Day 2 — First RPG Gamemastered
Dungeons & Dragons. (That’s going to be a theme throughout much of this month; sorry.)
When I started playing D&D (see yesterday’s link), my friend Kevin was my gateway DM. As the person who’d been playing the game already, he was the one who gave me the first taste of adventure through In Search of the Unknown and Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, then unleashed me onto an unsuspecting world. Truth be told, though, it took me a while to start DMing because of a strange confluence of geography and finances.
The geographical factor was the reality that living in a small town of 2,000 people in the middle of the Canadian wilderness, we didn’t have a gaming store that stocked the AD&D books, meaning that missions to secure those tomes required long-distance travel. The financial factor was that me and everyone else I knew were all perpetually broke in those heady days of 11th grade. As such, when we first started playing, myself and the other two core members of the party (Dave and Mitch) only owned one book a piece — Mitch, the Players Handbook; Dave, the Dungeon Masters Guide; and me, the Monster Manual. And though we traded the books around a lot between ourselves, it wasn’t until I actually got around to securing a DM Guide of my own that I felt comfortable pushing myself onto the other side of the table.
The first adventures I ran were the Slave Lords series of modules (A1 through A4 for you old-school types). I can remember being really worried about whether I had what it took to actually run a game, despite having been playing for almost a year at that point. I remember an enormous number of rookie mistakes I made during that campaign. I also remember one moment at the beginning of the first adventure, Secret of the Slaver’s Stockade, where the party was locked down in a standoff with slaver mercenary orcs in a courtyard. The decision was made to clear the courtyard with a fireball — except the party didn’t know that the orcs had strapped together an old pushcart, a barrel of lamp oil, and a bellows to create a jury-rigged flamethrower designed to stop the frontal assault they were too smart to make.
I remember the adventure talking about how if the cart caught fire, it would explode to deal damage to the orcs nearby and that’s about it. I remember thinking, “That’s kind of boring,” and instead describing the cart blowing sky-high as the fireball hit it, an explosion of lamp oil setting fire to the nearby wooden doors as the remains of the cart arced through the air and slammed down in front of the party, forcing the characters to run like hell to get past it and into the fray.
I remember thinking “That was pretty cool.” And I haven’t looked back.