If any one person is responsible for my life’s obsession with fantasy roleplaying it is Dale.
I had already become hooked on the solo Fighting Fantasy books by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone and it may well have been me that introduced them to Dale – those days are too far past for a clear memory. But it was certainly Dale that first picked up the Fighting Fantasy book that broke the mold. It was a book where you actually needed a Games Master. I can remember my initial confusion as I struggled to grasp the concept.
We were probably about nine or ten years old.
The rest was inevitable. We progressed through various different games, initially with Dale as GM and occasionally with others joining us, but it was not long before we discovered the famed Dungeons & Dragons ‘Red Box’ and later the World of Greyhawk and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st ed.). I took over as Dungeon Master and we began exploring the Greyhawk. By this time it was likely 1987 (or 545 CY) and we trod the paths of the various editions of both D&D and Greyhawk.
Dale’s first character was a fighter by the name of K-os Bloodsword. He initially lived up to his name causing havoc in the Known World but he made the transition to Greyhawk and lived up to his violently chaotic life largely in the Perrenland, Yatil Mountains and the Lands of the Wolf Nomads.
K-os was a wild man, Chaotic-Neutral to the extreme! He haunted Dale and myself through our early days of power-gaming and was at one time a King, owned multiple artifacts, created a race of super-being slaves, and regularly threw many a game way off the tracks. But K-os remains a legend and his many children continue his legacy in the Perrenland to this day.
Flesh Darkshade was Dale’s second character. Flesh was a ranger who displayed the rare talent of not offending and/or killing other PC’s (mostly Matthew’s). A short-lived character, Flesh died in combat against a pit fiend in the Perrenland.
Destro was Dale’s 1st Edition, Unearthed Arcana barbarian. I remember enforcing character creation rules at the time and Destro was actually the third incarnation. Unsatisfied with his previous attempts at rolling up a barbarian tough enough for his liking, Dale had his first and second versions take on terrible foes in desperate attempts to kill them and start over afresh.
This involved an intense and detailed research project on Dale’s part into the probabilities of each of my many d6’s. Including rolling each one hundred times, recording and analyzing the results in a lengthy catalog, before the knives and files came out to shave the odd dice here and there, and (ambitiously) adding a few extra white spots with some Tip-Ex Correction Fluid!
Once finally underway, Destro took full advantage of the Experience Points gained for destroying magical items, much to the rest of the party’s chagrin. This culminated in a trip to the Hellfurnace Mountains where the barbarian destroyed the Orb of the Eternal Grand Dragon. Destro finally died in combat against a vampire in the Duchy of Ulek, not far from the pass through the mountains north of Tringlee. He need not have died, but barbarians needed such high amounts of experience in those days, and Dale became so depressed after a level drain or two, that his PC made the ultimate sacrifice for the party.
Scintilla Galahad was perhaps Dale’s finest character, certainly his most infamous, and still the most influential on the game today. A paladin of Heironeous, Scintilla led a party of mostly paladins and Lawful Good clerics. We were playing 2nd Edition by then, and Scintilla made his name in the ruins of Castle Greyhawk and beneath the streets of the city where our final campaign was set. But the paladin was flawed. His heroic public face was a facade. In truth, the man was steadily falling from grace due to his continued pursuit of his own glory, and his diminishing sanity.
Scintilla established a castle south of Greyhawk City shortly before the end. That castle, Talonkeep, would become a campaign base for many different PCs for years to come. Scintilla himself met a grisly end at the claws of a green dragon in the Suss Forest.
Dale’s last PC was an evil work of art and the greatest headache any DM could ever be expected to endure. A neutral-evil half-elven bard, Rathnar had only one friend: his equally evil companion Hath Sulmari (a transmuter). Between them the pair would rarely complete any adventure, preferring instead to assassinate their various companions and steal their magical treasure. As their horde grew so too did their power. Never, before or since, did I roll up so many NPCs!
But they met with a just fate. While attempting to steal a deck of many things from Talonkeep, magically disguised as the castle’s new lord they were discovered. In panic they both drew from the deck and both drew the ‘Death’ card. Consequently, they were both forced to fight a grim reaper devil. Both were, of course, slain.
I have great memories of classic gaming moments too many mention with Dale. His wildly inventive ideas and infectious humor just added to the fun. Even his occasional and blatant disregard for the rules were fun, and I still laugh when I remember the tales he would spin when caught red-handed (“You’ll see, I can explain everything! There was this huge spider – the biggest fucker you ever saw – and it landed right on my lap. It scared the shit out of me, I jumped so high that my foot just caught the edge of the book and accidentally flipped it open to this page!”)
Dale left our game shortly after Matthew had joined. This was nothing personal – even considering the fate of so many of Matthew’s early characters – I believe it was when he moved overseas to Greece and we lost contact for far too long.
Regardless, his legacy and that of his characters remains. A legacy that was once more picked up for a time when Dale returned to the City of Greyhawk and to the Hawk’s Death Play-by-Email game that I ran from 2001 for several years, bringing his own unique brand of role-playing talent to the game.