Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
The schedule Paul DeSanti had set up for me was a simple one; if the sun was shining I showed up for work, if it was raining I had the day off. Since I was paid under the table I had plenty of cash to play with, as long as I reminded Paul to pay me that is. On the days I didn’t work I spent my take home pay like a sailor on leave- without the whole drinking and getting laid part of course.
Although I do wonder how many sailors on leave would spend about $100 dollars on comic books and Doctor Who merchandise. Probably a couple, but probably they still get drunk and laid too.
This rainy day I found myself at Adrian’s place. He was running another game of Dungeons & Dragons. For those of you unfamiliar with Dungeons & Dragons I think the best way to explain it is to imagine a Fantasy Football league crossed with the Lord of the Rings trilogy with all the arguments of a game of Monopoly added in for spice.
Gordon and Daniel were there but we had a new guy; his name was Harry K and I knew him from high school but we had lost touch since graduation.
The five of us worked together to craft a tale of heroes and horrific injuries...
...So it came to pass that the dwarf, the elf, ranger and wizard arrived at the ruins of the temple of Fructose the High Lord of the Reverse Hobbits...
...“Woah woah here,” I interrupted by putting my thumb against my forehead and waggling my fingers, “Fructose? Where the Hell did you get that name.”
“Research,” Adrian said as he looked up from the back of his soda bottle.
“You’re not making this up as you’re going along are you?” Gordon asked as he copied my gesture.
“Hey guys!” a voice, “Hellraiser II is on!”
Adrian turned in his seat, “Goddamnit Harry get back in here!”...
...The cries of ravens filled the air, the ragged remains of previous adventuring parties littered the ground. Chemlar the elven thief began to root through the bodies taking one purse full of coins after another. He smirked, “This is already turning into a most profitable excursion.”
“Cool,” Bruce the ranger said, “maybe I can finally get the new crossbow I’ve been wanting.”
Chemlar became wild eyed, he rounded on the cloaked man, “I’ll burn in Hell before I share this with you!”
“Whatever happened to dividing the treasure up evenly?” Bruce began to step away.
“This is mine.”
Thad the Dwarf shook his head, “That’s not very nice.”
“There might be...” Thad paused meaningfully “...repercussions.”
Bruce nodded in agreement, “Yeah, there’s just one of you and three of us.”
The ranger and the dwarf glanced to the Wizard With No Name for some sign of unity but he just stared blankly...
...“Goddamnit!” Adrian called, “where are you now?”
Harry looked up from the Dungeon Master’s IBM computer, “I’m paying attention.”
“So what is your wizard doing?”
He scratched his chin trying to puzzle out Infocom’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Whatever everyone else is doing.”
“You mean arguing?” Gordon put his thumb to his forehead and waggled his fingers.
“Yeah... sure... damn Babelfish...”
Daniel rattled his d20’s menacingly in one hand and made the thumb to the forehead gesture with the other, “There’s no argument You guys try to take my thief’s stuff and you get backstabbed.”
“Why do you have to be like this?” I copied Daniel and Gordon’s handsign.
“You’ll never see me coming.”
“Neither will any other girl in this town.” I said...
...Chemlar snarled menacingly, “You better watch your mouth.”
The dwarf sighed with resignation, “Let’s just get going. We’ve wasted enough time.”
The three heroes started walking again, then doubled back to drag the near-comatose Wizard With No Name along with them. The doorway that led to the cursed inner chambers of Fructose the High’s temple hung open but showed only darkness.
The stood there in silence for a time, especially the Wizard With No Name. Bruce spoke first, “We need to establish a marching order.”
“The dwarf goes first,” Chemlar snorted, “he’s got the best Armor Class.”...
...“You know better than to break character without doing the hand sign,” Adrian said, “that will cost you 1000 experience points.”
“No fucking way!” Daniel said, “And those handsigns are stupid.”
“You want to lose another 1000 experience points?”
Daniel sighed with resignation and put his thumb against his forehead, “I think the dwarf should go first he has the best armor class.” His finger waggling was half-hearted at best.
“Fine,” I said, “let’s just get this show on the road. I have to get to work in the morning.”
“Hey!” Adrian glared at me...
...the dwarf staggered in place one hand clutching his chest. He felt as though a thousand experience points had cried out and were suddenly extinguished.
Everyone but the wizard looked on with sympathy and understanding. “Come on,” the ranger said, “let’s move.”
The elf agreed, “You guys first.”
The four heroes marched into the ruined temple, tunnels had been carved into the walls. “These were made by Kobolds,” Thad observed. His dwarven vision allowed him to see perfectly in the dark, there was nothing the shadowed tunnels could hide from him.
Bruce lit a torch, temporarily blinding the dwarf. The dwarf blundered backwards into the wizard. The Wizard With No Name panicked in confusion and cast a magic missile now the Kobold tunnel.
Before the thief could stop laughing dozens of Kobolds charged out of the mouth of the tunnel. The ranger cursed, the dwarf called upon Odin to guide his still blinded eyes, the thief tried to take cover. The wizard said, “Just a minute, I have to go to the bathroom.”...
...Everyone else immediately raised their thumbs to their foreheads and started waggling away. Gordon said, “That’s gonna cost you 1,000 experience points dude.”
“Whatever,” Harry shrugged as he stood.
“Should we just go on without him?” I asked once he was gone.
Adrian shook his head, “Nope. This is a scenario designed with four players in mind.”
“Designed?” I said, “You can’t really expect me to believe you aren’t making this up as you’re going along.”
“What are you talking about?”
“First you’re pulling the names out of your ass, otherwise why would Princess Solo be asking us to travel to retrieve the Graven Eye of Timor from the temple of Fructose the High Lord of the Reverse Hobbits?”
Adrian said, “Sounds like a standard D&D campaign to me.”
“Sadly you’re right.”
“Can I put my hand down? Daniel asked, “All this waggling is cramping me up.”
“Sure,” Adrian said, “for now.”
“I miss seeing you around the mall Al,” Gordon grabbed another Sprite from the six pack he had brought with him. Gordon worked at the local arcade Arthur’s Castle, his lifelong dream. I was concerned he was heading for trouble however, he seemed to be spending very extravagantly and usually with handfuls of singles and roll after roll of quarters. “I’ve got no one to hang out with.”
“Or mooch rides off of,” I smirked.
Adrian asked, “Where are you working now anyway?”
I replied, “I am selling pictures on the side of the road.”
Everyone laughed at that.
“No. I’m serious,” I said.
“Why in the Hell are you doing that?” Gordon asked.
Daniel said, “Yeah, I doubt a job like that has much health care or a retirement plan.”
“Well, there are other benefits.”
Adrian chuckled as he made fresh notes on his graph paper, “You’ve just flipped out because Lilly broke up with you.”
“I wouldn’t say that was the case,” I tried to sound casual, “after all how can we be broken up if she never called me again?”
“You’ve got a lot to learn about women my friend,” Daniel said, “you should hook up with a Asian girl. They give great blowjobs.”
“Really?” I replied, “And where did you read that?”
Adrian looked around, “Where the Hell is Harry?”
We took a vote and sent Daniel to the bathroom to find our fourth player. He wasn’t there, a brief search revealed his car was gone...
...undaunted by the wizard’s strange disappearance the three heros engaged the kobold hordes in battle and made short work of them.
“That was easy!” the thief bragged.
“What do you expect?” The ranger said, “They’re like one hit die creatures at best.”
The dwarf gasped in horror but it was too late.
Bruce the ranger staggered and clutched his chest. When it was over he was a thousand experience points weaker, he almost seemed to have shriveled up in his armor. “Verily...” he said, “the gods of this land are cruel but just. I should not have blasphemed.”
Thad patted him on the shoulder, “It happens to the best of us... and the elf too.”
The three heroes ventured deeper into the ruins only to be attacked by twice as many Kobolds as before...
...“And once again,” I said with my thumb against my forehead and my fingers waggling, “you insist you aren’t making this up as you go along?”
Adrian sighed with frustration, “This is all planned out.”
“Then why do you look so surprised that we’ve slaughtered wave after exponential wave of angry kobolds?”
“I’m not surprised,” he shifted in his seat, “I’m... proud of you.”...
...the passageways of the temple ruins were becoming clogged with bodies, the dirt floor was swampy with kobold blood. “Are we any closer to the treasure chamber?” Bruce the ranger asked, “I’m running low on arrows.”
“I’m running low on patience,” Thad the dwarf commented; in a completely in character way of course.
Chemlar the elf announced, “I see a glow up ahead.”
“Where?” the ranger strained to see.
“Up ahead,” the elf said, “where it’s glowing.”
The cries of yet another kobold war party filled the air. “Here we go again,” the dwarf said.
The kobold horde drew closer, the pale silver glow became brighter and brighter. “What are they carrying?” Bruce asked, “Lanterns?”
Chemlar narrowed his eyes, “They’re too sharp-looking to be lanterns and that glow is magical...”
“Magical?” Thad stood his ground. His years of working as an apprentice in his father’s weapon smithy had left him with an expertise in recognizing magical weapons. “Those are...” he croaked, “...those are vorpral blades.”
Bruce staggered in shock, “One hundred and twenty kobolds wielding vorpral blades? Is this some kind of a sick joke?”
The dwarf cast an angry glare to the heavens, “It is almost as though the very gods themselves are trying to kill us out of spite.”
The elf tried to run but the piles of gore slickened kobold bodies they had left in their wake slowed him. The three heroes were overwhelmed in a swarm of glowing blades that went snicker snack....
...Adrian was happily rolling critical hits, “Al your character loses his shield arm at the elbow and the elf loses both his ears.”
“What?” Daniel drove his thumb fast and hard into his forehead, there would be bruises in the morning, “What’s the point of playing an elf without pointy ears?”
Gordon put his thumb to his forehead and suggested, “If we live you could use all those coins you grabbed to buy some pointy earmuffs.”
I waggled my fingers with frustration, “Balanced scenario my ass.”
Adrian shrugged, “It isn’t my fault you guys got cocky.”
“What did I miss?” Harry walked back into the room.
“Where the Hell were you?” we all asked.
“I went to get something to eat,” Harry sat down and picked up his dice, “let’s kill something!”...
...and just when everything seemed lost the Wizard With No Name charged into the chamber. His exhausted and partially dismembered companions looked up at him. The kobold army paused, uncertain what to make of this new stranger.
The wizard paused dramatically, “Uhm... I cast... I cast FIREBALL!”
“A fireball?” The ranger shouted, “Did you read about the dangers of casting fireball in an enclosed chamber?”
“You fool!” the elf cried, “Even if I make my save I don’t have enough hit points to soak that kind of damage.”
“Damnit!” the dwarf cursed, “You do not know how to roleplay.”
In the half-second before the ruins of the temple of Fructose the High Lord of the Reverse Hobbits was consumed in a mushroom of mystical hellfire each of the heroes grabbed their chests with the pain of losing another thousand experience points...