14 October 2012

My Life As A Gamer, part 1

As we gamers know so well, experience is what shapes us and makes us who we are. And because this is a blog about games (mostly), I want to say a bit about my gaming history.

Depending upon point of view, as the roleplaying gamers go, I am of the middle generation. I wasn't there when the hobby started. I wasn't even alive; I was born a few years after the hobby started. Also, there was that small matter of me being born on the other side of the world, hidden behind the iron curtain. Actually, this wasn't so small matter; it had serious impact on my relationship with rpgs, but I will muse on this later.

Let me start with saying that for as long as my memory reaches back, I was fan of science, science fiction and fantasy. My parents and grandparents started and supported my love of books and general interest in science. I taught myself to read on fairy tale O krasnoludkach i Sierotce Marysi (strange, there seems to be no translation of that book - I think I write more about it in the future, if I ever come to reflect about English word dwarf and Polish krasnolud(ek). Or if I write a post or two about Slavic mythology). While my parents were favoring historical and crime fiction, there were a few SF books and books about mythology - Greek and Roman at first but later mother bought one about Aztec mythology. There was also a lot of technical books, which I browsed for pictures, a lot of books and magazines about popular science, including Bajtek (first Polish magazine about computers which father was buying even before we had actual computer), a high quality Panasonic VCR when they were novelty, especially in late communist Poland, a borrowed gaming console (Atari 2600) and an actual computer (Atari 130 XE) around 1987. Oh, and until 1994 Poland had copyright laws that hadn't forbid copying movies and computer games, which meant they were cheap and easily accessible from hundred of small scale dealers. Me and my brother spent hundreds of hours playing video games and watching movies. Some of the oldest movies I remember are Red Sonia, Terminator and Rambo. I also recall Jason of Star Command and later Star Trek The Next Generation. One could say I was doomed to become gamer and fantasy and sf fan from the very start.

One of my oldest memories involving roleplaying games was from a children's television series - either Drops or 5-10-15 - where presentation took place. It took many years before it occurred to me that it was about rpgs at all. My second contact with rpg was their description in second issue of Joker - short-lived magazine dedicated to puzzles and logical games. It included two page description and one page image of a warrior fighting red-scaled dragon on a hoard of gold. Yeah, the one from red-colored D&D Player's Manual. I started to design a game based on the vague description but never finished it. Not enough information and too much distractions for nine year old.

At that time I was sinking more and more into board games, especially tactical and strategy games. As a politically unaware kid I mostly ignored great political changes happening around, like fall of communism which allowed for greater contact with "The West" and even commissioning desired goods from there, albeit at ridiculously high prices. It wasn't concern of mine for a few more years. What concerned me was appearance of a new board game named Magia i Miecz (Sword & Sorcery or literally translating Magic And Sword) which was Polish rendition of Games Workshop Talisman. The primary difference was Polish-made graphics (in opinion of many players better than original, I haven't seen Talisman to be able to judge myself). It even had additional Polish-made expansion Jaskinia ("The Cave") which was often criticized as poorly balanced and not well fitting the rest of the game. I loved playing this game when I had a chance.

In autumn 1993 I found a magazine of the same name (aka MiM) at local newspaper vendor. The large letters stating that inside are four new characters for the Magia i Miecz game attracted me as much as the name of the magazine. Quick scan of my pockets revealed enough cash for the purchase, so I returned home that afternoon with a new magazine to read, magazine that I kept buying for the following eight years. Inside were the promised bonus characters for the game (those were extra professions that one could advance into after meeting special conditions, like Sheriff from The City expansion set - we never get to use them in actuall play). It was the least interesting part of the magazine, however, because the largest part of the issue contained character creation rules for Kryształy Czasu (Crystals Of Time, referenced as KC from now on), a native Polish rpg game, serialized in the magazine before being published as softcover book. I did recognized it as one of that games I read about years earlier and showed it to friends who shared my interests (and who were my partners in make-belive games when we were younger). Immediately we decided that we want to play that game. Alas, we could not. The rules called for the use of two weird ten-sided die which we lacked. Remember when I wrote about the costs of commissioning anything from abroad? Aye, we hadn't have such money or contacts so we waited and bid our time before we could get one. Or a pair. Or better a whole handful.

Thankfully, the breakthrough came early the next year.

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