Thirty Thousand Streets

Monday, August 25, 2008

Every Roleplaying character I've ever played

Roleplaying. If you say the word to your average man on the street, they're probably going to think of some excruciating exercise on a corporate training day, where you take on the part of an employee attempting to placate an aggrieved customer. But what I'm talking about here is the species of dice-based games, poularised to some extent by Dungeons & Dragons, and popular with adolescent (and not so adolescent) boys, and yeah, maybe even the odd girl.

Basically, you'd take on the role of a hero, in some world of the imagination, wandering through dungeons, dispatching orcs, getting drunk in taverns or whatever was appropriate, really – after all, there were a variety of systems and worlds to situate the games in, such as the realm of Michael Moorcock's Young Kingdoms, or the more familiar, yet still perilous, parallel world of 30s New England which was the setting for the Lovecraft themed 'Call of Cthulu'.

Of course all this stuff actually had quite a lot of stigma attached. Going round to your mates of a weekend to sequester yourself in a room to roll dice and attempt to defeat, say, an imaginary wizard, is probably never going to appear as conventionally 'cool' as hanging out in the park, drinking cider and smoking Benson & Hedges, which some people at school were doing at that point (that came later, for me), and I think it bemused my parents, who used to call it 'gnome wrangling' (sigh).

Of course, with the advent of things like Second Life and World of Warcraft, it perhaps suddenly doesn't seem all that odd really. Indeed, the internet provides such manifold opportunities for all and sundry to massage into life bizarre fictionalised avatars, that really, it all seems perhaps a little sweet, not to mention pioneering, eh? At least we actually went and hung out together when pretending to be people we weren't, rather than squinting at a screen in an ill-lit room somewhere.

And it was all pretty cerebral, if not actually intellectual, and the beauty of it was that it could be totally non-linear. If you wanted to do completely random stuff for the hell of it, you could, though of course it was very easy to derail entire games by doing that. Its beauty lay in that it was creative, and improvisational – and escapist. For a few hours you could take on the part of a muscle-bound axe-wielding dwarf (though that example possibly isn't selling it in that well, I suspect).

Many of the characters I played I got quite attached to, some less so, depending on how long I played them for. I can't really remember what happened to most of them, but I think most of the games just trailed off, rather than them actually dying. So who knows? maybe they battle on still in some parallel universe, or are frozen for eternity, waiting for me to resume control of their destiny, a little like the end of every episode of early 90s TV kids show, Knightmare ("Warning Team").

Anyway. In an attempt to lay these spectres to rest, I'm going to ressurect, over the next couple of weeks, EVERY ROLEPLAYING CHARACTER I"VE EVER PLAYED (or at least the ones I can remember). You lucky people. Some off it's going to be a little vague I fear, some of their names I don't even remember – and I'm going to excercise some creative license in their appearance – so if you're concerned as to whether they were clad in full or half-plate armour, take it from me I probably don't remember anyway (some of this ocurred the best part of two decades ago, ferrchrissakes). Some of them are so sketchy in my memory I'm not even going to bother with – such as the 'warrior' I played on a Saturday morning club at a school in Reddish, who was erased from existence when a passing truck ploughed through a puddle on the way home, deluging me, and reducing his 'character sheet' (a page of statistics relating to said chap) to pulpy, inky ruin. Suffice to say though, if you imagine Arnie in Conan the barbarian, he was probably something like that. After I've drawn them all, and written about them, I'll probably combine them all in Photoshop, print them out, then hope any girls in the real world still want to speak to me.

Anyway, I'll start of with a lesser character.


I actually got the name for this guy from hearing the 'Round The Horne' tapes my dad used to play in the car, which had a sketch with Kenneth Williams just saying all this random stuff in his outrageously croaky, camp voice (though I don't think it was the Julian and Sandy sketch where they chatted away in Polari).

Anyway, it was a reference to the biblical figures of Shadrach, Meshach and Abendigo, and I kind of liked the name, so nicked it for this guy.

Basically, he was a sorceror, and I didn't play him for very long, so he never got very advanced in terms of his spellcasting. Hence probably the most combat-effective incantation he posessed was 'Magic Missile', which he's shown casting here. This was a solo game I played with my friend Will.

Other things about this guy were that I designed a symbol for him (on his brooch here) which was a open palm with a star in the centre.

Anyway, here he is.

More to come soon (bet you're excited!)


Zeno Cosini said...

I am so excited about this new project. Even more inspired than the short-lived "Thursday Thug" feature. I'm going to make sure you do ALL of the ones that i remember. Grift and Sethis I'm particularly looking forward to. Also that fashion-obsessed, heroin-addicted mutant bat you played in a TMNT game I ran once - remember him? Don't know what he was called. I'd like a drawing of Andy Morley's long-lost alter-ego Audi the bull-man too, and Liam's irritating Gnomish illusionist Seama. But perhaps they're outside your mandate.

I reckon I still have vast stashes of character sheets somewhere. Possibly mulching away in my granma's garage in Gosport. I might dig through them one day in many years' time, and shed a single crystalline tear for my lost, geeky youth.

Incidentally, the one thing I reckon made us "cooler" than any other ex-roleplayers I've met in adult life is that we did actually manage to rope some girls into our weird world - Helen, Naomi, Sarah Corbishly, etc. I've never come across any other group that wasn't exclusively male.

sigh9 said...

I am also pretty excited about this, although I don't believe a word about your so-called girl-gamers.

For true nerdery we need a stat block and what edition ruleset of course...

extra points if they're Traveller characters

The Eyechild said...

@ Zeno

Well, I've actually done a few, so less chance of it foundering I suppose.

So you remember the skag-addicted mutant fashionista as a bat? hmmmm.... wait and see what I remember.

@ Sigh

Well perhaps my colleague Zeno can help you out on the stats. My memory isn't up to it.

And what was Traveller? some science fiction thing? I heard of it. Never played it though, alas.

Zeno Cosini said...

Perhaps he was a sparrow. Or a chaffinch?

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