You might be wondering where it all began for me. Why this story? Why role-playing? Why vampires and wizards and LARP?
As you already know, I’m a huge geek. And, as I said before, playing Dungeons and Dragons was in my blood from a very early age. Like most people I know, I started at the basic D&D set and soon graduated to Advanced D&D including the Monster Manual, and the Players Guide and the Dungeon Masters Guide. Every one of these books were sacred texts during my formative years.
Role-playing games were huge in the 80s. But what I’ve realized is that WAY more people were playing them in high school and University than I ever imagined. All this time, I thought it was just myself and some of my nerdy friends in our basements (if you understood that reference… then you and I are true kindred souls). The games were also incredibly diverse, encompassing virtually every corner of fandom that you could imagine.
There were role-playing games set in science fiction and fantasy worlds. There were games set in the Star Wars and Star Trek and Ghostbusters universes. There were spy games and there were post apocalyptic games and there were comic book games (both Marvel and DC!). Most games included lead miniatures that you could paint but only after using copious amounts of industrial glue to hold them together. Most games also had ‘battle maps’ upon which said miniatures could be placed for combat simulations.
Growing up in Ottawa, my go-to source for all things game-related was a store called Fandom II. I literally would not have had the imagination-fuelled childhood that I did without Fandom II. The store is still there on Laurier Ave (although it has long since moved from it’s original location near King Edward Blvd to a spot in the downtown near Metcalfe). Apart from the comic book store Arthur’s Place (now torn down), Fandom II was the place where I would hang out. I would marvel at the vast tomes of imagination alongside the delicate lead figurines and detailed miniature vehicles scattered throughout the store.
Most of all, though, I remember that Fandom II was what helped me find my gaming tribe in Ottawa. See, I didn’t know a lot of fellow gamers back then. When I first got into D&D, there was only a couple of my friends who were also playing. And most of them stopped about the time we all went into middle school. This was also about the time they stopped buying comic books and watching cartoon. I, on the other hand, actually started collecting comic books and was still watching Saturday morning cartoons (Transformers, G.I. Joe, The *Real* Ghostbusters).
But, whereas comic books and cartoons were something I kept to myself, my love of role-playing games was more or less out in the open. At that time, I was playing the Star Trek RPG (by FASA). Which is how I met my friend David who also played said games. David soon introduced me to his friends Richard, Paul, and Michael. The first game I ever played with them took place (you guessed it) in the basement of Richard’s home which had a tabletop playing area on one side of the room and a giant battle map on the other. It was glorious. The three of them basically introduced me to almost every game I could imagine… and that was how my Ottawa gaming crew was formed.
Star Wars RPG. Cyberpunk 2013. Champions. Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play. Runequest. Top Secret. Starfleet Battles. Twilight 2000. Shadowrun. We played all of these. At one point, we realized we were playing so many games that our campaigns were going on for too long. We weren’t finishing our adventures in a timely fashion so we had to dedicate our Friday nights to just one game only.
It was a nearly impossible choice.
Kind of like going into Fandom II and having to pick just one game to purchase. Or one set of figurines to take home and paint. You see, some people can get lost perusing the shelves of a bookstore. I, myself, have been guilty of that from time to time. But wandering the shelves of a gaming store in my youth held an extra special allure. Endless worlds you could not only imagine but which you could actively be part of!
Gaming runs in my blood. But speaking of blood, I haven’t mentioned vampires in this post at all, have I? In fact, in most of the games I played back then, vampires were the villains. So how did all of that change?
That’s for another post, so stay tuned…