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2020-11-24T13:32 [writing/fragment writing/story age/university writing/homework]

The Game

PROLOGUE

“Hi, mom, what’s up?” Kyle pressed the steaming wet lens rag to his nose. He talked into his cell phone. His plain white shirt clung to the shower-water on his skin.

A woman’s voice came from on top of the sink, “Where are you right now? I’m on the speaker, aren’t I?”

“Right now? I’m in my bathroom, using a hot compress for my nose ring.”

“Are you using saline solution?”

“Yes, I used saline solution.” He dipped the cloth into a mug, “Before you ask, I used the kettle.”

“Oh, goodness, my son is all grown up. You’ve learned how to live beyond the microwave. Maybe I’ll brew some tea–assuming the stove is clean.”

“Why do you assume I don’t know how to clean?”

“Because I raised you.”

“Oh, come on.”

“Yes, and I saw you become a mudcrawler–but now you’ve tentatively proven to me that I haven’t raised the complete slacker son that I thought you were.”

“Mother, don’t call me that.”

“I may change my mind when I arrive. Just as I’ve always said, Cleanliness is Godliness!”

“Cleanliness is Godliness,” Kyle repeated, looking at the Amish-knitted message pin-up above his toilet that read the same thing.

“Well, I’ve got to go, now–I’m going down to the village and picking up some Brie. Talk to you later! Love you!”

“Love you too, bye mom.” Kyle put the phone back in his pocket, mussed up his hair, and entered the living room. The room itself dominated by the 8-seat poker table, and it was a mess. Pencils filled the table’s inlaid cup holders. Erasers lined the chip tray. Up top, you couldn’t even see the green felt. Binders overflowed with looseleaf, other sheets were clipped, stapled, or scattered.They were marked with unintelligible numbers and abbreviations, in layers of handwriting and erasing. Hard-bound books with cryptic titles and cover art formed leaning towers. A sack of dry- and wet-erase markers had tipped over and mixed with the crayons and watercolor pencils beside it, one of the blue markers left to dry. Dice, multicolored and oddly shaped, shared the rest of the empty space with the metal and plastic figurines sprawled over the grid-covered vinyl play mat.

Kyle went to his kitchen, and was dumping out his mug of microwaved salt water, when his door was knocked upon and promptly opened. As Kyle entered the living room, Frank and Tony stepped in from the drafty breeze.

“Kyle, good to see you.” Tony took off his “Hecho en Mexico” hat and closed the door.

Frank loosened his sneakers and gestured to the table, “Dude! the table’s trashed!” He launched his sneakers onto the kitchen linoleum, and dumped his backpack next to the coat rack.

“Hey, he’s right–what gives?” Tony took off his pea coat and tossed it on the couch.

“I know, I know, just give me a sec,” Kyle reemerged from the bathroom with the mug in hand, “It’s terrible really, I mean, who’s ever heard of a messy apartment?”

“You’re such a terrible host, and a terrible person.” Frank crossed his arms

“And all because you touch yourself at night,” Tony accused with a finger.

“Well, if you must know, I’m preparing for an impending visit from my mother.”

“Don’t you normally visit her?”

“Yeah, but she’s insisting on coming out here this time, so I’ve got to get this apartment spotless.”

“This whole apartment, by yourself?”

“Won’t Shannon help you out, I mean, she lives here too.”

“I haven’t seen her in a while. Ever since that dispute over the electric bill she’s been staying with her boyfriend, mostly.”

“Well, the tabletop is in shambles, and we’ve got game in 15. What do you want us to do?”

Kyle raised his eyebrows, “Help me clean it off for 50 gold pieces?”

“I’m sold.”

“Make it a hundred,” Tony started grabbing books, “I’m saving up for that scroll, remember?”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s a deal, whatever–now, mush!”

“Which books do we need again?” Tony dumped the armful on the floor.

“The core books, then…” Kyle picked up the markers, crayons, and water-color pencils, “Plus, Advanced Character Creation, The Golem Guide, Savage Fieldbook, and The Dungeoncrawler.”

“Not The Dungeoncrawler!”

“Yes, the imfamous Dungeoncrawler. You guys need to prepare for your doom.”

“Oh god, don’t talk like that, you sound like Eric– speaking of, don’t forget The Divine Spirit Handbook, I doubt he’s bought one yet.”

“He can’t afford to buy any books, he just started at the video store.”

“Yeah, he’s going to have to work there for another two years, and get promoted, before he can afford to buy shit.”

“Shut up, Frank, or I won’t buy you a milkshake later.”

“I’m sorry, baby, won’t happen again.”

“Too late, you’re on probation.”

The multicolored and odd-shaped dice were herded into felt pouches. Frank kept the complete sets togetherish.

THE HOOK

Kyle sat with his back to the kitchen. A propped-up book–The Dungeoncrawler–formed a wall between him and the rest of the players. A T.V. dinner tray, to his right, held his netbook. He waited for all to sit down in their respective spots, then he spoke.

“Okay, everyone. Welcome to the Jaygos’ Biweekly Game Session, blah blah blah. New Business: my mom is coming to visit soon, but I don’t think that it will interfere with future sessions. If they do, then I’m going to cancel games until she returns to whence she came.”

“Oh, great. Kyle, I’ve told you time and time again that the moment you started dating someone, that our friendship would falter.”

Kyle gave Frank the middle finger, “Fuck you, Frank. Everyone knows I’m still crushing on Michael Jackson and nobody can ever take that away from me.” Kyle licked his finger and stroked his T-shirt around the nipple region, making fake steam noises. “Anyway, back to Old Business: Tonight we are going to follow our adventurers on their journey from the Iron City, and their quest to find the Haven.” Kyle switches to an announcer voice, “Tonight’s adventure is brought to you by: Funyuns! the tasty treat that Eric brings every week.”

“Damn straight, dog-G.” Eric made faux-gang symbols.

“Why do you eat them all the time, anyway? Don’t you have any self-respect?”

“What do you mean, Tony?”

“Funyuns and Mountain Dew are stereotypically associated with gamers.”

“That, and don’t forget Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.”

“What’s wrong with liking those things, you hypocritical bastards?”

“We aren’t being hypocritical,” Lloyd placed his hand on Eric’s shoulder, “You just need to break your bad habit.”

“My bad habit of what?”

“Of obsessing over things that people can get racist over.”

“Like me, for instance,” Tony gestured to himself while gathering up his red and black dice, “I used to eat burritos and quesodillas, but I’m over that now. I ain’t Catholic, and I’ve realized that I can’t make guacamole worth a damn. It’s taken some effort, but Carlos Mencia’s got nothing on me. I’m a recovering Latino.”

“Yeah,” Frank put his hand on his heart, “and I’ve stopped going to Neo-Nazi rallies and shoving babies into ovens.”

“As for me,” Lloyd began, “I–don’t–well–”

“Oh come on,” Kyle interrupted, pausing his drawing on the laminated grid for a moment, “You still love NASCAR and you’re still married to your sister.”

“Hey now, we’ve officially separated, and she’s really involved with my half brother/uncle now. I was going to go for a Jeff Foxworthy joke, but you’re a jerk.”

“At least I’m a–wait a minute, uh, I got nothing.”

Frank punches Kyle in the shoulder, “And our fearless leader proves once again he’s that white guy who isn’t funny.”

“Okay, on that note, let’s begin the game.”

ROLE PLAYING

Kyle swung himself around in the swivel office chair, leaned inward with his pointy elbows on the table, steeples his hands, and began to narrate, using an invocational voice.

“When we last left our intrepid heroes, they had just outwitted the Citadel Guards of the Iron City. Each member of the party played a significant role in this venture. Illani managed to conjure an illusion of a rag-tag human mob to distract the guards, while Volgurth Namonya freed the actual captives. Protik’anu, our Nimble Acrobat, used his athletics to great effect when he stole the key, climbed to the outer wall, jumped down, and opened the Iron Gates. Frodin Nalo did his holy duty to Gundra, and chopped robots into bits. At the end of the adventure, they managed to escape, along with several prisoners, and entered into the fabled Forbidden Cave just outside the City. They are uncertain of their safety from the cold, evil robot masters. Their continuing quest: to find the Haven, a utopia for humans, a place where they can live in peace, and labor at their leisure.”

Roll Playing

The game pieces are moved across the board, with each player keeping track of their own piece, while Kyle kept track of all the others.

Pieces are moved, dice roll. Dice roll before, during, and after every turn. Kyle often uses his computer to simulate dice rolls to generate a platoon’s attacks. The players describe fantastic actions as dice roll. When the dice rolls are agreeable, they move their game pieces across the board. The bag of Funyuns empty as dice roll. Dice roll as the off-brand soda pours into throw-away cups. A languid and tense three hours pass as the dice roll and pieces are tipped over and removed. The enemy forces, with their poor dice rolls, are quickly reduced to a single statuette, a monster with a crown and a cape, painted green and gold. The dice roll, and all of the statuettes of the good guys surround the kingly monster.

Role Playing

"Okay, you have surrounded the half-troll king and, at the points of all of your swords and other associated drawn weaponry, he falls prostrate and begs for mercy

“To Or’kunish that I wish I had never crossed you four strange warriors! Now, my kinsmen are dead, and I am no longer fit to be a king. Please, mighty ones, let me go unto the deep places so I may cast myself upon the rocks, and no longer wallow in my shame, and the misery of defeat.”

“Wow, that was the worst speech ever.”

“Hush yourself”

Eric raises his hands with a pretend weapon, holding it over his head, “By Gundra’s Anvil, I shall see to it that you do go to the deepest place–called…Wait, what was this place’s hell called again?”

“Mortlandia”

“Oh, right. To the deepest place–Mortlandia!”

“Wait,” Lloyd held up his hand, making an awkward gesture, “Troll King?”

“Half-troll king. I’ve got some dignity.”

“Sorry, Half-Troll King?” Dice roll.

“Yes, oh gentle human that just succeeded in making me your friend?”

“Answer some of our questions, and we’ll let you go back to your homeland, to find peace with your people.”

THE DEBATE

“I can’t believe we didn’t kill the troll king.”

“Why? He said he couldn’t be king anymore and he didn’t have any information on the Haven. He wasn’t going to hurt anybody, and I don’t have to remind you that unwarranted torture is evil, and my character won’t allow it.”

“Yeah, but just the same, we should have dealt with him. True, he doesn’t have a big fancy title, but that doesn’t mean he can’t recruit and fight. Assuming he’s got full ranks in Leadership, it won’t be long until he gathers more troops and we get attacked again. Or he attacks other wandering, escaped humans.”

“Yea, and verily, we couldn’t survive another attack of that magnitude”

“Exactly. By letting the troll king go, we could cause more death.”

“What will we accomplish by feeling guilty for people we don’t even know exist? We know of no other human that has ever gotten as far as we have.”

“You have a point…”

“Also, Frodin, we don’t have to kill everything that we see. There are alternatives to fighting.”

“Yes, I agree with…Volgurth. I didn’t have to fight the Citadel Guards, I just tricked them into doing something else.”

“That is not the way of Gundra”

“We should have taken his loot, or something.”

“Look, Portik, I was simply following the indelible Code of Samaritans.”

“OK…Volgurth, I’ve heard this before, ‘A Samaritan must never allow for death to follow needlessly.’ We understand that–but, there’s more to moral codes than letting a blood-thirsty troll king gather more troops and more armies to pillage wandering escaped humans.”

“Hey, Kyle, we never did any rolls to see if he was lying–can we do one real quick?”

“Sure thing, Tony. We’re going to do two in a row, with separate results.” Dice rolled. “You don’t think he’s lying. You believe he’s honestly unaware of anything related to the Haven.” Dice rolled. “You have the feeling that his speech was a bit of a bluff, but not entirely dishonest.”

“So, he wasn’t lying about not knowing anything about the Haven, but I’m totally correct in saying that he’s going to pop up again.”

“Well, I only have a hunch that it’s a bit of a lie. That doesn’t mean anything to an illusionist, such as myself.”

“Whatever, my point is, we’re probably going to get whacked later. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.”