drove me to stop tinkering and start DMing again myself, on a regular basis this time.

This early period while still in and around Cambridge was marked by a lot of variously successful home-brew FRP systems, many unrecognisable as derivatives from D&D, as well as some “roll a d20 and see what it looks like” super-hero games (finding Superhero 2044 unusable as it stood). There were attempts at C&S, DragonQuest and TFT which came to naught, and a little variant RQ. Burnout with fantasy by the early '80s, and moving away for work, led to playing a bit of Trav that got nowhere, and then Champions, the latter turning into an open campaign where everyone who had something to run GMd, until the flaws (bricks rule, energy projectors suck) were too blatant to ignore. One off (and never again) sessions in this time also included Call of Cthulhu and Paranoia.

Returning to Cambridge in the late 80s, gaming mainly alternated between myself and one other GM (who has now gone on to run the Saxum Caribetum Ars Magica Saga), with AD&D2 being the default system, but also RQ2.8/Glorantha (later Pendragon 3rd edition), Shadowrun (1st & 2nd), V:tM (2nd), and Ars Magica(3rd), with a little bit of Trav, MegaTrav, and Star Wars (2nd) (this last being used as a generic RPG) on the side.

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Material Copyright © 2001–2003 Steve Gilham

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