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  • Writer's pictureJeb Brack

The Best GM I Never Had

I don't remember the first time I played Dungeons & Dragons. Isn't that funny? A game that became an integral part of my life and self, and I can't remember my first time. I'm sure it was in junior high, and I'm sure that my friends introduced me to it. I'm sure we played this:

...because I asked for this game as a gift and received it soon after. But I don't remember that first game at all.

I do remember that my Dungeon Masters ran adventures typical of 12- and 13-year-old males, with lots of treasure, arguing over rules, and PC-on-PC violence. (We killed Bo's thief, cut him into little bit, and used the bits to test the different pools found in module B1. Sorry, Bo. That was a dick move.)

I remember learning that a Dungeon Master could do more than that. See, that book up there was edited by a guy named Eric Holmes, a doctor and medical school professor who got into role-playing right on the ground floor (or first level, if you will). In November of 1980, Dr. Holmes published an article in Psychology Today (Vol. 14, No. 6) entitled, "Confessions of a Dungeon Master", in which he told gaming stories and described the psychological benefits of the fucked-up actions of his players. I used this article for my primary research in a school project, but more than that, I read and re-read this article, absorbing every detail of Holmes' solutions to the problems his players posed him.

Dr. John Eric Holmes passed away in 2010, so I never got the chance to game with him, but to this day I remember the last scene from his article, in which a paladin character, faced with certain death, prays to his deity for aid. In 1st edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, the base chance for divine intervention was 1 out of 100, or 00 on percentile dice. The player rolled a 99. An angel appeared unto the paladin and whisked him to safety, saying:

"There. Now keep your nose clean."

Thank you, Dr. Holmes, and thank you, angel. I'll try.

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