The latest episode of Wired’s Obsessed series profiles Robert Wardhaugh, the Dungeon Master of a D&D campaign that’s been running continuously since 1982. Most campaigns are lucky to last more than a few months, so making it to the 40-year mark is quite an achievement.
The focus of the video is on Wardhaugh’s setup, which takes up the entire basement of a house he bought with this sizeable gaming area in mind. It’s got room for his collection of 30,000 or so miniatures, all of which he laboriously hand-painted (which is why the players aren’t allowed to touch them during play). He’s also got terrain to represent every conceivable part of his homebrew setting based on an alternate fantasy version of historical Earth—Wardhaugh is a history professor at Western University in London, Ontario, by day.
As well as a homebrew setting, he runs D&D with homebrew rules that evolved out of AD&D 1st edition. As Wardhaugh notes on the website for what he simply calls The Game, those rules have continued changing over the years and include new rules players have asked to have brought in from D&D’s 3rd, 4th, and 5th editions.
The campaign’s duration has made it dynastic, with players—of which there have been more than 50—playing the children of their previous characters over the course of generations. Permadeath is embraced, and Wardhaugh says, “When your character dies, if you don’t have any other characters, you’re out of the game.” All told, he says “about 500 characters” have come and gone over the past 40 years.
Players have come and gone too, and his daughter has joined the group—asking to play as a fairy when she was six or seven and remaining on, still part of the group at the age of 20. Some players have moved away, but still fly in for the occasional session. Having this regular reason to hang out has helped hold his group of friends together, and that seems to be the main reason Wardhaugh’s still running D&D, four decades years after he started. “As long as I can keep doing it,” he says, “hopefully for all my life, I won’t lose my friends.”