I’ve never played a pen and paper RPG. When I announced this on twitter last week, it shocked a few people. How could someone who is such a fantasy geek as me miss out on AD&D?
The answer came when I popped round to my parents and discussed this with my mother.
“Oh, we stopped you having those things,” she told me. “We saw a news report that said it was some sort of cult and people were going mad. So we decided to keep you away from it.”

Now luckily my friend Simon saw my tweet and decided that our meet-up this weekend was a good an opportunity as any for me to pop my RPG cherry.
As I was told, fitting character creation and an RPG adventure into a single evening is extremely difficult, so we had to cut some corners. As a result my experience was a bit of a mixed bag.
We were given some characters that had been 90% created and this turned out to be my first problem. Time constraints meant there was no time to evolve my character. As a writer, I often develop my characters as I go, giving them layers of complexity as I redraft. As a result, as we entered into the adventure, I found my character developing character traits that I wanted to exploit.
This was the next problem, and again, it was the result of trying to do everything in a single evening. There was no time to gauge the tone of the adventure. “Go in and have fun,” I was told and so I approached it with almost Pratchettian humour. Woderick the Wuffian evolved a mastery of the spoon to the extent that I attacked a giant crab with one.
“You can’t kill a giant crab with a teaspoon,” I was told. Except in my mind, I knew I could.
Which I think brings me to my biggest problem with pen and paper RPGs (at least for me): control. In creating stories I love the autonomy. I love that I have an unlimited special effects budget and that if I want a character to kill a giant crab with a teaspoon, I can. There’s not much in real life I won’t be willing to compromise or collaborate, especially once the creation (or first draft) of the story is complete – I love being edited, there’s no ego at that stage, it’s all about making the story as strong as it can be. But when it comes to the initial drafting stage, the creation… that’s when I’m a god, making my characters dance like marionettes no matter how much they try and fight. Creation is a secret moment of pure ego, pure selfishness, when I can laugh maniacally and do whatever the hell I want.
Although I think I avoided it during our session over the weekend, I think I’d be a bad RPGer. I think I’d be unintentionally trying to wrestle control of the story off of the DM. I’d want that control. I’d be thinking several steps ahead, wanting to move all the characters like chess pieces into some epic or humourous denouement. Forget the dice rolls, forget the other players, I have a story and I’d want to see it enacted. And I don’t think being a DM is the answer either – I’d probably end up yelling at the players “what the hell do you want to do that for? That’s a stupid idea.”
So it’s probably for the best that I’d never played a pen and paper RPG. I thank Simon for taking the time to organise and run the session, it was much appreciated and a lot of fun. However, trust me when I say you can kill a giant crab with a teaspoon!