Friday, August 1, 2014

#rpgaday: Day One

OK, so let's do this.  First up on the topic list, First RPG Played:

The answer to this depends on how you define RPG.  If you go by “A published RPG that said so on the box,” then it was the Holmes Rules Blue Box Basic D&D.  My friend John got a copy the summer before my Sophomore year of high school, and on a Friday in September, our friend Rob joined us on the patio of the school cafeteria after classes and we played for about two hours (Back then, you could do stuff like that and nobody blinked.  Hell, I once took a sword to school just because).

If, on the other hand, your definition tends more toward: “Played a game where we had characters who killed monsters, and explored dangerous environments for experience and gold,” then the answer is ‘Death Test.’  Confused?  Welcome to my introduction to the hobby.  I got in via wargaming when I started high school in 1977.  One of the most popular lunchtime activities of the Douglas MacArthur HS (Go Brahmas!) Wargame Club was playing ‘Melee’ and ‘Wizard,’ a pair of companion microgames from Metagaming that were referred to as ‘The Fantasy Trip’* (TFT). 

‘Melee’ was a simple game of man-to-man combat; ‘Wizard’ added magic and some additional magic to the mix.  Notable in the game was the fact that your warrior or wizard could gain experience through victories in the arena, boosting his stats and gaining access to better weapons, armor, and spells.  It was easy to learn, easy to play, and you could get in a couple of rounds at lunchtime if the dice were friendly.

Besides these two games, Metagaming put out a TFT product called ‘Death Test.’  It was a programmed adventure for a group of up to four warriors and/or wizards who enter a catacomb under a great city, seeking acceptance into the Imperial Guard.  They make their way through a labyrinth of connected rooms (all the dimensions of a ‘Melee’ board) fighting opposition, gaining treasure (gold bars!) and healing potions.  In short, a dungeon crawl.  I didn’t know the term at that time, but it fits all the criteria.  My buddies and I played it to death.  We had the damned thing memorized in short order.  As well as the sequel, the imaginatively named ‘Death Test 2.’  Soon, we began making our own ‘Death Tests,’ trying to out-do one another.

These were still largely tactical exercises bereft of role-play, but all the essential vocabulary was in place.  A few months later, a kid at church overheard me telling a friend about our “Death Test” games and asked, “Hey, have you ever heard of ‘Dungeons & Dragons’?”

The rest, as they say, was history.

*Astute readers may recognize these games and TFT as the components of ‘In The Labyrinth,’ considered one of the lost treasures of the early age of RPGs.  ITL was the full-on RPG derived from these rules.  It’s also the father of GURPS and the uncle of the HERO System.

1 comment:

  1. Holmes what my first real RPG as well.
    But I didn't come from a wargame background.