This D&D campaign has been running for 40 years

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This 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 (opens in new tab) 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."

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games (opens in new tab). He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun (opens in new tab), The Big Issue, GamesRadar (opens in new tab), Zam (opens in new tab), Glixel (opens in new tab), Five Out of Ten Magazine (opens in new tab), and Playboy.com (opens in new tab), whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.