Dungeoneer’s Diary #2 – Braggin’ It Up, the College Years

Posted: September 5, 2017 in Uncategorized

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

Perhaps you listened to the previous Dungeoneer’s Diary post for the constant refrain of “and then the game broke up due to life and reasons?” Well, that has also been a constant in my RPG life since high school, largely my college play with a long layoff because at this point life (24 and flamed out from school) people really into tabletop RPGs should basically be channeling that creative energy into a script or a book. You know, chase money. But, I do get to remember the time when a game lasted, what it taught me about RPGs and remember fondly the characters that made it possible. 

Picture, if you will, a sophomore fighting his way back from Academic Probation (GEs kill the arrogantly unprepared who never fully understood school, except as a life experience). I need something to do on Saturdays. I get to talking with my buddy, Steve, who has forgotten more about anime than I’ll likely ever learn. We like Star Wars having met at the Death Star trench run video game in the lobby of our dorm. We like that Star Trek: The Next Generation is on TV even if it’s the silly first and second seasons. And we like Dungeons & Dragons.

“Steve, it’s been a little while since I played.”

“There’s this really cool game that I just got into through the Gaming Club on Saturdays,” Steve says. “We still need a few people, so it should be okay.”

“What do they need? I kinda want to play a thief or an illusionist.” (In hindsight, dumb. Never ask what the game needs. It’s your playtime.)

“I think we need more guys that swing swords, fighters maybe a ranger,” Steve continues.

So I come to the table and roll up a ranger. Kalgon, a half-elf ranger named after the bath soap brand. Away we go as the Heroes of Tharsis, a sleepy village about a week’s wagon trek from the capitol. Kalgon lasted maybe four months.

We started out with a human wizard, an she-elf sorceress, a female dwarf fighter, an elf thief, a half-elf cleric, my friend’s half-elf fighter and a female human fighter maxing out the new weapon specialist rules added to the First Edition rules (2nd Edition just added to AD&D) to be the archer that Legolas is and always will be. Kalgon largely bored me. Yeah, I tracked in the forest and added to the mayhem of the party. Reflecting my life in college at the time, the ranger drank too much (think Bluto from Animal House).

We reach near 3rd Level ambushing kobolds and then forcing the goblin in charge to come to Panmunjom, so to speak. Steve lowered a shoulder and dropped a Minotaur off a high ledge. Orcs, several times. The normal humanoid monsters Tolkien taught us to hate and the game reinforced by not making them playable races. And there are no dragons…until there were. And Kalgon is still massively boring as the beer swilling ranger getting yelled at by the wizard for shooting at the wrong target in a big fight.

With the agreement of the Dungeon Master, I change characters. Durkheim Weber Zarathustra, a gnome thief-illusionist (both of my first choices). Now, you had to see this little guy; I repurposed a cool dwarf battlemat figure – The Dwarf with No Name (figures were lead back then). Basically, Clint Eastwood just walked into the house ready to shoot everybody in town, except the undertaker – “My mistake, four coffins.”

And now the Heroes of Tharsis are cookin’ with gas. First off, I sit down with the wizard and figure out how to use my first level Illusion spell to make him look deadlier than any dude with just one Magic Missile is ever going to be. I give him two sticks taped together. One is for the Fireballs he can’t cast yet. The other for the Magic Missile he can cast but runs out of too quickly. As long as I maintain the illusion I can shoot off much of this imaginary mayhem as I want, subject to Intelligence saving throws if you got hit. It worked and the guy playing Merlin even went home to make the prop out of 1-inch PVC and a candle.

And the game lasted another year and a half. A highly regimented killing force. The dwarf, the fighter and the cleric (when necessary, clerics many times should hide behind the Flying Wedge) formed the front shield wall. The lady archer shot over the dwarf’s head scoring for all the points. Meanwhile, the two spell casters (the class of Magic User hadn’t fully diverged into the many flavors available since) and myself cast the spells. And the pure thief, Zell, either joined the shield wall, the archer with a sling or tried to find opportunities to make use of his prodigious backstab bonus.

Massively good times. Nothing stood in our way. Durk contributed smoking up his ever-present cubanos (Churchill-sized Montecristos, because why not? And yes, I’m aware that Clint smoked something smaller in the movies). Drow. Giger’s Aliens. A white dragon (no one believed us when we told the tale). Giants. Ogres. Haitian type zombies (no aiming for the head). And a high-level fighter with a penchant for rape and possession of magic armor.

Cool magic stuff we appropriated all the time. By the time we ended I had a Ring of Invisibility, a magic knife that spoke in a hot sexy southern accent and some other minor doodads. The ring came in trade for stealing the rapist’s +4 suit of full plate armor and giving it to the fighter.

I remember sneaking off to break the bastard’s house because I wanted to fuck up his shit more than I could bulking up Merlin with my illusions. Durk is breathless alone in the dude’s three story house. I’m breathless trying to get stealth rolls under my percentage (48-percent) for each of eight pieces of armor. I went for candlesticks, a symbolic fuck you, and walked out with the local equivalent of an Abrams Main Battle Tank. A good day. And bringing said armor home is a good way to avoid having the rest of the party play Smear the Queer on my head for leaving without telling them.

So what became of Durk and the gang? We fought gods. The archer married the NPC I created as my mentor during character creation (Clint Eastwood being a powerful archetype). We fought more gods. And Durk took a Alignment Curse on the chin coming out the other end as Lawful Good. Yikes, time to retire just in time for the DM to graduate.

There it is, that magical game that went as intended for two years. You showed up hungover from Friday, if necessary, and you played. Most of the names IRL I’ve lost in the blankness of just being on the tip of my tongue. I had a few more years at school.

I played other games, some with members of this game. I shifted over to GURPS and played with other subsets of the club. I went to cons, but every game fizzled after a few sessions and we’d try something else. And then when it was time to leave school to be a writer, I never looked back for more than twenty-five years. It was a good game.

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