The Dangers of an Open Game Session
It is strange how the mind works. Someone you haven’t thought about in years suddenly pops into your head and you are left with the deep yearning to know “What happened to them?”.
In today’s Bucket of Links I mentioned a review of the game OG where the players have a vocabulary of 18 words. Because I’m sarcastic S.o.B. I said this was twice as much as some people I’ve played with but then it hit. I really have played with someone like that.
Back in the early eighties I was involved with the Asgardian Games Club in Nottingham, a spin-off from the old Asgards miniatures shop. Every saturday afternoon, a bunch of us would gather in the community centre to play D&D and very occasionally someone new would turn up. New blood was always welcome in a club that struggled to keep afloat, or at least it was until the Axeman arrived.
I need to set the scene. Nearly all of us were between 16 and 20 years old and the usual collection of geeks, nerds and social outsiders you find in any RPG group. The club was based in the Hyson Green community centre in Nottingham at time when the Hyson Green flats, a 60s concrete disaster, was a haven of drug use and prostitution. Just getting to the club was an educational experience.
One saturday, we are sitting there killing orcs and arguing amongst ourselves when in walks the Axeman. He was well over 6′ and a big man with it, dressed in biking gear with a Hell’s Angles jacket. Stomping up to the table he asks.
“What you playing?”
We were all silent. Partly it was the physical shock of a big, hairy biker barging in our game session but mostly it was the smell. To be honest, a group of teenage D&D players are not paragons of personal hygiene but the Axeman reeked. Eventually someone got the nerve, and the oxygen, to tell him.
“Oh” he said and slapped down a tattered book on the table. “I really like playing these sort of things.”
We looked down at the book. Its title was obscured by his massive, dirty hand but we saw the the unmistakeable logo of “Choose Your Own Adventure”.
Living on Different Worlds
Looking back, I don’t think the Axeman was stupid, well not stupid stupid anyway. He had enough brains to play the Choose Your Own Adventure book and from that to find out about role-playing games and the club. But he wasn’t quick, he certainly didn’t have much of an education and his physical presence was frightening.
I learnt later from someone else that everyone called him the Axeman because he had attacked someone with an axe. I believe it then but now I don’t think so, or if he did, it wasn’t because he was evil or bad. He was a lonely man I think.
Over the years I’ve met other people in Nottingham who have had encounters with him and everyone said the same thing, that he just started talking to them. Not threatening, not harassing, but genuinely trying to start a conversation about the weather or music or whatever. Cursed with his intimidating size, poor intellect and social skills he could never bridge the gap between him and the rest of the world.
He stopped coming to the club after only two or three weeks and we were all relieved. Whether he just forgot, got bored with it or somehow picked up on our discomfort at his presence I do not know but twenty five years on, I would now put far more effort into closing that gap from my end. Not all natural born gamers are fortunate enough to be smart and educated.