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So, who is Simon Miles?

Dated: 09 Jan, 2020

I was born in 1968.  When I entered my 6th decade I realised that life was starting to pass me by and a lot of the things I had always wanted to do were still undone.

I also had a kind of epiphany and realised the only thing stopping me trying to get stuff published was my own fear of failure...  So I decided to stop being an idiot and put my best stuff out there on the 'Net to see if anyone else was interested - I thought what I had was cool and other people might enjoy reading it, or even using it themselves.

The history of how Dunromin came to be is recorded in the Player's and Games Master's guide to Dunromin and I don't intend to repeat that all here...  But I thought it might be worth mentioning my own pedigree in terms of D&D, RPGs and such, so here it is:

I started playing D&D in about 1980, when I was about 12 or 13, in my hometown of Hornsea, in East Yorkshire, UK.  My friends Pete and Ribes invited me around to try out this new thing they had, called Dungeons and Dragons.  Within 4 months I had got the Red Box Basic D&D (pictured) set and started my own group.  This developed quickly into Expert D&D and then switched to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (as there was no Companion rules at the time) and I have stayed there or come back to that 1st edition AD&D ever since.

Through Secondary school D&D and RPGs in general were a significant part of my life, often at the expense of my studies and certainly to the detriment of a normal teen social life (although there was still room for that too).  The core of players eventually called ourselves "The Eight" because there were nine of us, but there were many others that came and went.  The Eight remain some of my closest friends even now, more than 35 years later.

We played AD&D, Star Frontiers, Traveller, Runequest, Ghostbusters, Call of Cthulhu, Price of Freedom, Indiana Jones, James Bond, Star Wars RPG and others I can’t remember - I still have a lot of the character sheets.  Pete also wrote his own RPG, called Odyssey, which was and remains my favourite.  There were several flavours of Odyssey; Fantasy, Super Hero and our favourite Marines Odyssey, which was based on the colonial marines from the Aliens film.

I had intended to go Edinburgh to study Architecture after my A levels (Maths, Physics, Computer Science, Art and General Studies) but didn't get the grades (due to too much beer and RPGing).  Instead in 1986 I ended up at Lancashire Polytechnic in Preston, Lancashire, studying for an HND in Applied Physics.  Making a mess of my A levels turned out to be the best mistake I ever made.  As well as discovering what life was really all about (women - and got my heart broken for my trouble, never mind) and having an unutterably brilliant time, I also got heavily involved with the Sci-Fi Society, which was the role-playing group in the Student's Union boasting over 100 members - I was even the chairmen in my second year.  I met many like-minded young people, several of whom are still very close friends.

It was at Lancashire Polytechnic (now the University of Central Lancashire) that Dunromin first came into being and the World of Barnaynia was conceived (during a marathon D&D session when we were all pretty sleep-deprived).  It was a momentous time and my recollections of those three years are many and fond.  The Eight still met during the holidays back in our home town and occasionally during term time, but now my circle of co-conspirators in the (then still socially embarrassing) world of D&D and Role Playing was growing.

My HND course was a ‘sandwich’ course, which meant we spent some time out in industry.  My industrial placement was spent in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, working as a research assistant in the petro-chemical industry.  It was during this time (1988) that the first draft of Dunromin and the original map was produced.  I think I also came up with the names "Dunromin" and "Barnaynia" there too.  From this time in Abingdon I fell in love with the city of Oxford and chose to go to Oxford Poly (now Oxford Brookes) and do a Degree in Physics and Microelectronics after finishing my HND.

I then spent two years on the piss and playing RPGs before Graduating with a 2:1; Hurrah!  This was another marvellous time of my life and I remember making many friends, having some extraordinary adventures and generally enjoying myself far too much.  It wasn't all golden though.  At the end of year one there was a fire in the trailer all my stuff was in and most of my worldly possessions went up in smoke.  I still loath insurance companies for the way they treated me then.  My books were all stacked together and so didn't burn, although they are all singed and got wet through - I still have my DMG, PHB, monster books et al. from that time, complete with scorch marks and melted corners...

I also learned to ride a motorbike, passed my test and then had a massive crash.  This was another huge learning experience and I think it changed me a lot.  A near death experience puts everything into perspective.  I am not sure all the lessons I learnt then were good for me but I came out of the process a lot more positive, curious and inspired by life and living than I had ever been before.

After Oxford I got a job through a friend in an engineering firm in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.  This was another steep learning curve and, although I hated my life at the time and was relieved to be made redundant when the firm folded, I am immensely proud of the things I managed to achieve at that time.  I demonstrated aptitude in the areas of electrical and mechanical engineering design, draughtsmanship, electronics, programming and discovered a natural flair for sales.  I also had another big bike crash.  Oops.  But I didn’t really play much D&D at the time…

After being made redundant I went home to East Yorkshire, where I had grown up, and spent the next 18 months living at home with Mum and Dad.  I got a job pretty quickly at the place I worked during the holidays in my student days, but it was a dead-end and I needed much, much more.  So I handed my notice in after 9 months and then spent another 9 months unemployed.  This time was spent travelling around the country, mainly hitch-hiking, visiting friends and registering with various job agencies.  I had a number of interviews but the time was dismal - probably the most miserable I have been in my life - got my heart shattered again – although my friends and my writing (mostly my friends really) kept me sane, just about.

As well as travelling about the country I also spent a lot of time with the two of the Eight, Bragi and Coops, that still lived in the area and we developed our own RPG between us, called BRPG (the Bastardised Role Playing Game).  This was a very cut-down game based on imagination and as few rules as possible.  It was a great hoot and we had a lot of fun with it.  Nothing ever got written down as we kind of made it up as we went along, but it was excellent fun.

The longer my unemployment went on the more difficult it seemed to be able to break free but then a fantastic opportunity came my way in 1994 and I relocated to Reading in Berkshire - specialist computing sales and a real job, earning proper money and, I was surprised to discover, a career!  I found myself in a new city with no friends so I of course immediately joined the local RPG group (I don't remember how I found out about them but they met every week in a pub in the city centre - the George I think?) and there I made some more friends who, again, I shared many bizarre and wonderful experiences with and remain firm friends to this day.

My time in Reading was great fun.  I met some very odd people and enjoyed my time both professionally and socially while I was there and generally felt like I was, at last, growing up and ready to adult the shit out of my life.  I ran a D&D campaign for a while and then tried my hand at writing my own game, based on the BRPG idea, which became an awesome and very strange campaign which everyone who played in it remembers very fondly.  BRPG was drafted properly and nearly got published.  I think I will probably put it up on here for people to try out at some point.

The job was good but it was a small firm and I soon hit a ceiling beyond which I needed to change companies to progress.  I was also not enjoying living in the south as much as I had hoped.  I liked the people well enough but the southeast itself felt crowded, claustrophobic and totally urbanised.  I am not sure what it was but I wanted to move north again, to be nearer my family again.  As luck would have it I made contact with a fantastic firm near Nottingham and got a position there.

I moved to Nottingham and kind of started again, although I had some old friends in Nottingham too.  The job was great and I had my own house (rented) so for the first time ever I wasn’t sharing.  I had a number of historic parties there.  I ran a D&D club on Tuesday nights, making EVEN MORE good friends, and filled my weekends with marathon D&D sessions, writing, visiting friends and generally having a fabulous time.  This was probably the best time of my whole single life, just.  I even learned to drive and got myself a car as well as my bike.

And then shortly after the turn of the century I took a three week holiday in Namibia.  It was fantastic.  I had an amazing time and had some more extraordinary adventures.  And then I came home  to my lovely, but empty, house and realised I was the only one who had been on this amazing adventure; I had no one to share those great memories with.  The realisation had been growing in me for a while: I was lonely.  I needed a mate, a partner, and I realised I wanted children too.

It took a while but eventually I met Lynsay and it all came right; she is a fun loving, intelligent and beautiful lady, accomplished, informed and fun to be with.  We fitted.  It was the right time and the right place and we were the right people for each other.  Our togetherness was greater than the sum of our parts, and it still is.  My dad summed it up best when, after meeting her for the first time, he said "She's great.  We feel like we've known her all our lives..."  So we got married in 2004 and went to New Zealand for our honeymoon.  Which was brilliant!  Nine months after that along came Edward and twenty-two months after that Annabelle arrived.

Two years after that Annabelle became very ill.  It was a terrible time but she got better and remains well.  And then along came Lawrence.  We were five.  Lynsay and I were outnumbered.

Shortly after Annabelle was born I realised I was getting disillusioned with my career, it was 2008 and my Mum had recently died.  I had moved jobs again, twice, and was earning very good money as an external sales executive.  This was good but I was hating it and, as a result, I was failing at it.  Our little family were now based in Southern Derbyshire and I enjoyed the travelling involved in the job but I hated everything else about it.  Eventually we decided I should change careers.  We had been toying with the idea of switching to teaching for some time and we resolved that's what I should do.  I retrained as a Physics teacher which was one of the best decisions I ever made.  I remain a physics teacher to this day and I am still enjoying it more than any other job I have had, and I have had quite a few...

The role-playing kind of petered out after I met Lynsay and we had the kids – I just didn’t have the time for it, apart from the occasional get-together with old friends from Preston, Reading and so on.  But as the kids got older I found I had (a bit) more time on my hands and all that RPG stuff I have written and played and enjoyed over the years was still sat there, in boxes, on shelves, some even in the attic.  I resolved to do something about it, about a year ago, and that’s where this blog entry started…

I hope I haven’t gone on too long – please excuse the indulgence of an old man (not that I feel particularly old).  And yes, I still ride my motorbike, whenever I can.  It’s a Yamaha YZF600 Thundercat, for those that want to know.  I still have a plate in my leg from the first crash and see a back-doctor regularly due to injuries from the second, but I regret nothing (well, not much).  Life is a blast.