My background (for better or worse, can't change it now) is a bit different from most of the RPG enthusiasts I've met. I grew up in the 70's and 80's in Western Nebraska in a tiny ranching town. No one I knew played table-top role playing games. The closest thing played to them were board games like Clue, Risk, chess, checkers and Monopoly. I read a lot of fantasy novels (mostly classics like The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, L'Morte de Arthur and Canterbury Tales) though and was fascinated by the descriptions of dragons, monsters, heroes and their deeds of daring do. I used to draw maps of fantasy lands on grid paper just for fun. A couple of my friends and I would make up our own games using action figures, hand drawn maps, dice and various bits and pieces of other games. In retrospect, I think we pretty much invented our own versions of games like D&D Miniatures and Warhammer without even knowing that those games existed.
We'd pretend to be our favorite heroes from movies and TV shows but not really in the sense of an actual role playing game with rules and stuff. So we RPG'd but without the "G"
If you've ever read any of the Calvin and Hobbes comics, that was pretty much my childhood only I had more than one stuffed animal that I talked too
The only other games I played were video games starting with the occasional trips to a faraway land (about 80 miles away) where they had video game arcades at the mall and pizza place. Later, my grandmother got me the all-new Atari 2600 and I was hooked on console games. The first RPGs I ever played where you created a character and leveled him up as he hacked monsters and found treasure was on the NES.
The NES games of Heroes of the Lance and Dungeon Magic were my introductions to the game aspect of D&D. I've played a lot of video game RPGs on my computer and consoles ever since.
By high school, I began to hear tales of a table-top game of D&D, but usually as second-hand stories about "those dumb D&D nerds". No one in my school played them. I was curious but it was too far to go to other towns to find players and there was no such thing as The Internet, at least not for regular people, back then, so I couldn't just look them up online.
The first session of D&D I ever witnessed was when I was in college. I watched them play a couple of sessions before attempting to join. They were nice enough and I had fun visiting with them, but I couldn't really get into the game. It was too complex with too many things to remember (I believe it was 3rd Ed that they were playing). Most of the time, it seemed like everything I wanted my character to have or to do was not allowed. It also seemed like they spent more time arguing over what to do and what could be done than they spent in actually doing anything. I gave up on it and went back to my video game RPGs.
Now that I live in Vegas and we have da interwebz to look everything up on, I have been able to try all kinds of table-top games. I love the conversations, friend-making, good natured (mostly) kidding etc. that go on in these games. They are so much more 'alive' than even the latest video game RPG. But I still find the ones I've tried to be too complex. Even with Pathfinder and D&D 4e, there is still too much emphasis on "doing it right" or following the rules. In the video game RPGs there are rules too of course, but the A.I. "looks them up" and keeps track while I get to focus on what my character wants and is experiencing. Having to dig through manuals (paper or online), argue the vague points in the rules with people, stop the action to crunch the numbers etc. detracts from the immersion in the characters' experience somewhat.
I guess what I'm looking for is a role playing game in which a group of people can get together, create fun characters to role play and then run those characters through all sorts of dangers, challenges and quests all while making up stories about them on the fly.
I recently found a .pdf of something called "Dave Arneson's Black Moor" by Zeitgeist Games in 2005. I haven't managed to figure out how to play it with a group yet, but have read some of it and it looks promising. In the preface, Arneson basically said he wanted to make an easy to understand game where players all worked together to tell their own high fantasy story with the characters they controlled being the heroes of it. It's funny that in the intro he describes the way that even that nacent pre-Blackmoor game got a bit complex thanks to his wargaming buddies. He says "...the same Napoleonic guys that had hassled me before about the assorted minutia came around with tomes on medieval weapons! "So, Dave, what can this device do?" I thought I had escaped all that stuff..."
I like strategy games like Chainmail, Risk, DDM, Warhammer etc. just fine, but I guess I'm looking to "escape all that stuff" too. Complex war games are fun but their kinds of details and mechanics get in the way of high fantasy storytelling and grind it to a halt all too often.
Now all I've got to do is find a way to make this game I've found (or another one along the same vein) work in a group setting. I know I got a little long-winded there (must be the storyteller in me
, but I wanted to explain why I don't like the "crunch" that shackles every table-top game I've tried so far. Any suggestions?