They say you never forget your first. That’s true for pretty much all great things. In this case I’m referring to my very first DM, my cousin, Cory. It’s Dungeon Master Appreciation Month and I’m writing a series of articles in which I express my appreciation for some of the very best DMs I’ve ever had the good fortune to play with. So far the DMs I’ve featured have all been friends; this time the DM in question is family which makes the relationship that much more important and significant.
When talking about the very best DMs I know I would be remiss if I didn’t express my appreciation to DM Cory for introducing me to role-playing games and Dungeons & Dragon in particular. He is the DM by which I measure all others, and even though we haven’t played D&D together in almost 20 years, he is still the DM I consider to be my all-time favourite.
When I was young I’d spend the summers with my cousins. My eldest cousin, Cory, was four years older than me and the one we all looked up to and tried to emulate. If he liked something his brothers and I liked it too. If he thought something was cool, so did we. So when Cory and his friends got into role-playing games it was only natural that the rest of us did too. In retrospect my childhood could have been very different if my elder cousin had more dangerous or inappropriate hobbies. Fortunately his love of D&D and comic books led me down a path that I’m still walking upon to this day.
For many years the only time I got to play D&D was when I was visiting my cousins for the summer. It was five years later that I finally acquired my own D&D hardcover rule books and started teaching my friends about the wonder and excitement that came from playing RPGs. Since I was the one who owned the books and I was the only one who had played before, the role of DM fell to me naturally. For years when I was the DM I would ask myself how would DM Cory handle this. He left a very strong impression on my youthful self and I’d like to think that my DM style reflects his in the most flattering ways.
Fast forward to 1995. I was 21 years old and attending university. While away from home I found like-minded gamers and formed a new gaming group to satisfy my gaming itch. Unfortunately all my gaming friends left for home during the summer while I did not. However, this was the summer that my cousin Cory and his wife unexpectedly moved to the city where I was going to school. I’d found another gamer who wanted to play as badly as me over the summer and would do anything to make it work.
For the better part of three months DM Cory and I played D&D every single day (well, every night to be more accurate). With only two people we had to figure out how to make it work. Cory had the brilliant idea to alternate between player and DM. We each made a character and while the other person was the DM the player would run both characters. This worked remarkably well.
As the summer progressed we learned what worked and what didn’t, and we refined our approach. Each DM would have one week to run their part of the ongoing adventure. After that we’d switch roles. We found that if one person was the DM too long it wasn’t as much fun for either person.
When I was playing I got to flesh out my PC and decide what changes to make when he levelled up. I played DM Cory’s PC as best I could based on what I’d observed. This unique situation added a new element to the game because the player really had to make sure the DM understood his character. Not just to incorporate this PC into the evolving story, but to ensure that when he was playing the PCs the following week he’d be able to stay true to the characters.
One unexpected benefit was how much we were able to tweak the other person’s PC unintentionally, but for the better. DM Cory would see how I handled his PC when I was playing and then when it was his time to play he’d build on that even if he didn’t necessarily think that’s what the character would do. We helped each other really flesh out the PCs just by running them every other week. It happened to both of our PCs and it made them both better characters. It probably helped that we played so frequently. The details remained fresh and we were constantly thinking about the game and where it was heading next.
That summer was one of the best times of my life for so many reasons, and the gaming was certainly a major part of what made that time so memorable. Getting the opportunity to hang out with my cousin and play D&D almost every day was amazing. I was young, away from home, living on my own, and had few very responsibilities. The fun and freedom defined that summer for me and it wouldn’t have been the same if that D&D experience wasn’t so great. So to my cousin, DM Cory, I say thank you for being such a good friend and such a good DM. I often think back to that summer when Tool and Johnny made names for themselves as they traversed across the Forgotten Realms.
- D&D Party of One: Solo Adventuring (Part 1)
- D&D Party of One: Solo Adventuring (Part 2)
- D&D Party of One: Solo Adventuring (Part 3)