When I look back at all the time I've spent playing games over the last 30 years I think probably the most significant moment was when I finally realised that failure didn't automatically mean I couldn't have fun.
I was 17 at the time and going through a “Power Gaming” phase. Winning was everything to me, I'd spend hours fine tuning my tactics, looking for ways to win. It didn't matter to me if something wasn't in the spirit of the game the only thing that mattered was victory. If things went wrong I sulked and blamed the dice. As you may have guessed by now another way of saying power gamer is 'a bit of a asshole', or 'not much fun to play with or against'. I think there must be something about the way that the minds of young male gamers develop that seems to lead a lot of teenagers down this particular rabbit hole. Its a cliché but you only have to look around in pretty much any online multi-player game and you will people not unlike my younger self, to whom the only thing that counts is being number one.
Thankful my salvation was on it's way in the form of a game of Warhammer Quest, a over zealous Dungeon Master (DM), and a cowardly vampire.
Warhammer Quest was a light dungeon crawling RPG Games Workshop's answer to the American invader D&D. It was a slightly anarchic, possed of a typically British black sense of humour, and as with much of GW's products it had a plethora of optional rules created by a enthusiastic and active community.
As you would expect of such a system our party of adventurers was a little unconventional. Consisting of one very irate Dwarf, a do-gooder Vampire, a well intentioned Orge, and a Elf Archer who gave the distinct impression of being embarrassed by his companions.
The end of the campaign was to provide one of the most cathartic and joyous moments I've had while roleplaying, not that this was evident in any way as our adventure kicked off.
I was as deep into my power gaming mire as id ever been. The Ogre adventurer was of course mine mine. Why would I want to be 'normal' when I could have someone twice as strong and twice as tough as anyone else. So he was a little dumb, so what! I was here to crush orcs and smash spiders, not to get a degree in astrophysics.
After sweeping through dungeon after another it soon became pretty clear that our groups power was out of control. Those monsters foolish enough to jump out into the path of 10ft tall armoured ogre were soon introduced to the business end of a massive magic sword and turned into a light red mist and a shower of loot.
So our DM did what any good DM does in such a situation, he threw every god forsaken creature he had at his disposal at us. Soon we found ourselves backs against the wall out gunned and outnumbered, surrounded on every side by Minotaurs and Demons. It began to dawn on us that we weren't invincible after all, and that between us and the exit was a legion of angry bovines.
However our vampire player had a plan. Amongst our mighty haul of treasure was a “Soul Amulet”. This arcane trinket allowed fallen adventures to be resurrected almost without penalty, as long as one member escaped the dungeon and reached the safety of a nearby town.
We could survive.
Even better he pointed out, his vampire could turn into a bat, which could then happily fly out of the dungeon with the amulet clutched in its claws safe from attack.
There was a audible sigh of relief amongst the adventurers, and our DM looked more than a little peeved. Unbeknownst to my friends however gears that had until then remained unused till now, were beginning to quietly whir away in the back of my mind.
I had grown fond of my slightly dim Ogre, and yeah of course I wanted him to live, but this didn't quite feel right.
“Ok Ogre, its your go”
I take a look at the board. By now both the dwarf and the Elf have rushed through their turns and the vampire has turned into a bat and was flitting around the rafters. He is ready to fly away as soon as the adventurers turn is finished. Which it will be, as soon as my slow witted Ogre gets on with things.
I turn to the DM “I'm thinking....” I begin, Immediately eyes are raised, thinking isn't part of the plan.
Me: “My Orge's a bit thick right?”
DM: “As two short planks, is this going somewhere?”
Me: “Well I was thinking, given his errm 'limited' IQ, is he really going to understand that the fact his mate has just turned into a bat and started to fly off is a good thing?”
DM: “No he'd probably be pretty confused by it all”
Me: “Well in that case …......I'm going to attack the bat”
DM: “Fine by me”
The vampire player then shows what is some by any accounts some commendably fast thinking in the circumstances.
Vamp: “Don't worry he can't kill me in one hit, I'm a vampire I've got easily enough wounds to survive”
DM: “ No actually your not a vampire. Your a bat, with the wounds and toughness of a bat”
Me: “So what do I need to roll?”
DM: “5+ on 4d6”
A short clatter of dice and it's all over.
It was this wonderful and unexpected conclusion to what had become a dull and routine grind. Almost overnight my game style played changed. No longer was I constantly in search of the most efficient route to my destination, instead I was in it for the journey and the more strange and unexpected turns it took the better.
I say turning to my friends, and putting on my very best 24 carat grin.
“I killed a bat!”