Dated: 10 Aug, 2022
It’s that time of year again and RPGaday is going full tilt. One came up today that made me think about the early days of RPGing (D&Ding as it was most of the time) all those years ago.
Day 10 – What was the first game you DMed?
Well, as has been recorded, Wakey and Ribes got me to try D&D in Summer 1979 I think, but nothing much happened for a few months cos I lived at the other end of town. I got the Red Basic set for Christmas and the first thing I DMed was Keep on the Borderlands for my friend Mark Crossley, who lived around the corner. Great fun was had and we made every error in the book. Looking back now I can smile at our deeply ingrained fear of Ogres generated from that first adventure.
I got the Expert Set soon after and then bought the DMG for 1st Ed AD&D as I had seen it in the shop. I don’t think I really understood the significance of the two different games at the time but I loved the Magic Items and Mark and my characters (we both had characters, even though I was DMing) were soon equipped with Girdles of Storm Giant Strength and Gauntlets of Ogre Power. I then got the PHB and the first ed Deities and Demigods with the Cthulhu Mythos in it. Not the standard order in which to buy the books but we were still playing Basic-Expert really and making it up as we went along… The Companion Rules just didn’t seem to appear when we needed them so we had to improvise.
I shifted to being a player when I joined another group, Moog’s D&D group born of adolescent tantrums and such. That was 1st edition AD&D proper and I never really went back, although I still admire the simplicity and speed of BECMI as it has become.
Playing this kind of anarchic way suited us and after Moog moved away I took over as DM again and kind of stayed that way for years, although others ran other games and I even played in Wakey’s AD&D for a short while before we switched to Odyssey; his own game and still one of the best I have ever played.
It was at this time that some characters we had been playing for some time were starting to get to VERY high level. No, really, higher than that… We called it Mega D&D and it was mainly just Neill Ford and myself. It was very silly, really very, very silly indeed. Deities and Demigods became a Monster Manual, except the Gods weren’t tough enough so we multiplied their levels and hit points by a factor of ten. By this time our characters were immortals themselves and were level 600 or something. Yes, it was broken, but we kept making up stuff to keep it interesting and generating mega-villains to fight and we were only 14 or 15; it was just brilliant fun. And no, I haven’t read the Immortals set, although I bought a pdf of it – I should get around to reading it.
When I went to University of Central Lancashire (Lancashire Polytechnic as it was then) in September 1986 I joined the SciFi and Fantasy Society and a whole new journey started. Ray Jennings was running the game I joined, which was great fun too, but when Rag Week came around in Spring 1987 it was decided to play a 72-hour endurance RPG session. We had three groups ready to play and players could flit between them or rotate DMs. There was a Traveller table Roger was running and an AD&D table. I can’t remember what the other was… Ray was originally going to do the D&D but he wasn’t able to for some reason, so I volunteered to run a new AD&D campaign for the first stint. As it transpired I ended up running the whole thing. I think I only had a 3 hour break to play a bit of Traveller (besides the 5 minute an hour rests we were allowed under Guinness Records rules, which we could add up).
Noon on the first day and we all rolled up characters. Unfortunately, everyone rolled evil characters except one Ranger, run by Craig Tooke. They immediately started a row and had a fight. Only the Ranger survived. Much hilarity. So, they all re-rolled Good-ish characters and they set about the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh. Some loot and experience was gained and they walked to the nearest city to do some training. Being very tired by this time things were getting woozy. Some mad city-based capers ensued, part of the city got burnt down, a party member narrowly avoided getting hung for something unrelated and other things happened but memory fails me save for fleeting images; Taff soaking himself in deodorant to quell his "pheromones"; Adrian pulling off the most perfect piece of role-play that is, alas, unprintable; Pete ranting (just ranting, a lot); Frog falling asleep under the table and lots and lots of laughter. I do recall someone asking what the name of the city was and I replied “Dunromin”, knowing it was the name of a house built by a retired couple I used to deliver newspapers to. It seemed appropriate. It all started there…
The concept of the World being banana shaped arose later in the same session – on the last day just after dawn as I recall. It was a momentous time to be alive…