To my friend and first DM, Nevin Templin, died in 1985 at about the age of 37, He taught me much and I exceeded my master but for him I might not be the person I am. I hope he thought of me as a protege.
THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF INFORMATION I CAN PASS ON
The very first thing I am going to talk about is DM rule #1 . You run the game like your a CEO and you have a pretend board of Directors that you have to take all your decisions to.(approx on year 10 of game,the Board were given names and became NPCs that could be interacted with when apocalyptic things happened.) Its explained best by the book "Dream Park". If you haven't read it and learned this bit of knowledge from it, in my opinion you can not call yourself a DM.
Started in 1978 playing Greyhawk rules in home brew enormous dungeon. Learned the value of low level play and ongoing games.They made me roll up 3 characters Beowolf the cleric, Bertha Battle Axe and a female thief(I made my own party!), Beowolf was Mormon husband to other 2 and Bertha got HUGE experience points) Group was freaked out that I had 2 female characters( group included 3 wives that ran male characters).
Did first dungeon based on songs from music cassettes, Love Gun from Kiss comes to mind. I was 17 they were 35 and we played all day peeps call home to get a few more hours out of their wives.
Played home games in chaotic but often running games slowly realizing DMing was better.
made first campaign, Town, very primitive and dungeon like which is destroyed in cataclysm.
In Oct of 1981 ran first Mysantia game at Burlington County Community Collage, stealing my players from an art professor who sucked as DM.
A friend of mine said "If you want to run in my game, I can give you a Moon!" So I made a Moon that orbited ALL game Worlds.
Main DM Skill -Compelling, nail biting combat
Weaknesses -Note keeping, encouraging rping
Notable-added skill system to 1st ed D&D, most popular skill 'Friends II" gives -2 AC when within 5' of some one w/ same skill.Game is slanted toward Fighters w/ vast majority of magic items being tailored for them. Skill system also favors them.
I make many powerful 2nd level wizard spells to give wizards a chance at low level.
THE HOT AND HEAVY YEAR(my age 20)
Over summer ran city and moon as Scorch desert town on irregularly shaped rock desert,changed to swamp.Scorch was heavily influenced by movie 'Heavy Metal",swamp era by Lovecraft and Thieves World anthologies.
This was 1981 and no one had seen a sophisticated City game. It was an overpopulated city, Mysantia, on a lake in the middle of a swamp moon orbiting 100 miles above the homeworld, Mundania. The City was Ruled my Evil Queen Nekrola. Canals, mosquitoes that do 1-4 , huge clouds of frogs called piranha and killer hippos,Thieves that hated adventures, palace intrigue,treasure measured in 10s of gold pieces,player death every game, 50 EP is a lot,playing 3-7 games a week 8- 12 players. Adventures were down and dirty gritty City adventures.
Pagan Lustvenger is first notable power character w/ 19 St and 20 Con ,long storied carrier that ends baddly when at start of a game he attacks paladin who had him out classed because paladin had boots of striding and springing. Paldins god tells him to sacrific Pagan to him,when he confrontts god ,Pagan tries to attack him,does not go well.
Battle w/ Queen's Hawkmen (falconers) .Judicious use of Potion of Dragon's Breath slaghters the falcons and leading them into bottle neck By Pagan Lustvenger(huge barbarian) w/ 18 Strength gnome at his feet, leads to Queen's guards being crushed.
I got about 4 people to dropped out of collage,skipping class to play in my games,not me because the sessions were around my school schedule.
Start of game is death of ALL gods except for Lovecraftian, which is the main game influence through 31 years due to my being born again christian and liking the non- satanic nature of Cthulhu.
Brutal ,No quarter,KILLER, super cheap,HEARTLESS
The Spent Seaman. Bar that had billowing cloud for a sign. Scorpion painting, puke chugs(often won by NPC, Bill the Wino) and alligator fights, many owners, Home of Wendy, Hot and Juicy and her pillow of healing( Ok not so much of the Christian back then, like most people I can be a pretty big hypocrite.)
Kief the Thief high level for game (7th)w +5 ring of protection bought by another player with REAL money!).OIl and water relationship w/ this master planner and role player, Bob Cook, He at one point tore up his character sheet and Threw it in my face,(we were BOTH being A-holes). He and I thought so differently,he could never see my plots coming and I was amazed at some of the plans he came up with. His best scheme was: party needed a homebase so he convinced the owners of a wealthy house that it was haunted by 'thiefing" around for about 12 hours,hilarity ensued. Quit game in 1986. In 2014 reunited on Facebook, I hope we get some gaming in!
Pete Shivo Interesting mix of serious and whimsical. Character of his I best remember is grey Necromancer who just about didn't cast spells. Played for about 20 years. One of Pete's character shoves gondolier into canal to be eaten bu crocodile, powerful gondolier guild stages trap. Movie Conan had just come out, and they set up pretend snake/jewel thing that ends w/ Pete's Character crushed by ton of bricks.
Year 2 A MATURE CAMPAIGN
Getting the idea for an Orc ish Messiah from Thieves Guild(taking ONLY concept) I run year long Game against The Radeesha
Epic Fail-attempt to get players to attach game worlds to Mysantia, in hind sight I think the problem was everybody wanted ME to run!
Year 3 a BAD CAMPAIGN
Long pointless game of fighting Skaven (Chaos Ratmen-heavily using Warhammer Ideas) over a bell. Skaven win and get bell.Very poor planning, pointless fights, no real way for players to win or even effect outcome.Worst games I ever ran. Several months later Warhammer releases a miniature of a Skaven Doom Bell, I'm not saying they stole the idea but if not ,its quite the coincidence (LOL).
Notable- First appearance of Orgasm Merchant(better less said about him!).
decide potions should be common.
THE WILLIAM PATTERSON YEARS(my 4 year school)
Ran games at school and home(different peeps)
Collage crowd included Micah Citi best known as the druid that sold acid to children (which got him de-druidized-historicaly game had bad druids(Micah was a good player,justa poor druid)
In My fourth year I made best friends w/ the one person I am not going to name. He was a constant cheat and it caused a lot of problems, I was crushed to bring the friendship to an end
For some reason my collage players decided to genocide the goblins(because they could) and went on rampage. At one point the party heard rustling in the swamp and decided they were not going to investigate. The brush contained the last female goblin and her 2 sons. Missed it by THAT much!
Notable-Bugbears w/ living babies in the breast plate of armor-really freaked some people out!
THE MIDDLE YEARS
2-4 year long campaigns that I can't remember(I hoping some of my players will come to this site and remind me about stuff)
Jack ? was in the Air Force and actually delayed a choice assignment to play in game longer, played powerful Cleric right hand to Chis Ogles Thunder? The barbarian.
High stress job leads to me becoming far less brutal a DM over time ,Player death becomes less and less common. Players rarely go without decent magic equipment.Game hovers around 5-7th level.
TPK by Bloodbath Orcs, Very well organized but nowhere near the power Level of the group, very poor playing led to disaster.Players hold grudge for years. There are 2 more TPKs over the years but this one caused the most controversy (I think other 2 are from way earlier period. Achieved TPK w/ lone skelaton 4 hp and short sword,boy did we laugh.
Bill Trimble and I played year long GURPS solo Star Trek game . Going from securuty cadet Horst Boch to Capt. and Klingon Admiral(classic Trek era) 1988? Pete Shivo,guest villan ,trys to kill Bill w/ significantly smaller ship but his ship takes critical failure(Dice rolls ,Pete!)
Chris Ogles and Pete Shivo play year long GURPS Traveller Mercenary game, Discover 2 guys who were worst players ever!
Dragon Mating season-Twice
During one an epic(boy I over use this word) air battle just like the real life battle of Salamous(?) They ambush group of evil dragons WITH ABILITIES TAILORED TO DEFEAT PLAYERS. Catch them at a cave bottle neck and dragons fly right into trap!
getting the dragons dead 2 at a time.
THE END TIMES
As treat to players promised instead of low level play would follow game system to 30th level in 3-4 years made it to 27th level.Vast improvement on my game prep ensues due to nature of game system. Got to use Spellweavers who had been acting behind scenes.
A major new player entered game,Ryan Haines who was a weird mix of excellent role player and min maxer. He was a great asset and liability. Like any great stallion he was hard to manage. Only player in history to get more or less fired, mostly due to his lifestyle choices that just don't match mine. But I can't stress enough how he helped me to up my game and make me an even better DM. Ryan was working at Blockbuster when I met him. He was 18 or 19. He is an awesome RPer, but a big min maxer, a combination I had never run across before. Very few peeps played wizards(My fav class) because of the perceived low power at low level. What had escaped most of my players , is that wizards were given more and more abilities in an atemp to get peeps to play them. Ryan did what I had always wanted someone to do , he took a wizard to the Nth degree , using my own system against me. He discovered how powerful my summons spells were and took a min maxer approach to the whole thing. I was both pleased and horrified.. He took a cleric and made an Nth degree healer. When 4th Ed came out he engineered our, entrance into it by buying me many books and convincing me to give it a try. Ryan got the character builder and made everyones character. So there I was with a total min maxed party. I had to use much higher level monsters than the book said to have any chance of damaging the party. When we got to 20th plus it was a nightmare for me, planning adventures and for him using the flawed character builder.Between 4th and Ryan ,I learned that I had to do much more game prep to deal w/ everything. It's really uped my game. and my games are more constant than they were in the past. I was a HUGE wing it a lot kinda guy, but I've added a HUGE level of better play now.
To be continued
THE PLAYER"S WHO SURVIVED TO THE BITTER END
First,of course, is Chris Ogles, My friend since 1976 or so, Played game for first 20 or so years, took bread to run bar then came back for end. Prob highest number of sessions attended. Before break he played a series of Barbarians of note, For most of run was unspoken party leader. The person who is most responsible for duration of game.His Barbrians are Kharmicly linked to magic sword, Frostfire ,very powerful sword of cold and Pegasus riding. Had wizard turned into ottoman by Queen.
A Close second(and the best man at my wedding) Ed McComky. Chris' staunch follower and adviser quick w/ a prank or joke.Notable characters paladin Richard the Forgetful, caused Holy Sword/God to lose dietyship for short while and Viscera,wreastler/wrist razor Fighter who ascends to godhood with spectacular wrestling stunt,causing whole party to asend as his minions, weird sort of TPK that leaves group a little bitter.
And Finally Kieth Bursck, my brother from another mother(and yes my OTHER soul mate) He started about 1986 at the age of 16, not so great attendance at the end but through our ups and downs , one of the best people in my life. Dragonborn barbarian that had awesome breath weapon. Half Orc paladin who was masterfully role played w/ his orcish edge .
Additional Ideas (6)
Well I have been following your campaign retrospective and I do think you are just putting notes together but I am still interested.
What would you say the initial appeal of roleplaying was for you?
Did the things that appealed to you about gaming change over the years and how so?
First off,worse than going though my notes,Im having to remember everything! That's why it's going to be hit or miss.
My attitude toward rping initially was non-existant.I learned the game in a war gaming group that mostly played WW2 mini's and to me a D&D night was a night I didn't get to kill Nazi's.Slowly my war gaming became less and less and more D&D.It was a quick step to DMing.
Now to me it is performance art. A vent for my creative juice in EXACTLY the way I want to use it.That's what makes DMing great,the fact that you tell the exact story that your players puzzle over.
I had invented D&D , being unaware of it's existence!!! How many other peeps had made this leap too?
RPG's were inevitable.
When it matters and sometimes when it doesn't say "yes",especially if the table is chanting for it! Change something,let a player hit who missed by one,don't even make them roll if it's a great plan.Say "yes"!
(very true of a lot of less than critical situations)
MY Motto- What's it cost me?