For the past four days, I’ve been writing about conventions, as the first two years’ worth of #RPGaDAY entries were all about convention things when Gen Con was going on. I’m not certain why that was changed for this year, but with my overall lack of enthusiasm for the question prompts[1] I thought it wouldn’t matter. But there’s one that was interesting in there. You’ve seen this on other people’s blogs and social media accounts three days ago.

What aspect of RPGs has had the biggest effect on you?

I. Love. Maps.

campaign-map-poland

When Dungeons & Dragons came out, one of the Big Things with the game was exploration. We didn’t have the entirety of the Forgotten Realms mapped out. There was this marsh to explore. Maybe you washed up on the Isle of Dread and moved from hex to hex. Heck, even the earliest versions of the game had roles for players to fulfill, like “party caller” and “mapper”.

But for a kid like me, maps were all about What’s Over There? What is just beyond that horizon?

Interest in D&D soon turned to interest in fantasy novels. That map of Middle-Earth; the Shire, the Lonely Mountain — all fascinating. Each of the fantasy books I read seemed to include a map of some sort at the front of the book to help the reader visualize where things took place. I remember several. The Spine of the World mountains that were in the middle of nearly every map.[2] The map of Xanth that strongly resembled Florida. And those uncharted areas. Here be dragons.

Truthfully, I was jealous.

I knew where Illinois, Belize, and the Ural Mountains were. Everything is set. But to live in those days where the world was still unknown, where the far edge of the map faded away to guesses and conjecture? The shape of the world itself was a thing of wonder and amazement. If I lived centuries ago and could have, I would have been a cartographer.

Those maps of old, with a vague outline of Australia blending into Antarctica and New Zealand; with their sirens and Neptune; with their scribblings of coastal village names extending diagonally into the water — oh, how I love those. The promise of a new, untouched, unknown world out there.

The exploration in early D&D and running games, creating maps — especially creating the maps — let my imagination run wild. Were there dragons be here? Perhaps.

One year ago: Tell me about your character.

You can read about poor doomed Daniel at the link above.

I run most games I’m in, rarely playing, but one other character comes to mind. He also was a poor, doomed soul. This was Napalm, my fire elementalist from Shadowrun. Mickey “Napalm” Kozmeyer, an undercover government agent secretly running a group of criminals as deniable assets, fell in love with one of the criminals in his group. It didn’t end well. When the truth about his past (and present) came out, she completely hated him.

After the campaign was over, I did a write-up of where I thought each of the characters from that game wound up. Some were dead, some where changed, only one had a happy ending. Napalm’s love died: she had major brain damage and was only given a few months to live, but Napalm’s government connections had a solution. The could copy her brain, her mind, into a fully-grown clone. The very idea disgusted her. But then she went into remission. The damage failed to progress. Healing begun. It was a miracle.

But she found out the truth: he had her mind transferred without her consent; the original body destroyed. And so, she took her own life.

Napalm keeps a copy of her mind in a box on his desk. She hates him. He can’t let her go.

He thinks he’s a good person.

We know better.

Two years ago: Favorite appearance of RPGs in media.

Everyone is telling me I should watch Stranger Things on Netflix, like right now.

  1. There are only nine of the thirty-one that I am interested in reviewing. []
  2. How did early explorers know this nearly-impassable mountain range split the continent evenly in two? How did they know it ran all the way to the Frozen North and down to the southern land of Land’s End? []

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