And so it was, my first day in the back room. I could hardly believe I was really there. This was the first time I had actually seen the Game Master, Erick, because he would always sit at the corner of the table, where the door would block my view of him when it swung open. But that day I finally saw Erick. I even shook hands with him and told him my name, and he told me his-- as if I didn’t know it already. But he did inform me that it was spelled with a ‘k’, which was new information to me. Erick was a big man. Not as heavy as Gus, for sure, but he probably had to buy his clothes at the Big-N-Tall. He was the kind of guy who would look absolutely terrifying in a trench coat. He had tattoos covering the length of his thick arms, but I felt awkward looking at them, so I didn’t look long enough to find out what they were. He had long, red, wiry hair, and a goatee. He looked at me with a very demeaning scowl, and I wondered whether he was reluctant to let me into the back room, or if that was just the face he normally made. To the best of my knowledge today, I believe it was both.
After our introductions, Parker and I sat down at the table, and Erick began describing a world to them, as he always did, but this time I felt so much closer to it. I was inside. I was part of the world too. They didn’t know it, but I had been developing my own alter ego in my head for quite some time, and although I didn’t tell them, I was pretending to bring my alter ego into this world along with theirs. I wanted to know whether or not my character would have anything to add to the group, and this was the perfect way to test it out, without embarrassing myself. Of course, I didn’t have all the tricky numbers figured out or anything. It was just a vague idea.
I'll be the first to admit, the new world Erick described was pretty cool. Even in comparison to the many other worlds I’d heard him describe. Their alter egos wasted no time in jumping into the world and offering their heroic services to the people in turmoil there. In only a few minutes, the stalwart band of adventurers had found, in a dead halfling's packsack, a map of the entire world, and a letter, pointing out that the random slayings that had been happening recently in the town of Fieraberg had been orchestrated by a turbulent population of vindictive mer-people. And being the brave band of heroes that they were, they immediately devised a plan, and headed under Lake Abysmal, to Mercia, the capital of the Mer-city, to try to ease tensions.
But Parker was not a patient kid. Although I sat quietly, attentive and enthralled by the beginning of the group’s newest adventure, Parker was not content to do so. He interrupted during every second of silence, and was insistent that he be allowed to play. It was obvious that everyone was very annoyed with him, and just as the group had jumped into the water to head to Mercia, Parker interrupted one more time, and Gus took it upon himself to make a final decision. Since, as Parker continued to remind them, the kid had provided the chips... Parker would be allowed to play. The question then came up as to whether or not I should be allowed to play too, since they had already stooped so low as to allow one newcomer to play without first watching a game. But I wasn’t a foolhardy young enthusiast like Parker. I knew that my participation in the game would slow its progress, and might cause tensions between the “real” players. I abstained, and I think they all greatly appreciated my willingness to cooperate, even if they didn’t say so out loud.
Before they got back into the game, Gus advised that I should transcribe the progress, that is, take minutes of the proceedings. We both knew that the world of adventure this team would create would be worthy of a best seller one day. And I, happy to have an important role to play in this game after all, did as I was told and kept a detailed account of everything that took place.
The following is based on my own documented recollection. I chose to leave in my own notes, of how I would have contributed if my character were actually interacting fully, as well as general things to keep in mind for next time. It quickly became evident that I had a LOT to learn.
At the outset, I decided to make a list of the people there, and the characters they had designed to enact in this imaginary world. Gus agreed that this would be a good idea, and offered to describe his character first.
Gus: Alabastor the Warrior Prince -- rank 18 Knight Templar. “The strongest of all ever Knighted, Alabastor’s only real weakness is rebuking his own personal seductive prowess. Alabastor lives in a world of rules, but is always the first to “fight the medieval man”. His battle cry is “Thy first mistake is thinking that there is a battle I may one day lose!!!!!!!!!!!”
I looked around the table to see who wanted to go next. Honestly, I was a little uncomfortable. This was as it were, like being unexpectedly invited backstage after a rock concert to meet a band you'd come to admire. Hanna was boyish in appearance, with a short cut brunette bob, and a clothing choice that would be more suited to clubbing on Friday than sitting around here. Her pants, stretched, clingy and short, were cut below her navel, and whether that was because her belly spilled over beneath the pink glittering baby tee shirt she wore was beyond my guess. What was surprising about Hanna was the way her eyes seemed to dance as they caught mine while announcing her expectations. She wanted me to write down everything exactly the way she described it, and, in my exuberance, I faithfully followed.
(underline her exact words)
Hanna: Wilteria the Wise -- rank 14 Half Elven Succubi. The fairest elven mistress in the land. Her beauty is like a hook to arrogant trout who snatch her up before they've realized (too late, oh, oh, sucks to be you) they've been snared by her master caniness (sic, she corrected my spelling when I wrote canniness, and Gus gave me a look suggesting she was right) and deft swordplay. Wilteria is wise in the ways of the world particularly, in LOVE. She is the type of half elf that finds it as easy to cut down a gang of rogues as it is to counsel her half elven sisters in the art of males. As a half elf / half human, Wilteria is lucky to look fully elf so she does not have to deal with the racial strife so common to others with her predicament.
I was impressed with the amount of work that was put into these descriptions, and could not help but notice Gus, to Hanna's right-- his head was down, and his eyes were closed as she talked, as though he were listenning to a song he would easily put on repeat.
Dwayne, on the other end of the table, had been frantically sketching the whole time the others were talking, and in the moment of silence following Hanna's quick perusal and acceptance of my transcription, Dwayne handed me the paper he had been drawing on.
“That's me, I'm Valcor, the hybrid Beast-man. I’m the strongest and most powerful out of everyone,” said Dwayne in one breath.
Before I could respond, Erick had snatched the page from me and said, “This isn't a proper character detail, Dwayne.”
”What, I can’t sketch mine? That’s what I do, man. That’s how I make my characters, man, I’m an artist.”
Dwayne seemed fairly comfortable confronting Erick this way, and the ensuing energy appeared to announce that the two of them had often butted heads.
“I’m not saying you can’t draw it, Dwayne, I’m just saying this is a picture of a Geo-Morph Thermo-bot. It's not even from this game, there aren’t any advanced robots in this world, didn’t you listen to my description?”
“I’m not a robot, I’m just drawing it like that because it looks way cooler. Why do I have to tell you that every time dude.” I noticed, not for the first time, that Dwayne seemed rather short-fused.
“Okay that’s fine but don’t try to tell me later that you’re using your cyborg arm rail gun, because you don’t have one, you’re a beast man. You can draw it however you want, but you’re still a beast man.”
Erick spoke matter-of-factly and dismissively, as if he was accustomed to arguing with Dwayne and never really getting through to him. I noted in the margins that Dwayne, (Valcor), did NOT have a cyborg arm, or a cyborg arm rail gun.
As Dwayne seemed uninterested in describing his character to me in words rather than pictures, Erick and Gus helped fill in the gaps with all the necessary information.
Dwayne: Valcor the Hybrid Beast-man-- rank 15 Beast-man. With a physical strength level of 86 out of 100, Valcor can manhandle the deadliest of enemies. He gets a permanent physical endurance bonus for every enemy he defeats that is 70 or stronger. (note to self, strength decreases after multiple attacks, but physical endurance bonus points counteract that.)
Meanwhile, Parker had been flipping through books and filling out a character sheet that Erick had given him. Apparently he was well prepared for this, because as soon as I finished with Dwayne’s character, Parker handed me his completed sheet.
Once again, Erick snatched it out of my hand before I could see it. He read it carefully, and everyone was quiet, and for a few minutes I sat awkwardly still, and eventually worked up the nerve to eat a chip and see if anyone would mind. No one said anything, and I felt very relieved. I ate one more.
Finally Erick looked up at Parker, and began asking him to roll various dice. I tried to write it all down, but no one was telling me what was going on, and it was hard enough to follow even without writing it. So I just watched. There was a lot of dice rolling, and Erick writing things on Parker’s character sheet, and the occasional question like “You have 12 points to distribute however you like among these attributes... speed, intelligence, and physical prowess. How do you want them distributed?” And Parker would usually answer something like “all of them on physical prowess, duh, I’m a freakin’ vampire.”
In the end, the sheet was finally handed to me, and in the brief minutes while the group was remembering where they had left off in the game, and getting started again, I managed to decipher the following:
“Um, what’s your character’s name?” I asked timidly.
“I don’t know... Parker.”
Parker: Parker-- rank 1 Vampire. Able to be out during the daylight, though.