I can see a few possible uses for this.
First, a player agrees to start out with an insane character, someone who just finished up their time as a goat. It can be tricky, but having a character who is mad can add all sorts of fun and complications to a story.
Second, what do the players do when they discover that their bounty (who must be captured alive) has been turned into a goat? Especially if their employer is not the forgiving type.
I would love to see how players deal with trying to get close enough to examine an artifact that has such a nasty effect based solely on proximity.
I don't remember many of the details of my very first character. Just that he was a Vrusk (think giant ant body with a humanoid torso) from Star Frontiers. My older brother finally gave in and taught me how to play (but only because he was bored and his gaming group wasn't meeting that day.)
I consider my first real character to be a Barbarian from 1st Ed AD&D, built from the wholly unbalanced and completely fun Unearthed Arcana rules. I was probably about 12 or 13, his name was Grunt Slash, and he excelled at wenching and brawling. The biggest danger to his health and sanity was a halfling thief who resembled Tasslehoff Burrfoot in many ways and had "picked up" a startling array of dangerously wild magic items (I think we took his wand of wonder away after he sent someone to another dimension.)
We usually had the radio playing during that long campaign and so a lot of 80's pop songs make me wax nostalgic. I found it is decidedly not romantic to tell a woman that Cheap Trick's The Flame makes me think of a bloodthirsty barbarian. :)
Some interesting considerations. I was once on the player's side of the equation for most of a summer and I agree with what has been said. Game mechanics were mostly ignored in favor of heavier role-playing. I rarely interacted with more than one NPC at a time. I got myself into a few jams, similar to what has been described (no other players to reality check my ideas.) I was lucky to have a creative and forgiving GM.
Good article manfred. I especially liked ephe's idea about using solo gaming to warm up a group.