dave wallin


It’s Saturday. And Saturdays, throughout my teenage years and with fair frequency into my young adult years, was tabletop RPG/ Pen, Paper and Dice games day. I loved those games, both as a player but more frequently as GM (Game Master).

I started playing Dungeons and Dragons in 1978 at the age of 13 with Jake and Roger Harmon, Ron Lichti. Dave Romanek and Doug Wallin. Jake was the DM (Dungeon Master). I loved it instantly. We’d play 6-7 hours, every other week, primarily because Jake was meticulous in his preparation and didn’t like to wing it. So the rest of us began playing other games. Not D&D because that was Jake’s game to run. So we dove into other TSR offerings like Gangbusters, Star Frontiers, Top Secret, Boot Hill and Paranoia.
Paranoia marked the game where I became primary GM and seldom got to be a PC (Player Character) Because Paranoia demands a GM who can be a freewheeling story teller. Most RPG’s you build up your character, become invested in them. Not Paranoia. Set in a post apocalyptic vault/domed city (This is the spiritual forerunner of the Fallout video games) run by an insane computer/AI, all the players play as clones of clones of clones. Everybody belongs to different banned secret societies, has various forbidden mutant powers and each has a secret hidden agenda. Players work together while trying to carefully betray and back stab each other. And you die. A lot. Usually amusingly. And are immediately replaced by a clone of your clone.
I also GM’d Traveller by GDW, a Sci Fi RPG set in a broad universe with varying levels of tech and just enough guidelines to make any adventure possible.
The ultimate RPG for us came along in 1981. Call of Cthulhu. Set in the ‘20s, you basically entered H.P. Lovecraft’s stories. Unlike every other RPG, you couldn’t fight everything you met. No matter how strong you got. You were more likely to end up insane than badass. It played as a sort of mystery-horror hybrid, and we used to have 16-20 hour long marathon sessions. I loved those. Because there’s no way to predict what exactly the players will choose to do, I’d have an overall outline, certain prepared encounters, open scenarios I could plug in quickly, and do tons of on the fly storytelling. It was great.
Back then, we all had a dice bag. With 4 sided, 6sided, 8 sided, 12 sided, and 20 sided dice. Playing, or moderating, was way more immersive than any video game.
Even in the military I played. New players. Jeff Nelson, James Downing, Adrian Vaughan, Jim Deedler, Ken Hilliard and Tim Broussard. New games too, Shadowrun, Twilight 2000 and of course still Call of Cthulhu. It was wonderful. Especially for a storyteller. You create a narrative in a broadly outlined world and bring people directly into it.

Ahhh. Nostalgia. Wish I had time for those things now.