Thursday, October 15, 2020

Dungeons and Dragons Memories- Meet the Party

Dungeons and Dragons has always been a big part of my life. This is both as a player and as Dungeon Master.  My favorite DMing experiences has always been with new players, as they tend to get more easily caught up in the interactive storytelling and less in the statistics and level grinding.
Back in the early 2000’s I ran a campaign with a bunch of the kids in my parent’s neighborhood, (three brothers we all watched as they grew up [who were in late high school, early high school and middle school at the time,] a brother and sister from next door [in middle school and grammar school], and a friend of the oldest brother from up the street) plus my wife and sister who were adults.  As usual for first time players, the stories that came out of it were a hoot and a half.  My daughter has an interesting involvement with these sessions.  Rosa was pregnant and diving into the standard D&D accompanying Pringles.  I stopped mid session to stare at her and say, "But you don't like Pringles."  She glared back and replied, "WELL SOMEBODY DOES!"   
And she was correct. Anabelle loved them, and Rosa never ate them again after she was born.

With beginning players, I always make sure as many characters as possible have a familiar, a pet or some sort of animal companion.  This gives me the equivalent of a hands on NPC to steer the players if they miss something important, or save them if they make an epicly foolish decision. As with every time I’ve been Dungeon Master, I have used the first edition AD&D books and they always worked just fine. Here’s the blurbs I gave to each member of the party after we played a little to help them remember their characters. As should be obvious, I threw in some stuff intentionally to create comical altercations between party members, because the DM needs to have fun too.
JARED (friend of the oldest brother)
Metzen, Wild Elf (Grugach) Hunter (advance as fighter).
[On paper a Half Elven ranger. Uses a gangsta rap/Italian street accent, hits on any female they meet and spends a lot of his combat time switching between his bow and sword.]
You were a very promising young hunter of the Grugach tribe living hidden deep within the forest, renowned for your accuracy with ranged weapons. As with all Grugach, you’re very mistrustful of outsiders in general (the village has no name, there is merely “the village” and “everywhere else”).  The tribe has taught you to live as one with the forest (waste no part of a hunted animal, live in and among the forest rather than changing it, etc).  You always maintain air of dignity and coolness (the phrase “quite a smoothie” also comes to mind).  You learned the common language recently (hence the accent).  You became representative to the Elvish counsel (and chose your subsequent adventuring life) due to your survival skills, and boredom with everyday village life. Your tribe views Orcs and Goblins (and similar creatures) as a threat to the forest that should be killed on sight. You are becoming more used to outsiders but still can’t comprehend/accept Dwarves' desire to live underground, Gnomes goofiness and lack of dignity, and other elf races fascination with magic and spells (all Grugach are unable to use Mage spells).  You also view converting people to overly law-abiding behavior (as paladins, and some clerics do) as threatening to personal freedom, even with good intentions.  You respect Smokey’s woodland abilities, but view him as a large potential threat to the forest due to the barbarian’s love of combat without purpose. 
DAN  (brother next door)
Johny Bigfeet, Halfling Thief [eventual goal of becoming an Acrobat, frequently tries (and fails) at the skills before attaining the ability to perform them. Joined after the first adventure, hence more direct references to Gonzo the Halfling, my first character that owned the keep they explored on the second adventure.]
You’re quite a buff little guy, for a Halfling. Completely bored with the life of a fisherman’s son in the shire, and spurred on by the legends of distant cousin Gonzo’s adventures, you ran away to join the circus.  While you picked up some education through traveling, you tend to remain oblivious to your surroundings (and the levels of danger therein) at times. You were taken in by the circus acrobats and began training to join them.  Along with that, you also spent a great deal of time learning thieving skills from the escape artist that was part of the troupe, never realizing he still practiced his craft.  When he was found out, and booted from the troupe, you decided to leave the circus for a while. You headed toward the town of Ellivned, knowing Gonzo’s old stronghold was nearby.  You consider yourself far more an adventurer than an actual thief, and know that with a little more training you’ll be able to put many more acrobatic skills to use while adventuring.  As a constant adrenaline rush thrill seeker, you’ve found a kindred spirit in Smokey the Barbarian, who encourages your “throw me at them first and ask questions later” attitude.
LAUREN (sister next door)
Snow Red, Mountain Dwarf Fighter. [Joined in the middle of the second adventure]
You are an extremely powerful and tough lady from the snow covered ring of northern coastal mountains, the Fjord Torus. You maintain a no nonsense attitude, but with a twinkle in your eye. You recently became fed up with every guy in the clan under the mountain telling you to stop working on constructing new tunnels and settle down with a family, preferably with them (Dwarf males outnumber females 4 to 1). You left to seek fame and fortune on your own.  Having little experience outside the mountain home. You’re still very innocent, and hold firm to the idea that only through order and organization (like Dwarf society) can the greater good be accomplished. Slavery however, is never an option; it would be more humane to kill your enemies than keep them as slaves. You have a great deal of trouble understanding how the “wild and free” Elves, little guys, and barbarian can manage to get anything done. Though less experienced, you have no doubt that you are stronger and tougher than anyone else in the group.
JAMES (middle brother)
El Cicho, Gnome Thief [Had more kills running between the parties legs with his sling
(thanks to good rolling) than the whole rest of the party combined.]
You know that life is for living, having fun, and being happy: not just for you, but for all good peoples. That’s why you’ve chosen the life of a guide. You find the label of “thief” to have such a negative slant. You merely believe that bad people shouldn’t have nice things. So if they happen to leave them out in the open (like in a room on only the second floor in a chest with a less than state-of-the-art lock) it’s in everyone’s best interest if you grab it. Dwarfs and Elves really need to develop a better sense of humor and an appreciation for your skill at practical jokes (Humans and Halflings too come to think of it). After all no one got really hurt, and how could you know they’d be allergic to that.   Goblins and Kobolds are bad, have no right to be in Gnomish lands, and deserve practical jokes requiring special attentions (and possibly life altering or ending outcomes).  Incola, your ferret friend and partner, is relaxed but always sees the bad side of the situation.  He insists on looking his best (clean, shiny collar, etc.) and tends to grab stuff for himself, without telling you. He also has a knack for getting into the wineskins (‘hic’).
ROSA (my wife)
Cuzquena, Human Cleric of Tumi [Usually kinda stands quietly in the background, and smashes monsters with her flail. Then goes "eeew" when I tell her the result (she's so cute).]
You are reserved, holding back until you can weigh all opinions and options before making a (usually correct) decision. You almost never give in to panic. You come from the southern continent, the mysterious Temple City Escaleras Peligro in the empire of Pedruiz. The city skies were often filled with Couatl, the feathered serpents bringing messages from Tumi directly to the more powerful priests in the city. Your training has been that only by following the rules created by good society can all people benefit. As a Cleric of Tumi it is your job to convince others of this, and destroy the evil in the world.  Your temple was contacted by the followers of Dinacecht to stop an evil that threatened both of you and all good people.  Bored with your job of controlling the flow of the temple supplies, you jumped at the chance to come north to have new experiences, and bring knowledge of Tumi and your culture to others.  These travels would also let you encounter Elves. You have studied them, and their famous battles with the Orcs, from afar in the past, fascinated by how they could be such a force for good, even though they seem to disdain order and organization. Now you are dedicated to your adventuring life as the best way to combat the evil in the world.  Wally is your ferociously loyal (and huge) dog.  You see that his fearlessness in battle may make him a danger to himself when facing powerful foes and therefore usually assign him to guard the campsite where he can hold his own.
KIM (my sister)
Murcielaga Raffaela, human Paladin [Who occasionally used her teacher voice to calm the boys when they got unruly, but startled everyone so much with it that we forgot what was happening.]
Orphaned at a young age, you were rescued by the Order of the Bat, a group of holy warrior knights in the coastal city of Frissoria.  They left you in the care of the healers at the temple of Diancecht (healer clerics from an island nation of MacGainli annexed by the Frissorians).  You assisted the healers growing up. You were also the primary contact and messenger with the local Dwarven smiths, whose good and ordered kingdom you admired. The Dwarves provided equipment to the healers.  Your constant companion and friend growing up was the temple guard, a talking Golden Retriever. You learned later it was really a Bronze Dragon, magically disguised to prevent frightening the patients, when a captured and injured Ettin that was being treated broke loose upon healing and rampaged.  This convinced you to join the Order that rescued you to be able to protect good innocent folks such as the healers.  Your natural leadership and battle skills assured your entry into the knighthood.  Now your life’s goal is to protect the innocent and bring law and order across the land.  You find yourself constantly trying to bring some sort of organization to your adventuring group.  While they all have good hearts, they will never be able to spread the power of good, unless they are more ordered.
DAVID (oldest brother)
Freynarfir, Grey Elf Magic User [With the stereotypical robe and pointy hat,  has a crow familiar standing on his head and often alternated between complaining about not having enough hit points and leaping into battle in dagger tossing psychotic rages.]
It was obvious early on that even in among the heavily magic using Grey Elves of the great Mountain Taeka Peek you were special.  Apprenticing to one mage after another, you very quickly learned all they could teach you, and ended up teaching them a great deal of herbology while tending their gardens.  You’ve always been fascinated with magical control of the air and weather, and even tended a Cloud Giant’s flock of Hippogriffs for a time in order to learn magic from him. Unable to learn more from your own kind, you spent many days talking with the pixies, sprites and other fairy folk about far off lands and sources of magic.  After finding yourself in the role of a philosopher and teacher, but unable to learn anything new at home, you agreed to travel to the council of elves, and the life of adventuring it has lead you to. You believe that personal freedom is of paramount importance to true happiness, and as long as respect for others is exercised, it is the only way to have the most good for the most people. Your great intelligence and presence helps you to educate others about many subjects including your philosophy.  However since you were primarily self-taught, your vast knowledge is primarily book learning, which tends to lead to lapses of common sense, and bouts of absent-mindedness. Dignity however is always maintained (except for occasional moment of panic, quickly covered up).  It was to be expected; that a familiar summoned high on the mountains would be an avian creature.  Phenix the crow was not expected however. Crotchety, old, rough looking, bad tempered, and prone to offend and insult anyone, he really knows how to test your patience.  Over time you have learned that he does have a soft heart under his rude exterior, and has a knowledge of herbs and plants almost equal to your own, making him a trusted, if trying, friend.
MARK  (youngest brother)
Smokey, Human Barbarian [6'10" behemoth, whose battle cry seemed to be "I ain’t goin’ in there first and getting killed!" Occasionally did well in combat, when he wasn’t rolling so bad that he dropped his weapon.  Also thanks to his bad luck with the dice they took to letting the Elven Mage open most doors, as the Barbarian usually rolled a 1 and it stuck shut.]
You big. You strong. You come from nomadic Raven clan in forest.  Raven great and powerful spirit. Freedom good, too many rules bad. If something bother you, hit it till it not bother you, or it go away. Magic bad.  Only spirits do magic, or shaman do magic with spirit help. Man do magic or thing magic, they bad, they scary, hit them a lot.  Animals good, animals friends.  Left tribe, came to town to find adventure, excitement, really wild things, and kill bad things.  Found work as guide with goofy Gnome.   Gnome funny sometimes, not make sense a lot of time, but know how to have fun.  He play one more trick on you, you make him get shorter.  Halfling great little guy, fight good, no fear, and fly good too, him new best friend.  Knight and Shaman ladies good in fight, but too bossy, too many rules.  Dwarf girl tough, she good, but not tough as you.  Elf with bow good in woods, talks to animals.  You like him, you teach him relax and have good time.  Raven spirit travel with spooky elf, spooky elf must be Raven’s pet. Raven very powerful, very good spirit.  Must respect and listen to Raven.  Sabbath pet monkey.  Like to play with monkey, monkey fun.  Monkey always jump into things, maybe get hurt, must protect monkey.  Monkey fur all stick up, tail bent, eye twitch, maybe monkey left in pack too long.
Someday I’ll chronicle their tales.

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