The Binder of Shame
The Second Edition
#4 The Good, The Bad And The Feces
The place? The basement of my co-worker Jack Torrents. The time? 9:30 PM. The average age difference between me and the other players? 15 years.
Bright Eyes: “And as you weary travelers reach the town of lower Theis you find the kings guards have blocked off all entry to the town of lower Threis “Halt!” a guard calls out to you, “I am a level fifteen fighter and I am guarding the entrance to the town of lower Theis I demand you identify yourselves or I and my comrades who are also level fifteen will be forced to attack you with our +1 swords.”
Jack Torrents: “I draw my sword. Are the rest of you with me?”
Me: “Maybe we should just talk to them.”
Bachelor Chad: “We are four level four characters. That means we’re like equal to a single sixteenth level character. We can take these guys.”
Me: “In situations like this we should use Basic Math not Voltron Math.”
Pale Moon: “I’m not sure what to do here. Does this look like a cutscene?”
Me: “This isn’t a videogame, this is real life fantasy role playing. Life does not have cutscenes.”
Jack Torrents: “My sex life is a series of Quicktime events.”
Searching for a new gaming group is almost as difficult as searching for a new lover, and trying to find what you need online only makes things more treacherous. I gave up trying to find a new gaming group shortly after I moved to North Carolina. I almost joined up with one but then at the last minute the guy hosting the game said that his D&D game would crossover with the universe from the TV Sitcom FRIENDS, and that since FRIENDS crossed over with MAD ABOUT YOU and SIENFIELD and those shows had crossed over with CHEERS and FRAISER the possibility of randomly encountering Ross and Rachel was on the same table as an Ogre Magi or Rust Monster.
I threw in the towel right there, better no gaming at all then risk a Saving throw versus CARLOINE IN THE CITY.
So all my gaming stuff went into storage in the back of my closet . Every once in a while I would get the urge to pull out a rulebook and read it for fun. Mock me if you want but Jonathan Tweet with Robin Laws OVER THE EDGE goes great with Fruit Loops. After a few seasons of letting them gather dust I decided it was time to cash in my dozens of role playing game manuals the local used book store and that money to feed my ravening hunger for horror fiction anthologies. How many dog eared paperbacks with a version of THE TELL TALE HEART will be in my possession when I shuffle off this mortal coil? Only the rats in the walls know for sure.
I drifted away from the hobby, both as a player and an occasional writer in the genre. I found other things to occupy my attention, like furthering my career, making blog posts and passing kidney stones. It should be noted that by 2015 I had made significant progress in the last two categories. If you asked me I would have told you that I never expected to pick up a d20 again. My co-worker Jack changed that. He heard me joking about D&D and said their game needed a fourth player. At first I was resistant to the idea but then my wife aid encouragingly “For fuck’s sake can I have you off the couch for one weekend?”
More than twenty years of marriage and my wife and I still have the old magic.
Bright Eyes: “So what are you going to do?”
Me: “My character explains that we are weary from our long journey-“
Pale Moon: “-And thoroughly humiliated by having to flee from a pack of Duckbunnies.”
Bachelor Chad: “They had rabies and nobody wanted to play a cleric!”
Pale Moon: “They didn’t have teeth! They had bills.”
Bright Eyes: “Yeah I didn’t exactly think that one through.”
Me: “Hey man, the Dungeon Master is always right-”
Bright Eyes: “Wow. Thanks.”
Me: “Unless he’s wearing leather underwear or a Nazi armband.”
Bright Eyes: “What?”
As a matter of fact, yes I was a little scared to play again. Did D&D still use THACOs? Would someone lend me their dice? Would I even have fun?
Well you know what? I was having fun. It was a little disorienting at first because all the guys were so… normal. We were all married, except for Chad, and we all had kids, except for Chad, and we were all broke most of the time, except for Chad. Thankfully Bright Eyes had gotten his complete set of Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks as a gift. Jack Torrents also had a complete set of rulebooks downloaded onto his iPad, rulebooks both modern and old school, rulebooks he had never had and never would dream of paying for.
Not that I am judging you, it’s just that in my day the Internet was just for stealing music and porn.
Bright Eyes: “The mayor of Theis says to the Players that his village is being attacked by strange beastmen every 1d8 days he would like to enlist your aid in tracking the creatures back to their lair and destroying them as a reward he will give each of the Players 100 gold pieces per level and one random magic item.”
Jack Torrents: “Sounds like a call to adventure to me! Here I just downloaded the soundtrack to CONAN THE BARBARIAN onto my phone. Let’s have a little mood music.”
Bright Eyes: “Maybe we should just…”
iPhone: “WE BUILT THIS CITY! WE BUILT THIS CITY ON ROCK AND ROLL!”
Jack Torrents: “Oops.”
Pale Moon: “Really dude?”
Jack Torrents: “My kid must have put that there.”
Bachelor Chad: “Suuuuuuuure.”
Me: “I think you’re knee deep in the hoopla.”
Bright Eyes: “Moving on the party finds itself at the cave of the beastmen…”
Pale Moon: “That was fast.”
Bright Eyes: “Hey I’ve got to go to work in the morning.”
If there was one thing I was learning this night it was that older men game like they make love, with very little foreplay to make up for the numerous distractions.
Me: “I hit one of the beastmen’s trained Roving Maulers. And it’s a critical hit! Awesome! Where are the critical hit tables?”
Bright Eyes: “There are no critical hit tables in this version of D&D.”
Jack Torrents: “I could probably download some.”
Bright Eyes: “You just make another hit roll to confirm the critical hit. If you succeed you get extra damage dice.”
Me: “No problem but it seems like an unnecessary extra step.”
Pale Moon: “Is this the part where you tell us about one of those avant-garde games you used to play?”
Me: “Ron Edwards SORCERER & SWORD was not avant-garde it just- Oh wait it kinda was really. But it had less things to memorize and that was awesome.”
Bright Eyes: “I prefer old school- 5th edition old school. Make another roll Ab3.”
Me: “OK and lets see if that critical takes hold. Oops! My die rolled under the table.”
Pale Moon: “I got it.”
Bachelor Chad: “Oh God pull up your sweatpants!”
And that’s when I realized some things never changed, every gamer has a crescent moon waiting to shine once their wasteband loses the battle with their stomach. I know I’m almost there, I’m trying to hold that moment off but Nutty Buddy bars taste sooooo good.
Me: “Where is your restroom?”
Jack Torrents: “Restroom? What is this the Taj Mahal? The shitter is upstairs and to the right. Try not to wake up my kid ok?”
Pale Moon: “You keep your kid in the shitter?”
Jack Torrents: “It’s like you want me to release your social security number to 4Chan.”
Pale Moon: “I feel sorry for the poor bastard that steals my identity.”
So I went upstairs and to the right. Since Jack Torrents was a happily married man his bathroom was semi-immaculate. No one can have a perfectly immaculate bathroom when they have kids; but it smelled wonderful and there were hand towels and even a bowl of those fancy schmancy seashell shaped soaps that at I am never sure if I am supposed to use or not.
If you will forgive a gaming metaphor after I sat down on that puffy toilet seat I immediately rolled a d2.
Things went as expected until I flushed. There was a choking gurgle, the sound of plumbing on the verge of rebellion. The water level in the commode began to rise. I could see pending humiliation as surely as I could see my own poo. In that moment I was no longer a sarcastic agnostic, I prayed to God to stop this from happening and then for good measure I also prayed to Poseidon and even Istishia king of the water elementals. The toilet made a coughing sound and flushed. I wept with relief.
You know I’m still not sure who answered my prayers but Istishia has a 5% chance according to the FORGOTTEN REALMS rulebook.
I got back to the game.
Bright Eyes: “And so you discover that the lair beastmen are actually gorillas enslaved by a Neo-otyugh with psionic powers.”
Me: “I am not sure what I expected to find at the heart of this dungeon but this was not it.”
Bright Eyes: “That’s good right?”
Me: “Yeah this is pretty awesome.”
Bright Eyes: “The Player Characters find themselves surrounded by a pack of damn dirty apes pause for humorous effect then continue.”
Me: “I am not criticizing here but you don’t have to read verbatim from the scenario. You can personalize it, make the story your own.”
Pale Moon: “That kind of sounded like a criticism.”
Me: “Yeah but it was the constructive kind so it doesn’t count.”
Pale Moon: “Doesn’t count?”
Bachelor Chad: “Guys. Can we get going please? I’ve got a Tinder thing happening at midnight.”
Jack Torrents: “Sounds like someone is going to have to make a Save vs Herpes.”
One or two snarky comments later our characters waded into battle. The apes fell before us, some were cleaved in two, some were consumed by mystical Hellfire and more than a few were clubbed into a gooey paste of shattered bones and matted fur. That done we turned our attention to the leader of these beasts- the Neo-otyugh, a beast as foul as it was unpronounceable. Though we fought competently the creature teleported away.
Me: “Damnit. We almost had him.”
Bright Eyes: “He was standing on your face.”
Me: “I was going to stab his leg. How could I miss?”
Jack Torrents: “I’ve seen your rolls Ab3. You could have.”
Me: “If that weren’t true I would deny it.”
Bachelor Chad: “I’m checking to make sure that all these apes are properly liquefied.”
Bright Eyes: “They’re all dead.”
Pale Moon: “What kind of treasure do they have?”
Bright Eyes: “That’s bananas.”
Pale Moon: “That’s not crazy at all. They’ve been raiding the village for weeks. There has to be something here.”
Bright Eyes: “Bananas.”
Pale Moon: “No it’s not. It’s a perfectly reasonable assumption.”
Bright Eyes: “The treasure is bananas.”
Pale Moon: “Is it really crazy? You mean like crazy good or crazy bad?”
Once we finished splitting up the potassium packed spoils of our battle it was time for experience points.
Bright Eyes: “Ok just a minute or two more. The scenario book had them somewhere.”
Pale Moon: “I’m tired, let’s just do it next week.”
Bright Eyes: “If I do that you’ll spend half the session figuring out what feats and skills you want to get.”
Pale Moon: “Is there an auto assign option?”
Jack Torrents: “I’m sure I could download an app for that.”
Bachelor Chad: “Come on, let’s wrap it up. This girl I’m hooking up with is Canadian. You know what that means.”
Me: “Come one guys. He is working hard to give us a good game, let’s show a little patience and gratitude.”
Suddenly a cry echoed through the basement.
Mrs. Torrents: “Honey something’s wrong with the toilet.”
Me: “Whelp I gotta go. Great game.”
Bright Eyes: “Where are you going? I’m your ride home.”
Me: “You can catch up to me.”
The guys caught up with me about a mile down the road and told me that Jack Torrent’s house had long running plumbing issues so I shouldn’t be embarrassed and they wanted to make sure I was coming back for next week.