Sunday 8 May 2011

Birth of a Gamer: Amazon on a Train

Last weekend we took in a play and a couple of meals up in London with some fellow Americans, a visiting prof at our department and his social worker spouse. These folks are somewhat older than we are, close to retirement age, but only are around at my university in the spring and were about to head back stateside.

Because the spouse had expressed some interest in roleplaying in one of our earlier meetings, I'd surreptitiously bought some dice (six siders) in Covent Garden market. The train ride back out of London was the scene for her gaming initiation, and the four of us were lucky to have grabbed table seats. It takes one hour but the time fairly flew as I had her roll 3d6 in order - 13 strength, 5 charisma - creating a warrior. When I gave the chance for one descriptive word, she came up with "Amazon."

Our Amazon approached the gates of a walled town. For some reason, interacting with the guards, she spun a story that the chainmail and spear weren't hers, but she'd just found them - a story she would repeat later. In any event, her social awkwardness led to a less than friendly reaction roll, but they let her in for the usual toll.

Three streets led away from the gate. I was completely winging this, with only four dice and no written material at all. I came up with rough ideas of what each street would lead to, and gave her the choice. She took the left-hand path, leading to an industrial district, where she came upon a group of tannery workers getting their supper slops. The cook rolled a great reaction - 11 on 2d6, friendly even toward her terrible charisma - so I had him greet her warmly, offer the last of the slops and a job feeding the pigs out back. But she didn't know that ... and though she took the job up, it was with some fear and a little ribbing from the rest of us as to the decidedly non-heroic turn of our adventure.

The workmen left and the cook showed our Amazon to her quarters, in the butcher shop of this all-in-one hog processing operation. Feeling wary by now, she decided to sneak out in the fading light and see if anyone else was about. I had her run into some women who worked in a weaving and dyeing establishment, but their reaction was negative and they called their menfolk to give dire threats to the Amazon (hostile reaction, but not a strong morale result that would have led to a fight).

She went back to the butcher shop, where there was an ominous trapdoor. She had the idea to use her strength to try and open it, at which she succeeded (roll low, 3d6). There were claw marks on the inside of the door and a series of rungs going down. Her eventual security plan was to sleep atop the door, so that anything coming up would both be blocked and wake her.

Of course, the underground has to intrude into the first adventure, right? So in the middle of the night, she's awakened by a thumping and scratching on the trapdoor. She gets up and runs out of the butcher shop, round a corner, waits and listens. In the darkness, something is shambling and snuffling toward her ...

And then the train reached its stop and the session was over.

Thinking back to our earlier discussions about the different selves in a game, our friend showed excellent adventuring caution. She put herself into the dangerous situation with great conviction and intensity. But, she did very little immersion into the role of the Amazon. In a sense, the "Amazon" was herself -a modern woman in medieval times, thrust into a strange town with strange goings-on.

We hope to pick up again next year!


  1. Sounds like great fun, did your wife enjoy the experience?
    In honour of your American friends shall we call this getting to first base? 2nd base agreeing to play again?

  2. Interesting, isn't it? I'd be interested in observing the development of a new player and seeing what senses of self emerge... shame you're not going to see her for a while.

  3. Well, my wife is a regular player in our game (and now reminds me that she had the idea to introduce our friend to gaming AND bought the dice) - it was our friend who was the Amazon, and indeed she seemed to enjoy it, or at least she was very engaged with it.