The Sumberton Campaign
By Daneen McDermott
I didnt work on the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons, but while I was continuity manager for Magic: the Gathering, my cube was smack dab in the middle of RPG country. I was privy to a lot of the info and excitement going around in relation to the new rules. As someone who once played D&D and AD&D (I started in the early eighties) but moved on to other (more skill-based) systems, I frankly was excited about what I was hearing about "3E."
I got my chance to try it out in January 2000. Editor David Noonan wanted to put together a campaign setting that would test out some of the new 3rd edition rules. Trouble was, everybody in the company was running evening games to try out the new system -- so all the cool conference rooms at Wizards were taken. Creative director Ed Stark kindly offered his house, since he lived just up the hill from the office. Dave Gross (editor of Dragon magazine) and I were recruited, along with then-newly-hired designer James Wyatt. Thus, a new weekly gaming group started.
This game was very different from my old AD&D games. Back then, wed sprawl across couches all over the room, no miniatures, no tables (except a small one for the DMs notes), and no worries about where everything and everybody was in relation to each other. In contrast, David had been a longtime wargamer -- used to miniatures representing everything. Ed had two large tables set up together, half a dozen chairs surrounding them, a huge square battlemat grid taking up most of the table space, and dozens of painted miniatures showcased in a lighted glass display case. It didnt take very long into play before I realized what a benefit the miniatures and grid really were. Im sure Ill never go back to that casual style of play.
David not only wanted to set up a world to test out the new rules for cover and movement, but he wanted to create a dynamic environment -- a place where things happen around the player characters, whether the PCs cause them or not; where the conditions of the battle may change after the battle had begun; someplace with lots of atmosphere. Many NPCs were given completely different agendas, establishing lots of plot elements in which our characters could take an interest. When he started building the world, David didn't know which thread we might follow in his rich tapestry, and therefore had no idea where the story might end.
About the Author
Daneen McDermott is a freelance puzzle and game designer who lives south of Seattle with her husband, an overgrown dog, and three little minions of her own. She has played D&D for almost 20 years, and has a fanatical fascination with games and toys (especially Lego bricks). She was until very recently the continuity manager for Magic: the Gathering.