Gamebook store

Friday, 4 January 2019

Beginner's luck

What was your first ever roleplaying experience? Mine was Empire of the Petal Throne in 1976. There were a bunch of us who clubbed together to buy the rules, but we had no idea that you were meant to play as a party. Instead one guy was umpire and the rest of us took turns, each getting half an hour's gaming before it was the next person's turn.

After a while a couple of the players realized they'd get more playing time if they teamed up. They announced their intention to row a boat (the very boat every player starts EPT with) to the ruined temple that they'd spotted on the world map. The umpire warned them: "You're first level. You're not Conan, you're the mouldering bones that Conan treads on as he climbs the temple steps." Undeterred, they pressed on and were soon killed in the swamps.

Eventually we all got together and played as a group -- at least for the main Saturday sessions, although there was still a lot of one-on-one gaming during the week. The lesson of those two early deaths meant that nobody had much inclination to explore underworlds, which in any case were only ever a small part of the whole EPT experience.And by the way, in spite of the picture, we tended not to use figurines even back then.

However, much to my horror, the NPC who hired me when my character was 1st level sent me on a mission to the underworld. We were still playing solo then so I was the only player-character: a sorcerer with 1 hit point. (Technically under the rules that meant I counted as subdued without even having to take an injury.) Barely into the underworld, we were attacked by Hlüss and the party was wiped out. When the dust settled there was just me and a high-level Hlüss lord. I used my one and only spell, Illusion, and by luck killed it -- and then I turned tail and ran for the exit. When my employer recovered the bodies he told me I could have one of the gems recovered from the Hlüss-lord's carapace. We rolled and that gem was worth 12,000 Kaitars. A fortune! But I'd earned it.


  1. Very funny !
    My first RpG as a gamemaster was not from the commerce, but a home-made one loosely inspired by the "Dark Eye" with added contents from the gamebooks Lone Wolf and Sorcery! (especially for the medicinal herbs...)
    My lone player was my best friend, a warrior called "Conan" if I remember well. The adventure took place in a castle lost in the mountains, where a sorceress had lost control over her zombies. This was always the same pattern : he killed the 1st level zombies, and stole everything he found. In the laboratory, he found strange "meatballs" (the ones from Mampang) he ate... and reptile-scales grew on his skin (giving + 1 protection...). After this unexpected event, he just put the other herbs into his haversack.
    Once he came back to civilisation, (and after the rescue army had realised he was not a real lizard-man...), he sold the selection of herbs he had plundered....
    And bewilderment was mine as I saw he had some Oed herb whose price was... one million gold crowns...

    1. Lol -- my first character (the one who got the 12000 Kaitar gem)was called "Elric". And they say young people have more imagination...

      Eventually Elric put together an expedition to the same fortress in the swamps that had lured those 1st level PCs to their doom. But I waited till I was about 15th level first!

    2. "Conan", with that wealth, wed the noble damsel he had saved in the previous adventure and bought a fief. However, once his village had grown to outnumber the neighbouring town thanks to the buildings he paid for, he came back on the roads for adventures through the whole Empire. He traveled in a customized horse-drawn caravan, with his private escort of riders (so that he could choose which encounters were interesting in terms of experience points...). Thanks to magic potions, he got 20/20 on Charisma and 25/20 on Force (I still have the Character Sheet). One of his mission included finding back the Philosophers' Stone for the Emperor. He succeeded (but of course he used it a little to his own benefit before bringing it to his sovereign...)

  2. Probably my first real RPG experience came in college when I played an all-night session with some guys. I didn't have a character, so they let me have a Druid who had something called the Staff of the Druid (think Staff of the Magi but for Druids - I think).

    Anyway, we were going to play through "The Steading of the Hill-Giant Chief." In that module there's one room just filled with giants that can easily murder an uncautious party. A potion of Clairvoyance let us see into the room. So, I look at the stuff the staff could do, cracked a door and did "Transmute Rock to Mud"

    The GM: Okay, the giant dropped into a big-ass mud-pit.

    Me: Transmute Mud to Rock.

    GM: Okay, they're trapped, but if you try to attack them, they can still hit you.

    Me: Insect Plague. Three times.

    GM: (calculates accrued damage of the spells) Um. Okay. Uh, they're all dead. Since nobody else participated, you, uh, get all the XP.

    So my character basically jumped almost two levels (from I think 8th to 10th) in one "fight."