Going back to Keep on the Borderlands being part of my experience when I first starting playing D&D, the Caves of Chaos were the first dungeon that I ever ran anyone through.
|This map brings back memories, but it’s missing the pencil marks and crayon|
The memories are pretty hazy about how it actually went down, but I do know that at the time we didn’t have any real concept of “out of character” knowledge. Having run through the map so many times when we were playing D&D “wrong”, my singular player knew everything pretty well – where the orcs were, where the treasure was, where the secret doors were. It was a total cake-walk, but the one thing that was different were the interactions with NPCs and monsters. I now had the notion that the other characters were supposed to be played….that they could take their own actions, that the PCs could talk to them. It wasn’t Oscar-winning stuff, but it was something. This, combined with following examples from the rulebook, meant that not every monster was necessarily fought – some were tricked, some were avoided (because before we thought you had to go to every room in number order – true story!). Playing D&D right also meant that now characters were leveling up, and started us down the path of maintaining some kind of continuity. Since I was writing a lot at the time, I think this was the beginning of writing down our character’s adventures as fiction, as well as taking various D&D modules and writing fictional accounts of other characters.
But the one thing that looking back at all of this has reminded me is that we really did play to have fun, rules-be-damned. There wasn’t any kind of “Well, even when I was eight years old we role-played and we did everything right.” Fuck no…we played using OOC knowledge, had totally stupid implausible things happen, fudged die rolls, and did damn near everything that most adults (even me) would consider “bad gaming.” And we had a blast doing it.