It was just a regular Saturday afternoon in the very early 1990 and I was collecting some cash. That’s not very evocative is it? Here, let me paint you a more detailed picture. On the way down the main street between my neighbourhood and town is a little side street with a few shops. One of those shops is a hobby shop. In fact the shop doesn’t have a name as the sign just says “Hobby Shop” in blue printing on a once-white background. When you enter the shop you’re confronted with walls filled with adventure gamebooks – Fighting Fantasy, Lone Wolf, Choose Your Own Adventure, and many more. Downstairs in the basement are shelves of wargames and a table set up so the owner can play with his friends. Upstairs are shelves full of pen and paper RPGs and boxes of multi-faceted dice. At thirteen years of age this is my heaven and it has been since I was eight, although this is the tenth location the shop has had since then. For the past two years it’s also been a way I can make some pocket money for myself. The owner comes up the stairs, congratulates me on a good week and hands over £35. It has been a good week. I usually only get £10-£20. Still, money is money and I dutifully pour some back into the store by getting a couple of new books then head down town to meet my girlfriend for an afternoon at the local swimming baths.
We met when I was much younger and some friends got involved in role-playing. Like so many others kids of that time we started out with Dungeons & Dragons. We used to meet once a week and take our characters off on adventures. As we were kids when we first got together all we could afford was the original Dungeons & Dragons rules with none of the source material so we had to come up with our own worlds to adventure in as well as rules for advancing beyond level 5. As a cheap way to come up with ideas our world was mostly based on the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon (I recently bought this on DVD for the bargain price of £8 for the complete collection and was pleasantly surprised at how well it holds up today. It really was a great cartoon for it’s time.) that initially sparked our interest in role-playing. In our campaign the heroes of the cartoon had found their way home after a battle that destroyed Venger and Dungeon Master. The aftermath had left magical spots and items all around the world that formed the basis of most adventures. It was simple but fun. Eventually we’d be able to buy new systems but at that time we built our own rules when we grew tired of the standard D&D rules or found something that didn’t work well within them. By the time we were ten years old we were only using our own set of rules written down in a school exercise book. I wish I still had my copy these days just to look back at how complex those rules were. Eventually we rewrote our system from the ground up and concentrated on a story-telling system that would work for most genres and not just our own main fantasy campaign. Each of us came up with our vision for it and it was mine that was chosen by the group as the one to use.
If you think back to the start of this post you’ll remember that I was picking up some cash at the local hobby shop and I’m sure you can guess why now. After a lot of success running campaigns off my rules system I decided to publish it. Of course, as I was still basically a child, publishing meant printing it on a single A4 sheet of paper and selling them for £1 each through the local hobby shop. As a simple system on one sheet of paper it sold well to broke kids like me. I included everything need to run a fantasy game in the rules. A little later I got a preferred rate at the printers which let me get double sided laminated copies done up for the same price I’d been paying for single photocopies. I used this to put optional rules for different genres on the back like horror and sci-fi. The final system was called Storm Warning and I look back fondly on those days as the first indication that I’d end up writing for a living (or so I thought). I’ve been seeing a lot of role-playing systems around the web recently and it’s convinced me to put Storm Warning together again and release it for general use on the net. It may take a while to write the rules up again (I wont change any of them as they still feel quite fresh today), and I want to present it nicely as well so that may take even longer, but at some point I’ll be uploading the finished system and submitting it to the Free RPG databases online. It’ll be interesting to see how a system I wrote over twenty years ago holds up today.