Monday, February 8, 2010

One of My Favorites

I spent the weekend getting over a cold rather than writing. Nevertheless, I wanted to leave you with something to ponder this fine Monday morning. The title of another blogger's post this week reminded me of my most favorite of the many editorials Roger E. Moore wrote during his tenue as the editor of Dragon magazine. I've reproduced it below and, if you look at it carefully, you can see it's a pretty good account of the way this game of our was played once upon a time.

Legend (Editorial by Roger E. Moore, Dragon #144)

The mountain pass was called the Demon Tongue, which implied there might be a demon and treasure there, so the party headed for it right away. The characters were hungry for combat and cash – lots of each. I was the DM. We were gaming on the pool table in the medical company rec room in West Germany, a decade ago last fall.

Not many of the details of that adventure are left with me now, but I remember what happened when the adventurers got to the Demon Tongue. The paladin was the point man, mounted up and armored like a tank (he had volunteered for, no, demanded the position). Some distance behind, the wizard was checking the landscape with his amulet of ESP, hunting for enemy thoughts. Everyone else was gathered near the wizard, weapons ready. They were on a narrow road in the pass itself, with a slope up to the left and a sheer drop to the right, when the wizard got a reading.

I rolled the dice and checked the books. The party had found the demon, but the amulet of ESP had malfunctioned. I scribbled a note and passed it to the wizard’s player. He read it and gave me an incredulous look.

“Hey, guys,” said the wizard, reigning in his horse. “That demon is here, but that demon is the Demogorgon. We are doomed.”

Everyone stared at the wizard’s player, then at me. Everyone had read the Monster Manual. The entire party came to a halt. Then the characters began to guide their horses back the way they had come, looking around with nervous grins.

All but the paladin, that is. He stopped where he was, stood up in his stirrups, raised his sword, and shouted, “COME OUT AND FIGHT, YOU MISERABLE @#$ + §&%*!!!” at the top of his lungs. Seconds later, a giant ball of darkness appeared on the road ahead.

Before anyone could react, one of the characters was telekinesized off his horse and hurled into the canyon beside the road. He took 20 dice of damage and became a memory. Every one of his companions bolted – except for the paladin, who roared, “SHOW YOURSELF, DEMON!!!” (The rest of the players screamed that they were riding away all the harder.)

The darkness fell away and there was the demon, not Demogorgon but it hardly mattered as it was one of those brutal 11-HD Type IVs. It grinned through its boar’s tusks and traced a symbol of fear in the air as the paladin spurred his horse and charged the monster. The paladin made his saving throw and cut through the demon with his sword – easy enough to do as the demon was a projected image. The demon just laughed.

Enraged, the paladin began cursing the demon in language that most of us assumed paladins would scarcely admit to knowing, much less using, but the most telling insult was “coward.” I figured that any demon worth his evilness would take offense at being called a coward by a mere mortal, so the projected image vanished – and the real demon appeared on the road, roaring out its own challenge. It began tracing another symbol in the air as the paladin charged again.

The paladin made his saving throw and struck at the demon – and his sword bounced off the demon’s hide, as the sword wasn’t powerful enough to affect the monster. The paladin’s player realized his character had only one weapon left that might do the trick. Wheeling his horse around and coming back for another charge, the paladin drew his dagger +2, then leaped off his horse and tackled the demon.

Had this been any other player, I would have pointed out the usual problems involved in leaping off a charging horse in plate mail to tackle a 10’-tall demon with a dagger, but the paladin’s player had that look on his face that said he was really into it. He wanted that demon badly. He got it. Screaming and roaring, the paladin and the demon tore into each other, dagger against claws and teeth. The paladin slammed home every attack, but so did the demon. Worse yet, the demon began to levitate itself and the paladin over the road. Dice rolled, blood flew, hit points plummeted, and the other players began shouting, “Get ‘im! Get that thing!”

The demon died at an altitude of about 100’. Its levitation spell shut off. The paladin, still attacking, clung to the demon’s body all the way down. When the rest of the party finally mustered the courage to ride back, they found the paladin – in the single digits of hit points, but alive.

“Got ‘im,” said the paladin, brushing himself off.

A legend came to life that evening, though we had not meant to create one. We had courage, heroism, danger, and excitement, all there in the rec room of an Army barracks far from home. Ten years later, the thrill and the glory of that paladin’s triumph still live with me. It doesn’t matter that the paladin wasn’t even my character.

I like a lot of things about roleplaying games – the friends, the laughter, the bad puns, the munchies –but creating a legend is the best part of all. It sure beats playing bridge.


Lord Kilgore said...

Have never read that. Thanks for posting.

FWIW, if the Paladin had been killed by the demon I don't think it would have been much less of a legendary incident.

David The Archmage said...

I never read that one, and it rocks! Thanks for sharing!

Oh, and feel better!

James Bobb said...

I remember that I'm curious what the post title was that waxed you reminiscent?

Aaron E. Steele said...

What a great story! Absolutely epic!

Timeshadows said...


I'm with Lord Kilgore on:
--"FWIW, if the Paladin had been killed by the demon I don't think it would have been much less of a legendary incident."


christian said...

Man that story is so metal. I love it. Roger Moore was always my favorite Dragon editor.

Tenkar said...

Wow. K, I refuse to unpack my old Dragons to read morre of this. Where's my Dragon on disc collection when I need it?

Pallando said...

D&D was/is definitely the stuff of legends.

Anonymous said...

Seriously epic...that's what fun is made out of. I have some older Dragons--not that old, unfortunately--and this is inspiring me to go back through some of them to seek out gems I might have missed.

Thanks for the next 3+ hours of fun I'm about to have!

Rick Marshall said...

Oh yeah. That's the good stuff. That brings back the memories and gets the juices flowing.

Tom Allman said...

If you read that story to someone who mocks D&D nerds, they would just stare at you. But to those of us imaginative few, it would be an epic Homeric type tale. Well told Mr. Moore.

Tim Knight said...

Speechless with awe. What a perfect encapsulation of what D&D is all about. Thanks for sharing!