When I was young, I heard about tabletop role playing games (RPGs) in hushed tones. Dungeons and Dragons was ‘evil.’ The people who played it were actually all Satanic devil-worshipers who were using real magic spells to drive their friends to suicide. People pretend to be thieves and wizards, evil things, and become so in real life. The spells were real, people in D*&D followed a “Dungeon Master” and often killed themselves because of a dead character -or- killed others in satanic vampiric rituals learned in the game.
I do not think I ever really believed the “Jack Chick Tract” hype against Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) and other RPGs. Role playing always sounded kind of … cool. I just never knew anyone who did it. The closest I knew growing up was my (temporary) Stepbrother, David, who was a decade older than me and not very bright. He once bought a board game called “Dragonquest” and ran it for my stepsister, brother, and me, and it was fun the few times we played, but he got bored and we only played it a few times. And he told us he’d played D&D in Tennessee, where he lived before his Mom married our Dad. A few years later, my girlfriend and I sat in and observed her friend’s RPG night. It seemed like it was fun.
I did not get to play RPGs until after I met the man who would become my husband. My husband introduced me to Vampire: The Masquerade, and I really enjoyed the game. I could be a vampire! Of course, my first character died quickly, followed quickly by my second character, but my third character lived! Did I react suicidal when my characters died? No, I made new ones, and got to explore a new exciting world. My husband never ran a game until we got together, and has been a DM/Storyteller/Game Runner ever since that first game he ran me through. I have also been on the DM side of the screen, and run a handful of games myself.
In the last 14 years, I have played 8 Vampires, 2 Mages, 1 Werewolf, Countless changelings and faeries (in games I ran), 3 Solar Exalted (people imbued with the power of the Unconquered Sun in the Exalted Universe), 1 Sidereal Exalted (Chosen of the Stars) 1 Dragon-blooded (A person imbued with powers of the Elements in the same universe), 5 Demigods, (From the game Scion, children of gods, two of these became Gods), a Juicer, a Jedi, an Ebou Dari Wilder (Wheel of Time RPG), a Scoundrel turned Crime Lady (Star Wars) a Cleric (in a short D&D game) an airship captain (in a Talislanta game), and most recently, a “Faceman” spy (Spycraft).
This by no means includes the various RPG Convention characters I’ve played. That list is far too long to calculate.
Each game I’ve played has had good and bad parts, each character has had their own story, life, interests, families. I’ve played characters from Japan, America, Canada, Brazil, Italy, England, Germany, the Ottoman Empire, South Africa, and the Middle East as well as a variety of fantasy realms. I’ve traveled in time via Dr. Who, survived Ragnarok, killed an insane Emperor, watched all my friends and loved ones be tortured and killed at the hands of an evil spirit (while I survived), raised a horde of zombies, convinced my friends my character with eagle-site vision was blind for several real-life months, died and returned from the grave, had children, killed countless bad guys and monsters, seduced a Templar, invented a Weave for creating Beer, been a rock star, told Raiden he was a dirty pig, stolen the Ark of the Covenant, created an entire society and made a Constitution, and sent friends on a Galaxy-wide wild goose chase paying off my debts while I was ostensibly “kidnapped” and really just chilling at a bar drinking with Obi-wan Kenobi.
No, My characters did all that stuff. These are things I will probably never do. My characters are real, in their own universes, and in my mind, but not so real that I let that overtake me.
Favorite all-time characters (no real order, I love these three equally):
1. Arvaire/Moira Rivers, Vampire:The Masquerade. Moira was a simple southern girl, a history student from Atlanta, GA who got turned into a Tremere. (A Vampire that is from a Wizard-cult bloodline). One night, when her “maker” was away, she performed a ritual and somehow ended up on the TARDIS, travelling through time with the 4th Doctor, and ending up in 15th century England. She became an “oracle” and was able to bring great status and money to her clan. The ST made a mistake: He let me keep any real-world history knowledge I had. (I have a love of history, and now a MA in history, which I did not have at the time).
She transported back in 2000, and was older than her maker. She became obsessed seeking sure she was born, and that her maker was born, and made. Weird Paradox loop.
Time Travel is not a game element to V:tM. My (now) husband, who ran the game thought it might make the game interesting. And, to be fair, he said I could only use historical knowledge I already had. But, I’ve always been a history buff, even before I took college-level history. My character pretended she was an oracle, and did it for so long she was no longer sure if she was really born in the 1970s or if she dreamed it.
This is the only character whose pre-supernatural backgound was based partially on my own life.
2. Miya Blaise/ Exorbitant Freedom, Exalted. Miya was a priestess in training, studying under her father to talk to the spirits in an ancestor cult in the Lap, a mostly agricultural southern region in the Exalted Creation when she was chosen by the Sun and had to escape with her life. She left home at 13, and we played about 30 years of her life. She learned Seatongue from pirates, died and resurrected countless times, had a child with a man who died and became a Deathknight, survived a zombie attack on her home, became the center of a cult, and stayed alive after witnessing some 15+ other Solar Exalted die (some from stupid moves, some from other players). By the end of Miya’s game life, she was one of the most powerful people in Creation, and she rarely even used her powers.
This character was the only character to live the whole chronicle. We had players come and go, the game grew, shrunk, and grew again. Miya survived. What made her more unique was that no one else in the rest played her character type. She remains the only character I’ve completely chronicled.
3. Elinor Jaclyn Lindquist, Scion. Elinor was a fun character t o play. She was a Canadian Daughter of Hel, Norse goddess of Death and the Underworld. She was a Divorce attorney, a real “ball-breaker.” She smuggled a decapitated head and intestines from Montreal to Vegas. She was constantly convinced that one of the other characters was going to attack her. He certainly left her for dead on a few occasions. She lost her left leg by falling off an oil rig, had twin babies with the three-headed giant, and led an army of “Amputees and Lawyers” (she called them ‘her people’) onto the battlefield at Ragnarok, and had a fate-switch that allowed her to come back afterwards in another form. She redesigned the female body. She wore armor with a wolf head and tail across her shoulders. She was a goddess of family, a powerful Nordic goddess who had a Santa-like bag and rode a flying wolf into battle.
She was interesting to play because she is the most hyper-feminist character I have ever played, and, in the super-sexist world of the deities, she had an interesting life.
Since my husband has talked about “one day running Ragnarok again,” I won’t divulge the true awesome ending of this game. Just understand, I survived.
I had a lot of fun with all the characters I have played, but these three are probably the most fun.
I enjoy playing RPGs because they give me a chance to be someone else. Someone more determined, someone more powerful, someone who is just… Awesome. They all have pieces of me. As the player, I put a lot of myself into each character. I’ve been a prankster, but never really “evil.” Even the characters who *should* be evil have some good in them. I see RPGs as enhancing my life, making me experiment, stretch my mind.