October 16, 2012

D&D Campaign History - Part 1

Tags: Games, RPGs, D&D

After posting some maps from my old D&D campaign, I got a little nostalgic for the game. Here is a history of that campaign in many parts (it did run for 5 years). While I would prefer to tell the stories “in character”, my memory of the first year or so is a little fuzzy, so this first part of the history will be largely a statement of actions (as remembered) without too much creative embellishment.

I first started playing D&D in 1985, when I got the famous 1983 red box version of the old original 1st edition basic set. With a few friends we played a few little adventures, but it never really got any traction. It was only in late 1987 that a permanent game emerged. We just called it the “campaign”, although during its 5 year existence we played more than one game. There was a single D&D game that thread through the years, but there was a significant amount of the scandalously unknown 2300AD, plus brief sojourns with Cyberpunk 2020, MERP, James Bond RPG and Warhammer FRPG. However, we started and finished with D&D.

The first session was held in my bedroom after school on a Friday. A bunch of eight 12-13 year old boys. We rolled up characters, with the special rule that each character could have one automatic 18 (the highest possible value) in an attribute of their choice and the rest should be rolled normally. Still most characters had two 18s - we must have been a very lucky bunch. One of the “lucky” ones was the magic-user Bandance, that was my character. I am also certain there was another magic-user, Greymarel, in the party. Kur-Tas Kai, a cleric of the war god Kiri-Jolith (we used the Krynn dieties) might have been present, but if not was definitely around by the second adventure. I don’t remember the rest - most of them didn’t last long.

For the first few adventures we would rotate the Dungeon Master (DM) position among the group. Later I took on the role permanently. I don’t know who was the first DM, but it definitely wasn’t me. The first adventure was the classic Keep on the Borderlands. Arriving at the Keep the party was soon approached by a shadowy figure and hired to kill the Castellan. Being adventuring neophytes, the party neglected to demand some money upfront. The Castellan, hearing that a group of sturdy young men from out of town had arrived, invited them to dinner. At the dinner he suggested he had a job for the party, but got no further. Bandance attacked and quickly killed the Castellan. The rest of the party was shocked but regardless included in the resulting melee with the guards. They managed to escape by starting fires in the Keep and running into the surrounding wilderness. There the party stayed a few days exploring the local caves before attempting a return to the Keep in order to collect their reward. However their passage was blocked and no reward was forthcoming. Realising they had been ripped off and tired of trudging around the dangerous borderlands, they decided to return home. I’m not sure this adventure went as the DM planned.

Next a much smaller group of players did The Beacon at Enon Tor adventure. I don’t remember much about this other than it was short and involved saving a mad wizard. Nor can I remember the next small adventure we did, Jack of Knaves (which I can’t even find on Google).

Next a larger group got together and played Rahasia. At this stage the group was Greymarel, Bandance and Kur-Tas Kai plus the dwarf Kleeton, the fighter Hugle, the thief Aeflebad and the elf Celembor (this is in notes taken at the time). The party was hired to save an elven princess from an evil temple. Payment this time was whatever treasure we found on the way. As we played it, there wasn’t a great deal of combat in this adventure. For the first (and probably last) time the party even managed to talk its way out of a fight. The most dangerous encounter was between members of the party itself. After the princess was saved, a fight broke out over how to split the treasure. Bandance was on the losing side. My notes for this adventure state “saved princess, befriended intelligent snake, almost got lynched by party over magic items and now holds grudge”.

The straight up goblin-bashing of The Horror on the Hill was next. This was quickly followed by the equally badly named and similar orc-bashing of Death Dungeon. Neither of these were particularly notable and both mainly involved constant fighting with a little exploring thrown in. I’m certain I DM’ed these two (especially since I wrote Death Dungeon and it wouldn’t be fair that I play it too). At this point the party added Talin (a ranger) and a little later Ugarit (a fighter and not the right name, but neither I nor the person playing him can remember what he was called), but lost a couple of the others. So the group was Greymarel, Bandance, Kur-Tas Kai, Celembor, Ugarit and Talin. However, the person playing Celembor left somewhere around here after having personal differences with a few other players. I remember it centered on how to have fun in roleplaying games. Celembor said he played in a way to have fun without caring about the other players, while the rest of the party said it was about having fun as a group. I think this counter-argument was lead by the person playing Kur-Tas Kai, who was becoming de facto party spokesman. Celembor was increasingly disruptive and ostracized by the rest of the party until he left. At this stage we started playing a hybrid of D&D with AD&D and some homebrew rules. The result was combat was quicker (with critical hits and misses) and spell-casters more powerful.

The last adventure of the campaign’s early stage was Isle of Dread. Again my memory is hazy on this and I have no notes to fall back on. The party sailed across the ocean and investigated a semi-tropical island, killing locals until we got tired and sailed home. By the end the campaign had been running over a year and all the characters were level 5. This was also the last adventure not DM’ed by me. It was also the last standalone adventure. After this the adventures merged into one another as a continuous story, albeit one that was largely made-up as we went along.

The story will continue…