I was thinking earlier today about what I want to get out of, and what I want to provide to others, through running D&D. And that got me thinking about my early days with the hobby.
History lesson time: I played by first session of D&D in September 2005 as a freshman in college, but didn't begin playing regularly until November 2006. In both cases it was D&D 3.x; I still have never played a single session of OD&D, AD&D, or Basic. As far as retro-clones, I played in one session of Swords & Wizardry once. As a GM, I got my start running Call of Cthulhu (5th edition), with a few one-shots of D&D 3.x thrown in. After college, I moved on to 6th edition CofC, ran a horrible abortive campaign of D&D 3.x that died after a few sessions (I was working 50 hours a week on top of running the game, and the players were unemployed college students who bitched about my game feeling "cliche" so I stopped running for them), ran a few more Cthulhu campaigns, ran a Pathfinder campaign, more Cthulhu, a couple one-shots of Lamentations of the Flame Princess and Labyrinth Lord.
The first real campaign of D&D I played in, from November 2006 through May 2007 (it would have continued on but the DM dropped out of school for a spell) is still the one I remember the most fondly. I went into it wide-eyed and full of wonder, and memories of that campaign are why I can't listen to some of the graybearded grognards when they get all "kids these days don't play right, with the daggone newfangled editions, by cracky!" (I mentally translate quite a bit of grognard grousing into Old Timey Prospector Talk). We did a lot in that campaign that wasn't strictly covered by the rules, with the players deciding "I want to do this" and the DM adjudicating on the fly (OK, yeah, there was the time the game bogged down for ten minutes while he tried to figure out if, by the book, the rogue could imbibe a Potion of Invisibility, circle around behind an ogre that had attacked the party's campsite, and Sneak Attack the creature without it becoming aware of him, but for the most part, adjudication on the fly). And we had fun! We were tracking down a ring of slave-traders and fighting evil priests and since we didn't have a cleric for most of the campaign, banging on church doors at 3 AM demanding healing and happily shilling out the GP to get the grumbling priest to tuck my barbarian's guts back in after a fight with some doppelgangers.
But above everything, I remember the sense of wonder with which I entered into that game. Case in point: At one point we were chasing after an evil Fire Cleric and he surrounded himself with a ring of fire to protect himself. My barbarian was already wounded, and I thought, "this fire might kill me...but goddamn it, I need to take this guy down!" and I declared I was jumping through the fire. In a later campaign, say the one I was in when I graduated in 2009, I would have glanced at my hit points, said, "Oh, I can handle 1d6 of fire damage. Yeah, I jump through."
Do you see the difference?
What I want out of this campaign is to give someone else the same sense of wonder and excitement I had in that first campaign. That is my agenda as DM.