Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Roll Your Own Life (9) - Dice of Freedom

Been a while since I posted about my ancient gaming history, and it's a good exercise in getting back into writing again - WILD is progressing nicely, I know the backstory, know the system, worked out character creation, know how the book's going to look and the style of art and layout, I just need to actually crack on with writing the damn thing. I seriously think it's going to be a real experience to play and read, but I just need to get on with it. Maybe I'm just putting myself off, worrying that what I put on the page will never live up to the scope and madness that I've envisioned in my head.

Anyway, back to the "Entire History of Me," - a rather vain and ponderous reflection on my history in gaming. My way of revisiting the past, and getting all nostalgic for a slightly less painful time.

Last time I posted (in Roll Your Own Life (8) - Ghostwriting for the USA) I told you about sitting in my bedroom after I'd left school, typing away on the huge electric typewriter, desperately hoping to get a job writing Ghostbusters RPG scenarios. Well, as you can guess, I never did become a paid Ghostbusters writer, and there was only so long I could spend sitting around at home without getting a paid job.

Me at the desk in "Clerk/Tracer" mode 1989
Luckily, the job centre managed to point me in the direction of the local county council who were looking for what they called a "Clerk/Tracer". Yes, a job tracing. I can just imagine all the "Mallrats" jokes now about inkers being nothing but glorified tracers, but this was absolutely skill-less. It really was tracing. The job was working for the council's nature conservation unit, updating their ordnance survey maps for sites of scientific interest. In the days before doing it all on computer, this involved taking their big sheets of film with the map printed on it, and drawing and colouring in the areas of interest. If the area changed, the ink was scraped off of the film carefully with a scalpel blade before being re-inked to incorporate the alteration.

Tedious? Yes. Part time? Yes. But it paid well, got me off of the dole, and gave me enough spare time to continue writing, but we'll come back to that later.

How did I get the job? Well, I showed off my comic drawing that I used to do (the old Wormbusters stuff) which proved I could use a rotring pen, and I could type...  but the thing that clinched the deal, and got me the job?

I roleplayed.

Doug Smith at the Nature Conservation office - 1989
I was interviewed by two guys, one was the head of a department for the council (nice chap called Mark), and the other was the leader of the team I'd be joining, a guy called Doug Smith.

Doug told me after I'd been given the job that they had a few people apply for the post, and it was a close thing between me and some other guy, but the thing that swayed their decision in my favour was roleplaying. Doug had played D&D and thought that because I was a gamer I would know how to work as part of a team, could problem solve, had the imagination and self reliance to take the initiative, and could draw maps.

Obviously, Doug had never witnessed my D&D playing or he'd have probably thought differently!

It was a pretty easy job, I got on well with the team, although they vanished off doing surveys of the places I was drawing the maps of, driving all around the county in their little yellow council van. Gave me plenty of time to do the map work, and plot my next bit of writing.

I'd advanced onto using a word processor - wow, I know it sounds like nothing these days, but back then I didn't have access to a real computer. I had a Sinclair ZX Spectrum which was mostly used to play video games. In order to do word processing, certainly something I could print out and send to West End Games, I needed something a bit more professional. At that time, it was an Amstrad with a green screen that I could use at the town's "adult education centre". They saw it as me getting experience using word processors and writing, I saw it as a way to write.

The Price of Freedom RPG core boxed set
However, I'd moved on from Ghostbusters, but remained loyal to West End Games. I picked up a copy of "Red Dawn" inspired RPG "The Price of Freedom". A controversial game at the time, as it featured guerilla warfare in an America occupied after a Soviet invasion. Very Red Dawn.

However, I had two problems.

One was that none of my players wanted to play Americans fighting Russians. Maybe they saw it as being politically incorrect, maybe they just didn't like the idea, so I eventually ended up replacing the Soviet forces with Visitors and running the game as "V", based on the TV series.

The second problem I had was that I wanted to write for West End Games, but I had no ideas of a plot for an adventure to submit to them. I ended up taking the basic plot of Star Wars, having the vice president as a woman being captured by the Soviets, and the player characters attempt to rescue her from a fortified train that had some huge gun on it. Basically, it was rescue the princess from the Death Star before it gets within range of the resistance's base and it gets destroyed. I don't remember much about it other than the spell checker on the computer kept trying to change the name of one of the NPCs from Suzie Morgan to "Saucy Organ" which amused me to no end.

I never finished the adventure, I guess I lost enthusiasm after I couldn't find anyone to playtest it, but my interest in Price of Freedom was wavering after West End Games brought out their newest game... STAR WARS.

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