Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The First Blush

I first discovered Skyrealms of Jorune, the role playing game, in 1992. It was the Second Edition boxed set and I was drawn in by the incredible artwork of Miles Teves. It took a while for me to warm to the world itself, but after a short time, I was home. They slug line of "Leave Your World Behind" drew men. Yes. Jorune, take me away.

It wasn't my first world. In addition to Earth I have been an inhabitant of Barsoom and Tchai, but Jorune quickly joined that pantheon and slowly began to dominate.

At the age of 42 I was finally involved in my first Role Playing Games. I had tried a decade earlier when I bought a full boxed set of Traveller's first edition. It was at a hobby shop in North Hollywood and the guy behind the country had no idea what is was, how to play, or anything else. So I left the shop with the boxed set, sure that I could read the instructions and figure it out.

I read the books, followed the instructions, and tried to generate my first character. The problem was that in the first edition Traveller rules was a random roll where the character died during generation. And my first chraacter died. And my second character. I started giving it a different first name and within. couple of weeks I had a whole family tree of characters who had died during generation.

At about that point my roommate's boyfriend was about to go to his post overseas and asked to borrow the books to see how the game was. He had played Dungeons & Dragons and knew a bit about gaming. So I loaned him the box set - and he was gone. Never saw him again. Never saw my Traveller again, and since generating people who didn't survive to have an adventure made me lose interest.

One of my passions, then and now, is radio theater. From 1972 to 1982 I did hundreds of radio shows, and several dozen were fully produced scripted productions like the old time radio shows. We thought we were going to revive the format across America with new productions. CBS Radio Mystery Theater came on the air and we were sure we were riding the wave. At the same time some of my actors wanted me to do some stage scripts for a local small theater (Deja Vu Coffeehouse Theater) and I did. My love of radio remained, but my actions were more toward stage and trying to break into "Hollywood".

It was during this small theater and Hollywood phase that I found the Traveller boxed set.

Over the next ten years I left L.A. and moved to Phoenix, lost everything in Phoenix and went back to L.A., and from there was invited up to San Francisco/Berkeley to direct some stage productions. I went and found a small studio and group of actors who were interested in starting a new radio project, science fiction, called FREE SPACE. I did what I had always done with radio series - I wrote a bible with background and information for the actors and - hopefully - additional writers.

About that time I was having lunch at a Burger King and the local manager was a friendly kid from Texas, and I like friendly kids so he came over to sit with me while I ate. We talked, I told him about Free Space and showed him the little backgrounder. He said, "Have you ever played role playing games?" And i explained about the dead family tree from Traveller.

"Didn't the GM help you?" I had no idea what a GM was and had never gotten so far as a group. I thought I was supposed to generate a character and find a group to play that role. Like improv theater of some kind. I wasn't sure how to find a group, but he said, "You'll loving gaming."

He moved in with me and put a notice up at the local gaming shop, and the first player to show up was someone who has become a serious part of my life for more than 25 years. Rich Eide. My brother from another mother.

Rich ran the first game I sat through. Runequest. My character development was deeper than he was used to. But we played. And added a couple more players. Then we played some other settings and systems and I got enthused.

That was when I went to GameScape in San Francisco and looked through the huge collection used role playing games.

And on one of the shelves was a dark box, shrink wrapped. I bought it. It had the Player's Guide, the Sholari's Guide, the Tauther's Guide, Kolovishondra, Companion: Ardoth, Companion: Burdoth and the two errata that were published for the game, with character sheets for both systems.

And that was one hell of a 'Hello'.

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