And it really made my eyes water.
I've been sorting my meager RPG collection and I had a long look at the book The Citadel of Chaos, a Fighting Fantasy adventure and the first ever gaming-related thing I ever bought. I had a good read of it and then went through my gamebook collection and my tabletop collection. The look, feel and even the smell of the books and boxsets took me back and I (mostly) remembered how I felt when I played these games and the fun I had with them.
As I thought about the first time I ever sat down and did a seriously intense session of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition it suddenly hit me; all those first games I ran, all those enjoyable learning curves I had to go through to get the most out of the game system, all those moments I experienced when I first realised how best to run a game, or how to make the story work, or all those first times when everything came together and the group really clicked and the game flowed and the immersion was complete...
I'd never experience any of those moments ever again.
That first magical moment when I found out that I could adventure in the pages of a gamebook and I felt that I was truly exploring a dangerous, mysterious castle. I got all excited and nervous when making my choices and felt dismay when losing a battle or making the wrong choice, and elation at the right ones.
Whe I first sat down at D&D club at school and created, with some level of confusion, a thief. That half excited/half nervous first game, the amazing sense of accomplishment when defeating my first RPG foe and the contentment and feeling of accomplishment when my first gaming group completed the adventure.
Buying the red-box Basic D&D and going through every book, rubbing the wax crayon on the dice and reading the books again and again to make sure I understood what the game was really about, which was something I didn't fully understand for a long time.
I'll never experience that ever again. The games I design these days where it's a good 'ol fashioned dungeon bash, and I created a map filled with improbable monsters in rooms for no reason; I was trying to recreate the first games of my hobby. trying to recapture what it is that got me into gaming in the first place. But it'd never be the same. I've got the memory of how I felt when I first rolled the dice or experienced the adventure, but I'd never be able to truly feel that wonder again. I could have fun with my games, but I could never experience the strange mix of confusion/amazement/excitement I remember from those first days, when I was exploring those dungeons and fighting those foes and saving those townsfolk, before it became about mechanics and rules, when we didn't care about game balance and just wanted to roll dice and kill nasties.
And all the games that came after - Star Wars, Warhammer FRP, MERP, Cthulhu, all those games in which I entered a new world with new rules and experienced a new facet of roleplaying games, or created new worlds, or learned new skills to improve my playing and GMing skills to improve my hobby... I'll never get to do that again.
I still like to game and I still like to create, but for more than a decade I've not done anything in the hobby that has amazed both myself and my gaming group in such a way that got me excited, exhilarated and energetic about the hobby. I play, I try new things and I enjoy the game, but I'm not doing anything new I'm just doing new variations of old experiences. I have this sense of 'I've tried this before' or even 'been there, done that'.
That makes me really sad.