Byron was the second biggest nerd in middle-school. His two best friends held the first and third place spots. He didn’t have much going for him in the first place, actually he had almost everything against him. He was overweight, had a C-3PO accent, wore oxford dress shirts with saggy slacks, and had a teacher for a mom. All these things added up to one fatal flaw: an overwhelming interest in role-playing games.
A young Tom Hanks in Tunnels & Trolls is not a definative example of the RPGers I know, a closer entertainment example would be the Simpsons’ comic shop owner, or in a couple of years King of the Hill’s Bobby. Actually that’s exactly what Byron looked like, except with longer hair and bangs.
One saturday night, our RPG group decided to meet up in Byron’s basement and start a Shadowrun campaign. This meeting was the most prepared this group of friends had ever been. All the Cheetoz, Ding-Dongs, and orange soda we could handle was provided by his mom and step-father/live-in boyfriend, the players didn’t have to bring anything but their character and painted lead miniature. Things started out bad when Byron demanded to be GM instead of Matt, our usual GM. Matt was a good, prepared storyteller and didn’t take any crap. Byron, on the other hand, let the crap fly, encouraging nerdy, immature game-delaying arguments. If you tried to cross him he’d threaten to cut off the Hostess treat supply or kill your character, so you’d have to bend to his petty will. Our mercenary team’s objective was to save some idol singer (one of the first Shadowrun modules), but in defiance to our infantile new GM, we all killed ourselves on purpose. Byron’s mom drove us home. I was overloaded on junk food but I didn’t throw up. To say the least, it was a long time before we gathered again to play some fantasy game.
Now I play real RPGs, by myself, staring at the TV with PSX gamepad in hand. Why go through the embarassment and trouble of scheduling campaign time when you can pop in a CD-ROM and play 50+ hours of the best game of all time, Final Fantasy VII? The anime style and attitude that FFVII seethes is what pen and paper RPGs can never capture. The character designs, visual aids, tensions and plots of your own creation can never match the excitement of a multi-million dollar project, supported by the best creative minds in Japan, Hawaii, and San Francisco. So quit posting want ads requesting players for your next Heavy Gear campaign, and just play Mechwarrior II on your PC. This isn’t to suggest that you quit buying the RPG rulebooks and modules, you should collect them, but just give up on finding any worthy opponents in your locality.