No, this is not good at all.
And yet, having gamed now for something like thirty-two years, I should have a few topics handy, right?
But where do I begin?
And what do I write, that my potential readers might like?
Let’s see… what about the games I’ve played in these thirty-two years?
I won’t mention them all.
Just the turning points in my life as a gamer, so that you guys out there know where I come from.
I think I should mention Jackson & Livingstone’s The Warlock of Firetop Mountain as my first introduction to interactive narratives and “roleplaying” of sorts.
So ok, it was not a RPG, it was a Fighting Fantasy gamebook, but it was there it started.
I pretty much destroyed the 1982 Puffin edition of the book, playing it again and again.
I liked it a lot – and I wanted some more.
Looking around, I discovered roleplaying games.
Believe it or ot, I did not start with the Red Box.
My first game was I Signori del Caos, one of the earliest roleplaying games produced in Italy.
It was Christmas 1983, and I explicitly asked for it as a gift to my uncle. There had been reviews published in the local newspapers (yes, there was a time when things like that happened), and I was curious.
The game was much more advanced than basic D&D, it ran on a system that (much later) I would discover very similar to AD&D, and featured a “generic” fantasy setting that was not so generic after all – and that acquired a distinctive Mediterranean flavor with the publication of campaigns and scenarios.
I did not play I Signori del Caos very much – it was too strange a thing for my friends to get into. We played a few scenarios in the spring and summer of ’84. Then they went to playing Risk and Monopoly.
My outlook as a roleplayer was bleak.
In 1985 my brother got a Dungeons & Dragons Red Box (Italian edition, by Editrice Giochi) for Christmas.
But it was with The Call of Cthulhu, in 1989, that I really started playing “seriously” – and I shifted from player (in D&D I usually played a rogue) to keeper.
For years on end my whole Call of Cthulhu library consisted of the basic handbook, 4th edition, the Fungi from Yuggoth campaign, the Green & Pleasant Land sourcebook, plus a copy of the stories of H.P. Lovecraft and a world atlas from the 1940s, that was (and remains) an excellent resource1.
Call of Cthulhu was also the game we, well, played is not the best word for it… anyway, it’s the game featured in my first Gaming Night in Hell2.
And yet, it was the setting that really got me – the 1920s and 1930s, the secrets, the mix of modernity and unexplored regions along the border of our maps.
And Lovecraft, of course.
Planescape was the next big thing – and once again, a game setting I loved very much but, just like I Signori del Caos, I never really played to its fullest.
It was 1994 – and I spent most of my time playing Castle Falkenstein, which was if possible an even bigger thing to me.
I love steampunk – and Castle Falkenstein was good, very good. The gaming universe was inteligent and fresh, the presentation was gorgeous (even if production values somewhat slipped in later material) and many of the gaming solutions wereextremely elegant.
It was also my first experience with a lightweight, somewhat freeform gaming engine.
Next what? Trinity, was probably the biggest hit at my gaming table since Call of Cthulhu – not surprising, considering that my team is composed mainly of science fiction buffs.
I originally avoided the setting, when my friendly gaming retailer described it to me as “Basically it’s the World of Darkness in space… you get your vampires, werewolves, stuff, but in space.”
I guess this way he sold a lot of handbooks to WoD-heads, but in my case, I was scared off. I had to read a few reviews to go and try purchasing the paperback edition – and I was sold.
Trinity succeeded in building a complicated, highly satisfying gaming universe that was incredibly “generic” in its allowing for all sorts of adventures, from bug hunting to space opera by way of cyberpunk and post-apocalitpic stories.
While I am not a big fan of White Wolf Games, Trinity and later Adventure! remain two of my all time faves, and I am really sorry that the line was canceled the way it was.
In my Search for the Perfect Gaming System3 I finally got me a copy of Savage Worlds in 2003, and I was rather baffled.
I mean, this thing required miniatures!
We had stopped using minis at my table in… what… 1992?
And yet the system was so simple, and so geared towards action and over-the-top pulp action in particular, I kept my copy handy.
I knew Deadlands – yet again another setting I played less than I wanted – and SW was at the ready whenever I wanted to play something home-brewed and fast, with cannibal pigmy zombies and lost cities in the jungle. That kind of stuff.
And finally, when the Explorer’s Edition came out in 2007, I just went and bought five copies.
As luck would have it, I ended up translating the thing in italian in 2013, and I’m currently working with Savage Worlds Italia… but that’s another story.
Is this it?
I think I should also mention Hollow Earth Expeditions, a truly gorgeous pulp adventure game (yet another in the not-played-enough games on my shelf) and the recently discovered Numenera, that’s probably the best designed book I ever saw, and a gaming universe that really sucked me in from page one.
But we’ll talk about those games again.
And yes, this is it.
Even though I did not mention Chill, and West End Games’ Star Wars, and Fading Suns, and Blue Planet… looks like I’ll have fodder for a few future posts, after all.
And what about you, dear readers?
What about your preferences?
What games were essential in your growth as a gamer?
The comments are open…