Sunday, June 20, 2010

RPG.NET rant #19 The Prequel Trilogy I: The Creep On The Borderlands

RPG.NET rant #19
The Prequel Trilogy I:
The Creep On The Borderlands

originally posted to on 12-24-2007, 10:25 AM


It was the final spring of the Regan administration, a year that brought us the high art of ‘Mystery Science Theater’ and the unending reign of terror that was ‘Rosanne’. College had been kind for me, I had an active social life, an influential place on the college literary magazine’s review board and I even went to the occasional class. Everything was great until my fiancée left me; it might not have hurt so much if she had left me for someone better but instead she left me for the idea that there simply HAD to be someone better. I tried to accept her wishes with maturity and dignity but sadly maturity and dignity don’t mix well with crying and begging.

One of my literary magazine pals was named Weasly Crusher, and after a few months of hanging out on campus he invited me to join his weekly Dungeons and Dragons game. Now I will admit I was so certain I would never game again that I sold all of my RPG books but the loss of my fiancée had left me longing for life’s simpler pleasures – so after I renewed my subscription of JUGGS magazine and watched every episode of ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ back to back, I decided to join Weasly’s game.

Weasly and I carpooled to the game, he gave directions I drove. The house we were going to was on the border between the towns of Colonie and Watervliet. The town of Watervliet, New York had long been supported by the munitions factory in the heart of the town, a whole community had sprung up around the Watervliet Arsenal, but as fortunes dwindled and jobs moved elsewhere, the once bustling neighborhoods had begun to dwindle into decrepitude. In other words, it was kind of a dump.

Weasly Crusher: “This is the place. Just park anywhere.”

Me: “This is like the only house with any lights on, on the whole street. Are all the houses in foreclosure?”

Weasly Crusher: “No I think some are condemned.”

I parked battered Monte Carlo under a streetlight and followed Weasly into the modest two story house. The front door was unlocked but Weasly did some kind of coded handshake before actually walking inside. The lower level of the house bare, no furniture, rugs or anything. Weasly led me upstairs where I found furnishings, light and the rest of the gaming group.

Weasly Crusher: “Well Ab3, this is our Dungeon Master Psycho Dave.

Me: “Nice to meet you.”

Psycho Dave: “Ab3? That isn’t a Teutonic name is it?”

Me: “No. I’m Polish and Italian.”

Psycho Dave: “Oh… how unfortunate for you. Still though I’m sure you’re a good worker.”

Weasly Crusher: “That guy over there with the unnaturally thick moustache is Deviant Boy.”

I smiled and gave him a thumbs up, Deviant Boy returned the gesture by raising his right hand to shoulder level with the palm facing inward.

Deviant Boy: “Tal.”

Weasly Crusher: “The fella over there mixing drinks is The Amazing Boozehound.”

Me: “Howdy.”

The Amazing Boozehound: “Hey welcome to the team. What are you drinking?”

Me: “A soda would be fine.”

The Amazing Boozehound: “Scotch and soda got it.”

Me: “No just soda.”

The Amazing Boozehound: “Really?”

Me: “Yeah.”

The Amazing Boozehound: “Weird… ok here you go. One soda.”

Me: “You… you got cigarette ashes in my drink…”

Johnny Tangent: “You know in Buffalo they call soda ‘pop’.”

Weasly Crusher: “And the guy in the Night Ranger t-shirt is Johnny Tangent.”

Me: “Night Ranger was a bitchin’ band.”

Johnny tangent: “Really? I hate them, I just wear the T-shirt to remind me of my character class.”

Me: “Well look at the time. I should probably…”

Weasly Crusher: “Hey! You Just got here.”

Me: “Oh yeah.”

So I found a seat as Psycho Dave got his game setup. I took a moment to get acquainted with my surroundings. The room was very Star Trek intensive, but always with little bits of Psycho Dave’s personality peeking through. For instance there were framed photographs of Kirk and Spock all over the walls but most of the pictures were scenes from the original series episode “Patterns of Force”. Similarly the bookshelves around the room were alternately filled with Star Trek books, role playing games and folios detailing the horrifying air war of the Luftwaffe. The centerpiece of the room however was what I initially took to be a crystal statue representation of Star Trek’s Galileo shuttlecraft. The light seemed to reflect strangely on the clear glass surfaces and something within those surfaces seemed to be moving.

Me: “Are those… Sea-Monkeys?

Psycho Dave: “We don’t use the term Sea-Monkeys in polite company, the correct term is brine shrimp.”

Me: “I didn’t know they made fish tanks for Sea… I mean brine shrimp… in the shape of Star Trek ships.”

Psycho Dave: “I had it specially made. I cashed in some saving bonds my grandparents had left for me.”

Deviant Boy: “The man loves his little fishies.”

Psycho Dave: “Technically brine shrimp are branchiopods but I do love the resilience of them. Their eggs can be torn away from their home environment and stored away for years but as soon as the conditions are right they come crashing back to life… much like white power in so many ways.”

Me: “Uh what?”

The Amazing Boozehound: “Don’t let it phase you, but our beloved Dungeon Master is a bit of a white supremacist. He has been ever since he failed the fireman’s entrance exam.”

Me: “Uh, What?”

Psycho Dave: “Affirmative action cost me that job.”

Me: “Well look at the time…”

Weasly Crusher: “We just got here…”

Me: “Damn it.”

The game started with character generation, I rolled up a simple dwarf fighter for a character and we got started. Psycho Dave had just started setting the scene when another player showed up. He was unshaved, dressed in raggedly clothes and smelled strongly of pirogues and cheap aftershave.

Johnny Tangent: “What is that smell? It reminds me of a fire in a restaurant or clowns crying or something.”

Deviant Boy: “El Disgusto! What the hell have you gotten yourself into?”

El Disgusto: “Don’t get in my face syphilis factory. I passed out while cooking and I got kind of saturated.”

Weasly Crusher: “Then why didn’t you just change your clothes?”

El Disgusto: “Well Duh! Because my parents are on vacation with the dog and my bitch of a Mom didn’t finish folding my laundry before she left.”

Me: “Oh.”

El Disgusto: “You’re in my spot newbie.”

Me: “This is a couch.”

El Disgusto: “No newbie. This is a love seat and even if I was not in a splayin’ frame of mind I would now be sitting on a love seat with a dude.”

Me: “I’ll be over here.”

El Disgusto: “Badass thy name is Disgusto…”

Weasly Crusher: “And that’s the name of his character too.”

Me: “El Disgusto?”

Weasly Crusher: “No Badass.”

El Disgusto: “Lord Baron Whoopass Von Baddass the first.”

Weasly Crusher: “And my character is a thief named Nine Fingers Rodney.”

The Amazing Boozehound: “My character is named Dean and he wields a mythral tankard!”

Johnny Tangent: “And I’m playing a fighter.”

The Amazing Boozehound: “Pssst… check your shirt.”

Johnny Tangent: “Oh… I’m a bard?”

Deviant Boy: “And I am playing a female fighter named Deb Sonia. She lives by the sword and has vowed she will remain a virgin until a man bests her in single combat.”

Me: “Well that’s not original but it’s an interesting concept.”

Deviant Boy: “Of course since she has a Charisma 18 that means she has tons and tons of anal sex.”

Psycho Dave: “Shall we start? The adventure begins when you all arrive at Castellan Keep at the base of the Altan Tepe mountains … but question is do you arrive? Do you? Only my Pre-Mountaineering Random Event Generator can tell us for sure. Please get out a d8 and a d20.”

I admit this wasn’t the way I was used to playing the game but I felt I had to adapt, after all in the first game I ran we all played D&D versions of ourselves. My first Dungeon Master had us perform feats of endurance and strength to gauge where we fell in the 3-18 range, our Constitution was determined by holding our hand over an open flame. The more seconds you held it, the more points in Constitution you had, but inversely the less Wisdom points you had because you were, after all, burning your hand for a stupid game.

Dice were rolled; charts and sub charts were consulted

The Amazing Boozehound: “Damn frost weasels, well I am sure my pc didn’t need that hand anyway.”

Johnny Tangent: “Frostbite? Wow. That reminds me of that movie with Kurt Russell and the shape shifter that turned out to be that old man that was protecting the alien cocoons because he was friends with Mahoney from the police academy. I wonder how it ended…”

Deviant Boy: “It sure was lucky for my character to encounter that herd of snow sheep, I like the way my character was able to…”

Me: “Please for the love of God don’t describe it again.”

Weasly Crusher: “I am not sure I understand how my character ended up falling through a portal to the Sudetenland. How do I get back?”

Psycho Dave: “You don’t. Your character spends his entire life in a strange land he barely understands and dies alone and afraid.”

Weasly Crusher: “So I just sit here then?”

Psycho Dave: “Quietly please.”

Me: “So my character was mugged while walking along a glacier.”

Psycho Dave: “You’re lucky that was all the ice negroes did to you.”

Me: “Can you please not say crap like that?”

Psycho Dave: “Say what?”

Me: “That racist stuff. It’s just… creepy.”

Psycho Dave: “Oh I’m sorry I thought we had freedom of speech in this country. I didn’t realize that only Oprah and the liberal groupmind could say whatever they wanted.”

Me: “Look its just mean and it adds nothing to the game.”

Psycho Dave: “Weasly told me you were a writer so I thought you would be open minded.”

Me: “Open minded to what?”

Psycho Dave: “To differing viewpoints and ideas. I guess none of the stories you write will have characters with non touchy-feely points of view. They’ll probably hold hands and sway while talking about their love for puppies and kittens.”

Me: “Look. If I ever do write a story that has a character with prejudiced views I will probably cringe the entire time and then drink a bottle of Robitussin to drown out the shame.”

Deviant Boy: “Don’t worry Ab3 once I unlock the secrets of the Unified Porn Theory humanity will learn to love each other again and again and again.”

El Disgusto: “Blah blah blah. My ninja makes it to the keep with only a trail of bodies to mark his passing.”

Me: “You’re playing a ninja?”

El Disgusto: “I said ninja didn’t I?”

Me: “You mean the ninja from the Dragon magazine article a few years back?”

El Disgusto: “Yes.”

Me: “I thought they were only supposed to be used as NPCs.”

El Disgusto: “Damn newbie, you just don’t know when to quit do you?”

Psycho Dave: “Enough of this. Lets all get back to the tales of high adventure –except you Weasly.”

We spent a few hours having our characters meet up, explore the keep and buy new equipment. Our party decided to try and raid the nearby kobold lairs for easy treasure but first we needed to think about taking some precautions.

Me: “No I don’t mean those kind of precautions Deviant Boy.”

The Amazing Boozehound: “Well none of us wanted to play a cleric.”

El Disgusto: “Because Clerics are wussies.”

Johnny Tangent: “A perm! That’s what I need.”

Deviant Boy: “Well we could hire a cleric, maybe a Vestigial Virgin.”

Me: “That’s not the way… never mind. Let’s just hire a cleric and get on with it.”

Deviant Boy: “No wait. What’s wrong?”

Me: “Nothing really let's go on.”

Deviant Boy: “You rolled your eyes, what were you rolling your eyes at?”

Me: “Nothing. It's just that you said ‘Vestigial Virgin’ when the term you were looking for is ‘Vestal Virgin’.”

Deviant Boy: “Really? Are you sure?”

Me: “Yup. I read it in my local library.”

Psycho Dave: “Oh my God. You go to the LIBRARY?”

Me: “Yes, of course.”

Psycho Dave: “Librarians are fascists.”

Wesley Crusher: “Oh no. Here we go.”

Me: “Librarians are fascists. Ok. Since every moment I spend here I feel a little stupider lets just go for it. What is wrong with libraries?”

El Disgusto: “Well duh. They make you get a library card.”

Me: “Yes. So you can check out books. Which is what libraries are. They’re places where you can borrow books for free as long as you have a library card.”

Johnny Tangent: “They have drinking fountains in libraries.”

Psycho Dave: “Well the problem we have with libraries is the whole library card issue.”

El Disgusto: “They automatically assume you’re a criminal.”

Me: “I’m not understanding this.”

Psycho Dave: “Ok look. The library card is a way they can track you right?”

Me: “Yes so they know where to find you if you don’t return the books you borrow.”

Psycho Dave: “So since they make everyone get a library card they’re assuming that everyone that walks into the library is a criminal.”

El Disgusto: “The honor system should be enough.”

Me: “The honor system?”

Psycho Dave: “The people that steal books are going to steal books anyway…”

El Disgusto: “We sure are.”

Psycho Dave: “…the only thing a library card does is inconvenience honest people and allow the government to track the number of people reading Fanny Hill vs the number of people reading Mien Kampf.”

Me: “I’m stunned.”

The Amazing Boozehound: “I can’t feel my fingertips. Someone else is going to have to map.”

El Disgusto: “Newbie does it.”

The Amazing Boozehound: “Newbie does it.”

Johnny Tangent: “Hey I’m wearing a Night Ranger T-shirt!”

Wesley Crusher: “I could map.”

Psycho Dave: “No you can’t you’re not here.”

Wesley Crusher: “Oh.”

So I started mapping, tracking our party and its NPC Cleric as we made our way through lizard man territory into the Caves of Chaos. Everything went fine until we encountered a certain pit trap.

Me: “OK the pit sealed up trapping the Cleric inside, I think we can rescue him if we get some ropes and daggers and…”

El Disgusto: “No we’re moving on.”

Me: “But…”

El Disgusto: “First of all its an NPC and second of all, the Cleric did all it’s heals for the day so who cares?”

Me: “But the members of the Church of G. Gordon Liddy will want to know what happened.”

Johnny Tangent: “But there’s treasure and combat awaiting.”

Me: “Look I like to think you would rescue my character if this was… No, you wouldn’t would you?”

The Amazing Boozehound: “It’s every man for himself Ab3.”

The party moved on and I tried to ignore the imaginary cries of the imaginary non player character trapped forever in a make believe pit but sometimes in the dead of night it still haunts me.

We moved on, fighting kobold after kobold until we reached the heart of their lair. Everyone was diving for treasure, trying out magic items at random.

Deviant Boy: “All right. Wand of wonder! I’ll be playing with this baby all night.”

El Disgusto: “Ah a bag of holding. All I need to find now is a folding boat and a shambling mound and my mega-weapon will be complete.”

The Amazing Boozehound: “I love mixing potions. What size and alignment am I now?”

Johnny Tangent: “All I found was this Wand of Orcus thing. Who wants to trade?”

Me: “Ok guys I think I found a secret door.”

Psycho Dave: “Very good roll to unlock it… nice roll Ab3.”

Me: “Thanks …”

El Disgusto: “We shove Ab3’s character through the door first.”

Me: “What?”

Psycho Dave: “You find yourself alone in a swastika shaped treasure room…”

Me: “Oh look at the time! I really have to go. I’ve got to get up for church in a few hours.”

Wesley Crusher: “But it’s a Tuesday.”

Me: “Shut up. We’re out of here.”

Psycho Dave walked us down the stairs and through the empty lower level of his house.

Psycho Dave: “Well thanks for coming. Hope you had fun and learned something.”

Weasly Crusher: “Same time next week right?”

Psycho Dave: “As always.”

Me: “I don’t know if I can be here next week. I mean I used to role play but I just don’t think this is the hobby for me any more.”

Psycho Dave: “Oh. I see. Well it was nice to meet you then.”

Me: “Yeah thanks.”

Weasly Crusher and I made our way out to the car and I thought to myself that it was time to jump back into the thick of things. It was time to finish college and get back into the dating world. I certainly didn’t need to be wasting the precious moments of my life doing this any longer.

Oh yeah. That’s what I thought but we all know things turned out differently.

1 comment:

  1. Psycho Dave, as horrid a person as he is, is like a character straight out of a sitcom. I could listen to his insane ramblings all day.