Talk of the Game Master’s Guide led us to reminisce about our very first time GMing. We gathered some of our favorite memories (and a few of the ones we lie awake remembering) to share with you, dear reader. Got one of your own? Tell us in the comments!
The first time I ever ran a game, I used a module. I was running it 100% exactly as laid out and written. I had no idea I was allowed to make modifications or that I could ad-lib or make adjustments on the fly. Which meant that I absolutely destroyed the entire party with a very unbalanced encounter. That TPK made me so anxious that it took another 5 years before I would run another game! —Amber Seger, Project Manager
My first time GMing was in the 10th grade. I had found my dad’s ’81 Basic Rules set the year before and finally got a group together. My first dungeon was scribbled on a piece of office paper and the big draw was goblins and a precipitous pit trap. They party explored some dank caverns, killed a few goblins, then everyone died after triggering the pit trap. Early D&D was savage, man.—Chris Wright, Customer Service Associate
Gamma World. 6th grade. I did not understand the rules. I just loved the post-apocalypse vibe and wanted to DO IT. I gave the party six warbots, which in fantasy terms, is like giving them each an adult dragon. The only way I could think to challenge them was to give opponents even more warbots. It was a surprisingly warbot-heavy post-apocalypse.
—Jeff Quick, Senior Editor
I was a “by the seat of my pants” DM even in my early days. I’ll never forget how my players got tired of me saying “all of a sudden” to signal a scene change—to the point that they threatened to pelt me with foam bricks if I did. I was pretty good for an hour, but it came time to spring a random encounter on them. “All of a sudden, a dinosaur appears ahead of you on the path!” They buried me in foam. I am still to this day conscious of never saying “all of a sudden” in DMing situations.
—Jeremiah Tolbert, Web Developer
My first time GMing was in desperation to play because I didn’t know anyone when I moved to Atlanta. So I learned to GM and wrangled a bunch of unsuspecting actors from my internship. Then I over-prepped for them to spend all their time debating the right direction on a map and whether or not the innocent townspeople could be trusted. They never trusted those townspeople. Not even in the end.
—Dot Steverson, Marketing Director
My first time GMing was The Keep on the Borderlands adventure. My mom had recently gotten the D&D starter box for me (the one with little cardboard chits with numbers printed on them instead of dice), and I was both fascinated and clueless. I remember laying the map of the caves on the inside of the cover down on the floor like a board game, and then my friends and I just kind of moved imaginary figures around the map as I read each new encounter and played out what happened.
—Marc Radle, Art Director
My first time GMing was when I was 10 years old. I had created my own world on some graph paper and filled it with all the monsters in the 2e Monstrous Manual that I thought were super cool and/or I hadn’t encountered before as a player in my parents’ games. In their first mission, I sent them to retrieve an item from a crabman cave. I had this epic fight planned in a sea cave with a missing ceiling where water and sunlight dripped down on the crabmen in the center (based on a picture of a cave I saw in a National Geographic magazine). My ever-clever parents avoided the encounter with logic. “We’re in darkness and they’re standing in sunlight. If you’re in light, you can’t see into the darkness. So they can’t see us, but they might hear us. dice rolls” Spoilers: the crabmen didn’t hear them.
—Meagan Maricle, Senior Developer
My first time GMing was around age 12, running a small encounter in a village called Hommlet, for two players who each ran two characters (one with a wizard and fighter PC). I seem to remember the giant frog was a lot tougher than it sounded, and the dice were . . . not very sharp-edged. The experience system was a mystery to me, but the monster books were like a treasure trove! I spent a lot of time drawing maps on graph paper and trying to figure out movement rules.
—Wolfgang Baur, Kobold-in-Chief
It was either late grade school or early junior high and I had some friends over to spend the night. I was going to kick off my very first full campaign for them using a rural location on the World of Greyhawk map. Unfortunately, I had not taken sufficient time to prep for this and didn’t have the adventure truly ready—just some half-baked ideas and the beginnings of a map. Undaunted, I started the evening, had them travel 600 miles with many random encounters along the way, and informed them their horses died because they hadn’t specifically told me they were feeding them. They finally arrived at the site but only got through a few rooms of the tomb, none of which had any combat encounters, because I was so busy describing the archaeological efforts they were making to unearth the thing. It was an inauspicious start to my DMing career. . . .
—Thomas M. Reid, Editorial Director
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