“That’s it,I quit. I hate RPGs!”
It’s late Fall in 1992. I have just DMed my last D&D game. I’ve had it with my players. Can you say power gamers? I had players who wrote the book on it. Every god damn last one had to be special. They’d bring in some add-on that justified their latest amount of weaponry and spells. And I’d let them, tired of the hissy fits that resulted when they didn’t get their way. At first, I thought it was the system. It wasn’t as exemplified when we tried a superhero game. I made sure it wasn’t Champions, because Champions with them had turned into a forensic accounting class. They managed to power game Villains and Vigilantes,even when I instituted a random power generation rule. It was the last straw.
It was easy at the time. I was about to graduate college. I had friends, a burgeoning career, and a bright future. Who needed the hassle of gaming? It had turned into being about leveling up, about who had the most toys. Looking around for new players didn’t seem to work. Most of the guys at the local gaming club were either military or ex-military, and wargamers. They seemed to be about the killing, and not the thrilling. And half of them would argue rules like it was the Supreme Court.
It had never been about that for me. For me, Dungeons and Dragons had been a way to connect with other kids, something I was sorely lacking. I won’t go into too much detail bout my upbringing,but you could mix together “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin and “Because of You” by Kelly Clarkson and get the perfect soundtrack.
RPGs became a shorthand, a way to connect.I can’t think of anyone who became my friend,ever, where it wasn’t somehow connected to them. I would not be married today, if it wasn’t for it. It gave me great pleasure to tell Gygax himself that, years ago. But by 1992, I was burnt out, fed up,and set on living my life, embarking on a great adventure .
Then 1993 happened.
I don’t like to talk about that year. It tears open wounds that I never have allowed to fully heal. Suffice it to say that every single family member I counted on,relied on, for backup when shit got deep,failed me. I don’t blame the ones who couldn’t help.Those who had too much on their plate, or no cash, I understood. No, it was the ones who were entrusted with teaching me about the world,or helping me when my world fell apart,that turned tail and ran. Or kicked me when I was down. A few tried to help,and one took me in.But that’s another post entirely.
Flash forward to Fall of 1993. A monumental low time in my life. I’m living fifty miles from my nearest friend, the woman I’m dating and now living with is slowly despising me. It’s with good reason, because I pretty much have PTSD combined with massive anxiety and depression issues. I’m being stopped by cops every day I go to work, because I resemble a local drug dealer. I don’t drive, and if it wasn’t for a Walkman and Green Day’s Dookie, I think I’d have gone SBC. I am the literal poster boy for no fun to be around.
Then one day Karrie, my girlfriend, says her brother KJ plays RPGs,and wants to know if I’d be interested in playing. My response is a grunt. KJ is Tyler Durden come to life,before there was a Tyler Durden. He rates shows he goes to by how many people he can piss off. But I have nothing better to do, so into the basement I go.
The game is Vampire:The Masquerade. It’s perfect for my mental state. The world is screwed up, and we’re going to dance in the ashes when it burns? I open a book, and there’s an Anthrax lyric quote. This was not your daddy’s RPG. The system was incredibly simple. It took a lot of the rolls out of role playing. It didn’t seem possible to power game it(That would come years later). It was love at first sight.
And it brought me back up. Little by little, it let me vent feelings of anger and betrayal. I played Brujah,the near animal vamps who are looking to rip the systems of vampire culture to shreds. Through the purging of some of the poison, I got a little light back, bit by bit.Yes, it wasn’t perfect,but damn,it was cool. It was the first RPG for me, to say:Yeah, you’re a freak. But it’s OK.
And it was gorgeous and beautiful. Every RPG should have at least one signature artist. For Vampire, for me, it’s Tim Bradstreet. People can holler all they want, but he was the definitive image maker for Vampire. He’s as important to White Wolf as Derek Riggs is to Iron Maiden. Even to this day, I can’t see his work without thinking of Vampire.
So I fell in love with Vampire,and then with White Wolf Games. But the rest of the story awaits in Part 2, which describes how I fell in and out of love(then back again) with the Pale Puppy.