Saturday, June 26, 2010

RPG.NET rant#23 The Last Straw Trilogy Part Two: TALISMAN: THIS TIME ITS PERSONAL Rant#23
The Last Straw Trilogy Part Two:

originally posted to on 7-24-2008, 09:01 AM


This is the part of the story I’m not proud of, and this is the part of the story that might just bore you to tears but it’s part of the story I have to tell.

I’ve said before that my love life had been one disaster after another; there was the girl that got me drunk and went home with a marine as I sat at the bar trying to explain ‘Doctor Who’s continuity errors to anyone in earshot. There was the girl that dated me, kissed me and ended up dumping me for Kid Snotrocket. There was first date after first date that felt like a bad job interview. There was the one that I didn’t realized liked me until it was too late. There was the other girl that left me for Kid Snotrocket. There was the co-worker that took my offer of dinner as harassment; there was the other girl that was sure I was gay. There was the girl that faked being part of a blood drinking cult to get me to stop calling her. There was the girl that was starting to like me until she found out her mother thought I was great and she dumped me. And then of course there was the third girl that ran off with Kid Snotrocket.

And what I had learned during those four years of accidental celibacy? I mean aside from the fact that Kid Snotrocket was not to be trusted and that he apparently had a monster dong?

I had learned to stop looking for love, I learned to stop trying.

My bitterness was made all the worse by Annoying Girl. I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised at how often I saw her, after all we lived within just a few miles of each other but still just seeing her annoyed me. And whenever she saw me in public she just had to come over and say hello and ask about how my life was going. I talked to her grudgingly and when she suggested we get together sometime I always told her how busy I was.

Why you ask? Because Annoying Girl was fat. Not as fat as Blobert but was way heavier than me. There was no way I would ever be seen with a fat girl on my arm – there was no way I would ever even be friends with one, it was a violation of the guy’s code. At least that’s what my friends and the Media told me.

And I especially wanted nothing to do with Annoying Girl. I couldn’t stand the way she was so nice all the time, the way puppies, kittens and swans gravitated towards her like she was some kind of a Disney character. And don’t even get me started about how the way she once waded into the middle of a traffic accident and managed to keep a terribly injured man stable until the paramedics arrived. I just hated to look at her, the soft sheen of her skin, the dark luminous pools of her eyes and that laugh, that laugh of hers sounded like the giggles of a baby cherub having its belly tickled.

See what I mean? Annoying.

It had been ten days since Weasly’s disastrous turn at running Warhammer Fantasy Role Play and all he had to show for it was a fistful of barf-stained rulebooks and El Disgusto’s unending scorn. In the wake of that latest disaster we had been banned from the Smith family basement by Blobert himself and no one wanted to run anything. I guess we were all a little gun shy.

Or is that GM shy?

Collateral Darren insisted he had the perfect solution to the problem, but he wouldn’t tell us what that solution was. All he did was keep insisting that we all be there. I almost didn’t go. You see I’d just gotten word that my high school crush Lilly had gotten married and not only that she’d gotten married to a guy she’d gone to high school with but barely acknowledged.

Better yet she’d married one of the guys that had been too much of a geek to hang out with Kid Snotrocket, Zapp Foo and myself. The man I’m talking about was Ernie Spoonsucker. In high school he had gotten quite the reputation. He’d divided his time between the boy scouts, glee club and the South Colonie United Republican Varsity Youth movement. I think the things I remember best about old Ernie was his insistence that listening to the music of the Beatles led to communism and his stress agitated colon. What is a stress agitated colon you might ask? It meant that whenever Ernie got scared he would become flatulent, and the more scared he was the more he’d fart. The older boys would beat him until it sounded like the 1812 overture was coming from his pants.

But now of course that had changed. Now he was enjoying conjugal relations with the girl I had dreamed of for four long years. I didn’t want to game, I just wanted to sit in my apartment and hate the world. Over the past few years I had really gotten quite good at it.

Of course I knew myself better than that, I knew that if I wasn’t at a movie or a game by 11 PM on a Friday night I would find myself at a strip club. Truth be told at this point of my life I had begun to suspect that I was spending far too much time at strip clubs.

And when one of the strippers had told me I should really get a girlfriend my suspicions were confirmed. So that is why I found myself driving to Deviant Boy’s place that night.

About halfway there I decided it might be a good idea to get some soda and chips so I left early to stop at the local supermarket; but before I got there I was gripped with this sudden urge to stop by the bookstore at the local mall. There was no reason to do it really, the place never stocked what I was looking for but as the landmarks of Central Avenue bled past me, the itch in my head to just go to the mall, selection be damned, became a full blown fixation.

So I stopped there, the parking lot was crowded, the mall itself even more so. I navigated the crowds to the bookstore and found… nothing. The selection was so poor it was couldn’t even be called generic. The urge to be there vanished. I started to feel even stupider than the time I had decided ‘Boxing Helena’ would be a good date movie.

Back through the crowds I went, blundering past crying children in oversized strollers and fit young shoppers walking at a snail’s pace. I glanced over to the eyeglass shop, wondering if I should try my luck with contacts again. After all what were the chances I might accidentally scratch my cornea three times in a row?

And there she was, dressed in a yellow top and white shorts; she was trying on sunglasses, gauging her reflection in one of the stores many mirrors. The shades she had on now were too large for her head and worst of all they hid her eyes from view… not that I cared.

Still though, I did find my pace slowing, maybe it was the way she held the price tag away from her nose, maybe it was the way those white shorts looked on her. All I know is that I lingered long enough for me to catch her eye.

She hastily abandoned the oversized sunglasses and waved me over to her.

Grudgingly I approached; hoping all the while none of the guys saw me talking to her. Not that I should have worried really, El Disgusto, Blobert Smith and Weasly Crusher had been banned from the mall for life thanks to their random acts of LARPing.

And as for Deviant Boy, no one ever really did find out why the ORANGE JULIUS stand had a restraining order against him.

Annoying Girl: “So, how have you been?”

Me: “Ok I guess… You know?”

Annoying Girl: “What have you been doing with yourself?”

Me: “Stuff I guess.”

Annoying Girl: “Are you going to the Class of 86 fifth year reunion?”

Me: “Only if I can find some way to pre-wedgie myself.”

Annoying Girl: “Hah! I miss your jokes. When we used to hang out with Lilly you always cracked me up.”

Me: “You used to hang out with Lilly?”

Annoying Girl: “Don’t you remember you and I were at most of the same parties, usually we were the ones being ignored by everyone else.”

Me: “I was never ignored. I distinctly remember Lilly asking me to watch her coat.”

Annoying Girl: “…Uh yeah. You’re not still hung up on her are you? I mean you know she’s married now right?”

Me: “Well with the divorce rates being what they are in the country I’m sure I’ve still got a shot. Besides it gives me time to work on my novel and diversify my stock portfolio.”

Annoying Girl: “Well, wow. That’s dedication, but I thought you were with that redhead. You know the one you were going to college with… the one that would fake seizures to get out of her mid terms?”

Me: “Oh. Tallulah? Well we were together for a while but I kicked her to the curb. Maybe I’m just too much man for one woman…”

Actually Tallulah had dumped me for a recently paroled French-Canadian professional wrestler but in the end I got back at her by quitting college and getting a job at an office supply store.

Annoying Girl: “You know we really should get together sometime. We could just grab a bite to eat or a drink. There’s this comedy club up by…”

Me: “Yeah the Chuckle Factory, I’m kind of persona non grata there.”

Annoying Girl: “What happened?”

Me: “Well it was open mike night and I tried out and there was this stampede of people trying to get out of the building…”

Annoying Girl: “Did you start a fire or something?”

Me: “Let’s just say that I learned pretty quickly there is no future whatsoever in funny stories about role playing games.”

Annoying Girl: “We should still get together. I think I gave you my number last time didn’t I?”

Me: “Sure, sure. You know I really have to be going otherwise I’m going to spend the next four hours sitting on an orange crate.”

Annoying Girl: “Ha! See what I mean? You’re hysterical! Here just in case take my number again.”

Me: “But I don’t have any paper with me. Let’s just-”

Annoying Girl: “Here hang on a second…”

She rummaged around in her purse until she found a pen and a scrap of paper and insisted I take her number again. I accepted just to get away from her but Annoying Girl still had one last indignity to visit upon me.

A hug. Right in front of everyone she just threw her arms around me and gave me a good squeeze, telling me how good it was to see me again. I grumbled something gave her a half-hearted smile and got the Hell back to my car.

The supermarket and snacks forgotten I drove the rest of the way to Deviant Boy’s apartment with that hug playing over and over again through my mind. I was sure it was because she had traumatized me, and I was seriously considering litigation.

When I got to Deviant Boy’s apartment I was greeted by the sight of grown men dueling with homemade foam swords. Of course I knew that could only mean one thing.

They’d been watching ‘Highlander’ again.

It was Rehab Boy and Old Yellowbelly that were doing the dueling, with Collateral Darren, Weasly Crusher and Cheating Bastard watching from the sidelines. I parked my car just in time for Old Yellowbelly to throw himself across the hood. Rehab Boy came around the other side, poised and ready for battle. I don’t know what was more disturbing about him, the fact that he was wearing a Sailor Moon T-shirt or that he was wearing a half dozen or so Alcoholics Anonymous chips like medallions.

Rehab Boy: “Tonight you sleep in Hell!”

Old Yellowbelly: “Have at you!”

Me: “Guys… aren’t you afraid of looking like fools in front of the apartment complex?”

Collateral Darren: “Why do you care what other people think? We don’t.”

Cheating Bastard: “People decide within the first few minutes of meeting you what their impression is so trying to project an image of what you want them to think of you is just plain neurotic.”

Weasly Crusher: “What about job interviews?”

Old Yellowbelly launched himself at Rehab Boy his foam sword whistling through the air. I got clear and stood over by the rest.

Collateral Darren: “There is no job worth having that involves an interview, besides it’s all just a scam to sell resume paper.”

Me: “What on Earth are you talking about?”

Collateral Darren: “Look most people get their jobs through recommendations and knowing someone. The whole interview process is just a front to get people to buy specialty papers for their resumes.”

Me: “That’s insane.”

Collateral Darren: “If it’s so crazy then answer me this, when you show up for a job interview with your freshly updated resume why do they make you handwrite the exact same information down on an employment application?”

Everyone froze dead at that, trying to think of an answer, any answer.

Weasly Crusher: “Oh my God…”

Cheating Bastard: “It all makes sense somehow…”

Me: “This is what losing SAN points is like I just know it…”

Old Yellowbelly: “That’s Genius!”

Rehab Boy: “For the Quickening!”

Old Yellowbelly: “Ow! Ow! OW!”

One foam induced Quickening later we headed inside. The first thing that hit me was the smell of gamer sweat and stale cigarette smoke, then I realized that including myself there had to be ten people crammed into this tiny apartment.

El Disgusto: “Too bad Ab3, we called dibs on all the chairs, you’ve got the orange crate again.”

Me: “Asenath? What are you doing here?”

Asenath: “Gaming what do you think?”

Me: “Are you and Deviant Boy back together?”

Deviant Boy: “We’re just friends.”

Me: “Well what about Blobert?”

Blobert Smith: “I can only hope the pain I feel at seeing her again will inspire me to even greater role playing heights. While I may have lost levels in love I truly believe I have increased the THAC0 of my soul.”

Me: “And how about you El Disgusto? Does this affect you in anyway or are you too emotionally bankrupt to care?”

El Disgusto: “What you call being a sociopath I call emotional ninjitsu.”

Me: “I’m really curious to see what kind of a role playing game Collateral Darren has planned that involves nine players.”

Collateral Darren: “Then look around you.”

Me: “Well all I see is the TALISMAN board game with all of its supplements, including the TIMESCAPE, spread out across the apartment.”

Collateral Darren: “Exactly.”

Me: “Exactly what?”

Collateral Darren: “We’re playing Talisman.”

Me: “But I thought we were playing a role playing game, Talisman is a board game.”

Collateral Darren: “Is it? Is it really? Look around you Ab3. I see multitude of character types, each one with special abilities and the capacity to grow more powerful through experience. I see random encounters, miniatures and even a map. This is a role playing game.”

Me: “Yes, except for the fact it’s not.”

Old Yellowbelly: “You have everything for this game, everything.”

Collateral Darren: “I got it all from a guy named Skippy Vanderhausen. He just bought it all and then had some kind of religious epiphany and decided to get rid of it all.”

Asenath: “Skippy Vanderhausen?”

Me: “Why does that name sound so familiar?”

Collateral Darren: “From the Clifton Park Vanderhausens? You must have heard of them.”

Rehab Boy: “Man you did a great job painting these minis. Ever since I dried out I don’t have the brush control I used to.”

Deviant Boy: “You know Asenath you could sit right next to me. This chair is free.”

Weasly Crusher: “I’m sitting right here what are you talking about- Hey quit pushing!”

Deviant Boy: “It’s your turn to sit next to El Disgusto.”

Weasly Crusher: “No! He’s got that cabbage and cologne smell again.”

El Disgusto: “This is my natural musk.”

Blobert Smith: “Colognes are so very generic. I prefer to splash myself with a combination of Absinthe and crushed clove cigarettes.”

Cheating Bastard: “Are we going to play or not? And don’t worry if you’re short of dice. I’ve brought my own.”

Me: “All right. Let’s do this thing.”

I suppose in a way Collateral Darren was right, the game of Talisman is in many ways like a role playing game crossed with Monopoly. Instead of thimbles and racecars you played knights and thieves, instead of chance and community chest cards you had adventure cards that could either help or hinder your Hero. The goal of the game was to have your ‘hero’ become strong enough to reach the center of the main board where you would win the Crown of Command, but your hero couldn’t do that unless they were in possession of the Talisman named in the title of the game.

It sounds simple enough doesn’t it?

Collateral Darren: “Now don’t forget that the version we’re playing only has one Talisman so it will be harder to win. We begin by drawing Hero cards. The sad bastard sitting on the orange crate goes first.”

Me: “I’ve got a Halfling.”

Cheating Bastard: “I’ve got a Warrior of Chaos.”

El Disgusto: “Comeonninjacomeonninjacomeonninja…”

Me: “Just draw already for Christ’s sake!”

El Disgusto: “An Inquisitor? Well I certainly didn’t expect that.”

Blobert Smith: “An Archeologist? From the drawing it appears to be a pastiche of Indiana Jones.”

Weasly Crusher: “Hmmm a Minotaur.”

Deviant Boy: “A Dragon Rider for me… sexy.”

Collateral Darren: “It doesn’t mean what you think it means, it means you can ride a dragon.”

Deviant Boy: “I’m up for it.”

Collateral Darren: “No, what I mean is that if you encounter a dragon you can mount it.”

Deviant Boy: “That’s hot.”

Collateral Darren: “Oh I give up. I’ll draw my Hero. I have a Wizard.”

Rehab Boy: “A Merchant? That’s odd…”

Asenath: “I’ve got the Samurai.”

Old Yellowbelly: “I’ve got a Pirate.”

Collateral Darren: “Ok let’s get playing.”

We each picked out the miniature that corresponded with the hero we had drawn. We rolled dice and moved our pieces around the Outer Region of the board.

Deviant Boy: “…two … three …four. My Dragon Rider is in the Woods I draw a card and hey it’s a Ghost.”

Blobert Smith: “Let us roll to see if your character defeats this foul cardboard revenant.”

Deviant Boy: “Rats.”

Cheating Bastard: “Well look where my Warrior of Chaos has landed, right in the same square as Ab3’s Halfling.”

Me: “Oh great and I’m already down to my last life thanks to that Gargoyle, and the Harpy and Frost Dragon.”

Rehab Boy: “This board is just littered with things you failed to defeat isn’t it?”

Cheating Bastard: “Well I tell you what Ab3, if your Halfling gives my Warrior of Chaos all his gold things might go better for him.”

Me: “Well, all right. Here you go all four gold.”

Cheating Bastard: “Great, and I attack the Halfling anyway.”

Me: “What?”

Cheating Bastard: “Well I didn’t promise anything, I just said things might go better for him. Roll those dice Ab3.”

Me: “Argh! Damnit! My Halfling’s dead. I’m out.”

El Disgusto: “Ha-ha you suck.”

Collateral Darren: “Actually Ab3 you’re not out. We just keep playing until someone reaches the Crown of Command. You just draw a new Hero.”

Me: “Oh Ok. Let’s see now…well I’ve got a Valkyrie. This could be interesting.”

El Disgusto: “Yeah a whole new character to fail with.”

Me: “Just keep it up butt-knuckle.”

Old Yellowbelly: “Oh I got a lance.”

Rehab Boy: “My Merchant enters the Chapel.”

Old Yellowbelly: “Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married…”

Blobert Smith: “Now I have rolled a two but where shall my Archeologist go? To the left or the right? Which will server his quest for treasure better? Or will he learn that all along that treasure he was hunting for was inside him self all along? To the left then I think and look, I have drawn a Leper. Will he be my steadfast companion?”

El Disgusto: “My Inquisitor moves into the same square as the Archeologist and attacks him. Then he imprisons him.”

Asenath: “Bathroom break. Now where did I put my duffel bag?”

Weasly Crusher: “It’s over there by the Batleth.”

Asenath: “Thanks.”

She unzippered the bag and pulled out a small bottle of Clorox.

Me: “Why are you carrying around a bottle of bleach?”

Asenath: “What did you expect me to have in here? Duffels?”

Deviant Boy: “Oh how I’ve missed your jokes.”

Asenath: “One of the cardinal rules of being a gamer chick is never use a gamer guy’s bathroom without sterilizing the area first.”

El Disgusto: “Oh please.”

Asenath: “Hey you forget I lived here for a while, I remember when those bathroom tiles were white.”

Me: “You mean the veins of greenish color working their way along everything from the sink to the shower curtain AREN’T some kind of marble pattern?”

Collateral Darren: “And that’s why Deviant Boy and I get sick so rarely. That bathroom is like a wargame for our white bloodcells.”

Me: “Oh God… I should have brought a Mountain Dew bottle with me…”

Deviant Boy waited for the sound of running water before he started trying to shove Weasly Crusher off his chair.

Deviant Boy: “Dude just move.”

Weasly Crusher: “I’ve got all my stuff here.”

Deviant Boy: “I don’t care move. Hurry up before she gets back.”

Me: “And why should he tell her he moved? Won’t it seem weird?”

El Disgusto: “I imagine after seeing the shape of your head for a few hours nothing seems weird at all.”

Me: “Very droll, it is to laugh.”

Deviant Boy: “I said move!”

And with a final shove one of the legs of the chair that Weasly Crusher was sitting in broke sending Weasly Crusher tumbling to the floor.”

Collateral Darren: “Another chair broken.”

Blobert Smith: “Gamers and poorly constructed chairs are natural enemies.”

Weasly Crusher: “I think I landed on an Elric mini.”

Deviant Boy: “Well we don’t have any more chairs so I guess we need to pull another orange crate out of storage.”

Collateral Darren: “We’re all out of orange crates but we still have about 12 milk crates.”

Old Yellowbelly: “Isn’t taking those things illegal?”

Cheating Bastard: “It’s a non-enforceable law like tearing the tags off of mattresses, trading bootleg videotapes and bestiality.”

Deviant Boy: “And thank heavens for that… the bootleg tape thing I mean.”

Me: “Cheating Bastard, I know you love to give legal advice but don’t you think it would be wiser to get accepted to law school first?”

Cheating Bastard: “I’ve already skimmed the required reading. I know as much as your average paralegal.”

Deviant Boy: “Yeah but most of the paralegals I’ve known go into the porn industry after a few years because they find it more life-affirming.”

Old Yellowbelly: “Wow. I may never look at ‘Teenage Ass Bangers’ the same way again.”

Me: “I didn’t think you could really skim the Law.”

Cheating Bastard: “Oh don’t be silly. Gaming and the law are practically the same thing. All you have to do is read the basic rule set, skim the flavor text and then cherry pick what you need from the supplements.”

Collateral Darren: “Except in this situation the Constitution is the basic rule set, the other laws are the supplements and the case histories are the flavor text.”

Asenath: “I’m back.”

Deviant Boy: “Well have a seat right here on this milk crate.”

Asenath: “Sorry but if I wanted to have welts on my ass...”

Me: “Whose turn was it again?”

The game continued, we moved our heroes around the Outer Region of the board, building them up with magic items, followers and experience points. Old Yellowbelly’s Pirate blundered into the Timescape and ended up getting lost there for a few turns. My Valkrie had a run in with a dragon and a lion but was ultimately killed by Asenath’s Samurai. Then the Samurai was killed by Cheating Bastard’s runesword carrying Warrior of Chaos. Rehab Boy’s Merchant was imprisoned by El Disgusto’s Inquisitor. Blobert Smith’s Archeologist was fireballed to death by Collateral Darren’s Wizard. Deviant Boy’s and Weasly Crusher’s Heroes wandered the board aimlessly, racking up kills and alignment changes.

Me: “So my new Hero is… an Amazon?”

Asenath: “I’ve got the Centaur.”

Blobert Smith: “I am now an Astropath, just like WARHAMMER 40K isn’t it?”

Collateral Darren: “Yeah, there is a lot of crossover between the game and WARHAMMER.”

Rehab Boy: “I sure wish there was a 40K role playing game.”

El Disgusto: “That would be awesome.”

Cheating Bastard: “Nah, it probably wouldn’t make it past the first supplement.”

Collateral Darren: “Ok whose next?”

Old Yellowbelly: “Well I rolled a 5 so I end up on the same square as the Minotaur. I attack!”

Weasly Crusher: “What did I ever do to you?”

Old Yellowbelly: “Hey this is Talisman; it’s every man for himself and God against all.”

Weasly Crusher: “Ok. I rolled a 12.”

Old Yellowbelly: “I rolled a 2. Oh no…”

Asenath: “How many lives do you have left?”

Old Yellowbelly: “Now? None.”

El Disgusto: “Ha Ha! You suck.”

Collateral Darren: “Drop all your treasure into the spot your Hero died in and draw a new Hero.”

Old Yellowbelly: “Ok I’ve got a Dragon Priest.”

Weasly Crusher: “My Minotaur heads to the Chapel.”

Rehab Boy: “Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married…”

El Disgusto: “Ok my Inquisitor has had enough of this crap and he decides to cross into the Middle Region.”

Cheating Bastard: “Are you sure? Your character only has two lives left.”

El Disgusto: “I know what I’m doing.”

Collateral Darren: “To cross into the Middle Region your character must face the Black Knight.”

El Disgusto: “Ok I’m rolling the dice now.”

Me: “And you’re losing a life now.”

El Disgusto: “This never would have happened if I was playing a ninja.”

Cheating Bastard: “And my Hero draws a new Adventure card and gets. A Talisman! All right!”

Old Yellowbelly: “Some people have all the luck.”

Rehab Boy: “And all the armor and all the weapons and mules and unicorns.”

Cheating Bastard: “Well you know what they say unlucky in love and all that.”

Me: “I like to think we make our own luck, either in games or in matters of love.”

Asenath: “Love is just another word for lust.”

Deviant Boy: “Exactly.”

Blobert Smith: “I beg to differ; a world without love is like a version of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS that does not use D12. Can you imagine a world so hellish and broken inside?”

Asenath: “Can you imagine a world where people didn’t get all torn up about what they wanted?”

Me: “No one gets everything they want.”

Deviant Boy: “Hey she’s got a point, in the five years I’ve known you, all you’ve done is search for love and then whine when you didn’t get it. Maybe if you just banged a few chicks and cleared out your snorkel once in a while you might be a little less miserable.”

Me: “And what if I catch a venereal disease? What if I get some girl I don’t give a damn about pregnant?”

Asenath: “Life is full of what ifs. What if you get run over crossing the street? What if you never get published? What if you accidentally tear half your ear off in a freak power window accident?”

Weasly Crusher: “I’m just glad there was an ice machine nearby.”

Collateral Darren: “I myself believe that love is real but it is an ideal that must be aspired to.”

Me: “Exactly.”

Collateral Darren: “That is why I have vowed only to lose my virginity to Stevie Nicks.”

El Disgusto: “Is this before or after you go to live in Alaska with the bears?”

Collateral Darren: “My life plan is pretty fluid all I know is that our love child will be the Kwisatz Haderach of death metal.”

Me: “Sure.”

Weasly Crusher: “Right.”

Cheating Bastard: “Hey can we please get back to me kicking your butts at this game?”

The other players started to converge on Cheating Bastard, each one attacking with every spell and magic item they had. The game rules stated that whenever one player defeated another player in combat the winner could either take a life, a bag of gold or an item from the loser. So everyone was trying to get their hands on the talisman the Warrior of Chaos was gleefully carrying around the Outer Region of the board. Two hours later every other player had died twice and Cheating Bastard’s character had become a wandering god.

Collateral Darren: “You know I think at this point your character should be able to march right to the Crown of Command and win.”

Cheating Bastard: “Where’s the fun in that? I haven’t become the King’s Champion yet!”

Rehab Boy: “Yeah but you’ve already been the Master Thief and the Sherriff.”

Weasly Crusher: “And now you’re the High Mage.”

Me: “Which explains why my Scientist has become a Toad with 5 warrants for his arrest.”

Cheating Bastard: “My Hero visits the Chapel to get healed.”

Weasly Crusher: “Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married…”

El Disgusto: “Was that joke EVER funny?”

Cheating Bastard: “And in my capacity has High Mage I cast a Fireball spell at the Ghoul!”

El Disgusto: “Great now my guy is dead again.”

Me: “Ha-ha you suck.”

Blobert Smith: “And my Gypsy retrieves the Fireball spell from the discard pile and casts it back at Cheating Bastard’s High Mage Warrior of Chaos. I like to think she does so because she was born in the wagon of a travelin’ show and her Momma used to dance for the money they’d throw.”

Cheating Bastard: “Fine then I cast a reflection spell and send it back at her”

Blobert Smith: “And she retrieves that spell from the discard pile and uses it to reflect the reflection spell.”

Cheating Bastard: “Bullshit!”

Blobert Smith: “No it says right here on the character sheet that she can do this.”

Cheating Bastard: “It’s still bullshit and I loathe bullshit in all of its forms.”

Collateral Darren: “But it’s in the rules.”

Cheating Bastard: “Bullshit.”

Me: “The only thing that bugs me is the idea that you could take an entire ethnic group and turn them into a caricature for a board game.”

Weasly Crusher: “But gypsies are in all kinds of stories and movies.”

Me: “Yeah but it is kind of offensive just the same, there is a rich culture and history there that gets completely glossed over in favor of some kind of Universal Horror movie cliché.”

El Disgusto: “Oh my God you are such a pussy Ab3. It’s a stupid board game not an ethnic slur. It isn’t like someone made gypsies some kind of a weird character class in a role playing game.”

Me: “Man that would be tasteless. I just think we as gamers should be more culturally sensitive.”

Asenath: “Tough talk from the guy playing the Zulu.”

Cheating Bastard: “Enough of this. I cast Feeble Mind at the Gypsy.”

Blobert Smith: “And she casts it back.”

Cheating Bastard: “I cast Warp Gate.”

Blobert Smith: “And so do I.”

Cheating Bastard: “Alchemy! I turn my spare sword into gold.”

Blobert Smith: “And I do the same.”

Cheating Bastard: “Immobility!”

Blobert Smith: “Back at you.”

This went on until they had burned through the spell card deck, reshuffled and burned through it again. I started to worry that the two of them might go on like this all night but soon enough an argument erupted about whether or not a magic user could cast Counterspell against the Gypsies special ability. The fight went back and forth until Cheating Bastard made an unkind remark about ‘Fascination Street’ and Blobert Smith attacked looking for all the world like an enraged bull dressed like the vampire Lestat. When we finally managed to pry the two of them apart we made a startling discovery.

Weasly Crusher: “You’ve…you’ve got Talisman cards hidden everywhere. In your waistband, in your socks, in your pockets. Everywhere!”

Me: “You were cheating at Talisman? Do you have any idea how sad that is?”

Cheating Bastard: “Oh come on it’s a game.”

Me: “Yes a game you were cheating at.”

Cheating Bastard: “It’s a game you big baby. What’s the matter Ab3? Is your ego so broken you can’t stand losing? Do you bitch and whine over chutes and ladders too?”

Me: “This is without a doubt the stupidest argument I’ve ever had.”

El Disgusto: “What about the time I said that Doctor Who could regenerate into a woman?”

Me: “Hey! Don’t you start!”

A knock at the door interrupted me before I could remind El Disgusto that the protagonist of the TV show DOCTOR WHO was called ‘The Doctor’ not ‘Doctor Who’. Deviant Boy got up to answer it.

Me: “Oh look. The police- again.”

Deviant Boy: “Were we too loud officers?”

Blobert Smith: “Perhaps so. My battle cry is a high pitched keening thing.”

Police Officer #1: “Do you two idiots have any idea how tired we are of having to come over here?”

Collateral Darren: “Since our taxes pay your salary I think you should be a little more respectful.”

Police Officer #2: “Respectful or not we have a warrant for your arrest.”

Deviant Boy: “I knew those bootleg copies of BIG BAD MAMA would be the end of us.”

Police Officer #1: “No actually this is because he’s been passing bad checks under an assumed name.”

Police Officer #2: “Yes apparently you bought hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise from a local game store with checks belonging to a Skippy Vanderhausen.”

Collateral Darren: “I think you’re very mistaken.”

Police Officer #1: “Who knows you might have gotten away with it if you hadn’t posted a notice looking for players for something called ‘BATTLETECH’ with your real name and address at the bottom.”

Police Officer #2: “I just hope you’re going to come along quietly this time.”

Collateral Darren: “I hope you realize that we’re in the middle of a game here. Maybe you should come back later. I’d hate to have to contact your supervisor.”

Police Officer: #1: “The pepper spray it is then.”


Police Officer #2: “Now what is the deal with all these milk crates?”

Deviant Boy: “I think I can explain…”

Needless to say the Talisman game and accessories were taken in as evidence, so were the milk crates. Collateral Darren, Deviant Boy and Cheating Bastard were all arrested. Cheating Bastard might have gone home that night if he hadn’t loudly started to argue that some of the Talisman cards were actually his and the police couldn’t take them unless they could tell him what the ‘elements of theft’ were. The rest of us stood outside the apartment each of us reeked of pepper spray, bleach and frustration.

Me: “Well here we are again.”

Asenath: “This is the part of our evenings I never missed.”

Blobert Smith: “Perhaps my lady I might be able to offer you a ride home in my Goth-mobile.”

El Disgusto: “It’s a Ford Escort!”

Asenath: “Oh Blobby, I don’t know. I mean I think maybe we both still need some space.”

Blobert Smith: “Space? Why should we allow space to separate us when our bodies want nothing more than to congeal together into a pulsing sensual mass? Join me in my car and after ice cream we will park near the airport and as your feet press against the back window, my body will crash against yours again and again like a fleshy surf breaking against the coastline of your womanhood.”


We stood there for a moment watching Rehab Boy run screaming into the night.

Old Yellowbelly: “I have a funny feeling he’s going to lose those sobriety chips tonight.”

El Disgusto: “Hey was supposed to be my ride home. Nice going fart-knocker. Which of you losers is going to drive me home?”

Old Yellowbelly: “I would but my car is full of Amway merchandise.”

Me: “I’d rather have hot lead poured in my navel.”

Blobert Smith: “I had planned to wander shirtless through a disused cemetery in tribute to my ennui. You could wait in the car if you like…”

El Disgusto: “Screw that and screw you. Especially you Ab3.”

Me: “Bye now.”

I watched him trudge off and disappear into the shadows.

Blobert Smith: “I must go as well, the broken mausoleum of my dreams awaits.”

Old Yellowbelly: “Yeah I better get home too, I’ve got to get up early anyway.”

Me: “What do you do for a living anyway?”

Old Yellowbelly: “I’m a security guard at a bank.”

Me: “Oh my Lord.”

Blobert Smith and Old Yellowbelly drove off. I suddenly began to feel strangely uncomfortable. I could feel Asenath’s eyes on me. I gave her an uncertain smile.

Asenath: “Well its just us.”

Me: “Well what are you going to do now? Are you going to wait for Deviant Boy or something?”

Asenath: “Hell no. We are the past tense, besides he and Blobert were too needy.”

Me: “Oh? Oh really?”

Asenath: “I am a woman that knows what she wants and what I want is a real man.”

Me: “How very assertive.”

Asenath: “So I think you know what you’ve got to do here.”

Me: “Look I’m really flattered but I’m just not… I mean it’s not the baby arm thing… not that I’m disturbed by it …it’s just that I still believe in love and I know you’re not the one… I mean sure every other girl I ever thought was the one was actually crazy or mean or both so what the Hell do I know… but what I’m trying to say is that I just don’t –”

Asenath: “What the Hell are you talking about? I was trying to get you to leave so Weasly and I can be alone.”

Me: “I... what? Weasly’s still here?”

Weasly Crusher: “Dude, I’m standing right beside you.”

Me: “Oh. Oh my God this is so embarrassing.

Asenath: “Can you go and be embarrassed somewhere else please?”

Me: “Yeah. Yeah sure.”

I practically ran to my car and headed back to my apartment. My roommate was still out, probably on a hot date. Alone in my bedroom I fired up my word processor. It was a suitcase sized affair with elements of an electric typewriter in the back and an amber monitor roughly the size of a paperback novel in the front. Saving and proofreading my stories on little 3.5 floppy disks made me feel like I was truly a part of the computer age. I would feel very different about it a year or so later when the damn thing broke down and I discovered that hundreds of pages of stories were now saved in a specialized format that only that model number of word processor could read. Did I mention it wasn’t made any more?

In no time at all I had lost myself in my latest novel in progress, it was about a group of D&D players who end up having to face a dragon in the real world. I was quite happy with some parts of the story, the funny parts were thankfully kind of funny and the strange parts were pretty strange but whenever I got to the part where the protagonists banded together to win the day the story fell apart. I tried approaching the story from another angle but instead of saying things like “We can do this guys!” or “This is our moment!” my subconscious kept feeding me dialogue like “Ha-ha you suck!” and “Maybe if you just banged a few chicks and cleared out your snorkel once in a while you might be a little less miserable.”

I paused and wondered for a moment what Weasly and Asenath were up to at that very moment but my mind refused to let those images linger. Still though, I had to wonder, were they behaving the way twenty-something’s should be behaving? Was I missing out because I was holding out for an ideal instead of sowing my wild oats?

Did I even have any wild oats to sow? On a night like this I sure didn’t feel like it. I just felt like a punchline, I always felt like a punchline and in a way it was kind of funny, all my life I had been a class clown but sometimes I felt desperate with the need for someone to take me seriously.

Thinking of all the dating disasters I had endured over the last few years I wondered how differently they might have gone if I had been a little more like Deviant Boy and a little less like me. Was I following my heart when I should have been following my prostate?

I have to admit but I had to wonder what it would feel like to break someone’s heart. I always imagined it gave the same kind of satisfaction a Dungeon Master received after plunging a freshly minted player character into a pit trap filled with acid.

Everyone from bosses to my grandmother had always told me that the secret to love was to treat every princess like a whore, that the worse you were to someone you liked the more they would cling to you. They always told me things like “That’s how the game is played.” But I had never had any intention of using that particular rules set.

Now however on the cusp of my twenty-fifth birthday that game was looking better and better.

Annoying Girl’s phone number was in my wallet, I pulled it out and stared at it for a long good while. Would it be so bad – so Lawful Evil? A girl like her… a fat girl … she had to be used to spending her nights alone. She might be glad of a little attention.

And after I used her and never called her again I would know what it felt like to leave someone feeling like the fool. She would be the one waiting by the phone for a call that never came- she would be the one wondering what she could have done wrong. She would be the one left hanging.

I liked the idea because as I writer I knew there was nothing worse than to be left hanging, to be left wondering what was going to happen next.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Nick Of Time (and other abrasions): Breaking The Girl

The Nick Of Time
(and other abrasions)

Breaking The Girl
Al Bruno III

She stirred groggily; her head was aching, she was tied to a chair, lengths of soggy rope bit into her wrists and ankles. And to think, just a few hours ago Jason Magwier had been chiding her with, “Come now my dear, what could possibly go wrong?”
Lorelei had been in worse situations than this. Hell her 16th birthday party had ended up looking like the last scene of Hamlet, so she just kept calm and didn't open her eyes or raise her head until she heard the click of boot heels on the stone floor. She looked up and spat an incantation-nothing too fancy, just something that would knock your average sized man off his feet.
Pain roared through her skull, the incantation became nothing but gibberish.
A familiar voice said, “Might wanna think about that again sugar-pie.”
Slowly opening her eyes Lorelei saw a hand mirror being held inches from her nose, arcane symbols had been painted on her forehead. She recognized them as Sigils of Enfeeblement and as long as they were there the most magical thing she was going to manage was a few card tricks.
Lorelei looked past the mirror to the grinning face behind it, to the red leather jacket, sunglasses and snakeskin boots. She knew this man all too well with his capped teeth, overdone hair and half-baked fashion sense. When she spoke his name her voice was full of contempt, “Jack Diamond.”
“Lorelei Miller.”
There was a table to his right, it had everything an uncreative torturer might need-things that were sharp, things that were blunt, things that gleamed and things that seemed to have been designed for no other reason that cruelty. Lorelei pulled halfheartedly at her bindings, “I suppose saying that you better let me go or you'll be sorry isn't going to gain much traction?”
“You always were a smart girl,” he made a show of drawing closer to her, looming over her, “now let's see if you're smart enough to know when to save that finely formed ass.”
“I'm not telling you anyth-AHHHHHHH!!
Her every muscle locked, Jack Diamond pressed the taser into the flesh of her neck for what seemed like forever. When he finished he said, “You might want to reconsider that.”
Everything hurt, she felt faint and nauseous, “Do you you really think we're going to give you back the Maker of Moons?”
“I know your boyfriend has it, I want to know where it is and what he’s up to.”
“He never tells me anything. Why don’t you ask him yourself?”
“Then where is he?” her tormentor scanned the bleak little room, “I don't see him here? Do you?”
“Torture and sarcasm?” she sneered, “However will I resist?”
Jack Diamond shook his head and dropped the taser onto his little workbench, “You really are something.”
The punch was so telegraphed that he could have sent it by Western Union, it gave Lorelei enough time to lower her face and catch the blow on the temple. While light flashed before her eyes, she shouted just to make sure he could hear her over the ringing in her head, “Untie me and I'll show you something.”
The next punch was to her stomach, the air whooshed out of her lungs. He said to her, “You know I was going to use my toys on you but I have to say this is very satisfying,” he punched her twice more in the head, “after all the times you and your compadres have screwed with me, this is very satisfying indeed.”
“...fucking...” she whispered, “...amateur...”
Another rain of blows, so many she lost count, they landed everywhere: on her head, face and chest. Lorelei tried to think of something else; schoolwork, her mother’s birthday, they lyrics from her favorite Patti Smith song.
When he was finished he left her with one eye swollen shut and a nose that dripped blood uncontrollably but that wasn’t the only place she was bleeding from, gashes had been cut into her cheek, her lower lip was split and blood was running from her forehead into her eyes. Lorelei welcomed the sting.
“Now...” Jack Diamond picked a pair of pliers from his workbench, “...where shall we start? The fingernails or the teeth?”
She shook her head fiercely spattering blood, making her face a red ruin, “Does it matter?”
“I suppose not,” he said, “you know, the thing about pain is that it shows us who we are. It helps us to get in touch with the animal part of us. Fight or flight. Some animals will chew off a leg to escape from a trap, others will just lay down and die. Let’s find out what kind of animal you are.”
She laughed a little, even her smile was bloody, “You believe that bullshit? You think you’re some kind of badass because you know how to hurt and kill? You’re just as asshole taking his traumatic potty training out on the rest of the world.”
“You just don’t know when to quit do you?” Jack Diamond grabbed for her.
She looked up and spat an incantation; nothing too fancy, just something that knock him off his feet. The second incantation melted the ropes that held her like butter.
“How the Hell?” Jack Diamond tried to stand but his leg had twisted under him and he went right back down again.
“You should have paid attention to where you were hitting me. Runes of Enfeeblement are only good if they don’t get smeared,” she tapped her bloody forehead, “I said you were a fucking amateur.”
He tried to draw the pistol from his shoulder holster but Lorelei was ready, she dug the taser into his skin and watched him twitch.
“I should be going,” she said, her finger squeezing the trigger, “but let’s just see what kind of animal you are. I think we’ve got the time.”

(Insane News) Police: Man was naked, with stolen cheese

Police: Man was naked, with stolen cheese

The police report on Darrell Bess was succinct.

Clothing description: Naked.

Offenses: Public indecency, theft, carrying a concealed weapon.

According to police and court records, Bess, 52, was found unclothed standing at the men’s room sink in the Cincinnati Public Library by police at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. When they searched Bess’ bag, police said they found a 4-pound chunk of cheese allegedly stolen from Silverglade's Cheese & Sausage In Findlay Market...

In which I try to sell you one of my self published books... they're like #fridayflash but longer!

Try one of my books! You might like it!

IN THIS TWILIGHT tales of lost gods and fragile transformations

This collection of 13 stories transports you to a world where both dreams and monsters lurk in the shadows, where love and forgotten rituals fight for control of the human heart, and where the madness of eternity can be glimpsed in a single segmented eye. This anthology collects some of the best stories from Al Bruno III's website and includes the novellas 'Chad's Oracles', 'Fully Vested' and 'The Mask Collector', available for the first time anywhere.

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

IN THE MIDNIGHT OF HIS HEART a novel of horror and obsession

To all outward appearances John Sig is just an old man living a quietly in an empty old house. His one pleasure is when he heads down to the local diner and visits with his favorite waitress Angie. When Angie disappears, John sets out to find her. For an ordinary old man that might seem like a foolish idea but John Sig isn't human, he's a monster living in the shadow of a nightmare thirty -five years old.

RPG.NET rant#22 The Last Straw Trilogy Part One: Warhammer The Spoilers Generation

RPG.NET rant#22
The Last Straw Trilogy Part One:
Warhammer The Spoilers Generation

originally posted to on 7-04-2008, 04:59 PM


Guido’s phone number was still in my wallet but I hadn’t used it. There was something about calling up a relative stranger to ask to be invited to their role playing game that just made me uncomfortable. For me it seemed akin to standing on a street corner and asking each of the women that passed you by for a lap dance. Sure, you might get what you were looking for but the odds were you were going to get something a lot worse.
Better the game you knew than the game you didn’t know.
Besides, I had to admit that I was intrigued. Weasly Crusher was running this game, and none of us had ever known him to run anything. I was curious to see what he could do, I mean he had to have learned something from all those years of being brutalized and sidelined.
My only worry was that he had chosen to run Warhammer Fantasy Role- play. Now don’t get me wrong it was a damn good game but it also boasted what had to be the second most dark and brutal game world I had ever seen.
And for the record the most dark and brutal game world I had ever seen was a D&D campaign that Psycho Dave had run many years ago. For this game he had created a hybrid damage system that combined the standard D&D hit point system with the Arduin Grimoire critical hit chart and the infamous Rolemaster critical damage tables. And he used this table for any kind of injury whatsoever for players and NPCs alike. In doing so he created a desolate, blood soaked ruin of a world where carpenters died from complications of bruising their thumbs, people picking at hangnails had their flesh suddenly fall away from their bones in wet red strips and mothers in childbirth frequently detonated.
Anyway there I was another game, another basement but this time it was the basement of the Smith family. I sat on the comfortable futon admiring the clean well decorated room.

Me: “Wow nice place.”
Blobert Smith: “Thank you, for some time my parents used this as a recreation room but their advanced age and weak knees have forced them to secede the basement to me much in the same way a freshman girl must secede her pink chiffon dress during the drive home from the senior prom.”
Collateral Darren: “Proms are nothing more than the result of tuxedo rental stores conspiring with the local school districts to boost their revenue before the summer wedding season.”
Me: “You know I was going to burst out laughing but then I realized you really believe that. You are insane.”
Collateral Darren: “Mock me all you want but you know that my mother works for the local paper right? She’s seen the stories about this but the newspapers suppress them for substantial kickbacks from the Tuxedo Illuminati.”
Me: “Yeah. Right. Hey Blobert, you were supposed to show me that trophy you won at the poetry slam.”
Blobert Smith: “Ah yes but it is on my mother’s bureau. She was so very proud, I feel I have redeemed myself in her eyes after she caught me pilfering her unmentionables for my performance art piece ‘Gulf War Granny Panties’. However I think this must wait for a different time to view said trophy because once my parents are asleep and I am loathe to rouse them from their little dress rehearsals for death.”
Me: “Oh sure I totally understand.”
Collateral Darren: “I wonder where everyone else is.”
Blobert Smith: “Weasly called to inform me that he was going over a few last minute notes for his game. El Disgusto should be making his way here from work now but he has many buses and transfers ahead of him. Cheating Bastard is also at work and Deviant Boy is just making his way back from his Saturday afternoon ritual of standing on the street corner and asking random women for lap dances.”
Me: “Why would he have to do that? He told me that last week he scored a threesome with two co-eds.”

There was a knock at the door, Blobert headed upstairs to answer it. When he returned El Disgusto was with him.

Collateral Darren: “And do you know why he scored with those two co-eds? Practice. Manliness is like a bow and arrow, practice is critical.”
El Disgusto: “Wrong metal head. Manliness is like a katana and you’ve got to hone it to a razor keen edge.”
Blobert Smith: “I have always felt manliness was a dark, cold spring that you can bathe in but never frolic. God save you if you frolic.”
Me: “You’re here sooner then we expected.”
El Disgusto: “That’s because I quit my job.”
Collateral Darren: “Hello unemployment office.”
El Disgusto: “It gives me time to concentrate on myself and more importantly my gaming.”
Me: “Did you ever consider that maybe you might not be in a state of constant financial chaos if you just found a job you liked and worked at it until you got a raise? Would a stable career path be such a bad thing?”
El Disgusto: “Let me ask you a question- how many great player characters have been on stable career paths? If given the choice between high adventure or a 401k what would Conan do? Besides if I need money I can just sell that Bob Kane original artwork of mine.”
Me: “You would sell that? The artwork Bob Kane gave you when you were a boy and he was your neighbor? I would think that sentimental value would keep you from doing something like that.”
El Disgusto: “For now it stays in my safety deposit box.”
Me: “I’d love to see it one day.”
Cheating Bastard “Greetings one and all.”
Blobert Smith: “I didn’t hear you knock.”
Cheating Bastard: “The door was locked so I broke in.”
Collateral Darren: “I totally respect that.”
Blobert Smith: “As always your ability to subvert the presuppositions of property law are only matched by your ability to roll 9 natural 20’s in a row.”
Cheating Bastard: “Where’s Weasly? I can’t wait to get started.”
El Disgusto: “Who cares? The game is gonna suck. There are no ninjas.”
Blobert Smith: “A ninja would by out as out of place in the Moorcockian kakotopia of Warhammer Fantasy Role Play as a kill floor in a day care center.”
El Disgusto: “Well I’ve been calling him every day this week to try and wear him down. I have to admit he’s got more willpower than I thought, but the fact remains no ninjas equals a sucky game.”
Me: “Then why are you here?
El Disgusto: “No. Why are you here?”
Me: “No? Why are you here?”
El Disgusto: “No! Why are you here?”
Me: “No, Why are you here?”
El Disgusto: “No. Why. Are. You. Here?”
Blobert Smith: “It’s like the Special Olympics version of ‘Waiting for Godot’. And me without my camcorder.”
Deviant Boy: “Oh yeah. I’ve got to get that back to you. I’m almost done making my… movie.”

We all looked up to see Deviant Boy heading down the stairs.

Blobert Smith: “Ah you’re here. Now all we need is our gamemaster for the evening.”
Collateral Darren: “Well I’ve already done my part. I brought liquid refreshments.”
Me: “Booze? You brought booze to a role playing game? That’s an invitation to disaster, it’s like… that’s like… help me out here Blobert…”
Blobert Smith: “Like opening an adult bookstore in Iran?”
Cheating Bastard: “Damn he’s good at that.”
Collateral Darren: “These alcoholic beverages are to aid in the role playing experience. For each hit point of damage you take to the body you do a shot of Jägermeister, for each point of damage you take to the head you take a shot of Wild Turkey.”
Me: “That’s nuts.”
Collateral Darren: “That’s how they do it in the midnight D&D tournament at Gen Con.”
Me: “Really?”
Collateral Darren: “Of course! Haven’t you even been to Gen Con? Or any kind of a Con?”
Me: “I got beaten up on the way in to The Council of the Five Nations.”
Deviant Boy: “Well that’s not really a convention but what happened?”
Me: “Some other geek heard me making disparaging comments about Galactica 1980 and jumped me. He beat me with a bag full of dice.”
El Disgusto: “Sap.”
Me: “What did you call me?”
El Disgusto: “A bag of dice or rocks used as a weapon is called a sap. I was just trying to help.”
Me: “Oh.”

About ten minutes later Weasly Crusher arrived, carrying a milk crate overflowing with game books and binders. He quickly got set up and had us roll up our characters. Everything was pretty much random generation, from stats to careers.

Me: “Hmmm an alchemist’s apprentice. Kind of like a magic user in training. I guess I name him ‘Addlebert’.”
Cheating Bastard: “A noble! I shall call him ‘Lord Flashheart’!”
Collateral Darren: “I’ve got a pit fighter, so I’m sure somewhere in heaven Jean Claude Van Damme is smiling.”
Me: “I don’t think he’s dead.”
Collateral Darren: “After STREET FIGHTER he’s dead to me. But I think I’ll name my pit fighter ‘Nitro’.”
Blobert Smith: “I have an elven ranger. I shall call him ‘The Flaming Cliché’ and he will spend his every hour trying to find a hapless dwarf fighter to condescend to.”
Deviant Boy: “And I will be that dwarf! I have a dwarven Bawd named Ralphus.”
Me: “Is a Bawd what I think it is?”
Deviant Boy: “I think the more important question here is does a ball-gag count as a helm?”
Blobert Smith: “My ranger has become a Midnight Cowboy. How sublime.”
El Disgusto: “I’m a ratcatcher? A ratcatcher? Doesn’t this craptastic gameworld have traps for that?”
Weasly Crusher: “Well these are only your starting careers as you gain experience you can change careers or upgrade.”
El Disgusto: “Upgrade, from a ratcatcher? What would that be? Flyswatter? Roachstomper? Possumfucker?”
Collateral Darren: “Weasly you’re shaking, maybe you should have a drink or two before you start.”
Weasly Crusher: “No, no, I’m ok. Let’s get started.”
Me: “Great.”

Weasly then took a few minutes to describe the world of the Empire to us, to give us an overview of the politics, races and culture. Then he dropped us into that old role playing game standby, the Inn.

Weasly Crusher: “Each of your characters has been making their way to Altdorf where a call has been sent out for adventurers and mercenaries and dwarves in bodystockings…”
Deviant Boy: “Awesome!”
Weasly Crusher: “You find yourselves spending the night at the inn. In the morning a coach will take you –”
El Disgusto: “My character decides to randomly pick fights.”
Weasly Crusher: “Buh?”
El Disgusto: “In fact my character loudly declares he can lick any man in the house.”
Deviant Boy: “Well he’s got my interest.”
Weasly Crusher: “What… why are you doing this?”
El Disgusto: “Because I hate this character and I want him to die.”
Me: “Then just roll up another one.”
El Disgusto: “Not good enough. The ratcatcher must die.”
Cheating Bastard: “My character loudly jokes how much he likes these new-style jesters and throws a handful of coins at the ratcatcher.”
Deviant Boy: “Me too.”
Weasly Crusher: “And then everyone is doing it. They applaud your performance and give you money.”
El Disgusto: “Fine. Then I go to the bar and buy as many drinks as I can. Hope you have rules for alcohol poisoning monkey boy.”
Weasly Crusher: “I don’t…”
Collateral Darren: “Waiting for a coach ride to Altdorf? This reminds me of the scenario where the players end up finding a dead noble who is a dead ringer for one of the PCs.”
Weasly Crusher: “You… played that one?”
Collateral Darren: “No but I read it in the game store.”
El Disgusto: “No way. No way am I playing in a scenario one of the other players has read. That’s like… that’s like… a little help here?”
Blobert Smith: “…trying to quietly fart in an elevator full of blind men?”
El Disgusto: “Close enough.”
Weasly Crusher: “Well… ok… just give me a minute.”

I watched Weasly flip through a handful of notes, all the while chewing his lip. He checked through several game books and then started again. Our characters did take the last coach to Altdorf and despite the ratcatcher’s repeated attempts to throw himself under the wheels we made good time.

Me: “My alchemist’s apprentice casts a concerned glance the ratcatcher’s way and asks him his name.”
El Disgusto: “He doesn’t have a name he sold it to buy cheese.”
Me: “Could you at least try to roleplay? Or is this how you pay back Weasly for all the work he’s done for this game?”
Cheating Bastard: “Since the ranger and I are riding alongside the coach on our steeds we go and scout ahead.”
Blobert Smith: “Capital idea!”
Weasly Crusher: “All right you ride ahead and you see… just a moment … I had the page bookmarked…”
El Disgusto: “You expect me to role play this shit? A ratcatcher? You do realize that every day not playing a ninja is a day wasted.”
Me: “You know if you just try to play something other than a psychotic prick you might find yourself having a good time. You might, you know start role playing.”
El Disgusto: “Oh you wanna see role playing do you? I’ll show the some role playing spazzbury doughboy.”

I heard the sound of dice rolling and looked up to see Weasly Customer setting out some minis.

Weasly Crusher: “Now the elf and the noble spy some goblin raiders and the goblin raiders spy you guys as well. What do you do?”
Cheating Bastard: “We retreat back to the coach.”
Blobert Smith: “I call out ‘To arms! To arms!’”

And so began my first taste of Warhammer Fantasy Role Play’s combat system. It wasn’t as bad as I thought, or maybe it was simply that the coach gave us partial cover. The end result was we made quick work of the goblins with minimal damage.

Collateral Darren: “My pit fighter roars with triumph as he stands over the bodies of his vanquished foes.”
Weasly Crusher: “Well it looks like Ab3’s character has dislocated his knee.”
Collateral Darren: “Then here’s your shot.”
Me: “I’m not drinking and gaming, I’m just not.”
Cheating Bastard: “Don’t be a wussy Ab3.”
Weasly Crusher: “When the combat is over the coach driver stops in the nearby town of Bogenhafen so he can make repairs. You guys have a few hours to kill and as luck would have it their annual festival the Schaffenfest is going on so you will have plenty to do.”
Collateral Darren: “Is this the one where we chase the three legged goblin into the sewers?”
Weasly Crusher: “Oh my god.”
El Disgusto: “What the Hell kind of GM are you Weasly? Son of a bitch!”
Me: “Maybe we could just soldier on.”
Collateral Darren: “I only think I’ve like memorized half the maps …”
El Disgusto: “No. I am not going to game with one hand behind my back.”
Weasly Crusher: “Ok… Ok… just a minute here… I can just move ahead a little.”
Me: “How much of the Warhammer FRP scenario material have you read anyway?”
Collateral Darren: “All of it.”
Deviant Boy: “I didn’t know you were interested in running the system.”
Collateral Darren: “I’m not. I would never run a role playing game. I just like to read scenarios and wonder what might happen if I played them.”
Weasly Crusher: “I don’t know what to do.”
Me: “That’s all right Weasly we don’t need to-”
El Disgusto: “Screw that. I quit my job to be here so we damn well better game. Besides, I’ve really got a handle on who this ratcatcher guy is now. I can’t wait to role play him.”
Blobert Smith: “Why not simply use the existing material you have in new and surprising ways… something similar happened to me when I attempted to turn ‘The Soft Machine’ into a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book.”
Me: “Blobert, I don’t think your signals have ever decoded properly.”
Blobert Smith: “Indeed.”
Weasly Crusher: “Sure, I can do this. Just let me have a Jägermeister or two.”
Collateral Darren: “All right.”

Two drinks and a notebook later and the adventure was off again. Our characters left Bogenhafen and its suddenly lifeless Schaffenfest and pressed on. Weasly was rolling dice and scribbling franticly in his notebooks between sips of alcohol.

El Disgusto: “How long are we just going to be toddling along in this damn wagon?”
Me: “Will you just give him a chance?”
El Disgusto: “But I’m just role playing my character’s impatience. See? Roleplaying.”
Deviant Boy: “At least my character picked up an amazing array of sausages at the last town. I can’t wait to try them out.”
Cheating Bastard: “My noble asks the coachman how much further we have to go.”
Weasly Crusher: “He replies that they could make better time if they took a more direct route but doing so would take the party deep into bandit country.”
Cheating Bastard: “Bandits? I suggest our party go due east.”
Me: “Due East? That’s off the road and at a right angle to where we are headed.”
Cheating Bastard: “Yeah but it might be a good shortcut. Maybe we could find a path. The elf and I will ride out to check.”
Blobert Smith: “I spur my steed on into the wilderness of random encounters and savage improvisation.”

The noble and elf headed off and a few rounds later came riding back with a group of bandits hot on their heels. We had time to stop the coach and scramble out with our weapons. The noble and the elf had the best of it, wading through the fray on their steeds; their swords raining death down on the bandits and in one unfortunate case the coach driver. The pit fighter did a lot of damage as well but since Collateral Darren felt it was ‘in character’ for Nitro to flex and pose after each kill he didn’t really get a high body count. Deviant Boy may have caused less overall physical damage to our enemies but he was just glad that the sight of a dwarf in a mesh bodystocking wielding a length of link sausages like a set of nunchaku left so many of the bandits staring in stunned confusion that they were easily picked off by the ratcatcher. The only real load on the party during the whole fight was unfortunately my alchemist’s apprentice who spent most the combat trying either trying to hit bandits or trying to get away from them.

El Disgusto: “My ratcatcher is as giggly as a schoolgirl after that battle. He decides to record a few choice memories in his journal.”
Me: “A ratcatcher with a journal... ok.”
Collateral Darren: “Nitro the pit fighter mocks the appalling lack of manliness the alchemist displayed.”
Me: “He’s alchemist’s apprentice, not a fighter.”
Weasly Crusher: “What about the coach driver’s body?”
Deviant Boy: “Did someone remember to check his pockets?”

After a quick vote my character was put in charge of driving the coach and we headed on. Things went pretty well aside from the fact that Weasly’s speech was becoming slurred and he was drooping in his seat. I had tried to tell him that downing a finger of bourbon for each dead NPC wasn’t a good idea but he was determined to do the Gen Con way. Slowly we began to see the city of Altdorf resolve itself on the horizon. The noble and the elf rode ahead to scout for trouble and once again found it.

El Disgusto: “Trolls? You’re leading a bunch of trolls back here now?”
Blobert Smith: “I am sure you will agree that in a situation like this there is safety in numbers.”
Deviant Boy: “Well I think you should fight your own damn trolls. The only reason they’re after us is because you went looking for them.”
Weasly Crusher: “No. They were a random encounter. It just happens that the noble and the elf rode ahead.”
El Disgusto: “Wrong. If we had all arrived at the random encounter ourselves then it would be our encounter and I’d be happy about it. But that’s not what happened. What happened is they rode ahead, created a random encounter and then ran back to us with it hot on their tails. This is not our encounter.”
Blobert Smith: “I was not aware that Professor Schrödinger wrote the random encounter rules for this game.”

Personally I didn’t know what to think of the argument, but then again it was the 1990’s – Aggro and Leroy Jenkins hadn’t been invented yet. Our characters tried to outrun the troll horde but we found ourselves surrounded. The first casualty of the battle was the coach, it ended up flipping onto its side, pinning my character Addlebert beneath it with a broken leg. My character spent the entire combat trying to get free while friend and foe alike trampled over him.
Our resident Dwarf, Ralphus charged into battle, eager to face one of his peoples’ natural enemies. Deviant Boy let us know that Ralphus had been saving a particularly large and stale sausage for just such and occasion.
Collateral Darren kept his pit fighter in the thick of things and managed to kill two trolls before Nitro’s sword arm was sliced off by one of the curved, cruel-looking weapons the trolls were using.
Blobert Smith and Cheating Bastard had their steeds cut out from under them by a few well-timed troll attacks. Their horses gone, the Flaming Cliché and Lord Flashheart suddenly found themselves on the defensive, they climbed on top of the upended coach and prepared to make a desperate last stand, ignoring Addlbert’s screams of agony all the while.
The real surprise of this combat however was the ratcatcher; the dice were truly with El Disgusto as his character killed twice as many trolls on his own as the rest of the party did together.
Weasly Crusher: “Another kill! Good going El Disgusto! Are you sure you’re not using Cheating Bastard’s lucky dice?”
El Disgusto: “It’s all skill pally, all skill.”
Blobert Smith: “We shall tell the trolls that death is here and his name is… what was your character’s name again?”
El Disgusto: “You never asked.”
Blobert Smith: “And yet here you are fighting alongside us. Truly we have been through the desert on a coach with no name.”
Weasly Crusher: “Sorry Deviant Boy but Ralphus’ weapon of choice breaks.”
Deviant Boy: “Stormwiener no!”
Cheating Bastard: “How many more trolls are left?”
Weasly Crusher: “Seven trolls surround you.”
Me: “We can’t take that many. We’re too wounded.”
Cheating Bastard: “Well maybe if you weren’t just lying there… like… like… Blobert?”
Blobert Smith: “…like a wealthy man with a faulty toupee and a bad back on his wedding night?”
Deviant Boy: “Wow.”
Me: “It’s uncanny.”
El Disgusto: “How many trolls have we killed?”
Weasly Crusher: “Six.”
Collateral Darren: “I’ll just pour your bourbon into this convenient novelty glass.”
Me: “Once again let me say that not only do I think its pretty damn sad that we’ve combined drinking and roleplaying but then to be drinking from Muppet Baby glasses… is this really what we should be doing with our lives?”
El Disgusto: “You have a better idea? Maybe we could watch you spend all night striking out with goth girls at the QE2? Or we could help you write some of the stories that no one will ever print. Or we could watch some of those crappy movies that only you seem to rent. Who was the last one directed by? Peter Jackson? That guy will never work again!”
Me: “You know you really missed your calling as a suicide prevention line operator.”

As we argued Weasly Crusher downed his bourbon in a series of convulsive gulps and then started GMing again. His eyes became more and more glassy as the adventure continued.

Weasly Crusher: “The trolls surround you but suddenly there is a flash and a series of lightning bolts reduce your enemies to ashes.”
Deviant Boy: “Saved!”
Cheating Bastard: “Do those still count as our kills for experience purposes?”
Collateral Darren: “Nitro turns to see who has saved the party.”
Me: “You know Darren, Nitro might want to do something about that spurting wound where his arm used to be and I don’t know maybe-get this damn coach off my character!!!!”
Weasly Crusher: “An elf walks out of the forest. He has short, dark hair and wears a blue tunic tucked into a pair of black breeches and leather boots.”
Blobert Smith: “The Flaming Cliché hails him as a fellow elf.”
Weasly Crusher: “He speaks a dialect of elvish you can barely understand.”
Blobert Smith: “My character explains to the rest of the party that this stranger speaks a dialect of elvish that can barely be understood.”
El Disgusto: “Ask him how he saved us, is he a magic user?”
Blobert Smith: “My character asks the stranger how he saved us and if he is a magic user.”
Weasly Crusher: “The stranger tells your character that he is a scientist.”
Blobert Smith: “The Flaming Cliché tells the rest of the party that their rescuer is a scientist.”
Weasly Crusher: “When the stranger sees how badly injured the rest of the party is he pulls a small gold and black object from his belt and whispers into it.”
Blobert Smith: “He has pulled a small metal-”
Deviant Boy: “Ok we can take it from here Blobert.”
Weasly Crusher: “Two humans stride out of the woods, one is dressed in a very similar fashion to the elf, the other wears a gold tunic instead of a blue one.”
Collateral Darren: “This is familiar but I can’t recall which Warhammer supplement it’s in.”
Weasly Crusher: “The human in the gold tunic pulls a kind of wand slash crossbow thing from his belt and fires it at the coach. A kind of lightning shoots out and turns the coach into ashes.”
Me: “Uh… ok?”
Weasly Crusher: “Then the human in the blue tunic walks up to you and waves a wand over your shattered leg. The wound miraculously heals.”
Me: “But how… I didn’t think magic worked that way in this game.”

The rest of the party began asking the strangers for their own wounds to be healed. The human and the elf did all the work while the man in the gold tunic observed with an impossibly smug expression on his face.

Weasly Crusher: “And the man in the gold tunic observes it all with an impossibly smug expression on his face.”
Me: “My character thanks the strangers and asks them their names. My character tells them his name is Addlebert.”
Deviant Boy: “My dwarf curtsies and tells them he is Ralphus.”
Cheating Bastard: “My noble introduces himself as Lord Flashheart and explains to them that if they are ever in his vaguely outlined but far away fiefdom they are more than welcome to visit.”
Blobert Smith: “The Flaming Cliché thanks them the only way he knows how, with a framed lithograph of his nipple-pint.”
El Disgusto: “My ratcatcher walks up to them and says ‘Hi! My name is Ab3 and I love the taste of failure!’”
Me: “That’s it you’re DEAD!”
El Disgusto: “What? I’m roleplaying motherfucker!”
Me: “You smelly SOCIOPATH!”
Blobert Smith: “No! There will be No fighting in this basement. This basement is sacred ground. Dreams were born and died in this basement. It was here that I first made love to Asenath, on that futon right there.”
Me: “Hey, who wants to trade seats?”
Blobert Smith: “And it was there, on that tearstained patch of carpet that I begged her not to break up with me but alas it was too late. The damage was done.”
Me: “Anyone at all?”
Deviant Boy: “Not that I care, because I don’t, I just don’t, why did she break up with you?”
Blobert Smith: “Merely because once in the throws of passion I cried Peter Murphy’s name instead of hers. A common enough mistake for anyone that has listened to a single Bauhaus album.”
Me: “Look I’ll give someone cash money to swap with me. Cash money!”
Weasly Crusher: “The strangers offer to take you with them to their ship.”
Collateral Darren: “Sounds tempting.”
Me: “Ship? Is there a river near here?”
El Disgusto: “Oh my God. How stupid are you?”
Me: “Possibly stupid enough to have just gotten crabs from a futon.”
Cheating Bastard: “Come on Ab3, think about it.”
Weasly Crusher: “Are we gaming are not? Are you guys gonna go to the ship, join their crew and fight the troll menace where ever they are found?”
Me: “I have no idea what is going on here anymore.”
Deviant Boy: “Look, one pointy eared elf, two humans, strange ‘magic’, gold and blue shirts.”
Me: “Oh my God. We’re having a Star Trek crossover? With Warhammer?”
Blobert Smith: “Make it so.”
Me: “Weasly how drunk are you?”
Weasly Crusher: “Drunk enough, I’m feelin’ the modifiers baby.”
Me: “I think we should just call it a night guys. He has no idea what he’s doing.”
Collateral Darren: “Oh no. We are going to keep gaming until my character gets a phaser.”
Cheating Bastard: “Word.”
Deviant Boy: “So… Asenath’s single again?”
Weasly Crusher: “Look are you losers beaming up or not? The Captain wants to know.”
El Disgusto: “Ab3 the ratcatcher is going, if only because he hopes the strange science of these people can cure his terminal lameness.”
Blobert Smith: “My character swoons at the possibility of making his own journey to the Ring of Soshern.”
Deviant Boy: “What’s the Ring of Soshern?”
Blobert Smith: “Perhaps it is a place our characters could explore together.”
Me: “Guys. This is insane and Weasly is so drunk that he won’t even remember this.”
Collateral Darren: “But we’ll still have our phasers.”
Cheating Bastard: “And he’ll have to deal with it.”
Weasly Crusher: “So everyone is beaming up but Ab3’s character?”
Me: “I am trying to make a stand here.”
Weasly Crusher: “Fine. The rest of the party beams up on to the Enterprise with the strangers. Addlebert waits behind.”
Me: “Good then maybe…”
Weasly Crusher: “But then magical Leprechaun appears next to your character.”
Me: “A what? A leprechaun?” There aren’t any leprechauns in Warhammer fantasy roleplay are there?”
Weasly Crusher: “Insulted by your statements the leprechaun pulls out a Rambo knife and stabs your character in the groin and again and again and again until…”

I can only assume that the leprechaun stabbing would have been fatal for my character because that was when Weasly started throwing up into his milk crate full of gaming supplies.

Weasly Crusher: “Blargh!”
Me: “Oh nice going Darren, is this how they do it at Gen Con too?”
Weasly Crusher: “Blaarrgghh!”
Cheating Bastard: “Ha! Yeah Gen Con right. Maybe we should be drinking out of a poetry slam trophy.”
Deviant Boy: “While – snicker- while reading some Bob Kane artwork?”
Weasly Crusher: “Blaaarrrggghhh!”
El Disgusto: “With some co-eds?”
Me: “What are you idiots talking about?”
Blobert Smith: “I must confess that you have been part of a social experiment put forth by El Disgusto.”
Weasly Crusher: “Blaaaarrrrgggghhhh!”
Me: “Social experiment?”
El Disgusto: “Well I realized after I made a joke about having Bob Kane artwork that you believed me and then we all realized you actually believed stuff we told you.”
Me: “But why would you lie to me?”
El Disgusto: “Because it’s funny!”
Weasly Crusher: “Blaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh!”
Deviant Boy: “And some of the stuff you shared with us is priceless.”
Me: “Priceless?”
Collateral Darren: “Like when you told Blobert how you reacted when the chief editor of Simon and Schuster sent you a personal letter detailing why your novel would never ever be published? I mean crying is one thing but hiding under your desk for an hour?”
Me: “But it hurt…”
Cheating Bastard: “Or when you told El Disgusto your great-grandmother used to call you Chicken-scratches? Hysterical!”
Weasly Crusher: “Blaaaaaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhh!”
Me: “I told you this stuff because you guys supposed to be my friends.”
Blobert Smith: “We are not friends sadly we are gamers, unloved and unwanted we rattle our dice against the crushing din of our own failure and self-loathing. And the tale you told Darren about meeting one of your favorite authors only to have him call you a miserable little suck up in front of a laughing crowd? That is the stuff that dream ballets are made of.”
Me: “Look this is a really shitty way to treat a person guys. If you are kidding around with me lets drop it now before my feelings get hurt.”
El Disgusto: “Oh always with the feelings Ab3, always with the feelings.”
Me: “You mean none of the stuff you guys told me is true?”
El Disgusto: “I never met Bob Kane.”
Weasly Crusher: “Blaaaaaaarrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhh!”
Collateral Darren: “I’ve never been to Gen Con. I legally can’t leave the state for a few more years.”
Blobert Smith: “And never entered a poetry slam contest much less won a trophy.”
Me: “But Deviant Boy what about the co-eds?”
Deviant Boy: “Well technically they were co-eds… in the early 1950’s.”
El Disgusto: “Ewwwww.”
Deviant Boy: “I tell you they don’t call them ‘hot flashes’ for nothing.”
Me: “But what about what I told you? That was kind of private…”
Weasly Crusher: “Blaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhhh!”
Deviant Boy: “You mean the thing about you masturbating into your socks?”
El Disgusto: “Ab3 you’ve given a whole new meaning to the term ‘doing the laundry’.”

Of course I stormed out of Blobert’s house at that point but as I have said before there is no dignified way to leave the gaming table with tears in your eyes. I told myself on the drive home that I would have to be an idiot to hang out with these guys again but I guess I still hadn’t learned my lesson. When I got back to my place I couldn’t sleep so I finished the chores I had been putting off. The bathroom floor was finally mopped, my bookshelves finally got dusted and yes I did finish my laundry but don’t worry I left out the whitener.