GROGNARDIA: Interview: Steve Winter:
A few people were playing Avalon Hill and SPI games, but most were gathered around a grad student who was maniacally sketching rooms and corridors and monsters on a blackboard. That was my introduction to D&D.
The DM at the blackboard was Corbin. Take away his glasses and shoes and he looked exactly like the centaur from the cover of the original Monster Manual. Corbin would stand in front of a blackboard like a professor and run enormous dungeon crawls with 15 or 20 players at a time. A few of the players had high-level characters (as in, level 5 or so). The rest of us played 1st- and 2nd-level henchmen -- NPCs, essentially -- and we died like flies. We didn't even name our characters until they reached 2nd level. It was nothing to burn through two or three characters in an afternoon. Your goal was to live long enough to become a real member of the adventuring party and not just another nameless corpse on the heap. The only characters who got respect from the higher-level PCs were clerics. As long as you had a healing spell, you were useful. Otherwise, there was no pity in Corbin's dungeons. Low-level characters were there to open doors, peek around corners, and walk down corridors ahead of the heroes, poking everything within reach with a 10-foot pole.