Tales from the Gazebo – Saying Goodbye to my 1st DM

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Saying Goodbye to my 1st DM
By Cape Rust

Last month the RPG world lost one of its most important assets, and didn’t even realize it. Last month the RPG world lost a gift giver. Last month the RPG world lost a husband, a son, a brother and a friend. Last month my first Dungeon Master died of a sudden and massive stroke. Edward Ames is not a name most of you will know, his isn’t a name that you should know, but everyone reading this article knows a person like him. He is that guy or gal that introduced you to the life-long hobby of table-top role playing games; he is that older sibling that probably only introduced you to RPGs because their friends were not available to play. As gamers I think it is hard to not remember your 1st DM, no matter how good or bad they were. Even if the memories are fuzzy and sometimes even very far from what actually happened, most gamers can reach back into the depths and remember that person who introduced them to the hobby or who ran their first game for them; for me Edward Ames was that person.

Edward was my friend, George Ames’ older brother. Actually, let me re-phrase that; Edward was my older brother from a different mother. I have been friends with George my entire life. His family was generous enough to take me on vacations with them and always treated me like one of their own. It was rare from 1st grade well into High School to not find George and I hanging out. Edward was 3 years older than George and I and in the same grade as my brother. Later in life, three years isn’t a huge difference, but as an elementary school kid, 3 years is the other side of the world. Well, like all relationships between siblings, George and I had an often tumultuous relationship with our older ”brother” Edward. Nothing too crazy, but in our minds, the mysterious things he did with his friends made them the enemy, to be avoided at all costs.

I think I was in third or fourth grade when Edward finally decided to run a D&D game for us. The game hadn’t been out too long (you still had to color your own dice) and George and I had wanted to play for a long time. I can remember getting hold of a set of dice and spending hours stacking them, rolling them and even imagining they were some type of alien currency when George and I were playing our sci-fi version of cowboys and Indians. I can vaguely remember Edward and his friends staying up into the wee hours of the morning, sitting at the kitchen table in their old house with stacks of books, dice, legal note pads and soda stained character sheets that had tons of boxes on them, even a shield shaped one that was labeled THAC0.

These sessions gained even more allure when painted miniatures were added to this chaotic and almost mystical mix. I can remember just looking over the cluttered table in wonderment, not really knowing what was going on, but wishing I could be a part of it. Well the day finally came when Edward consented to run a game for us. There is so much of that first session I don’t remember, we could have been defending the Keep on the borderlands, but I’m not sure. I do remember creating my first character and having no clue what was going on. I didn’t even know what a Cleric was, until I rolled one up. So much of that evening is a blur, but I will never forget how great it felt to off my first enemy and how much of a rush it was being able to heal fellow party members.

There we were at the table, that coveted place that we had seen but never been able to sit at during game time. That first game, and what I’m guessing were the extensive explanations of rules and how RPGs actually worked, lasted until the dawns early light and as tired as my small self must have been, I can only remember being hooked and wanting more. That first game session wasn’t a fluke; Edward was kind enough to run several more for us, but I always wanted more. Soon Edward introduced us to other games, like Boot Hill and James Bond 007. I loved every chance I got to game; I can remember trips to Port Aransas, Texas with the Ames family and getting the chance to game with George and Edward and whomever Edward brought with him. I remember games of Space 1889 and Paranoia, but we always came back to D&D and, if memory serves, I always played that same Cleric (Manus) when we played D&D.

When you are young, you try lots of different hobbies; some of them stick and some don’t. You never really know how long those hobbies that stuck will stick around. I never knew that my first game of D&D run by Edward Ames would turn into a life-long hobby. I had no Idea that even with gaps in my role-playing career that it would always be something I would always go back to, my default setting. I couldn’t have known how many life-long friends I would make slaying dragons and crushing kobolds. You can never predict things like this, but if it hadn’t been for Edward Ames, not only would my life be different, it wouldn’t be as rich. After that night there were still fights between George and Edward, and I would always take Georges’ side; but no matter how bad things got, when it came time to game, all past transgressions, real or imagined, were forgotten. There is more magic in D&D than unwavering missiles.

The foundation that Edward Ames laid is why I’m writing this tribute today. It is because of people like Edward Ames that people write article after article about what they have learned from playing RPGs. As I write this, I can look back at that first D&D game on that kitchen table as a turning point in my life. I won’t go into all of the benefits that being a gamer had in my life, but the list is long. There is a good chance I would have been introduced to gaming by someone else, maybe even my own real life brother, but that wasn’t the case. Edward Ames introduced me not only to D&D but to entire universes full of excitement, adventure and even danger.

I doubt Edward ever knew the impact he had on my life, not just as a gamer but as a person. Edward always marched to the beat of his own drum and did so without fear. He was passionate about the causes he backed and had a level of intellect that enabled him to do something positive for those causes. Edward Ames was one of those guys that everyone liked, he was never a leader but people would do well to have followed his example. Edward Ames was clever and creative, however he never lorded it over anyone. He loved others with the same passion and dedication he put towards the causes he championed.

I remember my last conversation with Edward Ames much better than I remember that life changing game that he ran for George and me. I was visiting the store that their family runs, Edward took the time to step away from one of the many projects he was working on to come over and catch up with me. I can clearly see the genuine interest he had in hearing about what was going on in my life and I could hear the passion in his voice as he caught me up on his life. I mentioned that I was writing for Roleplayers Chronicle and I was able to thank him for getting me into Role Playing Games, we discussed some of the new systems and styles of games that are being released. Edward lamented that these days he seldom had time for things like RPGs and that when he had time, none of his old gaming buddies where around to game with.

Hearing that saddened me, but for most adult gamers that always seems to be the case. I told him that we should sit down some time and get a session or two in, for old times’ sake; Edward smiled and nodded his head and hesitated. In that brief moment of hesitation I saw a wistful look in his eyes. Reflecting back on that moment, that now precious moment in time, I can only hope that wistful look was Edward Ames reliving some of his best gaming memories.

Last month a massive stroke took away not just a son, husband and brother from a different mother, last month that same damned stroke took away my gaming father, my first DM. I will never get that last game with Edward Ames; he will never know the kind of gamer that I’ve turned into. As silly as it may sound, I hope that I can live up to the legacy that he established. I have done my best to introduce new players to the game; I have tried my best to be the kind of DM that will hopefully elicit some of these memories in the people who have been in my games. No matter how hard I try, I will never be as good as Edward Ames. I’ll never be as good as Edward Ames because for me to excel I have to think about it, I have to make a conscious effort. For Edward Ames it is just what he did, it was part of his nature and even if he sat us down at that table out of sheer boredom, he sat us down, and took the time to teach me what has become a life-long hobby.

Even in death, Edward Ames gave; his organs were donated so that others could live, even if only for a few more days. The gift that he has given me has allowed me to slay dragons, set sail into space in the 1800s, participate in the gun fight at the OK Corral and be a secret agent. For those memories and all of the non-gaming memories I will be eternally grateful. Edward you failed your saving throw, but in the end you were and always will be a confirmed critical success. Last month my 1st DM died…….

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