In the spirit of the holiday, and given how much I've been thinking of some of my past players and mentors, I'd like to thank the following folks (and sorry if I've missed anyone):
First off, the biggest thanks goes to Glen Blacow who was willing to mentor me as I was getting started in gaming as a teenager. Glen not only gave me tons of great advice (as one of the earliest people who really thought about game design and the implications of different play styles), but he also honored me by playing in my games occaisionally.
Another big thanks goes to Robert Whelan for all the discussions we had in college about game theory. He was the first person who really clued me in to reward cycles and making sure they reinforced the kind of play desired. He also helped me understand what I now understand as hard core gamism.
Reggie, player of Regulus, probably the best player I have ever had.
Ken Walsh, fellow caver and the person I talk to the most on the phone about gaming. He and his friend Richard also participated in the best Rune Quest campaign I have ever run.
Mark Christiansen for a really cool game design, Cold Iron, and Robert Hendrie for introducing me to Cold Iron, and allowing me to copy the rules he had acquired.
Henry Welch, player of Harbinger of Wit, companion of Regulus, the best dwarf PC I've ever seen in Cold Iron.
Dave Tetrault, one of the MIT gamers who made me feel welcome as a teenager after I managed to run a 16 player D&D game at one of MIT's game cons (the first time I had ever played with other than a small group of friends). I should also thank James for insisting I go to the con, and for recruiting those 16 players (while I was doing my usual "duh, where am I" think upon arrival at any kind of convention or retreat).
And I guess I should thank Peter Dwyer's mom for being the coolest gamer mom ever (first for buying the orignal Basic D&D for Peter, and then several later things). And of course Peter for being my best friend in junior high and high school. Ok, maybe my parents deserve praise also, a couple months after we started playing D&D my parents bought me my first fantasy miniatures for Christmas (I still have at least some of them I think).
I should also thank the proprietor of Excalibur Hobbies and Games (Arlington MA, later Malden MA, not sure if they still exist) who introduced me to Glen (and helped my parents pick out those minis), and who even let me watch the store for a few minutes once.
Well, those are the folks I can think of.