When the Game Turns Ugly

Never force someone to be your Dungeon Master if he doesn’t want to. That’s the moral of today’s story.

The secondary moral? That one of my oldest friends, the oft-mentioned Glen, can be a total douchebag.

We were nine, maybe ten years old, and Glen was at my house on a Saturday. I remember it was raining – which was great, because it meant my mom wouldn’t force us to go play outside, and we could watch tv and play Nintendo all we wanted. Or rather, all Glen wanted. I didn’t want to watch tv. I didn’t want to play Nintendo.

I wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons.

This was back in the day of the Rules Cyclopedia, before things got “advanced,” before we heard the term “2nd Edition.” Back when men were men, dwarves were dwarves, and elves were really fighter-mages.

At this stage, it’s worth noting that Glen was – by tradition – “the DM.” Chris and I played, he DM’ed, that was how it went. So I bugged him, and badgered him, and irritated him – at ten years old I could nag and annoy with the very best of my generation – until finally, finally, he relented, threw his hands in the air and huffed “fine! Go get your dice.”

For those who missed out on the “good old days,” there wasn’t a lot of consistent internal logic to the game back then. Every weapon dealt different damage, and weapon proficiencies/specialization didn’t add a standard bonus to attacks and damage – instead dice and bonuses were based on the weapon. Which meant a lot of reference, flipping through books, checking flowcharts and tables, jotting things down, moving on.

Also, we were ten. Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division come so naturally to me now that I something forget that once upon a time 1d8+5 was considered a daunting equation. Fucking thac0 didn’t help. Fuck thac0.

So, the punchline is, I’d guess it took me an hour to make my character. A fighter, I think, because I remember having a sword. Just me, by myself, a level one fighter. Wandering through the woods, seeking adventure. We were young, and we considered “fight shit in a dark forest” to be high concept.

Dungeons & Dragons Creature Catalog (1993)
Dungeons & Dragons Creature Catalog (1993)

Now, I don’t recall exactly what it is I encountered. What I do recall is that it had two claw attacks, and a bite, every round. Also? Its claws delivered a paralyzing strike, and its bite carried a deadly poison. I also know that Glen got it out of the Creature Catalog, a fun little book of 150 things to brutally murder your PCs with.

Needless to say, I was brutally murdered. In the first round I think – I remember dying due to a failed saving throw, which suggests poison. So, an hour (or so) to make a character, followed by a minute or three to kill him. My solution? I offered Glen five bucks to let me re-roll the saving throw. He agreed, and I rolled a natural 20.

Glen responded by giving me my five bucks back and telling me that, no, my character was so dead.

Dude. Never force someone to be your Dungeon Master if he doesn’t want to.