Monday, August 7, 2017

RPGaDAY 2017 #7

From the #RPGaDAY2017 challenge (info here):

[as I'm starting this thing a little late, I shall be doubling up on my daily posts until I catch up. Early posts will be post-dated to the date they were originally supposed to appear]

What was your most impactful RPG session?

I can't remember the exact date, or even the specifics of what occurred in-game. But the most impactful session I've ever played occurred many, many years ago...I'd say about 32 years ago. It was the first time someone other than myself took the role of Dungeon Master at our gaming table. Prior to that session, I had ALWAYS acted as DM for my gaming group...since we'd begun gaming. And while that may have only been three to four years, you're talking about one-quarter to one-third of my entire young life.

I've told this story before, but I'll do it once more: no one taught me how to play Dungeons & older brother or cousins or friends. No grognard introduced me to the game down at the war gamers' local hobby shop. My introduction came from my newly opened Moldvay Basic set, purchased for me by my mother, at my request, off the shelf of the local J.C. Penny toy department (the one at Seattle's Northgate Mall if anyone's is still there). It took me a while to digest this new type of gaming, but once I had, I started running it for my brother and our friends.

And for about four years, I continued to run the game...even as we expanded with Cook/Marsh Expert set, and (later) with the various AD&D books...first the Monster Manual, then the Dungeon Masters Guide, and finally, finally the Players Handbook. I ran games for kids my age; I ran games for kids in high school (when I was still in middle school). I wrote adventures, I ran modules, I screwed up various rules, and then (later) corrected those screw-ups as we figured them out. I wasn't interested in "world building" back was all serial adventure, all the time. Some of it pretty cool, but much of a it (looking back) as pretty pedestrian fare.

Hey, we're talking about a kid here.

Still, players kept coming back. And I was enjoying myself...though it's hard to remember my exact feelings/emotions of the time. It was all still NEW and almost completely UNEXAMINED. There was nothing thoughtful or deliberate about the games I was running...except my deliberate attempts to bring new content into the game whenever we got our hands on a new book. But everyone wanted to play and no one wanted to run the game. Heck, I don't know that anyone figured they COULD run the game. I was the guy who knew all the rules, right?

Well, actually, I wasn't the only one who knew the rules. My good best friend...back in those days was a girl named Jocelyn. She was the youngest of five, but her next closest sibling (a brother) was eleven years older than her, already grown and moved out. Like me, she had a love of fantasy and mythology and folklore. Unlike me, she had a lot of discretionary income and ready access to a good book store. She was the first to acquire the Mentzer Companion and Immortal sets, she was the first one of us to purchase the Unearthed Arcana...heck, she bought me my first Monster Manual as a birthday gift. And she was the first of us to acquire a copy of the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, found in a trunk of her brother's old stuff that he'd left behind.

Jocelyn had been my first player after my brother...though she had been present during the first session I ever ran. In fact, I was introduced to her for the first time while running that adventure (a castle siege with a map I'd drawn, based largely on the Keep from B2 I'm sure)...her mother, a friend of my mother, had brought her over to our house that evening, and she'd been bustled off to my room where my brother and I sat, about to embark on our first great adventure.


It must have been around 1985 when she decided she would like to try her hand at being the Dungeon Master. I'm guessing '85 because that's when the UA was released, and she acquired her copy before I did, and hit me with a bunch of mysterious new rules (as a DM) before I ever had a chance to read the book.

And as a DM, Jocelyn was fantastic. Unlike myself, she was interested in world building...creating maps and lands to not only explore but to live escape into. We gamed in her world through two-and-a-half generations of player characters, and I had a blast as a player and even (occasionally) as a part-time Dungeon Master, subbing in for an adventure session or two. Jocelyn forced me to elevate my game...both as a player and a DM.

It was wonderful, and it never would have happened if I had continued to hold the reins of our gaming like some tight-fisted miser. I honestly can't remember the conversation that led us to me "turning over the campaign" to her...I don't remember my feelings on the matter, whether I was happy or excited or had hurt feelings that my game wasn't "good enough." I really don't remember. But probably I was at least a little bit excited at the opportunity to play the game as a player...hell, it's possible I suggested she run the game just so that I could play as a player character. You see, I'd just found this new PC class in the back of the PHB in an appendix, something no one had ever seen before in our games, some strange conglomeration of classes called a bard...

[and that led to my longest running, most powerful, most beloved, and most hated PC of all any game, ever. But that's another story for another time...]

Regardless of the reasons, the most impactful session of my gaming life...and a long life it's been...has to be the first time I let go of the power of the Dungeon Master and just played. And discovered a new world of adventure.
: )

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