Playing the Dream

I’ve been hang­ing around gamers since high school. I was exposed to Dun­geons & Drag­ons sev­er­al times as well as a bas­tardized ver­sion of Trav­eller on the bus we took to march­ing band com­pe­ti­tions. I kept run­ning into more and more peo­ple who were into LARPs (which sound real­ly fun, although I haven’t tried one yet) and oth­er RPGs. Still, I nev­er seemed to meet any oth­er women who played and got the def­i­nite impres­sion that gam­ing was a boys’ club. I was curi­ous, but not quite enough to try get­ting past the implied “No Gurls Alowed” sign on the club­house. Besides, every­body else seems to get into gam­ing as a teenager—I was a lit­tle old to start, right?

Back in 1998, though, an acquain­tance from the music com­mit­tee in our UU con­gre­ga­tion intro­duced me to an old friend of hers, Sam, who was a game design­er and a won­der­ful gamemas­ter. They played Were­wolf on week­ends at the acquain­tance’s place and I was invit­ed to join. Every­one in the group was very patient with me as a new­bie. Yes, all of them had been play­ing since their teen years—but they were always will­ing to wel­come new gamers to the fold, no mat­ter how old or young (we had a 10-year-old play­ing with us and hold­ing his own).

As much as I want­ed to try play­ing an RPG, I did­n’t find the whole idea of play­ing a were­wolf very appeal­ing. That came out in my char­ac­ter, who was expe­ri­enc­ing a fair amount of angst about it her­self. I quick­ly found, though, that it can be very fun to lose your­self in a char­ac­ter who can be very dif­fer­ent from your­self, or very much like your­self but doing things you’d nev­er dare do in your mun­dane life! And you can learn quite a lot about peo­ple pret­ty quick­ly by gam­ing with them—more so than in most social sit­u­a­tions I encounter, anyway.

For a vari­ety of rea­sons, the Were­wolf game end­ed more quick­ly than nor­mal. We moved on to play­ing a vari­a­tion on anoth­er White Wolf game, Mage, that Sam changed a fair amount (we played in the “World of Most­ly Dim­ness” rather than the World of Dark­ness™). He called it Thresh­old Mage and I loved it. My char­ac­ter was com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent from me in almost every way. We end­ed up with eight play­ers in that game, which I’m told is close to the max­i­mum who can eas­i­ly par­tic­i­pate in a non-LARP game. I would have very hap­pi­ly con­tin­ued that cam­paign indef­i­nite­ly, but Sam start­ed with a def­i­nite end in mind.

We played third edi­tion D&D right after it was released. That game even­tu­al­ly includ­ed 13 play­ers, I think, which was way too many. Over time a few of us moved on to a dice­less, not-quite‑D&D game, which was great fun. Over the next few years, I was intro­duced to mul­ti­ple indie games like Prime Time Adven­tures and Spir­it of the Cen­tu­ry. We also played Amber Dice­less for a bit. Sam and I were part of a live-play broad­cast of Seren­i­ty: Out in the Black.

In the last few years, I’ve got­ten to play sev­er­al Fate-based games includ­ing The Secrets of Cats and The Dres­den Files. I played in Dun­geon World, Apoc­a­lypse World and Sav­age Worlds games a cou­ple of years back.

Fifth edi­tion D&D has been what most peo­ple seem to want to play recent­ly, and I’ve been part of two week­ly cam­paigns. One played via Roll20, the oth­er using Dis­cord. In 2016 I final­ly got the oppor­tu­ni­ty to play Shad­owrun at Nuke Con in Oma­ha. Now Rick and I play in a local Shad­owrun game every cou­ple of weeks. We start­ed play­ing the Fire­fly RPG with some friends, but the GM moved out of state so we lost our game. We’ve also been to a few of the local RPG mee­tups and enjoyed play­ing swash­buck­lers in 7th Sea at one of them.

I’m thrilled that my daugh­ter, Katie, grew up gam­ing, as I think it’s a won­der­ful way to social­ize. Sam played D&D with our kids (as well as what­ev­er oth­er kids end­ed up here) almost every week­end. They played the old Star Wars RPG after we all went to see Phan­tom Men­ace togeth­er and the girls played the Sailor Moon RPG with a friend of theirs. They also had a Vam­pire game going for a while.

Gaming As a Parent

Or actu­al­ly, with your kids around. I did­n’t ini­tial­ly real­ize it was an issue since I had only gamed with kids around, nev­er with­out! It seems some peo­ple think that you can’t game with chil­dren present, or some­thing like that. I’ve encoun­tered sev­er­al peo­ple who said they stopped gam­ing when they had kids. Well, Sam’s kids were around gam­ing through­out their lives, and Katie was around it from age 8 to adult­hood. We did­n’t ever have any prob­lems gam­ing or let­ting the kids play. We did make sure we gamed in our home or at anoth­er house that was already set up for kids, and we made sure we had things set up to keep the kids busy—videos, Playsta­tion or PC games, board games, Nerf guns, bof­fer swords, etc. Our kids loved gam­ing nights because we had more junk food around than usu­al and did­n’t enforce their nor­mal bed­times. They fre­quent­ly want­ed to sit in and lis­ten to our game as much as pos­si­ble. (They were shooed away for some parts of the game, such as when the plot got nasty/dangerous for our char­ac­ters, etc.) It was nec­es­sary for me to explain the nature of role­play­ing to Katie in the beginning—otherwise, if my char­ac­ter got upset or hurt, she got upset because she thought I was upset. She under­stood that much bet­ter after that she start­ed play­ing, too.

For­tu­nate­ly, the folks we played with under­stood that occa­sion­al­ly kids are going to inter­rupt a game with requests or minor crises or just the need for some atten­tion, and the kids under­stood that we were busy and kept those to a min­i­mum while we were play­ing. Since we played with sev­er­al oth­er par­ents, too, we used round-robin or trib­al parenting—if there was either sus­pi­cious silence from the kids’ part of the house or sus­pi­cious amounts of noise, who­ev­er was­n’t imme­di­ate­ly involved in the cur­rent play went to inves­ti­gate and deal with the cause.


These are a few links I’ve book­marked while learn­ing more about RPGs.

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