Sunday, April 17, 2016



I've been an avid role-playing game enthusiast since I was about 10-years old. The first tabletop game I ever experienced was the classic D&D Basic Set; a friend brought the books to art class one day and asked me if I wanted to play. It was just an hour long adventure and neither of us really understood what we were doing, but it was fun and left me wanting more. I still remember, fondly, creating a ninja character who was armed with about every magic weapon in the game, including a Sunsword and Vorpal Blade. I fought Tiamat at the end of the adventure and killed her by lopping off each of her heads. It was all completely ridiculous according to the rules, but it was fun and memorable, and it made me want to play more.

I had an Atari system and a dozen games, but playing tabletop was different--better--than any of them. It allowed me to step into the fantasy world and experience the adventure in a way that nothing else did; the only thing that even came close was reading Endless Quest adventure books, and even those were a pale comparison.

Video games were fun, of course, but the story they told were all linear, pre-determined, and extremely limited with regards to player choice. Mostly, those early games gave me just a few options: move, shoot, jump, or activate something. That was about it, really; it was a pretty advanced game that gave the player all four choices.

Reading fantasy and science fiction was fun, also, and at least pulled me deeper and more completely into its world than video games. But the stories were limited in scope and already written with a definite beginning and end; I could identify with the characters but they weren't my own creations, and I had no power to affect the world that I was reading about.

Tabletop role-playing not only created a fantastic, fictional world to explore populated by strange monsters and exotic characters...it also gave me the power to create my own hero to become part of that world, and to determine that characters actions throughout not just one but a series of stories! I could shoot, jump, move, and activate something just like in a video game...but my character could also brew magical potions, sit and stare at the mountains while sharpening his sword, build a campfire, spend days studying ancient books inside an Elven library, debate with a king about his unjust laws, climb a tower and sneak in through an open window, build traps, recruit soldiers to help fight a war, bury myself in the sand to avoid a patrol of evil goblins, choose my allies, cover my face with war paint, sample different foods at the local tavern, spend time dancing with forest nymphs, and endless other things limited only by my imagination.

For a kid with a vivid imagination, tabletop role-playing offered me an experience that video games, fantasy novels, cartoons, and movies couldn't even come close to matching. With tabletop RPGs, I had the power to create my own, epic character and take him on daring adventures in a fantasy world that responded to my every action. I was part of a dramatic story but also helping shape and build that story as a player. I had the opportunity to see my character evolve over time, based on the consequences--good and bad--of my actions. The story never had to end, the ending was never already determined, and I could explore the world in deeper ways than ever before. All this freedom and excitement, and all that was required were a few cheap game books, dice, paper and pencils.

Over thirty years later, I'm still an avid role-player and love the game more now than I did back then. I've played dozens of different systems, explored a multitude of genres, written my own indie games, spent countless hours writing and designing RPG material, and have had the enjoyment of being both a player and Game Master over the many years of my hobby.

But, alas, none of that explains why this blog is called The Hero with a Brown Face. So, let me explain...