#RPGaDay: Most Memorable Character Death

13. Most Memorable Character Death. One of my earliest “lost weekends” of gaming was at my friend Jeff Tucker’s house. His older brother, Mike, ran us through his home-made D&D complex. He’d drawn a beautiful map of a large entry hall in colored pen, warning us not to spill anything on it. There were maybe eight or ten choices, each with colorful names and little drawings of a cave mouth, a couple of pillars, or a door.

After we rolled characters, Mike asked which entrance we’d like to explore first. Some of them had obviously cautionary names like “Cave of Screams.” With others, when we considered choosing them, he’d raise an eyebrow and ask, “Are you sure?” We picked a few of the safer-sounding passages and eked out a few xp and some meager treasure.

We encountered more powerful traps and monsters, and we suffered casualties—especially after Jeff and I staged an impromptu fencing match with plastic swords, spilling lemonade on Mike’s beautiful map. From that point forward, I don’t think I had a character survive more than two consecutive rooms. Jeff seemed immune to the bad luck, perhaps because his mother checked in now and then to make sure her sons were getting along. Without a fraternal connection to the DM, I was fair game. I kept dying.

It got so bad I got tired of creating new characters. Mike insisted I roll new stats, but I kept the same starting equipment and even I stopped picking new names. My replacement fighters were Uther II, Uther II, and so on until I reached the low double-digits and switched classes. I don’t remember any of the other characters. Just lots and lots of sudden death.

One of the entryways was labeled something like “Hall of Inexorable Doom.” After a dozen characters, my sense of self-preservation waned, so I picked that one. One other player came with me, but the others hung back to see what would happen. Mike announced, “All right, you’re both dead. Roll new characters.” When we complained that we wanted to know how we died, he said he wouldn’t tell us because he wanted it to be a surprise for our eventual higher-level characters who might not instantly die.

While I still have fond memories of that meat-grinder and of Mike and Jeff’s teaching me to play in the first place, it wasn’t long before I began running a game of my own. If I was going to play fifteen different characters on a weekend, they might as well be NPCs.

#RPGaDay: Old RPG You Still Play / Read

12. Old RPG You Still Play / Read: The D&D Oriental Adventures hardcover, boxed set, and associated modules did a lot to broaden my interest in both the real and the imaginary Asia. Like many kids, I was initially all about samurai and katanas. While the OA modules favored Japanese-style adventures and settings, the Chinese, Korean, and south Asian analogs were the ones that captured my imagination. I pored over those supplements again while gathering inspiration for Master of Devils.


#RPGaDay: Favorite Tie-In Novel / Game Fiction

10. Favorite Tie-in Novel / Game Fiction: Here’s a perilous question, since I’ve friends and colleagues who reasonably expect a mention. To avoid making a long list, I’ll choose Jeff Grubb & Kate Novak’s Azure Bonds, which first showed me that tie-in novels could be good. It shows off several of the elements that I enjoy writing: action, humor, and sexual tension.

#RPGaDay: Favorite Character

8. Favorite Character. I’m guessing this means favorite character I’ve played. It’s a tough question, since I’ve seldom played a character more than a few times since I was a kid. I can’t even remember his name, but one night I played a high-school bully in a session of Don’t Look Back: Terror is Never Far Behind (more on that session in later questions, I’m sure). We were a group of two bullies and two nerds. My bully was the trailer-trash one who took the Urkle-type nerd under his protection, lit his cigarette off the face of a burning zombie, and later punched out a VJ when our shenanigans were broadcast live on MTV.



#RPGaDay: Favorite RPG Never Get to Play

6. Favorite RPG Never Get to Play: I’ve been reading this question two ways. In part because of many review copies, and in part because I often buy games just to read them, I have read many RPGs that I’ve never actually played. Instead of one of those, I’m going with the game I have played but would most like to play regularly: Call of Cthulhu. (Check out Chaosium’s much improved website.)

When I was in high school, I walked past some kids playing this game in the community center and overheard them talking about Sanity Points. “Sanity is a stat?” I said. “That’s stupid.”

It took me a few more years to look at the game, and then I came to understand that the SAN mechanic was an elegant way to enforce a feeling of dread.  And the 1920s setting that hadn’t appealed to me before became a huge attraction as I became more interested in history.

I have an overflowing CoC shelf in the library, but I seldom get to dust off a tome and run a session. Every year I make a resolution to change that, and sometimes I manage to run a single game, but the group and the stars are not yet right.