Thursday, April 20, 2017

Roleplaying the Library?

by Kristin Baer, E-Services/Web Marketing Librarian

Photo: Josh McIllwain

Have you ever participated in a role playing game (RPG)?

I certainly hadn't until earlier this month, when I attended the free, two-day Bookwyrm Gaming Convention, held at Woodward Park Regional Library. I had been curious about role playing games for years, but just couldn't seem to find the right opportunity to try one out. First, I didn't know where to go or who to approach about getting started, but matters seemed even more complicated when I consulted my favorite search engine and learned that there weren't just a handful of RPGs, but multitudes. I immediately came across a number of crowdsourced "best of" lists that left me equally inspired and confused: Did I want computer RPGs or tabletop RPGs? Which one was the best to start with? Which games were actively played in the Fresno area? Since none of my friends are involved in the RPG scene, that was definitely a consideration.

At one point I had looked into local game nights, but the idea of showing up solo seemed daunting: I'm a card-carrying introvert, so the prospect of meeting so many new people at once and learning new skills at the same time sounded overwhelming. So, months and then years elapsed before, wonder of wonders, the Library began promoting registration for Bookwyrm, year 5, and I made the commitment to attend. To be honest, even after registering, I wasn't quite convinced I was going to enjoy myself at the event. The advertisements were enticing, all of the games sounded incredibly fun, but there had to be some unspoken prejudice against newbies, right? I was sure people would be doing some mental "eye rolls," if not actual heavy sighing, as I struggled to figure out the rules and slowed down gameplay in the process.

Well, I'm happy to say I couldn't have been more wrong!

Because I wasn't exactly sure of what I was getting into in attending this gaming convention, I opted to play the straightforwardly described Artemis: Spaceship Bridge Simulator. I've seen many episodes of the various iterations of Star Trek, so I felt relatively secure in my understanding of how this game was going to go down. The simulator lets you cobble together a make-believe spaceship bridge from laptops and other digital devices, and each player is assigned a job: captain, engineer, helm (steering/navigation of the ship), science, communication (negotiating/coordinating with friendly and enemy ships), weapon control. As the science officer, my main responsibilities were to "sweep" the sectors, scanning incoming ships to determine whether they were friends or foes, size up their weapons and defenses, and report headings (locations) and other pertinent information about the ship or crew.

The science officer's view of the Galaxy.

During the initial, scripted game we played, all of our moves were plotted so events were pretty predictable and we didn't have to do much thinking of our own; when we got down to business and played the real game, at times near chaos ensued and it was a lot of fun!

A quick YouTube search will give you an idea of how crazy things can get with Artemis. Of course, because of some curse words, there are many Artemis videos we can't post here. This one shows how the game works, minus expletives:

Clarification: As tempted as I was to dress up for the occasion, I did not put on a Star Trek uniform before entering the "bridge" (otherwise known as the branch's reading room), nor did anyone else in the group. Our crew was just a bunch of average people, taking time out of an otherwise uneventful Saturday morning to bond with old friends and make some new ones, through creative, cerebral activities: games, play. I think it's worth noting that never at any point during Bookwyrm did I feel that I didn't "fit in": even though I was an absolute newb, each person I met, and my "crew-mates" especially, made me feel genuinely welcome. Even when I almost got us vaporized by a Kralien Dreadnought, because I couldn't figure out how to zoom in enough to scan the ship until it was mere yards away (or whatever the space equivalent is), nobody freaked out or held it against me. I was actually quite bummed out when, later, they invited me to join them for a card game and I couldn't because I had to leave.

Moral of the story? If you're at all interested in gaming or anything else, just show up. More than likely, you won't regret trying, and you may even meet some cool people in the process.

My sincerest thanks to Josh, Tracy, Jennifer from Crazy Squirrel Game Store, James and Tiffany from FCPL, and all the other event organizers, and my crew-mates, for a wonderful time! I hope we all meet again soon.

A snapshot from Crazy Squirrel's beginner's RPG session at Bookwyrm (all women!). Photo: Josh McIllwain
Unfortunately, it's another year until the next Bookwyrm convention, but if you want to learn more about Artemis or other RPGs, and/or play them locally, you're in luck! I've been doing my own personal research, here and there, and here are some of my discoveries:
  • Join the Fresno Area Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator Facebook group to hear about opportunities to play the game at locations in and around Fresno.
  • If you're looking for a place to play a variety of table-top RPGs, Crazy Squirrel Game Store hosts game nights throughout the week. Jennifer, one of the store owners, can also direct you to RPGs that fit your particular brand of imagination, or playing preferences. There's even an RPG called The Warren, in which you roleplay as a rabbit fighting for survival, so chances are  there's an RPG out there for you!
  • The Library has also occasionally held Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. If you'd like your local branch to host a game, let staff know, or reserve a room to play in!
  • If you want to learn how to play Pathfinder, check out The Central Valley Pathfinder Society.
  • Last but not least, Fresno County Public Library carries guides for some of the more popular "game systems": 

Roleplaying Game Guides at FCPL

About the author:

Kristin Baer is a librarian in Fresno County Public Library's E-Services department. She helps manage and promote FCPL's eResources, and assists Library users at the information desk and via FCPL's social media channels. A former teacher, she is passionate about empowering people of all ages, through access to information resources and learning opportunities.

When she's not at the Library, she can usually be found with her nose in a book, creating random works of art and creative writing, and--most recently--eagerly anticipating the latest episodes of Doctor Who and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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