I’ve been gaming for more than three decades and in that time I’ve had an epic amount of fun (both as a player and a GM). Like you, I expect, certain moments stand out as particularly awesome. This is my greatest gaming memory…
It was 1989 (give or take a year) and I was 16 years old (ish). During the summer holidays me and my sister hosted a weekly Sunday game at our house. Luckily, my parents had a table tennis table (probably my greatest gaming table ever) and we used it for our games.
The table was immense and given this was the era of 1st edition and we were still at school we had a big group. There were about ten of us. I can’t remember everyone’s names now but certainly the group included me, my sister, her chum Caroline, Clive (the GM), Matthew, Jeremy, Tim and Tim.
Clive was running I2 Tomb of the Lizard King (a great module—spoilers ahead).
Things were going well. We’d found Sakatha’s lair hidden deep in the Rushmoors, forced its draconic guardian to flee and penetrated the place. We’d snuck and fought our way through three levels of dungeon and finally we stood at the door leading to Sakatha’s lair.
After final preparations, we kicked the door in. And then, things went horribly, terribly, catastrophically wrong. Sakatha and his chief minion—a powerful cleric—stood behind the door. Sakatha had a crystal ball in one hand; he’d been following our progress through the entire dungeon. Thus, they automatically got a surprise round…
Sakatha lobbed a fireball at us while his clerical minion dumped a flame strike on the main body of the party. After the smoke cleared, and saving throws were made, a stunned silence descended on the table. Only three of us remained standing: me (playing Vlondril a drow cleric*), Matt (a one-eyed gnome illusionist named Drelb) and Caroline (Jyra an elven wizard). We were so ready to get into melee with a vampiric lizardking wizard.
(*Don’t judge me. Good aligned drow were very cool at the time and I absolutely did not play a female drow for the spell-like abilities. It was for the roleplaying experience, I swear.)
So after the surprise round, us survivors were all badly injured and all our friends were dead or unconscious.
Mercifully, we won initiative.
And then things got even worse. We looked at each other, looked at the dead and the dying and decided to leg it. With a grin, Clive reached over his screen and grabbed the dungeon maps, “Durnam was carrying the maps and he’s dead” he laughed.
So there we were: three levels down in the depths of a large dungeon with no maps and precious few resources (and no meat shields). As we fled, Sakatha gave chase. Luckily, I had a staff of thunder and lightning, which we used to keep Sakatha at bay (and to open a few closed doors) as we heroically ran away. Eventually we made it out after several more close run-ins with the lizardking—all without a map. Of course, once we escaped the dungeon we were still lost in the depths of a trackless marsh and—you guessed it—Durnam had been carrying those maps as well. It took us weeks of game time to escape the marsh and make it back to Hochoch.
What’s notable to me is that my greatest gaming memory is—in effect—a complete disaster. If we’d kicked in the door and killed Sakatha, I doubt I’d even remember playing the module—I remember pretty much nothing else about it.
If I’ve learnt anything from the game it would be that a GM should not be afraid to make the game hard (not impossible, but hard). Your sense of achievement, after all, is directly proportional to how hard something is to achieve. Managing to flee the dungeon with no map and practically no resources was a great success. If Clive had let us keep the map, it would have been significantly easier—and way less memorable. (So thanks, Clive…sort of).
Also, adventurers: make copies of your maps.
So that’s my greatest gaming memory. What’s yours?