Roll Perception Plus Awareness is a new column by Paul Weimer designed to introduce modern Role Playing Games to the readers of SF Signal.
Many readers, perhaps like you, remember Dungeons and Dragons. You may remember the 1980’s cartoon, or the movie in the 1990’s, or even played it yourself back in the day, in someone’ s basement, perhaps at a high school or college club, or in the back of a local, small FLGS–Friendly Local Gaming Store.
Sure, the craze and phenomenon of D&D has passed its high water mark in public consciousness, but roleplaying games have evolved and changed and adapted since the days of rolling up clerics, fighters and thieves to explore dungeons. Roleplaying games today range from White Wolf’s big lines of Vampires, Werewolves and more, to independent small press “story games” that both narrow the focus and expand the boundaries of roleplaying. Heck, there are games out there that don’t require a dungeon master at all! And, lest you worry, Dungeons and Dragons itself still persists in its divisive and controversial Fourth Edition.
The first and pertinent question you may ask is, why should you, SF Signal reader, care at all about roleplaying games? You may not have picked up a twenty sided die in fifteen years, or may never have, and may have little propensity (or time!) to do so. Even so, there are good reasons, as a connoisseur of fantasy and science fiction, for you to pay attention to roleplaying games.
Many Fantasy and Science Fiction writers writing today have played or still play role playing games. Charles Stross, for instance, created some of the monsters in the old D&D supplement The Field Folio. Ari Marmell, author of several novels, still does some work for Dungeons and Dragons game supplements–in fact, that is where I first came across his name. Authors like Ed Greenwood have transitioned from writing game books to writing media tie-in novels set in Dungeons and Dragons worlds. Patrick Rothfuss, author of the Kingkiller Chronicles, is currently working his way through a computer roleplaying game, Dragon Age 2.
And many other authors, especially fantasy authors, bring their history and experience of having played roleplaying games to their fiction and their created worlds. The complex, complicated and baroque world of the Malazan novels of Steven Erikson and Ian Esselmont derives from a long running roleplaying game that Steven has run. Thomas Harlan’s Fifth Sun novels are set in the future of an online play-by-post game that he still runs.
While there are many original games with original universes, there are a fair number of roleplaying games that allow you to explore and create stories in the world and the vein of fantasy and science fiction universes. Roleplaying games based on TV series include Leverage and Battlestar Galactica. There is a well-received RPG based on Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones is on its second iteration as a role playing game. There is a GURPS roleplaying book that allows players to take on the world of Lois M. Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan novels. There are numerous role playing games that play in H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu universe, ranging from supplements mixing Ancient Rome and the Mythos to a game set in the late 21st century.
And in terms of sheer attendance, gaming oriented conventions such as Gencon and Dragoncon draw thousands of people every year, and savvy science fiction and fantasy writers (and even publishers) attend these conventions to meet with readers and fans. They know that gamers are genre readers.
The title of this column, Roll Perception Plus Awareness, refers to a skill roll in a set of games created by White Wolf. When I as a GM ask my players to get out their ten sided dice and roll Perception Plus Awareness, I am letting them know that their characters might soon be made aware of opportunity, or perhaps danger. There is something out there that the player characters need to pay attention to. The rolling of the dice is their opportunity to get a drop on it, if they roll well.
I have been playing roleplaying games for over two decades, run a long running play by mail email game, and play an assortment of “indie games” with a local group as well as GM an infrequent game for a few friends. I have an extensive collection of role playing books and supplements that I peruse for fun. In this column, I am going to draw on my experience and knowledge to make you, the reader, more perceptive and aware of the world of role playing games.