Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Couple Weeks After Free RPG Day

Sometimes the future just staggers the mind. If I told my 12 year old self that there would be a free role playing game day, he'd think I was a some old geezer, who skipped his medication and is talking crazy... "Oh no, it's true! Free RPG Day is when you can go down to your local comic book store, and pick one or two free role playing games- made with fancy paper and lavish painted artwork- or pick up a painted miniature or an over sized map of a fully functioning fantasy realm..." That's when the 12 year old me looks over and says, "There's no such thing as comic book stores."  

 People have been printing and producing material for the other editions of D+D for years and it's akin to the whole "fandom" writing phenomenon (protected as a free speech kind of deal, or, depending on your perception- legal plagiarism). Yes, regular folks can write scripts and stories, (based on their favorite books and TV shows), and then post their mini-masterpieces on line, in the hopes of being hired by a Hollywood production company. Or  else capture a large enough Internet audience to pay for their book version of , say, "The Further Adventures of Benjamin Franklin, Vampire Hunter and Inventor Extraordinaire" or "The Fifty Shades of Sexy Vampire Loving", or "Star Trek vs. Star Wars: Vampire Edition".

But D+D gamers, like myself, were doing the same thing 30 or 40 years ago, except, with the settings and plot lines geared not for a best selling novel, but rather, for a goofy role playing game. Sherlock Holmes, for example, has solved more crimes than Conan Doyle could ever write, including ones in outer space, in King Arthur's Court, and in Prehistoric times. He has teamed up with everyone from James Bond to Hercule Poirot (aboard the Orient Express) to Zorro. And he has confronted such over the top villains as Ying and Yang, two Japanese teen aged girls - with psychic powers, and trained in the dark art of assassination- and their 300 feet tall Mecha-Godzilla type monster, Killzilla. He battled Lady Nightshade and her super powers of deadly misfortune (enabling her to conjured up an Anti-Sherlock Holmes, a short, lumpy gent dressed in a black leather jacket, and bent on killing the original Sherlock Holmes, because his drug addiction was destroying the two of them, ala The 7 Percent Solution). And of course, Dracula, the vampire !

And now-a-days, there's a game for every genre: Western, mystery (murder dinner train tours), science fiction (Star Wars and Star Trek were not around back then, but Traveller and Star Frontiers were), but there were some based on different types of movies (The James Bond role playing game for instance). This also ties in with live action role playing games ( or LARPS : think Renaissance Fairs, Civil War re-enactors, and even, ahem, Harry Potter Qudditch matches- basically a socially acceptable way to beat the stuffing out of someone, and not go to jail).  And there's the "cos play" (costume design) hobbyist: dressing up in outfits / costumes of famous people in the past (that Guy Fawkes mask protesters wear, while playing their guitars on Wall Street) or comic book characters (derived from the world of steam punk, Star Wars movies, and Japanese animation) as a fashion / life-style "statement", and that eventually leads into everything else ( especially if 'everything else' means spending countless hours making an outfit of Iron Man, as seen through the prism of an 1880's inventor). Basically, it's a bunch of...uh...free spirits...And whether they know it not, all influenced by nerds like me who used to secretly play Dungeons and Dragons...I say secretly because, back then, as difficult as it may be to believe now, this game was definitely not for everyone.

See, there was a strong negative connotation back then...Not only were you labeled a geek and weirdo (for reading all of those strange books), but, depending on the circumstances, you could be pegged as Anti-American (Game Theory was not the chic thing it is today), or a drug crazed occultist holding secret rituals in the sewers, or in the forest (I'm proud to say that all of my pets died of old age, and were not sacrificed in an attempt to move the evil spirits to help me get laid), or worst, a loner who kept to himself and dreamed up ways to upset the status quo, because "he plays that game." 

The teenage years are rough on everyone. And some people NEVER outgrow them, which can be frustrating. The other day I heard an interview with Piers Anthony and he commented that he had a rough ride in his teenage years, and said that one of the best ways to get though them (and I'm paraphrasing here) "was to keep your head down, ride out those years as best you can, and move on when you're old enough...Some people need their imaginations and their fantasy worlds just to get through life...I was like that, and it was impossible to convince other people that I wasn't wasting my time..." Pressed for time, he recounted a story about how his high school teacher took his copy of Weird Tales magazine away and never gave it back to him. And now that he's a hugely successful writer, that same high school is always hitting him up for money, and he never gives it to them. I know where he's coming from...

In the meantime, enjoy this humerous rendition of (possibly) an actual D+D game:


It's entitled 'magic missile at the darkness' and I think it's prettty funny...So, I'm passing it along...  

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