Fragments from a Shattered Mirror: The Younger Years

This week has been a trip down memory lane for me.

The Rokea game I brought up last post has triggered a spark in me to go over my old favorites, the old World of Darkness books that I had spent many, many nights playing. My main group, the one I’ve been playing with for ten years now, was primarily World of Darkness. My buddy Mercer has one of the largest libraries of the old system that rivals anything I’ve ever seen in the bookstores. Mind you, I’ve been a part of many, many gaming circles before and after meeting Mercer and his wife. And even amongst those varied circles, there have been some memorable nights of playing WoD that trumped just about any experience I’ve ever had with D&D, Shadowrun or anything else for that matter*

*The exclusion being my last 4th Edition campaign that has been the subject of so many blogs here. I can already hear the sound of grognards and simulationists removing me from their bookmarks.

The flame has been rekindled, and now I find myself waxing nostalgic.  And since I was inspired by Chatty DM’s “Gaming DNA” posts (part one and two), I want to share a history of my dominant gaming gene:

First WoD Book — Werewolf: The Apocalypse, 2nd Edition

Bought this my seventh grade year. Prior gaming experience was mostly Shadowrun 2E and AD&D, played with almost all of the rules tossed out the window. My “gaming group” at the time was a couple brothers I went to school with. We never played together in person; instead we always played over the telephone. About this same time, a television show called Kindred: The Embraced hit the air waves, and introduced me (loosely) to the concepts of Vampire: The Masquerade. But my interest wasn’t piqued until I got my hands on a couple starter decks for a card game called Rage. I never learned to play the game, but the artwork, characters and concepts blew me away. Before then I had never imagined Werewolves as tribal, humanoid and sentient beings and unsung heroes of the night. It gripped me, and after doing some extra chores and conning the parents, I bought one of the most AWESOME hardbound gaming books I’ve ever owned.

If you’ve never picked up the 2nd edition Werewolf, you’re missing out. Full colored Graphic-Novel style intro and ending, lots of detailed line arts and probably one of the most intense series of illustrations in the combat chapter. Seriously, the combat chapter was practically a flip book of two Werewolves going at it and slaughtering each other. The fiction and the mythos of the Garou left a heavy impression on me, but unfortunately at the time the mechanics blew my mind. You’d think a Shadowrun player would pick up on a dicepool based game quickly….I think the dots threw me for a loop. I may not have properly learned it back then, but it would pave the way for later.

Vampire: The Masquerade…..also known as Highschooler: The Trouble Making.

Years later, I would be exposed again to World of Darkness during the Revised editions. I had some friends who were newcomers to RPG’s but eager to play anything. I was also hanging out with chicks who were either Goth, obsessed with Vampires, or just plain freaks who listened to Depeche Mode and KMFDM. Not only did we start playing Vampire at this time, we all decided to start playing live action vampire at this time. I think really, it was an excuse for us to wear goth make up and dress like lestat and listen to trashy 80’s music. It was also pretty fun to be playing an RPG using “Rock, Paper, Scissors” in place of a dice mechanic.

Unfortunately, living in small town Texas resulted in getting the cops called on us almost every time we played. Even when we played at a friend’s house, we made the mistake of picking one of the player’s girlfriend up from a band trip and it resulted in parents accusing us of wearing hoods and brandishing daggers. Which is funny, since all the band kids asked if we had gone to Rocky Horror that night. We also made the mistake of taking fun photos of us playing….which wound up getting one of my good friends in a lot of trouble. To this day, I can honestly attest we had never used weapons, or even props, and the worst we probably did was say a few swear words and listen to New Order.

Hunter: The Reckoning (or, growing up and actually playing the damn game.)

The end of my fond, youthful memories of role playing World of Darkness (or any RPG for that matter) are also the beginning of my maturity into gaming. Previously, RPG’s were an excuse for pure escapism and an outlet for angsty teen aged aggressions. Okay, I take that back….I had a Shadowrun group that was purely about the satisfaction of blowing shit up, and the thrill of having players hooking me up with fast food in exchange for Karma points. But I digress….My older brother ended up inviting me to game with him and his buddies. While a lot of us were getting caught up in the d20 D&D craze, the game that remained persistent for the better part of (what seems like) years was my bro’s Hunter chronicle.  This chronicle became a lot of “firsts” for me:

  • It was the first time I was invited to play with my brother. He had run a one-shot of Shadowrun in my youth, but to actually game with the guy who got me into gaming in the first place was a big deal. A lot of my nerdy habits can be blamed on him; and honestly, I thank him for it.
  • The hunter campaign would become one of the first regular, long-term campaigns I had ever played in.
  • This was also probably the first time I had played any World of Darkness game correctly. We may have fudged a couple rules here or there…but I honestly picked up the system.

There was so much more I learned from this game as well. I learned that the characters (and sometimes players) can be divided and it doesn’t necessarily take away from the experience. I learned that sometimes uncomfortable situations and choices that pop up in a modern horror game can actually be a rewarding play experience. I also learned that sometimes, things can piled on top of each other and fall apart in a nasty collapse. Players get emotionally involved, and sometimes after a good run it may just not be fun to continue anymore. I’ll be honest….I don’t think I was responsible for the abrupt end that wound up crashing the campaign to a halt. But it was the action of my character, something I did PURELY 100% with good intentions and totally in my persona, that was the straw that broke the camel’s proverbial back. My hunter had developed a love interest with another player character, whose back story was intertwined around an ex-husband she still cared about but had to leave for the Hunt. Let’s just say said husband was apparently possessed. And then my character, a Defender, came in to see him cast some kind of Hellfire on said love interest. Naturally, I did what any protective type would do and cleaved a Katana through the creep’s face…

I expected the player to be upset with me. What I didn’t expect was the player holding back tears and needing to leave the room for a moment. Nor did I expect the deafening silence from the play group following my actions.
And that’s when I learned that even in escapism, actions have consequences.

Stay tuned for part two: The Good Ol’ Days

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