This was the first pre-written adventure that I ever ran. It was back in around ’90, and making a special guest appearance were some older kids I knew, who also roleplayed, but with whom I’d never played. We used AD&D 1st Ed, because one of my friends’ parents had played 10 or so years before and pooled all their books in one place, so we had access to pretty much the complete 1st Ed library. We also had access to the core 2nd Ed books, but they seemed too complex, without any benefit, so we didn’t use them.
We played, I think, on a Sunday afternoon after Sunday School, though it may possibly have been a Saturday morning after Cricket. I’m hazy on the specifics, but those were the occasions I DMed. We otherwise used to “play” advanced Fighting Fantasy or Lone Wolf solo adventures at lunchtimes, with a Basic D&D game that someone else ran on Friday afternoons as a “clubs” thing. I’m a bit mystified as to how it worked out that way, but it did.
I actually don’t remember many details about what happened, or the layout of the dungeon. I couldn’t even swear as to which players were there exactly, from the ill-formed kind of nebula of potential gamers I knew at the time.
What I do remember, even as the DM, was a sense of unpredictable adventure at that stage it was totally unclear to me how the game would unfold, what exactly would happen. The unknowns were very much unknown, as the concept of preparing in advance had occurred to me only in the loosest sense: I was very much exploring the dungeon alongside the players.
Actually, more profoundly, I wasn’t even sure what the possibilities were. Not merely whether they’d win a fight, or whether there would be 6 goblins or only 2. The actual events that might happen, the things that might be found – I just had no idea. Anything, anything at all, seemed entirely possible if not actually, in fact, likely. Very likely.
In some ways, I think that’s probably the most important thing about fantasy gaming. It’s not really swords, or monsters, or Wizards, or Ancient Treasurers, or Pirates, or any of those very important and interesting thing. It’s the search for the unknown, for the undiscovered, for that boundless sense of impossible wonder and delight. An impossible wonder and delight, it might be wistfully added, which was never quite as marvellous to experience as we remember, and as ephemeral as a mayfly, but nevertheless, this is the idea at the heart of the whole fantastic enterprise. Every time I sit down at the table to be a hero again, I want to save the world, of course I do – but more importantly, I want to be awed and astonished; and inspired.
In some senses, the whole exercise now is truly as well as literally chasing the dragon – the ultimate symbol of imaginative power.