With eleven days to go, before our GDQ1-7 campaign begins on Long Island, it's time for me to do what any self-respecting DM would do. Start reading the first few modules, from cover to cover. Then re-read them a 2nd and 3rd time.
What better way to prepare?
This coming Saturday, I fly from New York to Nevada, for a week-long stay with family. While traveling, what better reading material could there be than the GDQ1-7 modules?
I'll take plenty of notes along the way too. As a DM, it's one thing to familiarize yourself with the source material. That's very important. But one mustn't stop there. One must also jot down all of the additional original story elements which will almost certainly come into play. I say almost certainly, because, let's face it, one never truly knows exactly which way the dice may fall (or exactly what the players will choose to do). That's the beauty of D&D. It's as much of an adventure for the DM as it is for the players.
This upcoming journey of mine will also be a good time for me to familiarize myself with all of the campaign notes that I've written. Seeing as the Gygax modules were grafted onto a campaign realm of my own design (called Benchleydale), there's more than a fair amount of backstory and drama. Benchleydale, by the way, for those of you keeping score at home, gets its name from Peter Benchley (a favorite author of mine) and Henry Wensleydale (a favorite Monty Python character of mine). That's not to say that this campaign will be part Jaws and part Cheese Shop sketch. It's just a bloody name. One mustn't read too much into it. Refreshing my memory on all things Benchleydale will be as much fun as reading the Gygax modules. It's been a year or so, since I last paid much attention to Benchleydale.
One thing about Benchleydale that really endears it to me, aside from the fact that I created it (ha ha), is the inclusion of the wizards' towers. Here's something which all DM's ought to consider adding to their campaigns. Benevolent and powerful wizard NPC's can be great fun, especially when they send the players on quests that involve a fair amount of travel. Benchleydale boasts three such wizards (a fire mage, an ice mage, and a shadow mage). Two of the wizards aren't very difficult to find. As for the third wizard, well, that's more of a mystery for the players. After all, everything can't be handed to them on a platinum platter, you know. My players would run me out of town. They deserve adventures which are challenging, fun, thought-provoking, and vibrant.
Another thing about Benchleydale that gets my blood pumping is the knowledge that there is a Deck Of Many Things hidden away somewhere there. That's always been a favorite magic item of mine. After all, who can resist busting out the Deck and pulling a card at any opportune moment? It ranks right up there alongside the Apparatus Of Kwalish and the Wand Of Wonder. As for the location of the Deck Of Many Things in Benchleydale, that must remain secret (just in case any of my players are reading this blog).
Are any of my players reading this blog, by the way? I wonder.
Ahem... A better question is... Why have I chosen the GDQ1-7 modules for this campaign?
That's a great question, actually. GDQ1-7 is widely regarded as the greatest D&D adventure ever published. Ahh, good old TSR. How I miss thee. It feels funny mentioning TSR nowadays, doesn't it? It's quaint. They haven't existed as a corporate entity since the turn of the century. WOTC saw to that, for better or worse. And Gygax himself was forced to leave the company way back in 1985. One can only imagine the heights TSR could have soared to, had Gygax remained at the helm.
My favorite things about the GDQ1-7 adventure are the variety of monsters (of course) and the cleverly-planted clues that the players will find along the way. Who is the mastermind behind the giants joining forces to attack Benchleydale? What do the drow have to do with all of this? What does it all mean? These are wonderful questions, one and all. The answers may or may not present themselves to the players. We'll just have to wait and see, won't we?