I am forever resigned to the fact that Roleplaying Games aren’t going to ever become mainstream in the Philippines.
Over here, when people here “RPGs” or “Roleplaying Games”, they automatically equate it to a console game or MMORPG. Only a small minority in this country even know of tabletop roleplaying games, and most of them are older guys who grew up under the shadow of the 1980′s “D&D is Satanic” persecution, and more than a fair share have had their books burned by devout catholic parents or grandparents.
I was a latecomer to the RPG boom of the 80′s having bought my first boxed set of Star Frontiers in 1989. I had an inkling of what pen-and-paper rpgs where back then, having seen some of the older boys in my high school playing D&D. It looked fun, and I had an over active imagination (just ask my teachers or my mom, I’m sure they’d agree), so it seemed like a great idea to me.
So on my ninth birthday, I asked for the boxed set, that retailed for about Php 489.00 back then, a hefty sum for a child living on a Php 20 a day allowance. Thankfully, my mom decided to indulge me, and I came home with a bright shiny boxed set of wonder.
With that, I was set firmly on the path of rpgs that I am on today. It was admittedly a lonely path as trying to communicate the concept of a game where the action took place in your imagination was a little hard to do for a nine year old boy surrounded by ADHD types. Eventually, I realized that there was no way for me to actually play the game if I didn’t have a Game Master, and so I sat myself down, and started reading the rules again and again. In time, I grew familiar enough to work the game in theory, so I decided to make the jump and start my own game as the Game Master rather than the player.
My first player, ironically enough, was my older brother. He couldn’t be bothered to read the rules and run the game, so I ended up doing so instead. Our early games were pretty silly. Mission based ones where it was just a sci-fi version of “Go to yon dungeon and recover the objective.” Still it was fun, and I spent countless summer days just working on NPCs and Maps and all sorts of things.
Flash forward to College. By this time I had given up on getting a gaming group, but still opted to read through Star Frontiers now and then. I was a card flopper at the time, having gotten into Magic: the Gathering in the late years of my High School, and dropping it in favor of the Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) CCG when I entered college. RPGs came back in full force though, when one of my closest friends bought himself the L5R Roleplaying Game (1st Edition, by John Wick). Being a big fan of the setting, and seeing the chance to finally play a game, I jumped at the chance to let him playtest it… only to end up being the GM again.
Not that I minded, the L5R campaign was my first attempt at a full blown campaign, and while some of the rules were strange (Unicorns get a bonus to all their skills while on horseback?! Including Climb and Tea Ceremony!?), we all had a good time. In some ways, this was the experience that really solidified my love for both the game, and the act of GMing. From there things just got better. I worked in a local hobby shop that catered to the Warhammer Fantasy and 40k Tabletop Wargames that also carried some roleplaying games on the side. It was an interesting experience since this store was once the only place you could get anything, and despite issues I may have with how the franchise is being run now, it was the store responsible for introducing me to my next RPG fix: the World of Darkness.
Mage: the Ascension was the first game line I decided to really collect, and White Wolf probably is a little wealthier now for my religious purchases of the books. I floored by the concepts in the World of Darkness, and appreciated the similarities it had to L5R in terms of having easy to understand “splats” that players could relate to in terms of stereotypes that they could either follow or break in interesting ways. It felt more organic than D&D’s classes, and it wasn’t very long that I ended up calling myself a Storyteller rather than a GM (forgive me, but at least I wasn’t emo at the time).
Fast forward to getting new jobs, and finally my own reasonable income. I’d reached the point where I could actually afford RPG books without having to feel guilty about the funds not going to my savings. Thanks to the internet, I’ve discovered so many other games: Call of Cthulhu, Cthulhutech, Exalted, Metabarons, HERO, Adventure!, Qin: The Warring States, Weapons of the Gods, the New World of Darkness Line… so many new and exciting products coming out in the US and Europe.
Sadly, looking at the situation now, the Philippines isn’t the place for pen and paper roleplaying games anymore. I know of only one place left that actually brings in new rpg books, and they’re all either D&D or World of Darkness and Exalted. None of the smaller games are finding their way here, and the supply is barely there.
I’ve tried to touch bases with other gamers, and we all pretty much agree that there’s a drought in terms of new game books, and therefore less new gamers coming to the hobby. Generations of kids are born with a Nintendo DS in their hands, but will never know the sound of a d10 clattering on a wooden table, the hours of outlining campaign notes, and the simple fun of having a bunch of friends play a game you spend so much time and effort to craft all for their enjoyment.
However, there are upsides to things… while the books aren’t found here, a resourceful kid with access to his parent’s credit card (and permission to use it of course) can purchase the books off the internet. The Philippines also managed to finally make it to the roster of countries that can use all of Paypal’s features. All we need now is a little more awareness.
I guess that’s part of why I write in this blog. Part of is is musing on my experiences and my opinion on how games could be improved. The other part is to be some sort of presence that hopefully some other Filipinos will find, be intrigued, and try out this wonderful, creative hobby that I’m proud to be in.