Ancient Scroll’s Secret Room: My Road to RPGs in Poland

Hi folks!

Sorry for my lack of an article last Saturday, but everybody needs a little vacation from time to time. And thanks to Brian for his patience. [Editor note: No worries, I need a vacation too!]

Today I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts about roleplaying games and how they’ve helped in my life. If you want, you can stop reading now. :)

Why am I sharing? Because I just had my 35th birthday and I was wondering why I still keep RPGs in my life. (Remember the wish list of Warhammer 1st edition books I mentioned an article or two ago? It’s still valid if you want to send a gift!) [Editor’s note: Happy belated birthday Robert!!]

One of the most important sentences about gaming I have ever read I found in Dork Tower (I don’t remember which one). The guy came into the game store, bought a huge number of books and left, sad. He said: “When I was a teen, I wanted all of them. I had people to play with, but no money to buy them. Now… I have money to buy them, but have no people to play with…”

My story is typical of most Polish gamers my age. I first discovered RPGs in a weekly magazine called Razem (in English: Together). I don’t remember much about this magazine, but there was a section about games. And you may be surprised but this was during the Cold War – the mid-80s in Poland. I say it’s typical of Polish fandom because nearly every player over 30 will name Razem as the source. There were articles about roleplaying games (imagine a 2 page article trying to explain what an RPG is!) and other games, mostly board games and “games with paragraphs” like the famous Lone Wolf.

After that I knew I wanted to try something like that kind of entertainment, even not knowing what exactly it was or how to play. I needed another few years to find people who play…

It was the early 90s. The US attacked Iraq. Poland was a free country. The USSR collapsed. My cousin was in Germany playing
Eye of the Beholder [Editor: Awesome game!]. But I didn’t know what was up. I found some people in a nearby town running the local fantasy and science fiction community. They were a kind of rebels. Most of their older friends were just reading books and these young guys brought in this “RPG sickness” that was spreading very quickly.

Soon, roleplayers dominated the community and I got a chance to meet them. Believe me that when I first passed the front door of the club I still had no idea what I would find – I just knew I wanted to participate. 20 minutes later I started with the very first Shadowrun edition. By the end of the next 20 minutes I knew it was something I’d been searching for all my life and I thought RPGs were the greatest invention of humankind! :)

After that I was playing every week. Then I started to build a gaming community in my town. The community was growing very fast and soon we had a new problem – the need for game books.

I learned English thanks to RPGs. There were no Polish translations – just some clumsy “community-made-translations” rewritten on typewriters.

Now folks, please be nice (especially the game companies)… Without copy machines, the Polish RPG market never would have happened. I still remember copying the AD&D Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual for hours and waiting for my copy of Call of Cthulhu. But I also remember my first legitimate copy of a RPG – Ars Magica 3rd edition.

Forgive me, but those copied books were fundamental to buying the originals later. Do you know how expensive English books were in Poland during that time? EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE!!

But shortly after my piracy career began, the first licensed translations began to appear in Poland and now are commonplace. Now I also try to sell my stuff for an English audience. Ironic?  :)

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