The voice behind the filing cabinet

Here’s a fascinating series of posts documenting the experience of playing D&D with Mike Mornard, AKA “Old Geezer,” who himself once played at Gary Gygax’s game table in the earliest days of D&D. There are all sorts of interesting anecdotes about how Gygax played D&D. For example, here’s a story that sounds almost too awesome to be true:

Mike gave a fascinating account of a typical early D&D game, with a peculiar detail that I’d never heard before. Gary never used maps or minis: maps and minis were Dave Arneson’s thing. Gary ran games in his office, which was provided with chairs, a couch, and file cabinets. While playing, Gary would open the drawers of the file cabinet and sit behind them so that the players COULD NOT SEE HIM. They only experienced the Dungeon Master as a disembodied voice.

It’s too perfect—the idea of playing D&D while the gamemaster hunches unseen behind a filing cabinet making his pronouncements like a low-budget Wizard of Oz. The account goes on to describe such experiences as tense and almost fearful for the players:

During games, cross-talk was discouraged: the party caller did most of the talking, and other players only talked if they had something to contribute. If the players chattered too much, they’d miss what the Disembodied Voice was saying, and that would be, as Mike put it, “suicide”. “You could feel the tension in the room,” he added.

When Wizards of the Coast reprints the original AD&D rulebooks this April, I’m hoping to run an old-school game or two to celebrate. But I don’t think I’m willing to haul the filing cabinet into the gameroom just so I can hide behind it while GMing, as tempting as it is.

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1 thought on “The voice behind the filing cabinet

  1. Michele (your wife)

    I wonder if the filing cabinet ever fell over from all the drawers being out at once. That would have added some drama!

    (Yes, a filing cabinet did fall on me once for that reason. No, that is not what’s wrong with me.)

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