Russell has given me the keys to the car, and I should really drive more carefully, and not mess with the radio so much.
I’m not so proud that I won’t admit to wallowing in adolescent power fantasy. When I was 13 or so, we moved half-way through the school year from Georgia to Oklahoma, and I didn’t know anybody and didn’t really fit in. At the time, I was a nascent genre geek (Doctor Who, Robotech, Voltron, Blakes 7, Tripods, Star Wars, Star Trek etc), but not yet a gamer. A chance glance over the seat in the bus to see the magazine another kid was looking through hooked me in, and my destiny determined then and there.
My own copy of Dragon lead me to order a catalogue for a game shop that shipped things – please allow 4 to 6 weeks for delivery. God, what an age. Paper catalogues, checks in the mail, and the waiting and waiting. My first game was Champions but it was years before I actually figured out how to play it. Trying to learn to play a tabletop rpg (especially one as mechanically involved as Champs) without the guidance of a more experienced player proved more than I could manage. I wonder how often this was the case – and if my gaming lineage could be traced back to the Founding Fathers if you could follow the chain of players and groups.
I eventually found a group, and they were playing Palladium Fantasy.
Pal has a lot of critics, and I’ve had some things to say about them myself, but I’ve probably spent more money on Palladium books over the years than any other company’s output.
As a kid, their stuff was perfect because every book was full of new toys. New guys you could play with morebigger powerz and skills and gear and guns and and and. Toys. Gewgaws with cool pictures and lots of exclamation marks in the descriptions. When I read shit like “Absolutely destroys EVERYTHING!!!!!” in a weapon description, I probably got a boner. I was transitioning away from actual toys (and caught some grief for clinging to my Legos for so long), and Palladium stepped up and gave me toys I could play with all the time, in my brain. In class, the margins of my notebooks were full of crude sketches of all the badass shit my guy would have in the games I would never actually get to play.
What was I talking about?
The first character I loved, right. He was a troll assassin in a Palladium Fantasy game. I looked through the book, and picked a guy with the best dice for rolling Physical Strength, and the class with the best damage-dealing potential out of the starting gate. I armed him with the biggest pole-arm weapon in the game because it did the most damage. Not exactly a ninja, but in a strictly literal sense, he made a very good assassin – if you paid him to kill somebody, he was well equiped to do it.
This was especially true because I cheated like a bastard when rolling him up. What are the odds of rolling all 6’s on that P.S. roll? If allowed to roll up my character before the game, while observed only by my shriveled superego, 100%.
So that was my first “my guy” – the character I really got into, really projected my imagination through as an avatar in the shared fantasy. An artefact of my duplicity, inspired by my insecurities, and equipped to be everything I wasn’t in the real world – powerful, ferocious, immoral, and aggressive.
I’ve not forgotten what Skar the Manslayer taught me – there’s fun in escapism, there’s fun in power-fantasy, and there’s fun in toys and gewgaws. Even when I’m operating in indie auteur design poser mode, I try and remember those things.