Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Manly Adventures of Abner Deggent: Island of the Toroga


Island of the Toroga


Al Bruno III

The decade after the second world war was a period of unlimited prosperity. For a rugged few individuals it was also a time of unlimited adventure and the manliest of those adventurers was the mercenary, treasure hunter and unlicensed electrician named Abner Deggent.

It would be fair to say that he fascinated me from the very first. As an amateur writer I had become an avid observer of humanity and I knew from the very first glance that this was a man that lived life on the edge.

It began in the summer of 1947, once I had been one of the most decorated chefs in the navy but I had recently been dishonorably discharged. You might think a man like General McArthur would be more forgiving of a few tapeworms but you would be wrong.

My aimless wanderings had brought me to a bar in Singapore that was owned by a retired trainer of fighting chickens, which was why he had named his establishment ‘The Brutal Cock.’ This was an establishment that catered to the jaded desires of soldiers of fortune and modern day pirates.

Everyone looked up when the man strode into the bar; some noticed his whipcord muscles, others noticed his steely eyed expression, many more noticed that when he kicked the door open it hit a waitress and knocked her unconscious.

He walked up to the bar and began talking to the owner, his mastery of the Malay language was clumsy but he spoke with the kind of confidence only a man that doesn’t realize he’s accidentally ordered a Shirley Temple with Tabasco sauce can have.

I left my table and introduced myself.

“Deggent’s the name,” he shook my hand with crushing force. His was as deep and rich as a good souffle, “Abner Deggent.”

I introduced myself, “Ralph Brooks.”

The owner brought over his drink, Deggent sipped from it contemplatively, then coughed for a few minutes.

When his eyes had stopped watering I ordered him an expensive beer.

He smiled thinly “Much obliged Brooks.”

“Please, you may call me Ralph,” I paid for our drinks, “and if you don’t mind my saying so it looks as though you are either coming back from an adventure or are about to set out on one.”

“Everyday is an adventure for me Brooks,” he took a long swig of beer. If the mustache of dripping foam bothered him he gave no sign.

“Really? I’d like to hear more.” I said.

Deggent explained to me that he had recently undertaken a mission to help recover the twin idols from the natives of Togora Island.

“I’m sorry if I’m a bit confused,” I interrupted, “but you said you were recovering these idols.”

“Yes,” he grunted, “those artifacts were solid gold, they were priceless. Better to have them in a museum than to have them being worshiped by a bunch of savages for another two hundred years.”

I nodded with understanding and he continued his story. The expedition, he explained, had been organized by Professor Eisenhart working from the notes of a previous expedition that had disappeared without a trace. Other men might have been scared off knowing something like that but not Deggent!

Besides, no one told him anything about it until they were already on the island of the Toroga The expedition consisted of Deggent, Professor Eisenhart and their translator, a lovely native girl named Weena. They lacked the funds for native bearers and bodyguards but the Professor got around that by recruiting a small force of unpaid interns.

Occasionally Deggent would pause in the telling of his tale to place another drink order on my tab and try to entice our waitress into having sex with him for money. He started out by waving a ten dollar bill under her nose and worked his way up in increments of five.

My narrative skills could never fully capture the tale of their journey through that savage land. They encountered quicksand and ravenous beasts, clever deathtraps and rock slides, the crossed swords with another group of treasure hunters and wandering Toroga warriors. Our heroes braved it all, venturing deeper and deeper into the jungle leaving nothing but a trail of mutilated unpaid interns in their wake.

When they reached the village of the Toroga they were immediately set upon and captured, their translator having betrayed them. Deggent could only speculate to her reasons but he suspected that the check he had prepaid her with bouncing had something to do with it.

The chief of the Toroga spoke perfect English and he explained that his people were weary of one group of adventurers after another raiding their quiet village. He meant to make an example of our heroes by subjecting them to the Death Of A Thousand Screams.

Abner Deggent laughed fearlessly at this causing the chief of the Toroga to re-sentence him to the Death Of One Really Big Scream but before that could happen Deggent challenged the man, infact he challenged the honor of the entire Toroga people.

“I told him that we would have our champion fight theirs, if we won we would go free, if they won they would go forward with the executions,” Deggent explained, “luckily he fell for it.”

“Well, what happened?” I asked.

Deggent shrugged, “Damned if I know, we told them the last surviving intern was our champion and we made our escape as he battled the tribal champion in a pit full of flaming vipers.”

Of course there was more to the story? Did they ever find the treasure? How did they escape the island?

Before I could ask the owner of the bar appeared before us waving a rusty machete. It was only then that Abner Deggent discovered he had been propositioning the man’s daughter for sexual favors all night.

What happened then? That is a story for another time.

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010


...For instance, I don't know whether, as Attila the Hun's army rampaged across Asia, the Emperor of China sent his daughter and a small squadron of warriors to forge an alliance with the Vikings in order to kidnap Attila's daughter from her home village in Turkey. I don't know whether the Vikings of that era built huge castles on the Mediterranean, complete with iron-barred dungeons, spring-loaded portcullises, and Roman-style marble baths. I don't know if Vikings had the knowledge of marine biology necessary to domesticate a giant octopus and use it to get rid of their enemies. I don't know whether the Vikings invented the bikini brief. And I've got no idea whether ancient Norway had a huge population of wild Muppets, the skins of which the Vikings used to decorate their armor, drums, weaponry, and just about everything else...

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5 Second Fiction One Thousand Four Hundred and Thirty Five

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World Wrestling Entertainment created a greeting card line. The advertisements said- "When you care enough to send sweaty men."

Monday, June 28, 2010

5 Second Fiction One Thousand Four Hundred and Thirty

"This isn't a call center!" he cried, "This is LORD OF THE FLIES with headsets!"

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

RPG.NET Rant#24 The Last Straw Trilogy Part Three: ONCE MORE WITH FILKING Rant#24
The Last Straw Trilogy Part Three:

originally posted on 8-15-2008, 08:27 AM


Ever since I had moved into my own place I had refused to allow any gaming there. It was more than worry over lingering odors, clogged toilets or the fact my roommate Lady Cydonia was a very beautiful young woman. After all, windows could be opened to clear the air, a plunger was all you needed to deal with a plugged toilet and Lady Cydonia was more than a match for any lecherous gamer glances and come on lines.

My concern was actually with the Lady herself. You see her fiancée lived in New York City and had a habit of visiting her at random. When these visits occurred he would quickly drag Lady Cydonia into her room and they would – as the kids say these days – get busy. Running a game for the likes of El Disgusto and Collateral Darren was hard enough but I knew it would be impossible to do so with sounds of vigorous lovemaking and the music of Kitaro bleeding in through the living room wall.

Tonight however was different, Lady Cydonia was in NYC with her fiancée for the weekend. That meant that as she indulged in a few days of sightseeing, shopping with a side of hot and cold running romance; I had the apartment to myself. I was more than ready for a few quiet days of relative peace and quiet, my night with Annoying Girl had gone much differently than I had expected and had left me with a lot to think about. However when the time came to actually consider what had happened that night I found myself instead trying to keep busy doing things like folding laundry or writing – mostly folding laundry really.

So as you can imagine when Weasly Crusher called me to ask if there was any sign of a game on the horizon I was more than willing to throw caution to the wind and have the whole damn gang come over. My only stipulation was that they had to each make sure they brought pre-generated D&D characters as well as refreshments or toilet paper.

Within an hour Collateral Darren, Blobert Smith, Deviant Boy, Weasly Crusher, El Disgusto and Old Yellowbelly were sitting around my dining room table.

Me: “So let me get this straight, Cheating Bastard is out of the group?”

Weasly Crusher: “Well we all had a sit down with him and told him that from now on if he wanted to game with us he couldn’t use his own dice, he had to use someone else’s.”

Deviant Boy: “And he had to roll in plain view of the entire group.”

Me: “Well happened?”

Collateral Darren: “He got angry, said we were lousy Christians and then got violent.”

El Disgusto: “Well not that violent. He only punched Weasly.”

Old Yellowbelly: “That was violent enough, I had to hide in the closet.”

El Disgusto: “Weasly should be used to it by now. Hell I punch him when the drive through gets our orders wrong.”

Weasly just rubbed his shoulder and glared sullenly at that.

Me: “So he’s out huh? Another player gone, how many is this now that Rehab Boy is back in Rehab?”

El Disgusto: “Who cares?

Blobert Smith: “We meet at the table of the world to play the great role playing game that is life. New characters appear as others fade into the background; each participant’s passing from the table leaves only a memory and an empty chair. As the focus of the campaign shifts from drama to low comedy to horror it is our duty to keep playing until the one day the grief of being surrounded by so many empty chairs forces us to bow out as well.”

El Disgusto: “God I hate you.”

Me: “Blobert you never fail to disappoint.”

Collateral Darren: “By the way I brought soda and a Paladin.”

Old Yellowbelly: “I brought a fighter and some cookies.”

Deviant Boy: “I brought chips and a female magic user, but get this… she’s a furry. Top that Blobert!”

Blobert Smith: “Very well. I have brought a half-elven psionist with an unnatural attraction to underage illithid maidens. I have also brought toilet paper as soft as the chin of a twelve year old boy. ”

Deviant Boy: “Damn.”

El Disgusto: “Blobert, did I mention I hate you?”

Weasly Crusher: “Hey. You guys told me I had to bring a whole sub platter!”

El Disgusto: “Actually I said you should do it if you know what’s good for you because I’m not bringing one thing more than a ninja and some attitude.”

Me: “Ok. Thanks for the sub platter Weasly and what kind of character are you going to play?”

El Disgusto: “Does it matter? It’ll just be dead in the first twenty minutes anyway.”

Weasly Crusher: “Actually I thought I would play a cleric so the party needs to help my character stay alive.”

Deviant Boy: “Well done!”

Old Yellowbelly: “I wish I’d thought of that.”

Blobert Smith: “I find that both in Dungeons and Dragons as well as mainstream fantasy literature the most effective adventuring parties are essentially co-dependent.”

Me: “Be that as it may… oh wait. I left my dice in my room. Hang on for a second.”

My room was cluttered with books, role playing games and piles of uncompleted manuscripts. After some searching I found my dicebag near my small portable TV. I took a moment to pause at the photograph I had set down beside my word processor; it was of a smiling couple standing on the deck of one of Lake George’s steamboats.

When I got back to the table I found everyone had helped themselves to food and they had even been kind enough to set aside a plate and can of soda for me as well.

I forced my mind back to the game, after a few sips of soda and had a bite to eat as I got my maps and graph paper together.

Collateral Darren: “Hey Ab3 are these your records?”

Me: “Yes.”

Collateral Darren: “You do know vinyl is dead right? There are these things called CDs now.”

Me: “Yes I do know that and I do have a lot of CDs but I don’t have the money to replace all my music in one fell swoop.”

Collateral Darren: “Well there isn’t much I see here that is worth replacing.”

Me: “Well thanks. It's good to know you're an 18th level music critic.”

Collateral Darren: “I mean look at this- ELO Greatest Hits, REO Speedwagon Greatest Hits, ZZ Top? It's like Top 40 alphabet soup.”

Me: “I enjoy the music, what's the big deal?”

Collateral Darren: “I guess you're a pop music kind of guy. Look at this, I haven't seen this much Olivia Newton John outside of a garage sale.”

Me: “'Physical' is a great album.”

Collateral Darren: “Well she is not what I would call relevant... Xanadu? You have the soundtrack to Xanadu?”

Blobert Smith: “Ah Xanadu. That most Thomas Ligotti-esque of musicals.”

Weasly Crusher: “What? What are you talking about?”

El Disgusto: “NO! Don't get him started.”

Blobert Smith: “Consider the plot if you would dear Weasly. An otherworldly creature comes to Earth in the early 1970’s much as she has once every generation since time began. She schemes and inveigles to draw together a musician whose soul she crushed a in the distant past with an artist of dubious merit. And what does this so-called muse inspire these men to do? To open a roller disco. A roller disco in the twilight of the disco era. And not just any roller disco! Xanadu is the all singing, all dancing, mime infested apotheosis of roller discos. How could these two men not fail utterly? How could they not find themselves destroyed financially and emotionally? Meanwhile our anti-heroine Kira has already retreated back to her realm of neon madness leaving only a dull eyed simulacrum in her place to torment the men further. The horror of it! The soul-rending horror!”

Deviant Boy: “Wow.... Just wow.”

El Disgusto: “I warned you damnit.”

Collateral Darren: “Hmmm Stevie Nicks, no problem there. Oh wait. Holy crap. ...Vanity 6, Vanity, Apollonia 6. I really hope you just got these to whack off to the covers.”

El Disgusto: “Why are there socks on them?”

Me: “Always gotta be riding that ragged edge of disaster don't you?”

Blobert Smith: “Perhaps it is just as well that the musical genre is dead.”

Old Yellowbelly: “It isn't dead. People go to see musicals all the time.”

El Disgusto: “Only gay people, tourists and old ladies watch musicals.”

Weasly Crusher: “Guys can we start playing?”

Deviant Boy: “I think 'Oh Calcutta' is worth seeing.”

Me: “This musical genre is not dead. In fact it can be pretty inventive. Have any of you seen 'Sweeney Todd'?”

Weasly Crusher: “Can we start soon?”

Collateral Darren: “'Howard the Duck?' You have the soundtrack to 'Howard the Duck'? My God man. And by the way, musicals are corny.”

El Disgusto: “Even worse, musicals are stupid. I mean how can you believe in a world where people just break into a song about how the sun is shining?”

Me: “This from a man that believes the ninja Jiraiya was a real person.”

El Disgusto: “He was a real person dumbass.”

Me: “He was a folk legend. They said he could turn himself into a toad! There's no proof.”

El Disgusto: “The fact there is no proof, proves that he did exist. He was such a great ninja that he hid from history itself. Now that is a stealth roll.”

Weasly Crusher: “Guys I'm here to play D&D. Can we start soon?”

Collateral Darren: “Oh I don't believe this! Roy Orbison?”

Me: “Don't diss the Big O, just don't.”

Collateral Darren: “He was a Traveling Wilbury dude.”

Suddenly the conversation was drowned out by the wail of a guitar. The walls of the room seemed to fall away into a smoky white field full of shifting shapes that seemed to almost take on form only to recede a heartbeat later. The wailing of the guitar resolved itself into a familiar, slightly racist guitar lick from the 1980's...

Weasly Crusher: (To the tune of 'Turning Japanese' by the Vapors)
“I've got some d10s they're red and blue
There's some d20s and pencils too
I've got no handbook but I've memorized the rules
I'll play a cleric in robes of brown
He'll wield a bludgeon but not in town
He'll fight the monsters where's there's treasure to be found

I'll play a cleric, I'll play a cleric
He'll have an 18 wisdom for casting spells
Don't want no wizard, don't want no ninja
Let the fighters hog up all of the kills
I've got him statted up and written down
He's in the tavern waiting 'round

Playing D&D
We're here to play some D&D
I hope we start soon
Playing D&D
We're here to play some D&D
I hope we start soon
Playing D&D
We're here to play some D&D
I hope we start soon
Playing D&D
We're here to play some D&D
I hope we start soon

I packed my caltrops, and extra torches
If you need mapping better get someone else
I want adventure and random mayhem
And to divest all those kobolds of wealth
Let's get that marching order written down
We'll soon be fighting underground

Playing D&D
We're here to play some D&D
I hope we start soon
Playing D&D
We're here to play some D&D
I hope we start soon
Playing D&D
We're here to play some D&D
I hope we start soon
Playing D&D
We're here to play some D&D
I hope we start soon

No sex, no drugs, no wine, no women
Just chips and soda and games we play until dark
The table it is crowded with English Majors
The table it is crowded with minimum wagers

That's why we're playing D&D
We're here to play some D&D
I hope we start soon
Playing D&D
We're here to play some D&D
I hope we start soon
Playing D&D
We're here to play some D&D
I hope we start soon
Playing D&D
We're here to play some D&D
I hope we start soon”

... my dining room had become an overlit music video set, the other players had become a backing band. I could only sit there in my chair frozen in disbelief as I waited for the guitar solo to end.

Weasly Crusher:
“Playing D&D
We're here to play some D&D
I hope we start soon
Playing D&D
We're here to play some D&D
I hope we start soon
Playing D&D
We're here to play some D&D
I hope we start soon, start soon
Playing D&D
We're here to play some D&D
I hope we start soon”

The music faded, the room seemed to settle back into its familiar shape. The players returned to their seats, their instruments gone as though they had never been there at all.

I tried to speak but I was frozen in place. What had happened here? Was I going mad?

El Disgusto: “Hello! Earth to Ab3! Let's get this show on the road.”

Me: “Yes. Yes of course. Let's get this song on the- show on the road.”

Collateral Darren: “You sure you're OK man? You look a little off.”

El Disgusto: “You should see his girlfriend.”

Me: “What? Oh, well our adventure begins in the World of Greyhawk, your characters are all veterans of the fourth great war against the Orc empire. An army made up of forces from the human and dwarven empires were able to drive back the Orc forces but the elves chose to remain neutral. This terrible war has left the economy of Greyhawk in a shambles. Crime and poverty are rampant.”

Old Yellowbelly: “Is it safe for my fighter to walk around at night? Should he hire a bodyguard?”

Collateral Darren: “An interesting campaign world but what is the dragon to halfling ratio?”

Deviant Boy: “You know what a war means? Hot refugee chicks! Hot refugee chicks willing to do anything for a warm blanket and a crust of bread.”

Blobert Smith: “My character deals with his post traumatic stress by putting porridge up his nose on moonlit nights.”

Weasly Crusher: “Why would he-”

El Disgusto: “Don't! Just don't.”

Me: “Your characters are in a local tavern waiting for an old man who has promised you a map to the location of an ancient treasure. You are all sitting around waiting-”

El Disgusto: “I am sharpening my katana on a mithral whetstone.”

Me: “Why would you do that?”

El Disgusto: “So it will be super thin and super sharp.”

Me: “It will be super broken.”

El Disgusto: “My character has invented the monofilament blade a thousand years early.”

Blobert Smith: “I beg your pardon but I must abscond to the rest room. Please continue without me and please consider that my character is an eager participant in all that the party does.”

I watched Blobert stagger away from the table. For a moment I thought the shadows of the room clutched after him but then I was sure it was just me being tired. I sat back down in my chair, unsure when I had stood.

El Disgusto: “Since he's up for whatever we do let's kill his character.”

Deviant Boy: “No!”

Collateral Darren: “Are we here to play or screw with each other?”

Weasly Crusher: “Don't ask questions like that, you won't like the answer.”

Me: “You all sit around in the tavern, discussing your ambitions and backstories. Then you see him, an old man eating a modest meal and watching you intently.”

Deviant Boy: “My wizardess wets her lips.”

Me: “The old man gets unsteadily to his feet and hobbles over to you. You can see he has a long white beard and a blue wizard's cap. He asks 'Are you the Legion of Virtue'?”

Collateral Darren: “As far as he knows yes.”

Old Yellowbelly: “I hide under the table in case he is a wight in disguise.”

Me: “He says 'I have heard that you are noble warriors eager for adventure and gold.’”

Weasly Crusher: “My cleric explains that he goes where his god tells him.”

Me: “The old man says, 'I have need of such heroes for a great undertaking. This yellowed parchment in my hand is the only surviving map to the tomb of Shartok the Unattractive. A wizard so ugly that he turned away from all human contact in pursuit of his dubious arts.’”

El Disgusto: “Well I guess you DM what you know.”

Old Yellowbelly: “I'm still under the table.”

Deviant Boy: “My wizardess runs her hands provocatively up and down her staff.”

Weasly Crusher: “What the Hell are you doing?”

Deviant Boy: “She's looking for a high level sugar daddy.”

Collateral Darren: “Shhh! I want to hear where he's going with this.”

Me: “The old man explains that the tomb is full of all the gold and jewels you could ever want and all he needs in return is an object at the heart of the dungeon- the Xenon Codex, a crystal spellbook that-”

Collateral Darren: “I nod knowingly to the ninja.”

El Disgusto: “I kill the old man.”

My venerable sage never stood a chance. He died on the floor of an imaginary tavern choking on his imaginary blood. The headache I felt forming behind my forehead however? That was all too real.

Old Yellowbelly: “I run for the door.”

Collateral Darren: “We relieve the old man of the map. We don't need no stinkin' quest we can just keep all the treasure for ourselves.”

Deviant Boy: “Cutting out the middleman. I like it, unless of course you're having a threesome.”

Weasly Crusher: “Oh my sweet lord.”

Me: “Outraged the bouncers descend on you, other people are screaming for the town guard.”

El Disgusto: “Ah the forces of law and order.”

Collateral Darren: “In other words, easy XP.”

The party, except for Blobert's and Old Yellowbelly’s characters, waded into the helpless town guards. Hacking and slashing their way out of the town. For better or worse the adventure was on its way, not how I had expected, but it was on its way.

Me: “Did you have to destroy the entire town?”

El Disgusto: “What is looting without a little pillaging?

Deviant Boy: “We make our way to the forest and camp in the woods. We send Old Yellowbelly out to gather some firewood.”

Old Yellowbelly: “Alone? Maybe we should all go together, there’s safety in numbers you know.”

El Disgusto: “Just go. If we hear bloodcurdling screams we’ll probably send Weasly to save you.”

Collateral Darren: “Ok we check out the map.”

Me: “You see it is in gnomish.”

El Disgusto: “Hey dumbass no one in the party speaks gnomish.”

Me: “Well how about that? Maybe running the old man through wasn’t such a good idea after all.”

Weasly Crusher: “I knew it.”

El Disgusto: “Oh what is this crap?”

Collateral Darren: “Fine I just say we keep on pillaging and looting.”

Deviant Boy: “Can we get some raping in too?”

Old Yellowbelly: “Your character is a female.”

Deviant Boy: “She has a staff.”

Me: “Guys we have a whole scenario ahead of us here. I didn’t work two days on a game world for you guys just to engage in pointless random violence.”

El Disgusto: “We’re Chaotic Neutral, that’s practically a get out of plot developments free card.”

Me: “No. I’m going to put my foot down on this one.”

Before we could argue further the apartment shook with a wet THUMP sound.

Weasly Crusher: “Oh my God what was that?”

Old Yellowbelly: “Is it the apocalypse?”

Me: “Blobert?”

Blobert Smith: “Damn you General Tso! DAMN YOU!!!!”

I got up and ran to the bathroom to find Blobert sprawled face first on the tiles; dazedly trying to raise himself. His pants were still around his ankles, my toilet was brimming with organic foulness.

See what I mean about gamers and toilets? What the Hell...

Anyway, I helped Blobert reorganize himself and we sat on the edge of my bathtub. I tried to ignore the smell coming from my toilet but wondered if porcelain could melt.

Me: “Blobert. What the hell happened there? Do you need to go to the hospital?”

Blobert Smith: “This is merely a symptom of my passion for all things culinary.”

Me: “You mean your diabetes? Aren't you taking care of it?”

Blobert Smith: “I am meeting the enemy head on. I will not curb my appetites for the sake of a genetic discrepancy. I will not go gently into that good diet.”

Me: “Are you serious about this? You want to die?”

Blobert Smith: “Death is not to be feared it is simply a saving throw that grows more difficult with the passing of time.”

Me: “What was that whole thing about General Tso?”

Blobert Smith: “I think perhaps I over-indulged on the good general's chicken dish before I came here. You see I have been forced to go to the Chinese buffet because I have been banned from the Golden Corral for life.”

Me: “Uh, why?”

Blobert Smith: “Let me only say that if eating macaroni and cheese directly from the steam trays is wrong than I have no desire to ever be right.”

Me: “I tell you what, why don’t you head down back to the table and I’ll clean up in here… somehow.”

Blobert Smith: “Yes. Perhaps there are some cookies left.”

Me: “Great.”

Blobert Smith: “Please do not tell the others of this, I am something of a role model to them.”

Me: “Are you sure you don’t need to go to the hospital?”

Cleanup wasn’t as bad I had feared. It was worse. Years later I have to wonder how he managed to get feces under the rim of the toilet seat. That’s the kind of trick no Dex modifier can simulate.

A can of Lysol later I headed back to the table. The cookies were gone and my players were animatedly discussing the merits of the bastard sword versus the long sword.

Me: “Ok now that you’ve brought Blobert up to speed…”

Collateral Darren: “You wanted us to do that?”

Me: “Well I assumed…”

El Disgusto: “Does he really need to know? All he’s going to do is his foofy poetry stuff.”

Me: “All right let me quickly recap what you missed.”

Collateral Darren: “No. I can do it. You get organized for the tomb.”

Me: “Well I appreciate tha- ”

Then it a happened again. The air of my living room was filled with the sounds of easy listening music. Collateral Darren stood and the recap began.

Collateral Darren: (To the tune of 'Escape aka The Pina Colada Song by Rupert Holmes)
“There was a man in the tavern
Wizened, grasping a map
With a long white beard
And blue wizard's cap

So he sat there nursing
His mug of ale and his bread
And when he spied our party
He came right over and said

‘If you crave jewels and adventure
And can shrug off some pain
If don't fear the undead
If your bloodlust won't wane
If you want bags of gold and silver
I've a quest that can't wait
We'll just take this old map here
And we'll march for the gates.’”

The stage lights were everywhere again and Collateral Darren was rocking the room in true lounge lizard style. Once again the rest if the gang had become his backing band in a scene reminiscent of the best work of Lancelot Link and The Evolution Revolution.

Collateral Darren:
“We didn't think about the morals
And what we did might seem mean
But we knew that this dungeon
Would raise us up a few levels with ease
So I glanced at the ninja
And he knew what to do
He swiftly drew his katana
And ran that old man right through

‘Yes we like jewels and adventure
And we'll go on your quest
But we won't share our damn loot
As I'm sure you have guessed
And don't you worry 'bout that treasure map
It's just something we'll take
So we'll leave you to bleed out
We thank you for the break.’”

I don’t know where the studio audience came from, my sense of direction and balance had been lost to me a dozen stanzas ago. I tried to get up from my chair, I tried speak but it was like one of nightmares where you know you’re dreaming and know if you could just call for help, if you could just cry out, you would waken yourself to a saner world. No words escaped my lips, I couldn’t even hum along.

Collateral Darren:
“So we fought past the bouncers
The city guard and the mob
We raided all the local merchants
And found a magic shop to could rob
Once the town was in ruins
We took a glance at the map
Then we saw it was in gnomish
And we said, ‘What is this crap?’

We don't want maps with gnome-codes
All we want is gold quick
But the DM has screwed us
Because he acts like a prick
So we'll just wander through the campaign world
Finding stuff we can take
Cause when you’re Chaotic Neutral
You can act like a flake

If you crave jewels and adventure
And can shrug off some pain
If don't fear the undead
If your bloodlust won't wane
If you want bags of gold and silver
We've a mission to take
Because peasants can't fight back
In their boots they will quake”

It all began to fade out, the music, the voices, the stage, and the props. I was back in reality again, my eyes wide, my pulse racing.

Collateral Darren:
“Yes we like Jewels and adventure
Only just on our terms
But we won't fight no dragons
And we hate purple worms
So we'll just wander through the campaign world
Because we're PCs in an game
And can do what we all like
No DM can complain”

Blobert Smith: “So that’s what happened, a fairly standard campaign opening for us really. What town shall we raid next?”

Me: “I… Uh… I… did anyone hear that?”

Collateral Darren: “Hear what?”

Me: “Never mind. It must have been the house settling.”

Deviant Boy: “You live in an apartment.”

Me: “Anyway, I am not running a game where you run around like a bunch of kill happy lunatics.”

Blobert Smith: “In our defense it is what we do best.”

Me: “No. In fact the god Boccob appears before you and says that for your crimes you must go to the Tomb of Shartok the Unattractive and retrieve the Xenon Codex. If not he will destroy you and the world utterly.”

El Disgusto: “What’s in it for us?”

Deviant Boy: “Now let me get this straight, we’ve got the god Boccob ticked off at us.”

Me: “Yes.”

Deviant Boy: “That’s Boccob the Uncaring.”

Me: “For the last time yes. And he transports you all into the dungeon.”

El Disgusto: “Fine we leave.”

Me: “And he teleports you right back.”

Deviant Boy: “Again this is Boccob the Uncaring doing this.”

Me: “Must be having an off day I guess.”

Blobert Smith: “My character is more than eager to take up the quest. Shall we establish a marching order?”

I started to set out the maps and miniatures for the first encounter. I had decided to start out with something simple, a small group of goblins to wet their appetites for destruction.

Imagine my surprise when one of the goblin mini’s leapt from my hand, climbed on top of a d12 and started to sing-

Goblin Mini: (To the tune of 'Welcome to the Jungle’ by Guns and Roses)
“Welcome to the Dungeon
We've got wights and ghouls
We've certain death for all
Adventurers and fools
This is the crypt where you can find
Stirge and strangle weed
And if you fight the Neo-otyugh
You can brag about the deed

In the Dungeon
Welcome to the Dungeon
Watch it grind up your Hada dada da HPs, HPs
No, no you can't bring your steed”

Of course the other mini’s had joined in on the musical interlude; lead swords had become guitars, staves had become microphone stands. The other mini’s danced and cheered.

Goblin Mini:
“Welcome to the Dungeon
There's more orcs everyday
Ya learn to avoid the pit traps
Or your lungs they'll perforate

If you brought torches to help you see
You use them up eventually
You never know where the rot grubs are
So watch out where you pee”

At that moment I had to wonder who might come for me first, then men in white coats or the Recording Industry Association of America. I also couldn’t decide which option was more terrifying.

Goblin Mini:
“In the Dungeon
Welcome to the Dungeon
Watch it grind up your Hada dada da HPs, HPs
No, no you can't bring your steed

When you rise in levels
The vampires will drain you back down
Back down, back down, back down

You know where you are
You're in the Dungeon baby
You're gonna die
In the Dungeon
Welcome to the Dungeon
Watch it grind up your Hada dada da HPs, HPs
In the Dungeon
Welcome to the Dungeon
Where the, the, the ooze is green
In the Dungeon
Welcome to the Dungeon
Watch it grind up your Hada dada da HPs, HPs
In the Dungeon
Welcome to the Dungeon
Watch it grind down your
It's gonna grind your down

Collateral Darren: “Ok we’ve decided. Where should we place our mini’s?”

Me: “I… I think… well how did they get up there on those dice? Just a minute guys…”

The party did surprising well; they relied on Weasly’s cleric to turn most of the undead and made quick work of the occasional kobold. Old Yellowbelly stayed behind the rest of the party but his fighter’s girlish screams made an excellent rear guard for them.

Soon enough they were getting weighted down with treasure and they hadn’t even gotten near the Xenon Codex yet. There was a brief pause in the action as Blobert stood.

Blobert Smith: “I require more soda. Where is the bottle of RC cola?”

Weasly Crusher: “Right beside you.”

Collateral Darren: “You know I’ve always wondered how come none of you guys like Mountain Dew?”

Me: “Because. Just because.”

A ripping sound interrupted us and I saw that in the act of bending over Blobert had ripped open the seat of his pants.

Blobert Smith: “Blast!”

El Disgusto: “Too funny!”

Old Yellowbelly: “That stinks man.”

Blobert Smith: “It’s no bother.”

Old Yellowbelly: “No I mean that literally stinks, do you ever change your underwear?”

Blobert Smith: “Sadly the washing of my loins has become a torturous experience at best.”

Deviant Boy: “Now how many pairs of pants has this been for you?”

Me: “Does this happen a lot?”

Blobert Smith turned to look at me and I heard the first strains of another 80’s guitar riff. The rest of my gaming group had their instruments in hand and Blobert was standing before a microphone. The audience that surrounded me was churning and faceless. When Blobert sang his entire body seemed to quiver and gyrate with a kind of non-Euclidean choreography.

Blobert Smith: (To the tune of 'She’s Lost Control’ by Joy Divison)
“The tearing in my breeches says it all
I've split my pants
And I feel the fabric pulling from my thighs
I've split my pants
And there will soon be a draft upon on my ass
Because I've split my pants again
For cookies and pies to me are like crack
I said I've split my pants again”

The guitar work was intense; I didn’t think Old Yellowbelly had it in him. He usually hated loud noises. Blobert’s hair was flying about his head as he danced; I thought to myself that he look like a blurred nightmare vision in frilled sleeves and crushed velvet.

Then I cursed as I realized he had me doing it.

Blobert Smith:
“There are no Goth shops in big and tall
I said I've split my pants again
Soon all I'll have to wear is overalls and slacks
I said I've split my pants again
And I got banned from Jenny Craig for bringing snacks
I've split my pants again
And I've lost the zipper right off of my fly
I said I've split my pants
I've split my pants again
I've split my pants
I've split my pants again
I've split my pants”

Oh the humanity!
Oh the Gothsanity!
Again I tried to make sense of what was happening. Was I hallucinating? It was hard to tell because I had experienced so few hallucinations in my life. A lot of delusions, but no hallucinations.

Blobert Smith:
“Well the doctor pleads with me to slow my pace
And sees I've split my pants again
Because my waistline conspires to give my heart the shakes I split my pants again
But I can't stay on a diet when there are cakes
That's why I split my pants again
And I will never choose a salad over the grave you see
I've split my pants
I've split my pants again
I've split my pants
I've split my pants again
I've split my pants”

And then it was over again. I blinked my eyes experimentally, terrified that another musical number might burst to life any moment.

Collateral Darren: “Are you ok?”

Me: “WHY? Do… do I look like there’s something wrong?”

Collateral Darren: “You’re crumpling the Dungeon Master’s screen in your hands.”

Me: “Oh. Oh. It must be gas. Yeah I must have gas.”

Weasly Crusher: “You’re sweaty, trembling and your eyes are bugging out. I haven’t seen you look like this since the year they canceled ‘Doctor Who’.”

Me: “They did not cancel ‘Doctor Who’! They turned it into a novel range so they could tell stories that were too broad and deep for the small screen.”

Deviant Boy: “Okaaaaay then. Can we get back to the game?”

Me: “Sure sure. I think you had all just discovered a group of bugbears living in the dungeon. Apparently they broke through of one the tomb walls and started nesting here. There are dozens of them.”

Collateral Darren: “More than we can handle in a straight up fight. Maybe we should go around them.”

Deviant Boy: “Ok I’ve got an idea, my wizardess and the fighter with the soiled armor will scout ahead and try and find a way through.”

Old Yellowbelly: “Me? Why me? Why not Weasly’s character?”

Collateral Darren: “Because we need the cleric alive.”

Deviant Boy: “Trust me. I know what I’m doing. Hey Ab3, I bet you never thought those items I insisted my character bring along would come in handy.”

Me: “Actually I prayed nothing like this would happen.”

Blobert Smith: “Pray in one hand and wait for androgynous fairies to dance in the other- see which fills faster.”

Old Yellowbelly: “That’s not how that…. never mind. What is this plan?

Deviant Boy: “Candi the mage has two great skills. One is casting prismatic spray from her crotch-”

Me: “For the last time, no it’s not.”

Deviant Boy: “Fine, then her only great skill aside from magic is making bear costumes. Now she carries two of them with her at all times. One is for special occasions but I think that in this case she’ll make an exception.”

Old Yellowbelly: “So we put on the bear costumes to try and fool the bugbears into thinking we’re part of the pack?”

Deviant Boy: “Exactly.”

Old Yellowbelly: “That’s so crazy it might just get me killed.”

El Disgusto: “Either your character does this or my ninja gets his murder on.”

Old Yellowbelly: “Rats. Ok I suit up.”

The fur-clad fighter and wizard crept through the nest of bugbears, for a while they made their stealth roles and the bugbears failed to pay them any attention. Then I got a really good role and they got a really bad one.

Old Yellowbelly: “Oh no. Oh no.”

Me: “Several of the male bugbears approach you while the females stay back guarding the young.”

Collateral Darren: “Man you guys are so dead.”

Deviant Boy: “Not yet we’re not.”

Old Yellowbelly: “Well what are we going to do then?”

Deviant Boy: “Just stay down Yellowbelly. Try to make yourself as small and unthreatening as possible.”

Old Yellowbelly: “I do it.”

Me: “The bugbears are drawing closer.”

Deviant Boy: “Now I think what happens next will cause a reaction or morale roll.”

Blobert Smith: “I am either quivering with anticipation or I am going to pass out again.”

Old Yellowbelly: “Do we wait for them to get close and then attack?”

Deviant Boy: “No just have your fighter be as still as you can.”

Collateral Darren: “I don’t think playing dead will-”

Deviant Boy: “My wizardess mounts Old Yellowbelly’s character and starts humping him.”

Me: “What?”

Deviant Boy: “Make a reaction roll for them. They might just think we are a couple of fellow bugbears getting it on.”

Me: “What? No. Why would I do such a thing?”

And so began that most time honored tradition in D&D games; the 2 hour argument about nonsense. On one side we had Collateral Darren and Deviant Boy arguing that yes they should be able to convince the other bugbears that Old Yellowbelly is a female and while he causes a distraction, the rest of the party could sneak through the cave unscathed. Weasly Crusher and Old Yellowbelly meanwhile argued that not only was this plan an Intelligence 3 level maneuver, the very idea made no sense because the smells and body language was all wrong. This led to Deviant Boy regaling us with stories about animals that had tried to mate with humans, including a story about a particularly randy giant sea turtle with a scuba diver fixation that left me reeling. This led to a debate over the relative intellect of a giant sea turtle versus your standard bugbear; soon enough old copies of DRAGON magazine where being pulled out so articles could be sited. Meanwhile Blobert Smith and El Disgusto were having their own argument about if animals should have alignments at all. I knew where I stood on that particular argument because my mother had once owned a poodle that could only have been Chaotic Evil.

Finally I had to make a ruling and in true Dungeon Master fashion, it was one that nobody was happy with. In order to keep things moving I decreed that yes their insane plan had worked up to a point but several of the bugbears had gotten a free attack on them before they got out. As for Old Yellowbelly, I ruled he got a way with some hit point damage as well but he had retained a shred of his dignity. Once the players had gotten clear and were hidden in a disused catacomb a fresh new argument began.

El Disgusto: “Ok cleric-boy make with the heals.”

Weasly Crusher: “I only have one Cure Light Wounds left.”

El Disgusto: “Well lets get to it.”

Deviant Boy: “Whoa wait a minute here, I think the spellcaster should be protected over the ninja. A ninja can just get out of the way of danger.”

El Disgusto: “Yes but the ninja can kill the cleric if he doesn't do the smart thing.”

Blobert Smith: “My character takes the blood from his wounds and the bugbear smegma from Yellowbelly's befouled bear costume and paints an ankh upon his face to appease his god.”

Collateral Darren: “Maybe we should save it until someone is closer to death's door.”

Old Yellowbelly: “My character has three hit points left! That is death's welcome mat.”

Collateral Darren: “But your character was always kobold fodder anyway.”

Old Yellowbelly: “What? My fighter is a critical part of the team.”

El Disgusto: “Only if submissive urination becomes a combat technique.”

Deviant Boy: “Well it is ultimately your character’s decision Weasly but my wizardess can make it very worth your while. Two words – prismatic spray.”

Me: “For the last time no!”

Weasly Crusher: “I don’t know what to do. I was kinda saving that last heal for myself.”

El Disgusto: “My ninja starts doing his death kata.”

Deviant Boy: “What is that?”

Me: “Yeah.”

El Disgusto: “I don’t know either but it sounds friggin’ awesome.”

Collateral Darren: “You got me there.”

Me: “Well Weasly what are you going to do?”

Weasly: “Oh… I hate decisions like this…”

And suddenly the music started again, a smooth synthesizer beat infused with a Motown sound. Terrified I looked up to see Old Yellowbelly in a black tux standing before a microphone. The other players were his backup singers- bad haircuts, torn pants and all.

Old Yellowbelly: (To the tune of ‘Sexual Healing’ by Marvin Gaye)
“Cast heal, Cast heal, Cast heal
Cure Wounds, Cure Wounds, Cure Wounds
Oh Cleric my fighter may not survive
Owww Cleric I'm slashed from stem to sternum
My guts are churnin'
And Cleric, my saving throws I have failed
My torso’s impaled, my flesh flailed
My limbs have lost all feeling
I need Clerical Healing
Clerical Healing, oh save me
Helps me to stay alive
Please reset my spine
Clerical Healing baby is good for me
Clerical Healing is something that's good for me”

It was unmistakably Old Yellowbelly’s voice yet somehow he was lip synching. My face felt hot, my limbs felt tingly. I was almost definitely sure I was having a stroke and this was some fevered dream born of my collapsing on my clock radio.

Old Yellowbelly:
“Whenever my blood pressure is dropping
And my entrails are piled up around my feet
There is nothing I can do
I can crawl across the floor and cry help baby
Cleric I know from death's door you'll retrieve me
The magic you use will uncleave me
If you're out of I'll be squealing
I can't live without it, its Clerical Healing
Cast heal, Cast heal, Cast heal, Cast heal, raise my hits tonight
Cure Wounds, Cure Wounds, Cure Wounds, Cure Wounds, before the next fight.”

But if I was going to start having a near death hallucination why would it be musical numbers and not some sweet memory or at the very least a pissed off angel with a long list of sins and a bottle of Jack Daniels?

Old Yellowbelly:
“Cleric, I got jumped while scouting
There was no warning so I could flee
Cleric, adventure was my bounty
Not for some bugbear to mount me
And when my flesh is peeling
I need Clerical Healing
Clerical Healing is good for me
You can restore my eye, and fix my tush
Some say it restores the hymen but there's some debate
Clerical Healing baby it's good for me
Clerical Healing is something that's good for me”

In the midst of that musical interlude I wondered to myself what sweet memories I would take to the grave. My first kiss? My family? No. All those memories led to heartbreak. I tried to find something else, college work, anything.

I remembered the time my dwarven fighter fought a black dragon to a standstill. Or the day my quixotic Jedi found the way to truly use the force and saved the day. Or the many Paranoia sessions that ended with my clone being the last one standing.

No! I thought to myself that this couldn’t be right, that I had to have better memories somewhere in the back of my mind. I lost all track of the music as I tried to think of something, anything.

At first the best I could manage was episode four of ‘Earthshock’.

Could this really be? Could all my best memories be fictional?

Then I thought of that night over a week ago at the drive in, of completely missing the second feature.

Old Yellowbelly:
“And it's good for me and it's so good to me
Please Cleric ohhh
Cast Cure Light Wounds or else I'm doomed
My fighter’s lagging behind
Because the cost of potions is a such crime
You're my last resort, drop your mace and help me out
For your god is great
I can’t wait
To be in a better state
Cast heal, Cast heal, Cast heal, Cast heal, raise my hits tonight
Cure Wounds, Cure Wounds, Cure Wounds, Cure Wounds, before the next fight
When stats are reeling, I need Clerical Healing…”

I didn’t see the room return to normal this time, I didn’t hear the music fade out. I was just staring at my DM’s screen and thinking.

El Disgusto: “Here he goes again.”

Collateral Darren: “Hey Ab3. You ready for to go on?”

Me: “Are you guys done?”

Old Yellowbelly: “Done what?”

You see I had planned to use Annoying Girl, I savored the idea of hurting someone for once, of really hurting someone. And if it was a girl that was infatuated with me? All the better.

It was a double feature, ‘Housesitter’ and ‘Death Becomes Her’. The first movie had been so damn forgettable that she and I had ended up talking for almost ninety minutes. I admit that at first I was just chatting her up before I decided to try and make my way around the bases.

Deviant Boy: “What is with you tonight?”

Blobert Smith: “I have seen that look many times before. It is a look of profound revelation. I saw that look once before when I answered the door for the UPS man in a robe that was far, far too short.”

El Disgusto: “Are you sure that was what it was? Are you really?”

What stopped me from going through with my male chauvinist plan was the sound I heard. It was a sound so strange it was almost unrecognizable.

I was laughing. Not a fake ‘going along with the crowd’ kind of chuckle or the snide jeeri I seemed to give and receive so often these days. No this was real, from the belly laughter.

The kind of laughter I had lost touch with the year I failed ninth grade.

And I was relaxed. I wasn’t over thinking every word and gesture like I usually did on other much more official dates.

El Disgusto: “I came here to play a ninja, not watch Ab3 drool and stare at his dice.”

Collateral Darren: “He’ll be ok.”

El Disgusto: “What about my ninja?”

Collateral Darren: “What is it with you and ninjas?”

Do you see how crazy it was? That I could be happy with Annoying Girl? I hated her. I had hated her for years. I had hated the way she made me feel.

El Disgusto: “Why? I’ll tell you why!”

In the end I don’t know if it was my heart or my hormones that drove me to start kissing her. I will spare you the details save to say that is was nothing like either of us had expected, it was far better. And we didn’t go all the way, I didn’t even try.

The next day I called her and she confessed that she had expected she’d never hear from me again. That night we shared dinner and some conversation. Suddenly Annoying Girl wasn’t so annoying after all.

Old Yellowbelly: “I’d like to hear why too.”

Weasly Crusher: “Me too.”

But she was still, as the Beatles song said, so heavy. I couldn’t get over what people might think.

Of course I still couldn’t understand why these thoughts were streaming through my mind in the middle of running a game but before I could consider that further the next musical number was on the stage.

I let El Disgusto lose himself in the gentle piano notes filling the air…

El Disgusto: (To the tune of ‘Walking in Memphis’ by Marc Chohn)
“Put on my black hood mask
And unsheathed my blade
I'll bring death and badassitude
To the middle of your lamest game
Ninja overlords won't you look down over me
Cause I plan to kill my way through
Anyone so much looks at me

Well I'm Playing a ninja
Playing a fighter with death to deal
Playing a ninja
And before no man do ninjas yield”

Imagine if you will a ninja sitting behind a baby grand piano belting out a gentle tune by swinging a pair of nunchucks in perfect rhythm. All around him other ninjas engaged in a ballet that interpreted the song. It might have made for a pretty damn disturbing sight but since they were ninjas I couldn’t see them so everything was cool.

El Disgusto:
“The DM tried to bone us
With some Pit Fiends in a room
Drew my katana and backflipped in
And those monsters I waded through
Now the Dungeon Master had forgotten
With my ninja there's a rule
He can't feel death's sting
When he wears his magic ring
It gives armor class -2

Well I'm Playing a ninja
Playing a warrior with death to deal
Playing a ninja
And before no man do ninjas yield”

Again I tried to shout something, like “Is anyone else seeing this?” Or “For the love of God please stop!” but my mouth was not my own. I couldn’t even close my eyes or stick my fingers in my ears.

For the next part of the song El Disgusto unmasked revealing a very bad case of hood hair.

El Disgusto:
“I've got family that hates me
My credit's beyond repair
There's no bed that I can sleep in
Because I keep gaming supplies there
So I'm gonna play a ninja

And I role-play whenever I'm able
I'd do it for a living if I could
Even with that Ab3 there
His smugness can be withstood
He thinks he knows gaming
But his role playing is shite
He says
‘Do you think a ninja would do that?"
I said "He fucking will tonight!’”

The music started to fade out, as did the piano and the black-clad pianist.

El Disgusto:
“Well I'm Playing a ninja
Playing a fighter with death to deal
Playing a ninja
And before no man do ninjas yield

Well I'm Playing a ninja
Playing a fighter with death to deal
Playing a ninja
And before no man do ninjas yield”

El Disgusto: “…I said what the Hell is wrong with you?”

Blobert Smith: “Perhaps his left brain has come into perfect synchronization with his right and now illusion and reality have become as inseparable as the art of Boris Vallejo and ass shots.”

Deviant Boy: “You know that analogy would have worked just as well with Peter North.”

Blobert Smith: “Good to know.”

Weasly Crusher: “Maybe he’s sick.”

Me: “No. I’m ok. I just need a minute to get my head together here. I’m… I’m just more tired out than I thought I guess.”

I took another drink, trying to steady my nerves. I looked back to the place they were in the Dungeon. The bugbear nest, there was no way they would expect a group of bugbears hiding in the depths of a dungeon like this. Then I heard El Disgusto’s voice, it was dripping with cruel sarcasm. You could just tell it was something he’d been dying to say. He was savoring every world like some fine wine.

El Disgusto: “Must be all that fat pussy.”

Me: “Wha- what did you say?”

There are moments in my life when everything I can almost literally see the world as I understood it shatter around me. There was the time that I saw my loveable drunk of an uncle suddenly become a violent drunk, there was the day I realized that one of my friends had asked my first love out behind my back. There was the day my brother threatened to reveal false details about what had happened on the night of my bachelor party.

This was one of those moments, everything seemed to crumble around my like a stained glass window in a hailstorm. I had always assumed we all bickered because in a terribly dysfunctional way we were like family to each other. After all if your grandmother tells you you’ll be lucky to end up a shoe salesman and your mother throws away your binder of drawings with a scream “Look at this shit, you can’t draw!!” Then who was I to begrudge my gaming partners a few cutting remarks and verbal assaults? It was par for the course for me in so many ways. Something I accepted. Maybe it was why I could handle 1000 rejection slips and not want to drive my car off a bridge.

But this, this was like someone was trying snatch something new and shiny from my hands just so they could smash it. Just so they could see the look on my face. And I wasn’t having it. I remembered thinking to myself that the air in my apartment would soon be filled either by El Disgusto’s apology or an arterial spray.

All this over a girl I said I had hated over and over again.

Go figure.

El Disgusto: “I said – ”

Me: “I heard what you said. Do you mind explaining it to me?”

El Disgusto: “It means we are all laughing at you because of your girlfriend.”

Me: “And how do you know I have a girlfriend?”

Deviant Boy: “Well your eyes do have kind of a moony look to them.”

Old Yellowbelly: “And you’re clean shaven.”

Blobert Smith: “Let us not forget how distracted you are today.”

Collateral Darren: “Well that really isn’t it. We saw you and her at Lake George.”

Me: “What the Hell were you knuckleheads doing at Lake George?”

Weasly Crusher: “We like to go to million dollar beach.”

Old Yellowbelly: “And the big arcade still has that old Star Trek video game you can sit down in. You know the one with the buttons on one side and the dials on another? They have crazy climber too!”

Deviant Boy: “And tourist chicks can be so easy.”

Blobert Smith: “While they engage in such shenanigans I take several buggy rides and imagine to myself I am Mycroft Holmes preparing to capture Jack the Ripper and win a blood pudding eating contest in one fell swoop. Truly the best fan fiction is the fan fiction we carry in the secret places of our heart.”

Collateral Darren: “Don’t forget the place that sells these pewter dragon figurines I love.”

El Disgusto: “So while we were there we happened to stumble upon you and your chubby little secret.”

Me: “Stop that.”

Deviant Boy: “Look he’s being an ass about this I admit but I have to ask, what the hell are you doing?”

Me: “I’m going out with a girl.”

Deviant Boy: “Yeah a fat girl. You know who else goes out with fat girls? Germans and homosexuals.”

Me: “She’s not a fat girl she’s a person.”

Weasly Crusher: “What’s her name?”

Me: “Annoying- no – Special Girl. She’s Special Girl.”

El Disgusto: “I guess love is cheaper by the pound, is that right Ab3?”

Me: “That’s not funny and its not nice. Say what you want about me but leave her alone.”

Blobert Smith: “I think what your fellow gamers are trying to say is that we do not understand why you have suddenly chosen to take this strange and unnatural path.”

Me: “I enjoy her company what is unnatural about that?”

Blobert Smith: “You must admit she is a girl of size.”

Me: “And you’re not a Goth of size?”

Blobert Smith: “My girth is a sign of epicurean experience and my wealth. Women see me as a man of experience and deep thought. When a girl is large however that is a sign of weak character, it warns of slothfulness and a lack of impulse control.”

Collateral Darren: “Women always put on weight when they’re in a relationship; this girl already has weight to spare. Stick around too long and they’ll be taking off the side of her house to load her into a flatbed truck to take her to the hospital.”

Me: “I cannot believe I am hearing this.”

Weasly Crusher: “Look I don’t mean to be mean but you know how it is. The hotness of the girl you end up with is a symbol of how well you’ve succeeded in life. If you end up with a model it means you’ve got it going on, if you end up with a plain Jane it means you’re middle management. A fat girl Ab3, that’s trailer park man.”

Me: “Oh fuck you. Fuck all of you. I like this girl, I like her a lot. I might even be in love with her. Do my feelings mean anything to you guys?”

Deviant Boy: “Look I’m not saying you can’t bang this girl, fat girls are wild in bed because they don’t know when they’re gonna get it again. But you were holding hands wither her man. There were public displays of affection.”

Old Yellowbelly: “We were embarrassed for you.”

El Disgusto: “I thought it was hysterical. The great Ab3 has given up on love; pretty soon you’ll quit on the writing thing and just start giving out your stories for free to strangers.”

Me: “Look I would take your so called advice a little more seriously if not for the fact everyone but Yellowbelly and I have had sex with the same flipper armed girl.”

Old Yellowbelly: “Well actually…”

Me: “Oh for CHRIST’S SAKE!”

Deviant Boy: “Look Asenath isn’t just some flipper armed, big breasted, double jointed Canadian girl with no gag reflex whatsoever. She’s a gamer.”

Me: “What?”

Deviant Boy: “She’s a gamer chick.”

El Disgusto: “She’s super geeky.”

Me: “Oh no... don’t you idiots start singing. We are going to have this out!”

But the all too familiar funky beat had begun. We were all helpless, I watching as my players were suddenly lost in a wardrobe of sleeveless shirts, sequined pants and glitter, glitter, glitter.

Deviant Boy: (To the tune of ‘Superfreak’ by Rick James)
“She's a very geeky girl
The kind you can take down to Gen Con
She will never mock your pastime
Or say your friends are geeks
She plays the thief acrobat
Both at the table and the bedroom
Whenever I misplace my dicebag or my pencils
Her purse has spares for me

That girl's quite a nerd now”

Everybody Else:
“The girl's a gamer chick”

Deviant Boy:
“She doesn't read no Cosmo”

Everybody Else:
“Just Dragon Magazine”

Deviant Boy:
“That girl sure knows her THACO's”

Everybody Else:
“The girl's a gamer chick”

Deviant Boy:
“She keeps the Karma Sutra”

Everybody Else:
“Right by the DMG”

Despite my rage my toe was tapping, and I wonder to myself, if Palladium would soon be sampling it for a rap song called “You Can’t Rift This”

Deviant Boy:
“She plays all night, plays all night
She plays all night with me, yeah

She's a gamer chick, gamer chick
She's super-geeky, yow
Everybody sing!”

Everybody Else:
“Gamer chick, Gamer chick”

Deviant Boy:
“She's a nerdy dirty girl”
Everybody Else:
“The kind of girl you dream about”

Deviant Boy:
“And she quotes from Monty Python”

Everybody Else:
“Sir Robin ran away”

Deviant Boy:
“And she'll follow me right into the game store to buy more mini's”

Everybody Else:
“Gonna play a cleric now”

Deviant Boy:
“Let me pay for it all she says
The cashier and I used to be dating.’
When she wears a low cut top we get a discount.
I've more games than I can read

That girl's quite a nerd now”

Everybody Else:
“The girl's a gamer chick”

Deviant Boy:
“She doesn't read no Cosmo”

Everybody Else:
“Just Dragon Magazine”

Deviant Boy:
“That girl sure knows her THACO's”

Everybody Else:
“The girl's a gamer chick”

Deviant Boy:
“She keeps the Karma Sutra”

Everybody Else:
“Right by the DMG”

Deviant Boy:
“She plays all night, plays all night
She plays all night with me, yeah

She's a gamer chick, gamer chick
She's super-geeky, yow

Half Orcs sing!”

Truth be told I have no idea where the half orcs came form but I was too upset to care.

Half Orcs:

Deviant Boy:
“Gamer chick gamer chick
The girl's a gamer chick”

Half Orcs:

Deviant Boy:
“She's a very geeky girl
The kind you can take down to Gen Con
She will never mock your pastime
Or say your friends are geeks
Whoa Baby!”

The moment the music ended I was back on my feet…

(When had I sat down?)

... I was back on my feet trying to get the apology I felt she and I deserved.

Me: “If you’re all done with your little musical interlude-”

Old Yellowbelly: “What is he talking about with that?”

El Disgusto: “I gave up trying to understand Ab3 over twenty ninjas ago.”

Me: “Look I just don’t want to hear you guys bad mouth her anymore. Is that so much to ask?”

El Disgusto: “Will that make you feel better? We’ll just be making jokes about you behind your back then… just like everyone else that sees you with her.”

Me: “Maybe other people will see her for the great, fun to be around person she is and not do that.”

Deviant Boy: “To her face. Come on Ab3, you’ve seen us. The only time we say meaner things about each other is when one of us isn’t around it’s like were a… were a…”

Blobert Smith: “Microcosm?”

Deviant Boy: “Yeah a microcosm of what the outside world is like.”

Me: “Maybe not. Maybe I’m an ok guy with an ok girl.”

El Disgusto: “Oh please, in what campaign world is that?”

Me: “Maybe its just you guys. Maybe you guys just don’t see who I really am. Maybe you just see what you want to see.”

Weasly Crusher: “Come on now, we only took one semester of Philosophy.”

Me: “Get out guys.”

Old Yellowbelly: “What?”

Me: “I’m done. I may be done for a long time.”

El Disgusto: “Bullshit. We came here for a game not to hear you snivel and bellyache. Shut up and make with the D&D.”

Me: “No. I can’t, this is really the last straw. You guys don’t have the slightest respect for me as a person anymore much less for any game I might be trying to run.”

Deviant Boy: “Are you serious?”

Weasly Crusher: “I think he is.”

El Disgusto: “All this because we called you out as a chubby chaser?”

Me: “It’s more than that. I should be gaming with friends not adversaries. I mean if I’m going to spend an entire Saturday night gaming then shouldn’t I be enjoying myself? And why are there elves singing in my pants?”

Blobert Smith: “I respect what you have to say, especially the part about the elves.”

Me: “So pack up guys. I’ve had enough.”

El Disgusto: “Holy crap, you’re serious. You’re just gonna kick us out in the middle of game. That sucks. And you suck. You suck on levels science has yet to understand.”

Collateral Darren: “Are you really serious man?”

Me: “Yes Darren. I think despite the madness of this night, the melting walls, dancing minis and bad filking that yes I want you all out.”

Collateral Darren: “You mean to tell me I put acid in your soda for nothing?”

Me: “Funny that sounded like you said- QUIET YOU ELVES! QUIET! Daddy’s talking!”

Collateral Darren: “I was trying to help you break out of your rut and I mean it was working. This is the best game I’ve ever seen you run.”

Me: “Uh-huh. Can you stop pixilating for a minute so I can get my hands around your throat?”

I can’t really tell you if I threw the guys out of my apartment any more then I can tell you how I ended up naked under the sink. I can tell you that in the morning I called her, my Special Girl and asked her to come over just so I could have someone to talk to about what I was feeling. It may sound corny but we really talked, we talked like I always imagined friends would talk to each other and when we kissed it was I always imagined lovers would kiss.

But we didn’t make love for a while yet, I was still worried there might be a few elves hanging around.

(Because I always misspell the word ‘epilogiue’)

I suppose it is no surprise to you that I did game again; in fact I was soon to meet some gamers that would soon be like family to me, the missus and our daughter.

But those gamers? I can only say that for some reason Albany’s gaming world is a very small world and we all seemed to run into each other again and again- at cons, game stores, through mutual friends and even at a funeral once.

As the years passed most of us would all share the common experiences of male pattern balding, marriage, parenting and mortgages. I assure you however that night was the last straw because I was never that Ab3 again; I finally understood that my fate was more than just being a punch line. I soon found that if gaming was becoming a chore there was no reason I had to keep slogging at it. There were other things I could occupy my time with.

All that touch feely stuff aside I am sure the one thing you are asking constant reader is – did you game with any of those guys again after all that?

The answer to the question is both easy and complex, and maybe I’ll get around to telling you about it. But just in case I never do, let this final musical number serve as a kind of coda.

Music please.

(To the tune of ‘Turn the Page’ by Bob Seger)
Of all the hobbies I've had
This holds its nerdy awe
Don't matter where my rulebooks are
Or if I sold them all
If my dice are all in the trash
I'll just end up buying some more
Cause my subconscious will wonder
No matter what I do
If he found eight stone golems in a room
What would a fighter do
And soon before I know it
Maps and minis will accrue

Say here I am in a game again
There I am behind the screen
Here I go checking the charts again
Here we go roll to save

But the players won't stay on the path
To the treasure load
Because everyone's chaotic neutral
When in a combat mode
And when they quote the rules back in your face
You just want to explode
Most times you can roll with it
Other times you freeze
But you can't always check your rulebook
When it’s stained with nacho cheese
Can that gnome really wear plate mail
And not blow out his knees?

Say here I am in a game again
There I am behind the screen
Here I go checking the charts again
Here we go roll to save

But when it all is going right
Your mind takes you away
To that world of might and magic
Where you always want to stay
And the players are all cheering
'cause they gained levels today
Later in the evening
As you lie awake in bed
With quotes from the DMG
All dancing through your head
You remember that last dragon
Should have been two instead

Now here I am in a game again
There I am behind the screen
Here I go checking the charts again
Here we go, roll to save

Here I am in a game again
There I am behind the screen
Here I go checking the charts again
Here we go, roll to save
Here we go, here we go…