Valinor

brentJanuary 24th, 2015, two years ago today, was the last game session the Oak Hill Dungeons & Dragons Club shared with one of our oldest and dearest friends — Brent Smith.

We were running two campaigns at the time. In the early session Brent played a human rogue named Artis and in the late game he played a human wizard by the name of Delarius (a play on words, by combining delirious and hilarious).

On that particular evening, a Saturday, Brent’s son Kasey had come along to watch us play. It was the boy’s 12th birthday and I remember him being excited to start playing with us soon. My own son was already a part of that early session and Connor and Kasey were becoming fast friends.

It was a thrilling game, with tensions mounting as the party found their way into the ancient ruins beneath the city of Crowhaven, discovering the insidious machinations of a demonspawn wearing the face of a nobleman’s son.

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Brent and I took our respective children home and returned for the ‘adult’ game. It was an amazing night, fraught with epic conflicts and a dangerous delve into the catacombs beneath the Lighthouse Stable. There were traps aplenty, orc marauders, and nasty critters from the Underdark…

After the late game, we stood outside on the sidewalk, rehashing the night’s high points, discussing each others plans for their characters in both campaigns, and the inclusion of the young ones. Brent and I also talked about my plan to renovate Connor’s bedroom and he was eager to lend a hand.

As the night came to a close, I hugged my friend and told him I loved him for the last time.

A few days later, Brent had a bad reaction to changed medication and died in his sleep. He was only 48 years old.

I feel the weight of his passing every day. Brent and I had been friends for 43 years. We all miss him terribly.

Our sons now play their own weekly D&D game, building the kind of lifelong friendship that we had shared. I think Brent would appreciate that. I know I sure do.

I see a lot of Brent in Kasey, now turned 14. It tempers the pain of his passing somewhat.

Each time the Club gathers, we feel his presence still with us. He and the characters he played are still talked about. Though Brent has sailed on to Valinor, his mark upon each and every one of us remains.

Tilted

These are the Rules of Jousting, written by King Alfonso XI of Castile and presented to the Order of the Band in 1330.

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First Rule

Firstly, we declare that the knights who must joust should run four courses, and no more. And if in these four courses one knight should hit the other, splintering his lance, and the knight upon whom that lance splintered did not break his own lance by striking his opponent, he shall be vanquished, for he did not break his lance.

Second Rule

And furthermore, we declare that, if one knight splinters two lances and the other only one, the winner shall be the knight who breaks the two lances. But if the knight who only splintered one lance knocks off his opponent’s helm with the same blow, a tie shall be declared between him and the knight who splintered the two lances.

Third Rule

And furthermore, if a knight shatters two lances by striking his opponent, and the knight who has been struck knocks him off his horse, even though he did not splinter his lance, a tie shall be declared between him and the knight who splintered the two lanes.

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Fourth Rule

Furthermore, if one knight knocks down both his opponent and his horse, and the other knocks down the knight but not his horse, we declare that the knight whose horse fell with him shall be the winner, because the fault in this case was the horse’s and not the rider’s. And in the case of the knight who fell but whose horse did not, the fault rests with the knight and not with the horse.

Fifth Rule

Furthermore, we declare that lance staves shall not be judged properly broken if they are broken crosswise, but only if they break after striking with the point.

Sixth Rule

Furthermore, we declare that if in these four courses each knight splinters two staves, or one each, or they each strike in the same place, a tie will be declared between these two. And if in these four courses they never manage to hit each other at all, let the judgement be that they jousted poorly.

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Seventh Rule

Furthermore, we declare that if any knight should drop his lance whilst charging, without ever coming to blows, his opponent should raise his lance and not strike him, for it would be unchivalrous to strike an opponent who had no lance.

Eighth Rule

And in order to judge these affairs, we declare that there should be four judges in place: two assigned to one team, and another two assigned to the other team, so that they can ensure that the knights who have jousted the best are declared the winners.

Godspeed, @Gamerstable

It is the end of an era. After 300 episodes, today is Lastday. Carousel begins. Gamerstable, in its weekly incarnation, breathes its last.

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As a farewell salute I open the floor to Gamerstable’s own, Shannon, who will share with us her Last Writes.

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Last Meal: Tacos and pizza and polish sausage and sauerkraut, and like an absurd amount of all it. And I definitely need some ice cream to top it all off.

Last Book: This one is tough, if it’s just a single book I would say Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, I try to read this at least once every other year, if not every year as October rolls in. If I can swing a whole series, I don’t think anyone who knows me would be surprised to hear the answer is Harry Potter, but I can’t pick just one of the Harry Potter books.

Last Movie: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this has been a long time comfort movie and never fails to make me laugh.

Last Song: Meet Me Where You’re Going by Cloud Cult with Brandon (who goes by Babs on the show, since we already had a Brandon) singing along in my ear.

First person you’d like to meet on the other side: First time meeting or meet meaning see again? I’ve lost several people who mean a lot to me, and obviously I would be happiest to see them again. If it’s meeting for the first time, I would love to pick the brain of the aforementioned Ray Bradbury. He was an inspiration of mine for a long time.

And so, the Best Damn RPG Podcast on the Internet shutters its doors. My Tuesdays will be poorer for it. But Lastday offers at least the hope of Renewal. Here’s to the Gamerstable crew showing up now and then in some fashion…

You can listen to Gamerstable’s 300th and Final Episode HERE

The Shadow of the Past

Four years ago today, on the 5th of January in 2013, a group of friends came together for a game of Dungeons & Dragons. This was no ordinary gathering. These now balding and graying men had once, years before, slung dice together as teenagers and young adults, but those days were now a part of a shadowy past.

Months previous, I had posted on facebook that getting your old D&D mates together for a game was the modern equivalent of getting the band back together. Shaun thought it was a great idea and we discussed making that innocuous comment a reality.

We set out contacting as many as the ‘old gang’ as we could, inviting them to attend a reunion game for old time’s sake. Shaun made arrangements for us to use Ali-Caters in Marion and there we met — Mike Duncan, Brent Smith, Joe Strunk, Doug Gentry, Shaun Keenan, Steve Congdon, and myself — seven grizzled tabletop warriors, returning to the fray once more.

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It was supposed to be a one-time reunion, but it has turned into a monthly game now for four years running. It’s been amazing reconnecting with these gentlemen, rekindling old friendships, and embracing once more the game that brought us together so many years before.

So, today, I raise a horn not only to those who sling dice with us today, but to those who sat with us in that distant shadow of the past.

Skál, Dog Brothers and Sisters. May your dice ever roll true.

ohdndc

The DM’s Oath

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You’d think that with a new year dawning and all it would be apropos to have the first post of 2017 be light and positive. Well, that was the plan until I saw this “DM’s Oath” floating around facebook.

I could ignore it. I could look away and pretend it doesn’t exist, but where’s the fun in that?

Let’s dissect this thing, shall we?

I will run the game, not the players or their characters.

On the surface, this isn’t too bad, but I suspect this entire list was written by someone with very little practical Dungeon Mastering Experience. The fact is, sometimes a DM has to prod his characters and keep them on point.

I will coordinate the game with my players in all ways.

No. Absolutely not. Never. I am more than willing to discuss your character with you, to adapt your ideas into character backstory and such. I will even listen to your aspirations for your character, but a Dungeon Master is the storyteller here. Yes, D&D is all about co-operative storytelling, but the DM is the author and the players are the characters. Your characters influence the story and the narrative, but never forget who the Shaper of Worlds is.

I will run the game fairly for all my players.

Nope. I won’t  take an oath to this either. Why? The story comes first. Sometimes rules must be fluid to accommodate the narrative. Sometimes the dice need fudged. Sometimes a monster needs nerfed or buffed. Fair is relative. The only rule I adhere to is make the game entertaining and keep everyone engaged.

I will reward role playing, not punish a lack of it.

Poppycock. If you sit down at my table, I expect you to be immersed in the world. Good role playing will most certainly be rewarded. But if you’re checking out, intent on your cell phone, television, or what have you, chances are your character is going to feel it.

I will take responsibility for the safety and comfort of all my players.

There’s no room for bullying or being disrespectful, but I can see how a rule like this could get out of hand. I consider the people who play at my table members of my family. We look out for each other. If we have a guest, they will be treated with the same courtesy all my players experience.

I will not play my own character.

Ridiculous. Non-Player Characters are a necessary part of the game. Every one of them is my character.

I will remember that this is just a game.

If you truly believe that then you’re playing it wrong   😉