The first time I ever encountered Dungeons and Dragons was when my sister received a copy of the magenta Basic set for her birthday. It was the “in thing” at the time, and kind of edgy, so my mother decided to pick it up for her. Both of my sisters were fantasy fans, one leaning towards the Chronicles of Narnia, while the other leaned towards the Lord of the Rings.
Despite this love of fantasy, my dear sister never really mustered the desire to learn the game. I saw that boxed set. It kind of called to me. I was younger than my sisters, and I hadn’t read any fantasy classics yet, but my mother used to read Arthurian stories to me at bed time, and I had even started to sneak in an issue of the Marvel Conan comic from time to time during grocery store trips.
I wanted to see what was in the box.
Rules! Multiple books! Strange pictures of swords, and armored folk, and monsters! This must be mine, the young me thought. My sister hadn’t touched the box set for about six months. To the best of my knowledge she had never even touched the dice. And those dice were so cool! They had more than six sides.
My first foray into DMing was a chaotic mess. Okay, my second foray was a chaotic mess as well, but it was much more intentional. My first foray was just to have my friend make up a character while I threw monsters at him from the monsters section. I thought hit dice were interchangeable with hit points. I had no idea what I was doing. We both had a feeling that we were a little lost.
Another friend from school had a brother that ran a regular AD&D game, and we asked if we could sit in. I was so wrong, but this whole roleplaying thing was so much better than I thought it was. While everyone seemed to have a good time, and there was definitely a story going on, I have to admit my friend’s brother was a bit of a tyrant at being a DM, but that seemed to be the fashion at the time, and, I am almost ashamed to admit, that might have been incentive for me to actually run the game rather than play. But I knew I wanted to be a benevolent dictator.
Regardless, the concept made a lot more sense to me after sitting in on that session. It still took months before I actually got the chance to run a real adventure, with a story and everything. Three of my friends made up characters, and I made up a story. I also snagged the newest version of the Expert Set, and boy did that give me ideas.
My friends brought Razzlestar the Elf, Hoyle the Magic User, and Rekkin the Dwarf to the table. I brought a story of a ship lost at sea, crashing on a deserted island. The group ran into wild animals and zombies, and eventually found out that the storm that caused the ships to crash on the rocks surrounding the island was caused by a vampire, who lured ships to their doom so that he could feed.
Yes, I threw a vampire at 1st level characters. Remember–tyrant. Besides, it was an epic tale, who cares if it was a balanced encounter?
Also, why the vampire was trying to kill his food with wolves, rats, and zombies, I hadn’t quite worked out. The vampire himself had all sorts of “story” powers based on my knowledge of comic book vampires. He could control weather and animate the corpses of those he didn’t bring back as vampire spawn. But I was proud of myself for actually coming up with a story, a reason for all of this to happen.
Thankfully for the PCs, I hadn’t quite picked up on what energy drain did. The PCs all attacked and did nothing to harm the vampire. The vampire tossed them around. They attacked again, and couldn’t do anything to the vampire. So they ran.
I had no idea how they were suppose to win. I just came up with the problem. The PCs were suppose to supply the solution. Thankfully, they did, so that my first turn as Grand High Tyrant Dungeon Master didn’t end in a TPK.
My friends decided that if they couldn’t harm the vampire with their weapons, then they should use the only weapon they had left. They had to stall off the vampire long enough for the sun to come up. After fighting wolves and zombies, and spending two rounds doing absolutely nothing to harm the vampire, the players decided to try and stay “just enough” ahead of the vampire to get him to forget about what time it was.
I was sold. It was so in tune with how vampire hunters took out the master vampire in so many movies that I had seen, I decided this was indeed the correct solution to the problem. I made the PCs explain to me how they were trying to trick the vampire and how they attempting to keep just a little ahead of the vampire. After making them explain how they were baiting the vampire, I made them go through one more round of combat with the vampire, and at the end of the round, the sun came up, and the vampire was no more.
One of the things I learned from the ramp up to this session was that I just wasn’t geared towards running adventure modules. This slowly changed, but at this point in time, I just couldn’t wrap my head around what I was suppose to do with the Keep on the Borderlands or the Isle of Dread.
But this session was enough to hook me on running roleplaying games from that point on.