Well, when I was eight, I was left for an evening with my sister’s best friend’s family. Her brother played D&D – and I spent half the evening demanding to know more, and the other half telling stories with his miniatures that I can guarantee had never been told with his miniatures before.
Shortly soon after, I had convinced my mom to take me down to Harbourfront on Saturday mornings where kids from all over flocked to hook up in their games of D&D. That year was a grape pop haze of dice rolling excitement. I played a half-elf thief in the White Plume Mountain module. We had to go rescue artefacts on behalf of the King. One of them, the Trident of Neptune, was in an obscured treasure pit locked behind a giant crab in a big bubble that was surrounded by boiling water. I heroically left my team to edge sneakily past the crab and won the sword, but while I was behind it, the crab noticed the rest of the group and went to attack them! I didn’t have much in the way of good weapons, so I decided to use the Trident. In order to wield it, I had to swear loyalty to Neptune himself. Since I had no religious alignment that was -no problem-! I duly swore, got a surprise attack and I managed to kill the thing and save my friends… but not without dying brutally in the process.
No problem! My intrepid fellows hauled my sorry dead ass to the nearest town and resurrected me! They were so proud of what I’d done, they even had a title of nobility bestowed upon my character. I was beside myself with excitement on the way home in the car, and probably hopped up on some serious sugar. I regailed my mom with the story in lurid detail the whole way home. The next week I found out I couldn’t go back because I’d been signed up to swimming lessons on Saturday mornings.Fast forward twelve or so years: I’m in university doing an Eng Lit & Cultural Studies joint major degree, and going entirely maenad with theatre. I was invited to join in my very first soap: an improv serial, performed on stage in front of a live audience. It’s called Biosphere: 2013, a dystopian sci-fi comedy about love, murder and mind control in a future that never should be; I’m the villainess. We spend the first month training in our characters, working on physicality and expression, giving them backstories, getting interviewed, running them against situations, and putting them to the test in rehearsal. After that, once a week we’d get together and improv possible advancements of the plot, then the directors would work on a scene list. We wouldn’t get to see it until two hours before the performance; it was the skeleton of the night’s show. You’d have scenes like: “X stumbles upon Y doing Z. There is a confrontation and A is revealed.” You’d have a half hour to sort out blocking and brainstorm ideas, a half hour to warm up, and a half hour to get into costume and makeup before the audience arrived. Then boom! Live in front of a crowd of about fifty on good nights, and they were meddling, heckling bastards, so you had to be on your toes.
After a couple of those, White Wolf had just released Vampire, and a friend of mine thought that it (without the system, natch) would make a good soap. We attracted big group of regular audience members, and so continued into a second when Mage was released. Through several of the audience and cast members, I was reintroduced back into tabletop, mostly of the Storyteller variety. Then Vampire LARP was released, and we could have the fun of the soap without the pressure, so we played, and played and played. LARPing then was a very different animal than it is now, at least in my experience and opinion. We played on the street and in the cafes and nightclubs of the city we lived in, maintaining a Masquerade not just because it was part of the game, but so people wouldn’t call the cops or kick us out.
After VLARP caught on, got so big that we needed to have facilities to hold the events in, and attracted people to travel from one city to the next, I didn’t like it so much. More fetishization of the vampire than I liked, too much politicking, too many people all at once, without the very desirable constraint that comes from playing in society without freaking out the normals. It became a whole different kind of story… and one that I wasn’t so interested in playing. I moved to MUSHes, and played on them for years, especially after I moved back home to Toronto, and was working odd and late hours. Then in 97 I fell in with a bunch of tabletop gamers and we played in Storyteller, Shadowrun, Cthulu, In Nomine, and lots of Marvel.
In the meantime, Brand and I and the rest of the Wicked Ink crew had started playing and then writing for Tribe 8. I wrote five supplements for Dream Pod 9: Word of the Dancers, Adrift on the River of Dream, Revanche, Liberation, and The Capal Book of Days which was just enough to get me thinking less about playing games and more about the structure of games. For the first time, I was really starting to pay attention to the kinds of advice that we as freelancers were supposed to give GM’s and players and how terrible and proscribed it was. It gave me just enough experience to make the mental transition between thinking about playing games and thinking about making games. It also let me know that the thankless, heartless world of freelancing was something I never wanted to do again. Then Brand came up to Canada and shook my gaming world once with Unknown Armies and Exalted, and then a second time with Indie games.
Right now, I’m playing Truth & Justice, Unknown Armies, TSOY and several games of Dogs, including the now infamous Bitches in the Vineyard game. I’m also running a game that gre out of Unknown Armies for Brand, which is based on M Night Shyamalan’s movie Unbreakable my third foray into GMing and by far the most successful one.
What am I hot to play? Well, I’m really turned on to Dogs right now because it does some nigty things I’m still testing the boundaries of. In TSOY, I’m playing with protagonists that are really nothing resembling heroes. I’m trying to strong-arm Brand into running a game of PTA for me because I’ve been having fun playing with the long range targeting of heroic arcs and I’d like to see what it would be like to have support with that.
And design… well, I’ve got a half a dozen projects on the go. 1000 Stories is an experiment in ellegaic real life storytelling. Crime & Punishment my 2006 Iron Game Chef winner is a procedural crime drama game that is slowly making it’s way to publication, Fugue is an idea about playing in a radically shifting narrative POV, which may never make it out of my head. 28 is a big idea with very little work done on it, but I think could be my Big Deal ™ … in five or so years. Lastly, without a name, I’m kicking around an idea for a RPG-boardgame hybrid.