Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The review that got me into RPGs

Back in 1997 I was a year into high school and obsessed with Magic: The Gathering. Who wasn't? The game was on fire, and I was making lots of friends at drop-in Magic events.

As far as RPGs went, I had purchased and played just one: Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, by West End Games. I loved it, but I didn't run in RPG social circles, so I really had no awareness of the hobby as a was just me with my SWRPG book, tinkering around with stats and dreaming of ways to sucker my friends into a campaign.

I had just subscribed to InQuest magazine, Wizard Entertainment's zine dedicated to the CCG industry; coincidentally, they expanded to cover RPGs about this same time. That's where I ran across this review of Blue Planet, the hard sci-fi RPG by Biohazard Games (and now published by RedBrick) set on a waterworld brewing with action and intrigue.

I still remember reading this review: It made my head spin. Suddenly I "got" what made RPGs so immersive. I understood why players returned to the same characters time after time, eventually creating a shared narrative that unfolded over months and years. My experience with SWRPG mostly consisted of finding the fastest way to kill three dozen stormtroopers. With Blue Planet, I finally had the sense of an entire hobby built around these innovative games of the imagination.

It wasn't until 2000 that I got any closer to finding out about Blue Planet. As fate would have it, I attended the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO...the home of Blue Planet creator Jeffrey Barber. To make a long story short, I eventually met Jeff and had my "geek moment" where I gushed about how cool Blue Planet was, how I'd always wanted to play it, etc. We did end up gaming together, but it wasn't Blue Planet; it was Midnight, a D&D setting Jeff was writing for Fantasy Flight Games.

I still remember when Jeff got his dream job, a gig teaching biology at a school in Hawaii. I mean hell, it doesn't get more Blue Planet than that! Before he left to go live on an island and swim with stingrays, though, Jeff gave me (I was 22 at this point) one copy of each published book from the Blue Planet line from his personal stock, thus equipping me for the subsequent Blue Planet campaigns I would run over the next few years.

I was going through a box of my old InQuests last weekend and came across this can't imagine how it fired my 15-year-old imagination.


Allen Varney said...

I wrote that Blue Planet review in InQuest. I loved Blue Planet, and I'm glad to see my enthusiasm carried forward into my review. I hope your campaigns went well!

Patrick W. Rollens said...

Thanks Allen! Amazing things, these blogs. I should also point out that my early appreciation of InQuest fueled my interest in journalism and writing, where I'm currently employed. That's two pints of beer I owe you! Going to GenCon?

Emperor said...

I cant wait for some of my settings to get recognition!