The DM Screen

Who remembers this?

DM Screen (1999)

A throwback to my AD&D days, oh how glorious they were, the adventures, the battles, the atmosphere down in the dungeon err… basement. Back in 1999 this little Dungeons & Dragons adventure came with the Collector’s Edition of Diablo II, along with a set of dice, cardboard tile sets, Quest and Rules book, character sheets and of course, the Dungeon Master Screen!

I haven’t touched these in ages and only recently found them collecting dust in one of my old PC games boxes. I went and scanned in the original cardboard tiles, the character sheets and printed them so I can keep the originals unscathed as they are still in pristine condition, a miracle after all this time.

Of course, my son and I had to play! He had many questions! How does this work? Oh, imagination is a powerful thing! But how do you know where to go? How do you fight the monsters, who wins? How? What? Why? So many questions! And naturally, I again assumed the role of DM, a concept my son thought to be a “conflict of interest” with me being the dad and all and he wanted to be the DM but nay, son, first thou hast to complete thine quest!

And questing we did, he totally got into it and with the added fun of laying out the dungeon with the tile sets and the little tokens for heroes, monsters and treasure or traps he was fully immersed into the story, making his way to the Monastery of the Sightless Eye, carefully contemplating his every action, lest his little wee Necromancer would find an untimely end… after all, there have been frightening rumors of great evil surrounding the monastery!

Dungeon Layout for Quest 0

It was a great way to introduce role playing to my son, a passion of mine from my childhood, having played AD&D (or “Das Schwarze Auge” as it was called in German), Midgard and Mers and a bit of H├órn but mostly AD&D through endless nights together with friends, making lasting memories of candle wax dripping onto the carpet and mom shouting from above “DINNER IS READY!!!”, ah yes, the days when you couldn’t connect to the internet because … take note, there WAS no internet! Yes, yes. No Google. No Spotify. No nothing. We used MCs for ambience… true story.

And now? Well, I am looking forward to braving many more adventures again with my young apprentice, no internet needed either, although we may use it to stream some ambient music and use tablets or phones for digital character sheets and all that. One day, I am sure he will be the DM and go on adventures of his own with his friends, one day soon…

Asheron’s Call – The Talla’Karan Heart

It all began on a dark night… some 21 years ago that I would find myself in a heroic fantasy realm as a Gharu’ndim War Mage named Shai Ilu. Much fun we had, no manuals, no online guides, a confusingly mysterious spell system with scarabs, herbs and tapers where no one could figure out how to cast anything let alone an all powerful Acid Wave AoE spell, all except one player, who had unlocked that secret.

Knowledge was truly power in Asheron’s Call back then and it was coveted and only shared among initiates, which could mean winning a PvP battle or losing it, esp. if one from your own ranks betrayed you.

As with Ultima Online before Asheron’s Call had it all and then some, including dying to a mob somewhere out in the Gharu desert and then trying to find your corpse for hours so you could get back all your stuff, before anyone else had the chance to loot it. No corpse marker, no nothing. Just running around, searching sand dune after sand dune. I will never forget the moment I finally found it, with all the stuff still there. Maybe you can relate, if you only know today’s MMOs you maybe don’t. That’s OK. I wouldn’t want to do that again either.

I have stumbled across old screenshots and lo and behold also one of my stories that Microsoft published back then in 2001 on their now defunct Microsoft Zone Player Chronicles: The Talla’Karan Heart.

Here’s a screenshot of our guild headquarters on Thistledown, including our very own sparring dungeon.

Our Guild Headquarters on Thistledown, 2001

Oh yes, fun was had. While Asheron’s Call is no more since 2017, I would wager a remastered version would do quite well, esp. with all those remastered titles popping up left and right these days.

I have also found some old Ultima Online screenshots, but that’s for another time…