Saturday, July 27, 2013

Roleplaying Games and Fictional Best Friends (Repost)

I had originally written and posted this article on 05.26.2012, but due to a charming conversation and thread on the roleplaying board on Reddit (r/rpg), I had to dig up this piece due to the smile it brought to my face and the wonderful memories it stirred.

We have been keeping our love for roleplaying games very much alive in the house, with plenty of home-brewed rules and campaigns since, but that is a topic for another day. Enjoy this little throw back about fictional characters and how they can affect our lives.

I am not sure if you know, but Evan, my younger brother (Alex), and I, are / were pretty avid players of Dungeons and Dragons. I introduced both of them to the concept, and we, in turn, bastardized the rules and dragged our other friends into all-too-infrequent campaigns. Our latest was played last winter, with Julie, Verdett, Dylan, Jessie, and of course, the previously mentioned two. I ran them through two games, culminating in a cliffhanger ending.

The kingdom was still reeling from a quelled civil war and the party had just destroyed the militia's barracks, as well as kidnapped, oh, I don't know, the bloody capital-dispatched governor of the town. The namesake brewery (Brewmaster Carnahan's) of the town was destroyed, due to a clumsy rogue (Julie), the barracks job was done discretely by a quiet Drow (Verdett), and through smart-talking and strong-arming, the others disabled wrecking bots that were scheduled to destroy a poor portion of the Old Town. Just as they were settling in for the night, conferencing with the Headmistress of the acclaimed academy, plotting their next move in the reignition of the revolution, the partner that their Lady had been waiting for during the entirety of the plot thus far finally arrived: a soft spoken gnome nursing a fatal wound, sustaining life only because of the magically-charged umbrella he carried and his traveling companion, the Seamripper, a small green ball of light that roamed the universe, always learning and back talking. Nothing short of a spectacular entrance, these two visitors arrived in a stolen tower. Yes, a tower, that was commandeered from the two old misers who owned it (Rufus and Burke) and still actually lived in it. The Seamripper tore the tower from its original realm and had apparently sought our Lady (think a fantasy-era Professor Xavier), per the gnome, Adamus', navigation.

Adamus and the Seamripper were two characters from previous stories starring Alex and Evan, from a previous campaign. They acted as heroes who brought this unlikely couple together, completely by chance. Their story ended decades ago in-game and then literally came as a blast from the past for the players who knew them well. It was one of my finest moments, as a writer and as a game master, to see their faces light up upon recognizing the tower for what it was, when it settled into the Academy's yard, in a veil of mist. (Consider Doctor Who and the use of the TARDIS. However, these characters were thought up years before I watched the show. Awesome little parallel.)

Oddly enough, I am only writing this little post because of two other characters that I haven’t even mentioned yet. I was thinking about them as I left for work the other day, because Alex has recently been really enthusiastic to play again. These two Dwarven brothers were named Hugo and Horris. My brother met them, mistaking them for Dwarven women, when he and his party members were invited to a festival's table of honor, after silencing some bit of silly violence. Mind you, this was a few years before Evan and Alex ever even playing together, created in a campaign ran when I was still in high school. Of the party my brother belonged to, out of the five people playing, only two still live in this state, and only one do I speak to on a regular basis (we are all on good terms and are still great friends, it's just your typical blend of college life and distance that has separated the rest).

According to a prophecy that my brother accidentally discovered, one of these two Dwarven brothers was destined to die in the immediate presence of B.O.B. (my brother named his Dwarf "Brian O'Brien" -- I know.) This resulted in me presenting ridiculously nerve-wracking, anxiety-inducing scenarios, such as my brother and the two others having drunken games of "toss the cargo barrel" on the docks of an elevated sky-port. You know, where cargo ships (i.e., flying pirate ships) dock on the edge of thousand-foot-drop cliffs, over the ocean. Hugo would catch the barrel, laugh, throw it to BOB, who would then have a succession of overly-dramatized skill checks to decide whether or not he would throw too hard and force Horris over the edge. I knew how much the party loved the two brothers, so I was never actually going to harm one. But throw in that silly prophecy and everyone suddenly becomes on-edge. These characters had a personality of their own and managed to live on.

Incredibly well, it would appear. Through two other campaigns (and counting). They helped the bumbling band of adventurers in Evan and Alex's first games over the last two years, and were left off at the end of that arc starting their own blacksmith shop. They were lazy alcoholics. However, time changes and people grow up and in the modern campaign, the two brothers are the owners of the finest armory in the land. Everyone knows of the two Dwarven brothers from lowly beginnings, and their story is the keystone of success in the Elspyre kingdom.

Now, this post, I wrote this on a whim, just idly thinking about these cherished memories,
these simple games. I've learned to love to compare fiction to real life, but I am finding it harder and harder to do so. With loose enough definitions of parallels and broadly-interpreted metaphors, I am finding that you really cannot, for there is no distinction in the long run. Parts of us die, parts of us live on, and and any chance story that we may have told years ago could, at any point, evolve and take on a life of its own.

Never put yourself in a position that disables you from reopening their pages, however faded and aged they may become, for that same story may wind up, bound in gold, reminding you who you were and, perhaps, who you may have had the ability to become.