As the first prompt in #RPGaday2020 is ‘Beginning’, I thought I’d do a blog post on the fuzziness of my ‘beginning’ with role-playing games (whether tabletop, live action, or otherwise). Because, whilst I first consciously sat down to the play a tabletop role-playing game in October 2016, there were a lot of times before then that I was playing role-playing games without realising it…
Aged 11, I co-ordinate a murder mystery event for my year at school, convincing my teachers to give us 2 lessons dedicated to this (I don’t know how I did that). I have a drawn-on moustache and a trench coat, and the whole thing starts with a friend screaming from the bottom of a staircase and me sweeping into the classroom saying ‘there’s been a murder!’. It’s based on an Agatha Christie novel, everyone interviews the suspects (in costume, with props) in the assembly hall, and the winner (I *think* Laura Bolton) gets a book token. It’s only in the line for lunch that I realise I haven’t washed off the moustache.
Aged 15-16, I do a handful of the ‘home murder-mystery’ kits with friends. At the first one, I can feel a thrill to open up my character pamphlet and read those words: ‘you are the murderer. You are allowed to lie.’
Aged 18, there are a smattering of activities where role-playing is deceptively lain on top – trips to theme parks where the bumper cars turned into some story of long-held grudge, settling scores by slamming cars into one another; paintball parties where stakes are heightened by imagined wars and conflicts, or the true value of the flag we’re capturing; lazerquest (Megazone, if you’re from Norwich in the 90s-00s) birthdays, where the prop skeletons are real and surviving the apocalypse depends on capturing the notorious red base (the best base, easiest to defend, of course you wanted to be red team if you had any sense…).
Aged 23, I run the ‘gift shop’ (simultaneously a functioning gift shop and an in-world gift shop) at Secret Music’s Laura Marling gigs, immersive gigs where the audience spend 2 hours in an interactive, immersive performance before watching Laura play through her latest album. I give people unnecessary change and receipts (a stack of pennies and notes I kept to hand), which provide directions to a wishing well in the basement, asking them to make a wish for someone they loved with the coin.
Aged 25, having a drink with a friend, where a random comment leads to a 15-minute bit about Clifford the Big Red Dog, except we are now characters in a reality where all must bow down to Clifford, and to dissent is to die. We hunch over drinks, talk in whispers, continually throwing in lore, sayings and codewords from this new reality.
[Aged 26: I consciously sit down to play a tabletop role-playing game.]