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Category Archives: Gaming

Buried Treasure – Dungeons & Dragons Endless Quest Books

We’re in the process of changing rooms around in our house.  One of the joys (and pains) of this process is going through every… single… nook… and… cranny.

Now, in doing that, one is bound to find some long-lost items.  These (practically) literally-buried treasures are unearthed after years of being forgotten.  Once you find them, though, the rush of memories is so awesome.

Take, for instance, these beauties, which I uncovered in the back of a bookcase.

D&D Endless Quest Books

D&D Endless Quest Books

These are my incomplete collection of the Endless Quest series, the Dungeons & Dragons version of Choose Your Own Adventure books.  I was a fan of the latter, and when I saw the first book in Toys ‘R’ Us, I snagged it immediately.  I had been playing Dungeons & Dragons for over a year at the time.

I loved Dungeon of Dread, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the rest of the books in the series.  I missed a few, but I’m happy with the ones I have.  I’m especially happy to have them still.

One thing that confuses me is that I have two copies of Dungeon of Dread.  I have no recollection of buying two, or of receiving a second as a gift.  The first memory I have of it is when my parents gave me a whole box of books from my old room in their house, after I had graduated college.  It was a mystery back then, too.

Have you read any of the Endless Quest books?  Do you still have them?  And, most importantly, would you be willing to, ahem, donate any to round out my collection? 😀

 
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Posted by on Monday, 22 July 2013 in Gaming, Personal

 

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A Grasp Through The Veil – Introductory Post

[The following is the introduction to a play-by-post game I am running on Big Pointy Teeth].
Anger.

Pain. Unbelievable pain.

An answer! No – it is gone.

Dark. Floating.

No, pulling. Toward… what?

Now fear. Panic.

Jump!

~~~

You awaken, or maybe come to, feeling disoriented. You open your eyes. As they adjust to the light of the sun low in the sky, you look around. You’re in an alley, thrown amongst litter, refuse, and a few vermin. You rise, shakily, to your feet. You feel numb, cold.

How did I get here, you think to yourself as you pick your way through the detritus toward the street. And where is here? Your head is spinning slightly as you try to concentrate. No answers come. What is going on? You feel lost, confused.

The street is empty, save for some sleeping vagrant, probably passed out, judging by the empty wineskin in his hand.

Two guards come around the corner. Armored in leather, they hear you stumble into some refuse. Surprised, the turn toward you. One of them draws her short sword. “Halt,” she commands. The other, a male dwarf, puts his hand on her shoulder. “Easy, Renna,” he says, as she lowers her sword. Then, to you, “You shouldn’t be in this area so early in the day, traveller. Come forward slowly with your hands out, so that we know you ain’t a threat. I’m Jartam, of the Manifest Watch. Now, who are you?”

You pause for a moment, not sure what to say. Who am i? You… don’t know. Your reaction alarms Renna slightly. She tilts her sword up. As she does, the sunlight glints off it, and you see through Jartam’s head! You suddenly realize his face is pale, as if all the blood has been drained from his body!

Alarmed, take a step back and you raise your hands. It’s then that you realize – the sunlight passes through your hands, too!

“I’m guessing,” Renna says to you, “that you’ve never been dead before.”

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 4 May 2013 in Gaming

 

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A Review – Five By Five RPG

Five By Five RPG, by Jeff Moore

Five By Five is a free RPG written by Jeff Moore.  The second version was released in 2010 and is available for download at his blog Dreams and Dragons.  I have to give Michael Wolf at Stargazer’s World credit for bringing this to my attention in one of his posts.

Overview

Allow me to quote two paragraphs from Mr. Moore that I think sum up the basic philosophy of Five By Five:

About These Rules

What you hold in your hands is a toolkit. It is the foundation for a game that you will not only play … but build yourself.

In these pages you will find a means to create characters for almost any setting or genre. Five by Five does not contain exhaustive lists of skills and powers. It doesn’t need them. Its systems are designed so that players can define everything they need to know about their characters in just a few words.

The rules provide the basic building blocks for a role-playing game.  There is no explicit or assumed setting, no genre, no classes, no stats.  The players come up with all these things on their own.  By “players,” I mean those sitting behind the game master’s screen as well as those sitting in front of it.

So, if the players define all of these things, then what do the rules provide?  Well, they provide the two most essential things for an RPG: a system to define the characters’ abilities, and a system to determine the outcomes of the characters’ actions.

Character Creation

One of the first things I like to do when learning a new RPG is to create a character.  I believe that is a great way to get a handle on the system from a player’s standpoint.  Five By Five lists six steps for this process.  I’ll try to distill them further here.

Come up with a character concept.  Choose three Traits that define the character’s strengths, and one Trait that is a weakness.  Place them in a best-to-worst order, and assign to them the appropriate values.  Then, fill in the details such as the character’s name, history, goals, and other things that make her a character, as opposed to a collection of statistics.

There you go – your character is complete.  OK, you may need to know that the Traits are ranked, from worst to best, as Weak, Untrained, Novice, Competent, Skilled, Expert, Master, and Legendary.  Each rank is assigned a value that increases as the trait increases.  A starting character begins with one Trait each ranked as Skilled, Competent, Novice, and Weak.  From here, you and the Referee (Game Master or Dungeon Master in other systems) determine starting equipment, which can provide bonuses to damage or healing rolls.  Two other traits, Health and Movement, are given default Untrained values.

Speaking of Untrained Traits, if a character performs an action for which she does not have an appropriate Trait, she is assumed to be Untrained.  This makes any action possible, although more difficult tasks may be impossible for an Untrained character.

Now that we have character creation down, how do we determine the success or failure of her actions?

Dice Mechanics

Here is where the Five By Five terminology comes in.  An character’s success is determined by rolling two d5s.  A d5 is a standard d6, but a roll of 6 is counted as 0.  So, roll 2d5, and multiply the numbers together.  If a 6 is showing, the result is 0.  If a 5 and a 3 are showing, the result is 15.  Simple, right?

This result must be below a certain target number.  The target number is determined by the value of the appropriate Trait to the task involved.  Let’s say the character is trying to break into a secure computer system.  The character just happens to have a Skilled Hacker Trait, which gives her a target number of 6.  If the player rolls a 2 and a 4, she fails, and perhaps her attempt is detected.  On the other hand, if the player rolled a 1 and a 3, she would succeed, and access to the system is hers.  Likewise, if the player rolls a 6 and a 5, she succeeds, due to the “6 counts as 0” rule.

That’s it – the entirety of the action resolution mechanic.  All actions, whether in combat, or exploration, or pottery are determined this way.  There are more specific rules for combat, as one would expect in an RPG.  There are also rules for damage, healing, armor, weapons, and different technology levels.  Five By Five strives to be a generic system.

Conclusion

I admit, I have a soft spot for rules-lite games.  Five By Five hits that spot quite well.  The character creation is simple enough, yet well-defined, to encourage a player to finish her character quickly, but differentiate it enough to ensure it is unique.  The dice mechanic is clever and simple to grasp.

On the other hand, I wish there were more than one example character.  Two or three more would help demonstrate the system’s flexibility, not only with characters, but genres, settings, or what have you.

Mr. Moore provides a list of example Traits that can be helpful to players.  Of course, with an RPG “toolkit,” this is just a starting point.  Players are encouraged to come up with their own Traits.  In this sense, literally any character concept can be realized.

Five By Five is an intriguing game.  So much so that I intend to propose it to my regular group to try out for a few sessions.  As it is a toolkit, I already have several ideas knocking around in my head that I want to write down to use with this system.

 
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Posted by on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 in Gaming, Reviews

 

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Tweet RPG: Hack ‘N’ Slash Hero: The Character List

The latest RPG I’m playing isn’t a tabletop game with 600+ pages of rules.  Oh, not at all – I’m playing Tweet RPG.

It’s a game played (appropriately enough) on Twitter.  The rules for character creation and game play are explained in a few paragraphs.  The players vote on the course of action the hero will take at a given point in the story.  The choice with the most votes is the action the hero takes.  There are a few other kinds of votes as well, but they really are very simple.

I’ve followed @tw33t_rpg for a few months now, but this is the first opportunity I’ve had to join in on a game.  I’m also honored to be the creator of the first character to play in this game: Douglas McMichaels, law enforcement officer of America’s Wild West.  The gameplay started just this morning, and you can join in any time.

Take a look at the link below to see the 83 characters people created, and have a look around the site for the rules of the game.  And, please, if you are interested, join us!

Tweet RPG: Hack ‘N’ Slash Hero: The Character List.

 
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Posted by on Monday, 16 April 2012 in Gaming

 

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Bokû And Ailikií – Gods Of The Islands

In the days before time, when U’o, the Sky-Mother, was birthing the world, all was empty.  In her laboring, she cried out in pain, and from her howls was born Bokû, the War God of Fire.  The fire of his anger burned slowly, yet perceptibly.

The world broke forth from U’o’s womb.  Bokû’s anger erupted, and he stabbed at it with longspear.  The piercings became the first volcanos of the newly-born world.  Like their father, they erupted in anger, burning the islands and mountains and plains in their vicinity.  The peoples in their vicinity cowered in fear, for what else can mortals do in the face of an angry god?

But, something unforeseen occurred.  From the afterbirth of the world sprung Ailikií, the Trickster.  The waters of his birth settled in the low lands of the world, and became the swamps.

Seeing his brother, Bokû became enraged.  He thrust his longspear at Ailikií, piercing him on the left side of his chest.  Ailikií let loose a scream of agony, which came from the wound.  His breath swirled around Bokû, confusing him as the image of a great serpent circled around his neck.  Bokû grabbed at his throat, intending to yank the serpent off of him before he passed out.  But when he did, the serpent disappeared, and Bokû knew he had been deceived.

But it was enough to distract Bokû.  Ailikií charged forward, raised his fist, and struck Bokû on the jaw.  Bokû dropped to the ground, and Ailikií withdrew to the swamps.  Bokû awoke, his anger again burning deeply, but slowly.  He plotted his revenge against Ailikií from within his volcanoes.

Bokû’s Worshipers

Worshipers of Bokû live in the surroundings of active and dormant volcanoes.  Fearful of their god, they live to appease his anger.  Bokû demands his followers wage ritual war on one another.  The defeated tribe must supply their most powerful warrior as the sacrifice to Bokû.  The victorious tribe wins the honor of performing the ritual sacrifice.  If Bokû is pleased by the sacrifice, his anger will abate.  If he is unhappy with it, woe be to the tribes, as Bokû’s anger will explode, raining ash and lava down upon all the tribes of the land.

Clerics of Bokû tend to be the leaders of the tribal war-parties.  Like their god, they usually command by fear, and punishment is usually harsh.  Bokû teaches that strength and anger are virtues to extoll, and mastery of them are key to personal perfection.  Bokû is most pleased when his followers hunt down and destroy worshipers of his brother, Ailikií.

Bokû, God of Volcanoes, is also known as the Lord of Anger, the Volcano King, and the War God of Fire.  He is Chaotic Evil, and provides the domains of Evil, Fire, Strength, and War to his clerics.  His favored weapon is the Longspear, and his holy symbol is an erupting volcano, usually carved upon a disk of igneous rock.

Ailikií’s Worshipers

Worshipers of Ailikií live in and around low-lying swamps.  Ailikií teaches his worshipers that to be unseen or unconsidered are the keys to living a good life.  An enemy who can not find you can not harm you.  If you must fight, then appearance is more important than reality.  Appear strong when you are weak, or appear numerous when you are few; strike when the enemy is confused, and withdraw to build up your strength.

Clerics of Ailikií tend to be shamans of the tribes and councilors to the chieftains.  They perform the rituals marking important holidays, births, deaths and weddings.  Like their god, they tend to be quiet and unassuming.  The death ritual usually consists of piercing the deceased’s eyes with a snake’s fang, and dumping the body into slow-running or stagnant water.  Ailiki’i claims the body in his own time.

Ailikií encourages his followers to take chances, for he rewards such audacity, much as happened in his first battle with Boku.  His clerics meditate for days in the swamps.  The gases in the area produce intense hallucinations, through which Ailikií sometimes will reveal his will in these visions.

Undead are of little concern to Ailikií.  The spirits of mortals go on to their final reward, and the bodies will be claimed by Ailikií.  Undead are tools, and his clerics may do with them as they see fit.

Ailikií, God of the Swamps, is also known as the Trickster, the Body-Eater, and the Illusion-Maker.  He is Chaotic Neutral, and claims the domains of Air, Death, Luck, and Trickery.  His favored weapon is the Unarmed Strike, and his holy symbol is a serpent’s skull.

 
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Posted by on Tuesday, 7 February 2012 in Gaming

 

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Of My Memorable Foes – Sir Callas

I’ve been slacking on these questions from Reverb Gamers, but here is my answer when they ask:

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #16: Who was the most memorable foe you’ve ever come up against in a game? How did you beat him/her/it? Or did you?

As in a previous answer, I have way too many to list, so I will share the story of one that comes to mind immediately.

Back in the closing days of AD&D 2nd Edition, my friend Andy ran a campaign for our friend Fred and me in the Dragonlance setting.  In DL, one of the best-known organizations is the Knights of Solamnia, a large organization of warriors dedicated to the noble ideals of honor, justice, protecting the innocent and weak, fighting evil.  You know, just like every other group of noble knights in just about every other setting.

A Knight Of Solamnia

Anyway, Fred’s character was an aspiring member of this group.  He was sort of in on-the-job training, if you will.  I can’t remember the whole story, but he was in charge of either delivering or retrieving some important relic or whatever – let’s call it a MacGuffin.  So, my character, an aspiring Wizard of High Sorcery, was sent with him, not only to represent the Tower’s interests, but also so that he may learn more of the world beyond the walls, and hone his skills in the Art.  (Hmm, that’s two aspiring characters.  Dragonlance seems to be set up to test the newbies, doesn’t it?)  We were joined by two others, a cleric of Mishakal, and another Knight, Sir Callas.

Sir Callas turned out to be interesting.  He was good with his sword, quick of wit, and took on a something of a mentor role to Fred’s knight PC.  We continued on our quest as we battled foes, sought the MacGuffin, and built a camaraderie.

Well, finally, we drew near to the object of our quest.  In one truly magnificent and mettle-testing battle, we defeated our foe.  The MacGuffin in hand, we basked in our triumph as we caught our breath.  Sir Callas retrieved the MacGuffin, smiled, and said, “Thank you for your dedication in this service.  My Queen Takhisis will be pleased.”

Betrayed!  A member of the Knights’ sworn enemies, the Knights of Takhisis, was among us from the start!  And we, the fools, helped him all along!  Sir Callas fled and escaped our pursuit.  Exhausted, we made camp for the night.

In the light of the campfire, the fledgling wizard said, “Don’t worry, friend Knight, I am sure we will meet Sir Callas again, bring him to justice, and regain your honor.”  The Knight spat on the ground at the mention of the name, then grumbled, “‘Sir!’  Callas does not deserve the honor of the title ‘Sir.‘”

“Well, then,” the wizard replied, “We shall no longer call him that!  From this moment forth, he shall be known as Penis-head Callas!

At that moment, all three of us broke out in belly-laughter that lasted for a good two minutes.  It’s the kind of laughter that friends share, especially gamer friends.  The spontaneity of my new title for Callas was all the more reason for his sticking out in my memory.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 3 February 2012 in Gaming, Personal

 

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D&D Next Announcement – My Reaction

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you are a gamer, or you at least know what I mean by that term.  If not, by gamer, I mean one who plays RPGs, or Role-Playing Games, specifically those of the tabletop, pencil-and-paper variety such as Dungeons & Dragons.

Earlier this week, Wizards of the Coast announced that it has been “developing the next iteration of D&D.”  They are not calling it “5th Edition,” at least not yet.  For now, its codename seems to be D&D Next.  That’s probably a marketing and/or public relations decision, and a wise one at that.  I’ve been around for the last 4 (arguably 5) edition changes, and it’s never pretty.  In fact, the fracturing fan base is what Wizards seems to be addressing directly with this “iteration.”

D&D Starter Set - Wizards of the Coast

There have been scads of reports from various sources, but I take most of it as rumor at best.  Even so, there seems to be a consensus on a few things.  Here are some of them, along with my reactions to each.

  • Wizards of the Coast will have an open playtest of the rules during development.  This is huge.  While this is nothing new in the RPG industry, this is a huge turnaround from Wizards’ (and TSR’s prior to them) methods before.  This was a request (to be polite) from fans since at least the announcement of the 4th edition, and a source of complaints from its initial release, right on up through every new supplement.  I am encouraged by this news, because it shows they are listening.
  • D&D Next will be modular in design, so you can use whatever sets of rules you like, and ignore those you do not.  I’m not sure I buy into this idea.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the concept of “use what you like, throw out what you don’t like.”  I’ve liked this concept since the Original Dungeons & Dragons game.  But that’s just the thing: this is an idea that’s always been an official part of the game.  This is nothing new.  Perhaps the difference will be more precisely defined sets of rules, how they interact with other rules, and how they change the game experience as a whole?  Still, it seems odd that they make such a big point of it now.
  • D&D Next will be compatible with prior editions, which will now be supported again.  I’m skeptical about this one.  There are fundamental differences between each of the editions that make it a challenge to use them together without some major modifications.  E.g., the difference in power level between a 1st edition magic-user and a 4th edition wizard are huge.  The same goes for a 2nd and 4th edition dragon.  Or the planar cosmologies of the different settings throughout the editions.  My concern here is that Wizards does not have the staff to support every edition of D&D.  I hope they are not biting off more than they can chew.
  • Wizards will continue to support 4th edition fully during the development process of D&D Next.  This is great.  I am glad that they intend to give support to their current product.  I believe them, and take them at their word.  However, I’m not sure the customers will want to continue to purchase something they perceive to have an expiration date.  Now, the argument will be that the current products will be compatible with D&D Next, so there’s no need to worry.  Still, I’m not convinced that customers will agree.

I hope this doesn’t come across as pessimistic, because that’s not my intent.  In fact, I am eager to see how this unfolds.  I have signed up for the playtest, and encourage you to do the same.  Dungeons & Dragons is the progenitor of this hobby of mine, and it will continue to set the standard.  And I am excited to help make that happen.

Part of making that happen is that Wizards has asked for wish lists for D&D Next.  On Twitter, they have established the #DNDNext hashtag for just such a purpose.  I plan to use it in the months ahead.  For now, though, look to a future post for my immediate wish-list ideas.

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 14 January 2012 in Gaming

 

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Collaborative Or Competitive Games: My Preference

Another fine question from Reverb Gamers:

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #12: Do prefer collaborative or competitive games? What do you think that says about you?

Monopoly Board - From Hasbro

For me, I reckon it depends on the game itself.  Have you ever tried to play Monopoly collaboratively?  It turns out that it doesn’t really work too well.  The same goes with Risk.  Now, I’m not too keen on either of those games, although not because of their competitive nature.  But, that demonstrates my point: some games are inherently competitive, and cannot be played cooperatively without modifying them in some way.  In cases like that, I have no problem with them, and will play them and enjoy them if I enjoy the rules of the game.

Dungeons & Dragons - From TSR/WotC

But, this blog isn’t about board games, is it?  It’s about role-playing games.  When it comes to my RPGs, I heavily favor a collaborative playing style.  Dungeons and Dragons, in every edition, encourages teamwork.  Without a doubt, it can be played competitively, and I have done so in the past.  But, I’ve usually left the table feeling unfulfilled.  Sure, I’ve had fun playing that way, but I’ve enjoyed it more often and to a greater magnitude when playing with the other players, or, as a GM, when the players work together.

What does that say about me?  Perhaps that I like working with people more than against them?  Maybe that I’m just a friendly guy?  Or maybe, just maybe, I get tired of making my friends cry when I beat them.

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 14 January 2012 in Gaming, Personal

 

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The Adventures I LIke

Today, we have another question from Reverb Gamers:

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #14: What kinds of adventures do you enjoy most? Dungeon crawls, mysteries, freeform roleplaying, or something else? What do you think that says about you?

I can honestly say that I can’t pick any one type of adventure, because there are different times that I enjoy different activities.

Dungeon crawls are the first kind of adventure that I ever played.  I think that’s true of a majority of role-playing gamers, especially if one’s first game were Dungeons and Dragons.  At that time, that’s all I ever played, ran or created.  They are very simple, especially for a teenage boy whose players are other teenage boys.

Paladin - From 3.5 Edition D&D PHB

Mysteries came next in my gaming life.  They were pretty much from published modules.  Personally, I didn’t care too much for them.  They always seemed to be written with one and only one way to solve the mystery, and woe to those who fail to find it.  Even now, I don’t really like mysteries, but that’s just a personal preference.

Roleplaying is one of my favorite facets of RPGs.  After all, that’s what RP stands for, right?  But, I find that it’s not really an end in and of itself, but something to do while pursuing other game-related goals.  I don’t really separate it from the other styles of gaming.

When it comes down to it, I find that I can (and do) enjoy gaming if I find the objective to be worthy.  Save the town, rescue the orphans, squash the Big Bad Evil Guy’s Big Bad Evil Plan are the kind of goals I want in my adventures.  If that is the case, I will find a way to enjoy it, especially if the players (and GM, if I’m also a player) have the same motivation.

Bottom line: I want to play the hero.  If I have that, then the rest will fall into place.

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 14 January 2012 in Gaming

 

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Cross-Gender Role Playing

Another question from Reverb Gamers:

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #9: Have you ever played a character of the opposite sex. Why or why not? If yes, how did the other players react?

I have played several female characters in my Dungeons & Dragons games throughout the years.  It has always been because the character introduced herself to me that way.  I know, if you are not a tabletop, pencil-and-paper role-playing gamer, you probably won’t understand that.  If you are a writer or other creative type, then you probably can relate.  The character comes forth in my mind, and makes herself known, sometimes in small steps, other times nearly-complete.  Either way, it is I who get to know the character, rather than tell her who she is.

Typically, other players didn’t think anything of the cross-gender role-playing.  They’d just accept it and move forward.  There were times, however, where it caused some consternation.

One time was while I was running a game at a friend’s house.  His friends joined us, and started laughing when my NPC, a female druid named Daphne, was introduced to the party.  Granted, this was a table of young teenage boys, so immaturity was rampant.

She took it in stride at first.  While annoyed, she let it pass, hoping the group would settle down as the adventure got underway.  However, the sexual comments, both implied and specific, kept coming.  She got angrier at each one, and warned the party that she was not to be trifled with.  The first battle showed her to be a capable combatant and spellcaster.  Thinking she finally earned their respect, she relaxed a little.

But, it was short-lived.  Another joke was made at her expense, and she issued an ultimatum, “These jokes will stop!  One more, and the prankster will be taught a lesson!”  They became quiet, honestly afraid of what may happen, but she could tell they would push her one more time… but only one more time.

As expected, a joke came again.  She turned to the person, and angrily whispered, “That is it.  Joke about seeing me without clothes, do you?  Oh,no – you will SEE NO MORE!

She cast a Blindness spell on the fool.  “Make a save vs. spells,” I told him.  “What?  Are you serious,” he asked.  “Oh, yes.  Daphne is pissed, and she warned you.  Now, roll,” I answered.

He rolled.  He failed.  “Your sight fades into grey, then black.  You see nothing, and stumble around, afraid that you will never see the sun again.”  “WHAT?  But, why did she do that?!?”

“I warned you, dolt,” Daphne said.  “Perhaps now you will learn respect for women.”

The player’s eyes started tearing up.  “What the heck can I do now?!?  I’m blind!  He was my favorite character!”  He grabbed his dice and character sheet and left.  He didn’t wait around long enough for me to tell him that the spell would end when Daphne willed it.

I felt a little guilty, personally, about it.  I never saw them again, other than my friend.  I remember him saying that his friend had torn his character sheet up when he got home and threw it away in anger.  Maybe, though, he learned a little lesson about treating women properly.

One can always hope.

 
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Posted by on Tuesday, 10 January 2012 in Gaming

 

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