Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
The Creep On The Borderlands
Norm began describing our scenario, “The adventure begins when you all arrive at Castellan Keep at the base of the Altan Tepe Mountains … but the 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.”
Pre-adventure adventures wasn’t the way I was used to playing the game but I felt I had to adapt. After all in my first D&D game ever we all had played versions of ourselves. My step cousin was the Dungeon Master and had us perform feats of endurance and strength to gauge where we fell in within the 3 to 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 frost weasels had their way with Buddy’s character, “Damn. Well, I’m sure my PC didn’t need that hand.”
By the way did I mention PC is short for player character? It is a little late now and I apologize.
Norm nodded, “The bite of a Frost Weasel is a dangerous thing.”
“Frostbite?” Eddie said, “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…”
Curtis was grinning smugly, “It sure was lucky for my character to encounter that herd of snow sheep, I like the way she was able to…”
I stopped him, “Please for the love of God don’t describe it again.”
Everyone else agreed with me, shuddering as they did so. Will had this hurt look in his eyes but there was a kind of resignation to it, “I am not sure I understand how my character ended up falling through a portal to the Sudetenland. How does he get back?”
“He doesn’t,” Norm nodded sadly. “Your character spends his entire life in a strange land he barely understands and dies alone and afraid.”
“So am I just supposed to sit here then?”
My luck hadn’t been any better but the way it happened is what really annoyed me, “So, my character was mugged while walking along a glacier?”
Norm glanced briefly at his charts, “You’re lucky that was all the ice negroes did to you.”
“Can you please not say crap like that?”
“You’re racist stuff.” I explained. “It’s just… unpleasant and unnecessary.”
Everyone else kind of groaned with resignation and turned their attention to other matters. Norm said, “Oh I’m sorry I thought we had freedom of speech in this country. I didn’t realize that only Oprah and the liberal group-mind could say whatever they wanted.”
I turned to Will but he was too busy contemplating his character’s adventure free life and his adventure free evening. I was on my own. “Look, Norm I am not trying to get on your case but this stuff….” I said, “It’s just mean and it adds nothing to the game.”
“Will told me you were a writer so I thought you would be open minded.”
“Open minded to what?”
“To differing viewpoints and ideas,” Norm said, “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.”
“I’ll tell you what,” I replied, “if I ever do write a story that has a character with like you I will probably cringe the entire time and then drink a bottle of Robitussin to drown out the shame. And I doubt any rational thinking person would read such a thing. I mean if they did I would pity them.”
“Don’t worry Al,” Curtis put his arm around me, it was hairless and smelled of lotions, “you’ll get used to it.”
Mercifully before I could hear anymore, Daniel drowned us out, “Blah blah blah. My ninja makes it to the keep with only a trail of bodies to mark his passing.”
Now this was something I hadn’t realized before, “You’re playing a ninja?”
“I said ninja didn’t I?”
“You mean the ninja from the Dragon magazine article a few years back?”
Daniel took a tone with me that people usually reserved for slow children and inattentive dogs, “Yes. That was the issue with ninjas in it.”
I scratched my chin, trying to remember, “I thought they were only supposed to be used as NPCs.”
“Damn you just don’t know when to quit do you?”
Oh, did I mention that NPC stands for Non-Player Character? Those are the characters controlled by the game master to add color and adversaries to his game world. No, I just told you now didn’t I? It must be all the cough syrup I’ve been drinking.
“Enough of this,” Norm said, “Let’s all get back to our latest exciting adventure. I mean except for you Will.”
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.
“No, Curtis.” I said, “I did not mean those kinds of precautions.”
Buddy said, “It’s too bad none of us wanted to play a cleric.”
Daniel’s sneer deepened, “That’s because clerics are wussies to be played by wussies.”
“I think I maybe played a cleric once,” Eddie said. “He wore a robe.”
“Hey we could hire a cleric, maybe a Vestigial Virgin.” Curtis suggested.
I said, “That’s not the way… never mind. Let’s just hire a cleric and get on with it.”
“No wait. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing really let's go on,” I wondered if I was going to piss everyone in the room off before the night was done.
“You rolled your eyes.” Curtis said, “What were you rolling your eyes at?”
“It’s nothing. It's just that you said ‘Vestigial Virgin’ when the term you were looking for is ‘Vestal Virgin’.”
I offered an apologetic smile, “Yup. I read it in my local library.”
“Oh my God.” Norm dropped his pencil, “You go to the library?”
“For the books yes.”
“But Librarians are fascists.”
I threw up my arms, “ What is wrong with libraries?”
Now it was Daniel’s turn to get into the insanity, “Well duh. They make you get a library card.”
“Yes.” I said, a little surprised to realize I was using the same tone Daniel had used with me. “So you can check out books. Which is what libraries are for, they’re places where you can borrow books for free as long as you have a library card. See? It’s a beautiful thing.”
Eddie tried to join in, “They have drinking fountains in libraries.”
Norm said, “The problem with libraries is the whole library card issue.”
Daniel was doing fake kung fu punches in the air, “They automatically assume you’re a criminal.”
“I’m not understanding this,” I said.
“The library card is a way they can track you.” Norm explained.
“Yes, so they know where to find you if you don’t return the books you borrow.”
“So since they make everyone get a library card they’re assuming that everyone that walks into the library is a criminal.”
Daniel gave the air a few more deadly chops, “The honor system should be enough.”
I was starting to understand them and I hated myself for it, “The honor system?”
“Yes,” Norm said, “the people that steal books are going to steal books anyway…”
Daniel nodded, “We sure are.”
“…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.”
I slumped in my seat, “I’m stunned.”