A group of Dungeons & Dragons players gather to create their own play experiences. Image by Jason Coleman, used under Creative Commons license.
Over the course of five weeks, we’ll be chatting with Mike Mearls, Rodney Thompson, Bruce Cordell, James Wyatt, and Chris Perkins about their history with the Dungeons and Dragons franchise. Last week, we asked the group about their favorite setting, but now, we’ll go deeper into their gamer histories to hear the tales of their favorite play experiences.
Rodney Thompson: This is a really tough question to answer, because the great thing about D&D isn’t that it’s about individual moments, but about the stories that develop over weeks and months of being together with your group. For example, I’d be very tempted to call out the Age of Worms adventure path from Dungeon magazine as something that shaped my current view of what makes D&D great, and it still stands as one of my most successful campaigns I’ve ever run.
For one adventure, my girlfriend cooked a multiple-course meal that matched the weird feast taking place during the adventure. I had a good friend (who is also a professional illustrator) do character illustrations for each of my players’ characters. I even have a little shrine to that campaign at my desk here at work, with that illustration (plus a matching illustration of the same characters by Order of the Stick artist Rich Burlew), and a signed art print of the cover image from the first adventure by Wayne Reynolds, all hung up on the wall. My players’ character names from that campaign also occasionally creep into books I’m working on as the example names given for various character types.
Mike Mearls: There are a lot to choose from, but one of my favorite memories was running an adventure from Dungeon magazine called The Siege of Kratys Freehold. In the adventure, the characters have to defend a manor house from a small army of invading orcs. I used the old, TSR paper craft buildings to create the manor and painted up a bunch of Ral Partha miniatures to depict both sides. We played out the battle over the course of an entire day. The spectacle of it, along with the ingenuity and creativity the fairly open-ended scenario allowed, made for a great game.
Bruce Cordell: One of my most memorable experiences with D&D was the first time I saw it played. During one summer Boy Scout camp when I was a kid, I watched with slack-jawed awe as the older scouts huddled around a lantern-lit picnic table playing D&D. An ogre was eating dwarves like a cartoon cat eats a fish, throwing the denuded skeletons behind him into a large pile. The PCs looked on, worried that they were next. It was beyond anything I had ever imagined that I could interact with. I was instantly hooked.
Chris Perkins: My most memorable experience is Dungeon Mastering a series of podcasts and live games for “Acquisitions Incorporated” (Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins of Penny Arcade, Scott Kurtz of PvP, and Wil Wheaton). When you get four incredibly funny people around a game table, you never know what will happen. Also, those games have earned me a shit ton of fan mail. Every week I get emails from people who’ve told me they learned how to play D&D by watching and listening to those games, and that makes me happy.
Chris Perkins looks back fondly on the chance to DM for this group of geek celebrities.
James Wyatt: I’ve been playing this game consistently since 1979, so I have lots and lots of fond memories. I have almost always played with good friends, so my memories of the game are closely bound up with memories of my friends: playing out at my friend Paul’s lake house in high school and the strange things we ate, taking the subway into Brooklyn while I was in seminary in Manhattan to play with my old friends, making new friends in Ohio and Wisconsin and California as I moved around and found new gaming groups, and so on.
After college, my high school friends and their college friends started up a shared-world, multi-DM, ongoing campaign set in the first-century Roman Empire, largely because of the fact that one friend and I had (independently) done significant college work focusing on that era. But I’d have to say my most memorable experiences center around teaching my son how to play. The moment he narrated to me how a ghost’s tears flowed down her incorporeal body to form a sword in her hands, I got chills and knew I’d done something right.