The Dungeon Master: Chris Perkins helps guide D&D into new millenniumWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
You sit in the tavern of a village in a far away kingdom. You have been summoned here to meet someone — a man whose remarkable abilities you will need to guide you through the treacherous journeys that lie ahead. An individual whose ability to plan adventures and tell stories are legendary. Almost …magical, one could say.
The gentleman enters. He has a kind face and an easy smile, one that demonstrates just how much he enjoys his work. He carries with him a copy of the new “Dungeon Master’s Guide” — a book offering rules and advice to those who want to spin yarns as deftly as he does. His name is Chris Perkins, he says, but you (and the world) know him better the Story and World-Building Lead for Wizards of the Coast — the company that brings you (and the world) Dungeons and Dragons.
“When I was 10 years old, I walked into a corner store with a friend and saw two copies of the first-edition Monster Manual on a shelf near a magazine rack,” Perkins said in an interview with Toledo Free Press. “I leafed through the book and was blown away by the art and the mythological elements. I didn’t have the money to buy it right away, so I returned about a week later. Luckily, there was one copy left. The text was incomprehensible to me, since I didn’t own or know the rules of the Dungeons & Dragons game, but that didn’t stop me from spending many days poring over its contents.”
You order your new friend a pint of dwarven ale, not that his boundless enthusiasm needs any encouragement. Perkins clearly has a firm belief in how great roleplaying games — such as the ones he oversees at Wizards of the Coast — can impart to their players an experience like no other.
“For me, it comes down to fun storytelling,” he said. “Humans have been telling stories to one another pretty much from the time they developed language. RPGs are about creating stories and exploring the limits of one’s imagination. I still remember my first D&D character and the time he was killed and eaten by giant ants. It happened more than three decades ago, but the story has stuck with me over the years.”
Perkins tells you how he began running games for his friends shortly after he first fell in love with D&D — playing campaigns based on adventures published by then-D&D owners TSR, Inc. But soon Perkins yearned to tell his own tales, ones that burst forth from his own imagination, rather than ones tethered to someone else’s script. His first original adventures were primitive — enter room, fight monster, get treasure, etc. But soon his experience and talent grew — and would give Perkins his foot in the door of professional.
“In 1985, I saw an ad in Dragon magazine requesting adventure proposals for a new adventures-only magazine that TSR was starting up. I bought a subscription and started to mail in my ideas. Eventually, one idea caught the eye of Roger E. Moore, the magazine’s editor, and he requested a complete manuscript. The manuscript was ultimately rejected, but I kept sending him ideas and manuscripts. The magazine, Dungeon, became my portal into the world of publishing. I finally wrote an adventure that Roger liked, and he published it in issue #11.”
It was just the first step, Perkins tells you, the twinkle in his eye becoming more pronounced. You wonder if he’s part-elf, but your perception roll is inconclusive. In 1997, Perkins became the editor of “Dungeon” magazine himself. Soon he became editor-in-chief of all Wizards of the Coast periodicals.
“When I joined Wizards in 1997, it was a young, privately held company. Wizards was enjoying the success of Magic: The Gathering and had just acquired Dungeons & Dragons from TSR, so it was a very exciting time. In addition, Wizards created jobs for many former TSR employees, so I quickly found myself surrounded by people whose work I’d admired for years. The blending together of Wizards and TSR happened naturally, as everyone had a genuine passion for games and for the D&D brand.”
That passion has continued for the past 17 years, through countless expansions and several new editions of the core D&D experience (the aforementioned Dungeon Master’s Guide is the third such volume to be released just for D&D’s latest edition). And as this man — this legendary Dungeon Master — stands from the table, it’s clear he believes the greatest adventures are yet to come.
“We can help the game by offering other forms of D&D entertainment such as board games, video games, comic books, and novels and creating D&D stories that entice people whether or not they’re hardcore gamers,” Perkins said. “Just as the Marvel movies can fuel wider interest in Marvel characters and comics, so too can different expressions of the D&D brand lead people to discover and fall in love with the roleplaying game. We’ve discovered that most people who actually sit down to play the game fall in love with it, and that the stories and friendships that emerge from their experiences playing the game last a lifetime.”