Things were bleak. My home life was a mess and my only escape, other than the cassette dramas me and my friend Mark were making and my gamebooks, were my very few forays into RPGs. A stolen game here, a quick lunch break scenario there. I managed to sit in on a couple of sessions of a Star Wars-themed game of Traveller, but the erratic nature of the game and the fact that I didn't feel altogether welcome at the table put me off it. I hadn't tried any of the AD&D stuff - I only had the first three Basic boxes - so my RPG experience was very limited. I was only looking at games I could find in the local toyshop and that was just D&D and miniatures.
But then I made a fateful trip into the next city and it was here, nestled in between plenty of other mainstream shops and not tucked away down a back alley, was a gaming shop.
I can't remember what it was called, I'm pretty sure it was just called 'Game', long before the chain we now know as the electronic gaming shop. And in there I had life breathed into my flagging RPG enthusiasm.
There were dozens of games. Lots of boxsets, loads of AD&D stuff, science fiction and fantasy and pseudo-historical and historical and just plain weird - shelves and shelves of games and accessories and figures and dice. It was like walking into a revelation - RPGs were HUGE! Much bigger than I had ever thought, and here were other gamers standing and talking and exchanging views and ideas. I was only 15 years old and still very shy and nervous so I stood and listened whilst thumbing through books and gazing lovingly at miniatures.
I purchased a copy of 'Titan: The Fighting Fantasy World' (which sits proudly in my bookcase, signed by both Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone at the 2010 UK Games Expo) and walked out, stunned and deleriously happy. The prospect of going home to the anger and the trauma didn't mean anything in those precious minutes I had spent gazing longingly at the myriad of games I so desperately wanted to own. I had been lost in the world of games, realised that I wasn't the only one with a passion for these things which meant I didn't feel so alone. I'd danced in the worlds of those books and boxsets, and I was determined to play more regularly and with other players who appreciated RPGs. I wanted stories in my games, not encounters. Characters, not playing pieces. Adventures, not incidents. I wanted to tell stories with my games, and the players and I would create sagas.
At least, that's what my 15 year old self would have said those many years ago, though probably not so articulately. But what game would attract players to the kind of games I wanted to play?