Roleplaying and how it translates to the Machinima Hobby
Spurred on by the comments on my last post, I thought I’d wax lyrical about the fine art of Roleplaying in this blog entry, and how it made a huge impact on me, both as a writer and a machinima director.
As with most people who got into the hobby, I first stumbled across the delights of RPG when I was a wee laddy at school and the Games Club put on a display of a fantasy battle with full array of miniatures. I was hooked; I’d already devoured fantasy writings by such luminaries as Haggard, Howard, Tolkein (naturally) and a slew of the cheap knock-off fantasy books that seemed to appear overnight in WH Smiths during the 1970s, so this was the natural next step.
I cut my teeth on the old Red Box Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set, rapidly being pushed into the role of DM, as no-one else wanted to spend the time to put adventures together and sit there behind a cardboard screen describing that dank, slimy dungeon corridor again for the 10 millionth time.
From there, I was initiated into the ranks of other classics such as Traveller, Star Frontiers, the old FASA Star Trek game, Aftermath (where I learned rapidly that masses of tables showing just how deadly a .303 bullet is when it hits your left ear-lobe do not an attention-grabbing game make…), Gamma World, Chivalry and Sorcery, Runequest, Golden Heroes, Call of Cthulhu… the list goes on.
Then, my gaming group and I ventured into the murky realm of compiling our own rules set as we came to realise that the D&D rules we were using at the time just couldn’t cut it for some of the stuff we needed for our joint campaign (one of the other players and I alternated play sessions with two disparate groups of characters, each on a separate continent, that eventually grew into an epic campaign of world-spanning and world-changing adventure.)
Eventually, family, job, real-life issues and problems and other factors all contributed to the group fragmenting and falling apart after a great 5 years of regular gaming sessions. Some wonderful characters developed out of those sessions, which I still remember fondly (and not so fondly!), which really left an indelible mark on me.
As I started my initial shakey steps into the minefield of Machinima last year, the ghosts of my misspent youth (and adult life!) dredged themselves up from the past. I could almost feel the same energy, creativity and excitement growing around me as I sat down to write the first instalments of Odyssey. Long forgotten adventures, scenes, dialogue, most of which actually happened in sessions whilst sat around my gaming table, came rushing out of the mists of the last 20 years or so to spring, fully formed, back into my mind.
Geeky hobby? Sure. Looked down upon by the majority of folks at the time? Most definitely. An enormous source of inspiration, enjoyment and fertile ground for the hobby I now enjoy? You betcha! The lessons I learned in constructing plots, characters and adventures during those years definitely served me in good stead, and frequently the techniques I called upon back then still get pulled out to assist me now.
As said in my first TMOA interview, many moons ago now, the advantage of seeing your creation taken out and driven by your “audience” (i.e. the players) and getting almost instantaneous feedback from it as the story unfolded definitely helped me in my construction. NPCs brought to life with twitches, coughs, bizarre accents all get called upon again when a voice is needed. Convoluted plot strands, twists and turns and the less-than-white actions of some of the PCs in the various groups I had the pleasure to play with all serve well when fleshing out characters and situations.
Roleplaying has given me a lot of joy, over the years. Sadly, I have little to no time anymore to involve myself in the hobby as I once did, but one glance over my shoulder at the boxes and shelves here in the Cave, still groaning under the weight of myriad rulebooks and supplements, still raises a wry smile. And, boy, are they excellent sources of inspiration for writing scripts and characters!