A Fantasy Roleplaying Character Brought to Life

When I was eleven or twelve, my best friend at school, Ian Bell (co-creator of the hit computer game, "Elite") introduced me to fantasy roleplaying games (RPG) in the shape of a paper-and-dice game called "The Fantasy Trip" (hereinafter abbreviated as TFT: it later morphed into GURPS, the Generic Universal Roleplaying System).

Using rules from the original system book, "Melée", which dealt with physical combat, we began a series of one-on-one arena encounters, with characters such as "Garth the Ungodly", "Talbot, Slayer of Garth", and "Havnor, Slayer of Talbot, Slayer of Garth". Every break time, we used to play in the empty Modern Languages Room at school, which we rechristened the "Melée Room".

Then, Steve Jackson, the creator of TFT, brought out an expansion book for the system: "Wizard", which for the first time introduced the element of magic. Later expansions were the greatly expanded "Advanced Melée" and "Advanced Wizard", and an invaluable tome called "In the Labyrinth". This allowed us to escape the confines of the dungeon and the arena: we were running campaigns in towns, forests, deserts; the only limitation was our imaginations, which ranged far and free... 

Ian Bell and I were joined by another boy, Peter Irvin.All three of us were particularly drawn to the idea of having a successful magic-user character, and after several false starts achieved our aims.

Peter's successful mage was Guy Great Flame, and Ian Bell's was called Xylox the Mighty. Mine was called "Grimm Dragonblaster - Mage Questor". After two years of Questing, Grimm had grown so powerful that he was almost literally unbeatable. However, when we left school and drifted apart, Grimm had to hang up his staff.


Fifteen years after leaving school, I was working in the space industry as a component engineer. It was my job to carry out final quality inspections on components such as integrated circuits before the lids were fitted, and this was done at the factory in which they were produced. 

Our major supplier seemed to be a company called SGS-Thomson, based in Rennes, France. This  is not the same as Rennes-le-Château, the Templar stronghold made famous by the Dan Brown "da Vinci" novels: it is a small industrial town in Brittany. For eighteen months, I went to Rennes almost every week, staying at the same Novotel and having to return home each weekend.

My social life suffered accordingly, and I had absolutely nothing to do in the evenings once I had explored all that Rennes had to offer. So I sat in the hotel bar one night and remembered a small painted figurine in yellow-and-blue robes: Grimm had leapt into the TFT universe fully-formed and ready to fight, but how did he ever become so powerful?

These were the days before laptops, mobile phones or PDAs became commonplace, so in the evening I began to write on pads of paper: lots of them.

I was laid off from my job and spent 9 months unemployed, but at least I could just about afford paper and pens, so I continued to write page after page after page...   Even after I was re-employed, I continued to scribble, as I had got into the habit of regular writing.

In 2004, now using a laptop, I began to post Grimm Dragonblaster chapters on a website canned fanstory.com, where people write scored reviews for other writers' works. I found my work was pretty well received, and in the end of 2005, I became FanStory's Author of the Year.