My Greatest Gaming Memory

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…

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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.

tomb_of_the_lizard_kingClive 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. 

What’s Yours?

So that’s my greatest gaming memory. What’s yours?

Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “My Greatest Gaming Memory

  1. The memory(-ies) that carry the most laughter around the table were of my brother running Paranoia, circa 1985, for our high-school group. He had props (primarily a rubber chicken), impolite jokes, musical accompaniment (“Ride of the Valkyries” for Vulture Squadron’s appearance), and for a GM screen, he used a science-fair backdrop for his “Ultraviolet Screen of Fear and Ignorance”. The session was belly-achingly funny, and occasionally still referenced today.

  2. Here’s one of my funniest memories …

    We were playing in an Oriental Adventures (AD&D) campaign (I loved that book!). I was playing a hengeyokai (a race of animal shape shifters from asian myth) … a monkey hengeyokai to be exact …

    Anyway, our party was in some huge cavern deep under a Shogun’s castle in the middle of a giant battle. My monkey hengeyokai, who at that moment was in his hybrid form (half human, half monkey) was up on a ledge shooting arrows. I needed to get down to the floor but it was pretty far down. Then I remembered that I had recently found a cool black Cloak of the Bat type of magic item. I announced I was using my Cloak to fly down …

    All my friends stopped and looked at me, grins spreading across their faces.

    “Wait,” one of my friends said slowly, “your character is a half human, half monkey, right?”

    “Um, yeah …”

    “And you just sprouted giant bat wings?” another friend continued

    “Well … yeah …”

    At that point they all started laughing, chanting the flying monkey music from the Wizard of Oz and saying ‘Fly, my pretties!’

    It must have been a half hour before we could get back to the actual battle.

    From that point on, I could never use that cloak without my friends breaking into the flying money song …

    Sigh … good times …

  3. and here’s one of my best gaming memories …

    Around that same time period (as in AD&D era), my best friend Jason’s parents owned a boat. It wasn’t quite a yacht, but it was sure close! One weekend, Jason’s parents invited all of us (the same group from the ‘flying monkeys’ story, in fact ) to spend the weekend on the boat, which was as awesome as it sounds!

    Anyway, on Saturday, they decide to take the boat from the yacht club in Baltimore down the coast of the bay to Annapolis so we could spend the day there.

    So, while Jason’s parents were up top steering the boat, we were down in the boat’s living room, playing D&D. That’s right, for probably 3 hours or so, we lounged on comfy chairs and sofas around a glass coffee table, in a nice living room on an almost-yacht, the breeze from the bay gently blowing through the windows, and an amazing view of the water and the boat’s wake from out the sliding glass door that lead out onto the back deck … playing through the classic Tome of Horrors module!

    It was probably the greatest, most awesome afternoon of D&D ever 🙂

  4. Well, I’m not sure if this is my absolute favorite memory from gaming (there are quite a few memorable moments!), but one sticks out in my mind. It was summer and thus I and some friends were in the midst of a school break. I was running a homebrew setting, a basic dungeon delving bit for sake of clearing out some monsters, getting some playing experience, and so forth.

    In the dungeon was a particular alcove, in which was set a massive pair of oaken double doors. Upon hearing the description of the doors and such, one of the guys announced rather bravely that he was going to go up to the doors and knock!

    :: palm to forehead ::

    Are you sure?

    Yes, he was sure. And he proceeded to go up to the doors and hammer on them a pair of times with the butt of his dagger.

    Moments later, the doors swung open mightily. The character took d6 damage for getting slammed / caught between the heavy door and the rock wall of the alcove. in the same instant, a great manticore came soaring out of the room, jumping over the group to land in the hallway behind them where it took up a fighting stance.

    As it did so, the manticore proceeded to defecate upon several of the characters!

    The fighting was intense but they survived. However, for the rest of that dungeon delve, there was (gasp!) a rather high number of wandering monster encounters … monsters who’d come out to see what that most foul of stenches was that was passing by in the hallway!

    It was a great time and one that I’ll never let them live down!