One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.” -Hunter S. Thompson

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Holy Shit, We're All Gonna Die!

See that picture up there? I first saw that on the box cover for what I believe was an introductory set for D&D 2e. Whatever, it was that's not whats important here. What is important is the picture itself. Look at that dragon. Now look at that dude in the cloak wielding that puny axe. Look at the size of that dragon's teeth and claws, and now back to the warrior's axe. 

All I could remember thinking when I saw that picture was Holy shit, that guy is SO dead. I actually remember feeling fear for him. I remember thinking how brave he must have been. Or if we got a close up on his face would we see the fear etched there. Would we smell the shit in his pants if we were for some reason able to be standing next to him at that exact moment. Today I've come to the realization that that guy was a hero, and he was going to take that tooth-pick of an axe and single-handedly kill that  fucking dragon. Because that's what hero's do. 

Fast forward about a little less than a decade later. Some friends invite me to play D&D with  them. It will be the first time I ever get to play the game. I show up and it's a sausage fest in my friends bedroom. It would all be a little creepy if I wasn't so excited to play this game, a game that I have be dying to learn how to play for a long, long time.   

The DM helps me make a character. I have no idea what I'm doing or even what has gone before, but everyone else has a character already and stuff has clearly happened before this point. I created an illusionist. Why didn't someone guide me to a better choice for a first time player I don't know, but I had recently fallen in love with Clive Barker's Lord of Illusions and that's what I wanted to be.

The adventure begins. We are recruited by some person to check out a lair of hill giants. Yeah, that one, the steading of the hill giant chief. So we sneak into this place and in no time flat we are in the great hall itself. Packed with giants having a party. Did I mention that I was noob playing a human illusionist? I say that I have never actually played this module because as soon as the fight started I more or less just sat back and watched the action. My character ran and hid, he might have even casted invisibility on himself, I can't remember now. But I remember being scared shitless. I mean these were freaking giants. What was I supposed to do? 

So the combat ended successfully in our favor. I never ended up playing again after that, and I have no idea whatever became of that whole thing. Did they go into the dungeon below? Did they head off to the Glacial Rift? Whatever.

So what's the point here?

Fear. That feeling of being put into a situation so dire that it needs a hero of the greatest caliber to overcome it. I miss that. There's something that happens after playing this game for so long that sucks the wonder out of it. I guess it's that fear of the unknown really. Once you've mastered the game and understand it's in and outs it sort of robs you of that mystery. The more I think about it this is something that I would love to be able to fix in my next game. 

How about you? Do you recall any of those past moments when you were filled with awe and wonder, or fear and terror that your death was just a short breath away?

As for me, if I ever find that guy who let me be an illusionist that night in G1, I'm going to punch him square in the neck. Just saying. 


  1. It's hard for me to remember exactly how it felt way back when I started--being old(ish) will do that to you. ;)

    What I do recall is the unexpectedness of everything. The world created by my DM was almost dream-like (in the way dungeons often are)--any monster or strange puzzle, or weird thing I didn't know what the point of could be in the next room. I don't think I got the fear as much as the weird.

  2. Yeah, I guess thats more along the lines of what I was thinking. There is a certain amount of weird and wonder when you first start. Kinda like how Alice felt being in Wonderland.