Changing the way players got experience for playing in RPGA events was a giant step forward, but what really kicked things into gear was the change in the events themselves.
A typical AD&D event not only had an adventure and character information for six players (a much better number than the ten that was used in the Open) but each character sheet had role playing information. I’m fairly sure early events were based on home campaigns and the characters were based on player characters in those campaigns. This gave players a chance to actually role play their characters instead of treating the events as miniatures events and simply plowing through a series of combats. Even better, some of the character descriptions started to tell players what their character knew about the other characters at the table, so players could role-play about something other than smashing the evil villains of the adventure.
I wanted to get adventures to run at the local game day as well as Contact, and the easiest way to do that appeared to be going to GenCon and running rounds of the RPGA events. The first time I remember doing that was at GenCon in the Summer of 1984 when there was a multi-round AD&D event named Needle. I spent a ton of time getting ready to run the adventure (many GMs didn’t even look at it before they sat down to run it), and possibly as a result I had a good time, my players had a good time, and at the very end I even got a “special” limited edition set of dice as a thank you for helping. The adventure was very role-playing intensive thanks to the writing of Frank Mentzer, and it set the bar for future events. I had played in some of Frank’s previous events, but as a result of the old experience basis and the non-interactive player characters they did not have the excitement at the table that Needle produced.
And from then on I was able to get RPGA AD&D events for the conventions in Evansville.
As more and more events were run at local conventions, players and judges built up enough experience points to advance to higher levels (player and judge points were separate). The only official recognition for gaining levels was a new membership card that showed the member’s new levels, but within a year the RPGA announced that at GenCon there would be a new first: master level events. Players in the masters level events would have to be at least level three, and judges would have to have at least three judging levels. There was a flurry of activity at smaller conventions in the Midwest as players struggled to get to the Masters level.
In hopes of getting more players to our conventions in Evansville I requested a Masters level event, and was told I could have one on one condition: I had to supply the event. And that, of course, meant I had to write one. By then I had written a few small one round events to use at the local conventions, but this was the first time I had to write something more important. In the Fall of 1985 I struggled my way through writing Misfits, and at Contact that year we had one of the first original Masters events at our convention.
The event was probably unlike anything ever done before. I had a plot, and then spent more time on the characters than the actual encounters. The local city was under siege, and the King called in six adventurers that he felt could be spared for a very important mission: he needed some perfume from a nearby town. Along the way the party that could be spared would run into and need to foil a special attack that would have doomed the city. It was the characters that made the adventure unusual:
a rogue, all of whose magical items were (unknown to the rogue) cursed
a very tired, weary, 65 year-old woman who was a very high level (I think tenth)
a gung-ho paladin with perfect stats (all 18) but who was only level 1, and therefore totally vulnerable to even first level spells
a cleric who had gone adventuring instead of performing a wedding and whose god therefore would not grant him any normal adventuring spells
I don’t even remember the other two, but somewhere there are five inch floppy diskettes with copies of them. The adventure was as much a voyage of discovery for the characters, but eventually most groups succeeded (it was a two round adventure).
Coming next: Living Cities
The Hollies stumbled after Graham Nash left the group, but they still managed a few hit records every two or three years afterwards. At one point after the hits were all gone they covered a song by Bruce Springsteen, but it wasn’t enough to get them back on the top of the charts. It was still a great song: