How Did I Get Here?

Disclaimer: I have no idea what this will be about. I’m sitting on my ass-damaged chair and I don’t feel like doing any ‘real’ writing and I’m gonna hafta go meet my daughter at the bus stop soon, but I wanna write something and so…

I have always read books. My earliest memories are of reading Winnie-the-Pooh with my parents. Or more likely demanding they read it to me. In grade seven/eight the school I went to gave out awards to students who read X number of pages in a year; ten thousand, twenty thousand, fifty thousand, etc. They didn’t have an award for the number of pages I read.

I don’t often think about the past. Though those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it, those who invent the past…

It’s only now as I sit here wondering what I’m writing about that I realize why I read so much. Escapism. It seems obvious, but to me it’s what I was escaping that’s more interesting. As a child we moved a lot. I was rarely in the same school more than a year or two before we packed up and went elsewhere. I started grade seven as the new kid; I knew no one. I was (and am) extremely introverted, though whether that’s a genetic thing, or the result of moving so often I have no idea. By the end of grade seven I had one friend and he moved away during the summer. Grade eight was a whole new hell. I spent most of the outdoors time secluded in the library and when they kicked me out of the library I sat in a corner of the playground and read.

My memory is pretty shaky, but I believe I was reading a lot of Farley Mowat at the time. Someone had bought me And No Birds Sang, and that set me off reading pretty much everything he wrote.

Somehow, by the end of grade eight, I’d made a couple more friends. During our first year of high-school one of them introduced me to the Role-Playing Club. I was hooked. I stopped reading Farley Mowat and Hardy Boys books and set out to read every science-fiction and fantasy novel I could get my hands on.

IMG-20151016-00565By grade ten I’d become addicted to being the GM (Game Master AKA Dungeon Master) and was creating my own story lines and adventures. From there it went rapidly downhill. At some point my parents took away my RPGshiding them in their closet—in the hopes I might pay more attention at school without that distraction. Or maybe it was a blackmail situation; I don’t clearly remember. It also didn’t much matter as I took all the books (we were paying a lot of Chaosium’s Stormbringer) and left them the emptied boxes.

Thirty years later I still get together with a couple of those guys (and some new friends met during university) to role-play. The stories have become more complex and at some point back in the 90s we wrote our own gaming system (which has also grown more complex), but the magic is still there.

Sometimes it’s escapism; everyone has stuff they need to get away from. It doesn’t have to be something huge and tragic, it can be something as minor as a crap day at work or a looming project. Hell, sometimes you just gotta get away from your kids. Much as you love ’em, they’re insane, demanding little monsters.

But sometimes it’s more than that.

A good role-playing campaign allows us to lose ourselves in the story, to be the villain or the hero. We can topple civilizations, ride dragons, or twist the world with our delusions. I think that’s how I got here. I learned my love of story telling while role-playing. But writing it down—capturing an adventure and making it eternal (or at least lasting more than a few hours) and sharing it with people beyond your half-dozen closest friends—is an entirely different experience.

And it’s addictive.

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  • Eric Spencer Fomley

    Thanks for sharing. I find it interesting to read just how many Fantasy authors got their start from role playing. I’d never heard of it until I got to college, but it seems to be a powerful start to a lot of people’s writing careers. 🙂

  • Michael R. Fletcher

    Thanks for stopping by. I’m not surprised it’s a common path, but I am kind of amazed at how many role-players are coming out of the woodwork. We are legion!

  • Tim Ward

    Sounds like an advantage for where you’ve taken yourself. I can see how those rpgs helped your mind develop to learn how to build fascinating fantasy worlds. My escapes were guitar, Final Fantasy and censored. I wish I’d have laid off the censored and read more, but whatever. I was young and dumb.

  • Michael R. Fletcher

    I always felt like if you didn’t misspend at least some of your youth, you did it wrong.