Confessions of a Temporary Gamemaster

Last Thursday’s episode of Community, “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons,” really brought back some memories for me. I’m not a skilled table-top gamer, but for a brief period in the ’90s, I gave it a whirl.

Dungeons & Dragons was not actually the first RPG to come to my summer camp – that distinction belongs to a game called Everway. Not Everquest, the computer-based fantasy RPG that became popular a few years later, but a little known fantasy game influenced by tarot cards and the four elements, populated by characters who could travel between worlds.

Rooted in mythology and mysticism, I fell so in love with the game that I wanted to buy it for myself – only to discover that it was already out of print. My father and I went all over the city looking for a copy, and managed to find one slightly mangled box at a Game Keeper in Tarzana or Torrance for fifty bucks.

She who has the dice has the power, and I took over as gamemaster for my little group. I didn’t care much for the actual rules of the game – I just liked making up stories that other people were forced to listen to.

Well, I also liked being the boss. That too.

Only one particular campaign sticks in my mind, mostly because it was aborted in a spectacular way. I usually played Everway with the same group of friends, but since I attended a camp run by a hippie who believed in kindness for everyone, if someone outside my little group wanted to play, I had to let them.

Which is how Max E. came to play in my world. I would never have invited him to join the quest, and not just because he was an immature boy several years younger. Mostly it was because I was still harboring resentment from the humiliation he inflicted upon me during a camp talent show, when I got up to sing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” (yes, yes I did), and he and his brother snuck behind me and started acting like animals.

I humiliated very easily in those days.

So I loathed Max and his brother, but had no choice but to let him game with the rest of my friends. He was disruptive from the start, and I was just itching for a chance to kill him off. The players were in the woods at night, on their way to some great obstacle for tons of experience points.

“You’re walking through a forest when a squirrel appears on a branch above your head,” I intoned. I believe I mentioned that it was wearing armor.

Max immediately replied with, “I want to eat it.”

“It’s a squirrel,” I said. The squirrel was about to talk, and he wanted to eat it.

“I still want to eat it,” Max said. This had been the nature of most of the game, and I was fed up. If he wasn’t going to play by my rules, he wasn’t going to play at all.

“Fine,” I said, and without waiting to roll the dice I announced, “You eat it, it’s poisoned, you die.”

Never piss off the GM.

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