What is the most important thing I can bring to an RPG?
I’ve asked that of a fairly large number of people now, and the biggest thing appears to be creativity and imagination. The ability to suspend reality and immerse myself in fantasy. I’m good at that actually, I’m a bookworm from WAY back. Most of my best friends as a child were the ones I’d find in books. I was the girl that used to get grounded for reading with a flashlight under the covers. Except I’m not quite as good at it as I used to be. Now, my head is often buried in spreadsheets and household chores and to do lists. How do I get that magic back? My mind instantly went to books, and I drifted back to remember how to visit other worlds.
Your list will vary of course, but I thought I’d share with you what books I used to lose myself in when I was younger and which ones I’ve pulled off the shelf, dusted off and dove back into to let the magic flow.
A Wrinkle in Time- Madeline L’Engle
I was introduced to this book by my 3rd grade teacher. I remember not realizing for years that I didn’t actually know how to say several of the words in it, because I’d only ever seen them written, but it opened my mind up to a world I’d never entered before. Not only did it feature a young girl going on an adventure (until then most adventure stories I’d read had boys as protagonists) but it crossed the science fiction lines and that was a first for me. I related to Meg as an awkward math nerd who was misunderstood by others and also as the oldest child in the family. As she experiences various worlds through the tesseract my mind related it to wormholes and space warps which eventually lead me to sci-fi movies but that’s a different subject.
Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tales
had an antique copy of these that was actually my grandmothers, then my moms. Sadly it’s been lost through the years, but there was something about that book, not JUST the words on the page which were magical themselves, but the book itself with it’s yellowed, crackling pages, the faint old book smell and the green fabric cover embossed in gold. Just picking it up felt like being transported into another world. I was particularly fascinated by both The Snow Queen and The Little Mermaid… which bears little resemblance to the story told by Disney these days.
Virtual Mode (The Mode Series) Piers Anthony
I adored books by Piers Anthony and had stumbled upon this series accidentally at a book sale. It became my favorite. A love story across realities was the perfect fit for me at the time I discovered it. I think I had my daughter already by the time he finished the fourth book in the series and I was like a kid on Christmas morning when I got my hands on it. A fun side note… I was once lucky enough to spend an afternoon sitting and chatting with Piers Anthony in a library in central Florida. He was doing a book signing and through miscommunication the dates had been advertised incorrectly and there was almost no one there. He happily answered all of my questions, talked with me about character development and motivation and encouraged me to always look for alternative solutions to anything I may do, no matter how “out there” it might seem to someone else.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe- CS Lewis
I was very small when I first had this series read to me. I always gravitated towards this book above all the others. I wanted to be able to step into my closet and end up in Narnia. Ah Narnia… a world where everything was magical and good and evil were so perfectly clear from the outside looking in.
Little House on the Prairie- Laura Ingalls Wilder
This might not seem like a book of adventure and fantasy to many… but to a little girl growing up in the suburbs in NY this was a completely foreign world. I had grass but to this day I’ve never seen an actual prairie except on TV. My friend and I used to braid our hair, wear gingham and pretend we had to carry our lunches to school in buckets. I do remember thinking I’d feel cheated just getting a tin cup for Christmas though!
Choose your own Adventures
These… I can’t even describe these to you. If you’ve never read one, do. Go find one at the library or on ebay or amazon or anywhere and read through it. Books that give you choices that the story is dependent on. I guess I should have known by thinking back that the idea of adventures would appeal to me.
Trixie Belden, Lord of the Rings, Ramona, Harold and the Purple Crayon (one of the best adventures of all time!), Island of the Blue Dolphin… each of these were little adventures I took with the characters. I always wanted more. I used to read 4 or more books a week and eventually I felt like the library “ran out” in the sections I was allowed to read from. I remember being fascinated by worlds made up, or from different places and times. Rereading some of the stories from when I was younger and had fewer responsibilities reminded me of how easy it used to be to transport myself to another world. I’ve passed that on to my kids, with classics and with newer adventures as well (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and so many more of course).
I encourage you to remember the stories that sparked the magic for you, and to share with me what they were. I’d love to know what started your love of adventure. I’ll finish this post by letting you know that I’m wondering how much of the stories I’ve read and loved with find their way into characters I create on my RPG adventures. I already know that my favorite characters were ones I could see part of me in…. and also that had traits I aspired to. It’ll be fun to build characters that have traits from all the stories I love.