Roleplaying Adventures

I'm now officially a roleplayer. My journey to the geek side is complete. I can now claim to be a video gamer, a board gamer, a miniature war gamer and a roleplayer. The only thing missing from this resume of geekdom is to collect plastic dolls of scantily clad women, and to my eternal shame I can also claim this, having bought a Lara Croft doll as a teenager because of puberty. While I never had a problem arraying my Warhammer miniatures in rank and file in public, I was too embarrassed to ever display the doll (is there a technical term for these things?) on my display shelves. Good old Lara only came to light when I was going through my childhood storage boxes, and I had to endure the ribbing from my family when she emerged in all her plastic glory. She wasn't as embarrassing as she could have been - she was basically a large action figure wielding her twin pistols set standing atop some ruins, but she was still ridiculously proportioned, and let's face it, that's why my younger self bought her. Boobies.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game. 4th edition.

I digress, however. On September 28 this year I GMed my first ever game of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game (WHFRPG) 4th edition at a craft beer bar in Otsuka in Tokyo. I chose WHFRPG as my role-playing game because of my Warhammer roots, and my current line of thinking at the moment is that I chose one of the most complicated systems out there to learn and play. Nonetheless I've invested two gaming sessions into the game now, and a swap into another system would render those first two moot. Classical sunk cost thinking, but the lore remains a powerful hook so I am intending to persevere.

I wasn't very happy with how my first session went because I realized that I was under prepared rules wise. I was fortunate that the players chose the negotiation routes in the scenario I made, because combat would have been messy, long and rife with errors. I wasn't impressed with the organizer of Tokyo Roleplaying Games because he was texting all the time during the game while the other players were paying attention. It seemed rude to me, but to be fair, I had already made a terrible impression as a first-time GM. I had been 10 minutes late, and also failed to bring pre-generated characters which meant we spent an hour faffing about making new characters. Character creation in WHFRPG is a complicated business, and coupled with my shaky grasp on the rules it made for slow going. It did not help that I had the digital copy of the rulebook on my iPad, which took 3-4 seconds to load each page. It was a miracle that the scenario flowed along as it did. That was more me improvising and bluffing rather than knowing what the exact rule was for each situation.

The second session went much better because I created pre-generated characters, had done a bit more rules acquisition, and printed out the important parts of the rulebook to circumvent the loading problem on the iPad. More importantly, however, I used a variety of props for the gaming session to help flesh it out. I played Warhammer Quest back in the day (released in 1995!) and I used my Warhammer miniatures along with the WHQ board tiles to create a 3D depiction of the dungeon on the table. I also used HeroQuest (released in 1989!) furniture to decorate the dungeon. In a way I had gone back full circle to my childhood. Funnily enough the scenario wasn't as fully fleshed out as my first one, but it ran much, much better, simply because of the props and the better prep on the rules this time around. I'd learned a great deal from the sessions at Tokyo Roleplaying Games which I'd attended as a player in the time between scenarios. In an ideal world I should have done that first to see what was expected of me as a GM, but as per usual I did everything the wrong way around and hoped for the best, with the predictably calamitous results.

I'm really enjoying my foray into roleplaying, both as a GM and player. I don't know if the sessions I attended as a player were typical, but contrary to my expectations these games were not made up exclusively of fat neckbeards with poor personal hygiene wearing heavy metal T-shirts (although that demographic was represented). My first ever game of Mutant Year Zero had a petite little French girl playing a four armed mutant freak, and my first game of Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition was hosted by a conscientious and well-prepared American female GM accompanied by her ridiculously good looking Swedish friend, who looked completely out of place in her nice clothes. They were joined by another Indian girl at the table (I felt like I was playing in the UN), and the banter they brought to the game was great, with the Swedish girl playing a blatant gold digger fighting for the favor of Bob the Nobleman (played by the Indian girl) and his riches. Soon all of us were in on it, and the game turned less about rescuing the kidnapped knight, which was the scenario, and more about who could impress Bob the most. This led to all sorts of shennanigans, with people performing subtle acts of sabotage to make the others look bad in the eyes of Bob. The Swedish girl showed an amazing commitment to character, ultimately abandoning Bob after a dogged pursuit once she found out the knight we ended up rescuing was wealthier. It was hilarious.

As a GM I'll probably be playing most of the time with the lads, which is my generic term for my wargaming buddies who are all exclusively male, but it is nice to see the roleplaying demographic expanding beyond what I knew as a young kid. I also like how that in roleplaying you could come in with a preconceived idea of what your character is going to be like, only to have it sabotaged by the vagaries of the dice. I wanted my dwarf cleric to be tough, pious and stoic - all typical masculine representations - but he ended up being more of a clown as he kept whiffing with his hand axe and failing his perception tests and letting goblins sneak by undetected. That's one of the best reasons to play games with an RNG element, because it forces you to relinquish control. You can either resist and try to maintain the image you have in your head, or go with it and improvise. In theater it's bad form to block - that is, if you are improvising and one of the actors holds an imaginary umbrella in his hand and pretends it is raining, you shouldn't then come into the scene and then pretend that it is not. Doing so completely negates the scene building work put in by the previous actor. The ideal is to build the scene, to acknowledge what was there and add to it. Maybe you come in and share the umbrella. Or start shaking because it's cold, because that way, you acknowledge the fact that it is raining, and add the fact that this particular rain is cold and miserable. I think roleplaying games should work the same way. It's a cooperative group storytelling endeavor, and if the dice wanted my character to be a short sighted well-meaning old geezer, then so be it. I never had the looks or talent to be able to do anything but dabble in theater as an undergraduate in university, but in roleplaying I can still play and let others into a world built in my mind's eye. There is a large gap between where I am now and the kind of game I would like to be able to host, but hopefully with time and experience I can get better at GMing and share my love of the Old World with similarly inclined people.


  1. Welcome to the Dark Side! Never played Warhammer 40k --the miniatures gaming version that is a whole different type of crazy from regular pencil and paper RPGs-- but I've been a regular pencil and paper RPG player since roughly 1981. (Don't ask how old I am. Please.)

    1. Thanks! I'm having a lot of fun in the world of pen and paper. I played a little bit of 2nd edition as a kid, but this is my first foray as an adult. And age is just a number, so they say, although my blood pressure and back says otherwise.


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