I have a couple of posts about RPGs that I'm working on, but before I got to those, I figured it'd be a good idea to at least touch on my experience with them. I don't claim to be any kind of expert or to have a wide or encyclopedic knowledge, but I've been gaming for more than a few years now, and I've come across some things that I think are universal or quirky enough to be interesting.
So, my gaming history:
My first contact with an RPG of any kind was when I was 10 years old. I was at Toys R Us looking for a birthday present for my cousin and saw something sitting with the board games called "Dungeons and Dragons." It was a big box that had pieces, dice, a battlemap, and about 30lbs of paperwork. Mostly, I just saw the cover with the dragon attacking some hearty adventurers and thought it looked cool. My cousin was less than thrilled with a present that required as much work as even that "Basic" game necessitated, so he wound up giving it back to me a few months later.
I then proceeded to read every book, binder, and page in the box.
Needless to say, I fell in love with this amazing new game. I went through the sample walkthrough adventure and wanted to share this with someone else. So, I tried to run a game. I believe I roped the cousin I'd originally given the D&D set to and one of my brothers into playing the story that was included. They weren't really interested and I had only read through the adventure once, so it became a truly abysmal experience that ended mercifully quickly.
For a few years after that, I'd occasionally buy a sourcebook (I had a bunch of Men in Black RPG books), or design a dungeon, but I really didn't have anyone to play with, which kind of defeated the purpose. It's hard to spend a lot of time with roleplaying when no one else is interested.
In the meantime, I got into theatre, and joined the Boy Scouts. It was in the later group that I finally found a few like-minded geeks. On a few of the overnight trips, we'd gather around a table or in a tent and play a sci-fi campaign with a homebrew system that one of the older guys had come up with. He was a passably good DM, but some of the other players were a little more interested in breaking the gameworld, so he had to keep us on pretty tight rails. It was the first truly social gaming experience I'd ever had.
Unfortunately, high school and my increasing interest in theatre wooed me away from the Boy Scouts, and no one else I knew really had any interest. So, I just put that aside and moved on. I was a theatre and chorus geek all through high school, until I graduated and went to college 300 miles away from home to study theatre and I didn't really think much about RPGs. It was something I'd done as a kid and I figured it was behind me.
Then, my sophomore year, one of my friends invited me to "Newbie Game," an introductory session for Northwestern's live-action role-playing club Dead City Produtions. The game being run: a vampire LARP. Definitely not everyone's cup of tea, but I stuck around even past graduation. I still game with some of the people I met there, including my fiance.
From that LARP, I got pretty involved in various tabletop games, mostly White Wolf: Vampire, Mage, Exalted, with diversions into D&D, Shadowrun, and Star Wars. I've been through long campaigns (I'm currently playing in an Exalted game that's been running for over 2 years now), and one-shot dungeons. I've played and run games, including a year spent as one of DCP's Storytellers. It's not the widest or deepest experience, but enough to have seen a few different ways of doing things and made more than a few mistakes. Hopefully, some of them are interesting enough to share with the internet at large.