Gaming Thursday

I love this story, as published in the editorial of Dragon magazine, issue 144, penned by Roger E Moore:

The mountain pass was called the Demon Tongue, which implied there might be a demon and treasure there, so the party headed for it right away. The characters were hungry for combat and cash – lots of each. I was the DM. We were gaming on the pool table in the medical company rec room in West Germany, a decade ago last fall.

Not many of the details of that adventure are left with me now, but I remember what happened when the adventurers got to the Demon Tongue. The paladin was the point man, mounted up and armored like a tank (he had volunteered for, no, demanded the position). Some distance behind, the wizard was checking the landscape with his amulet of ESP, hunting for enemy thoughts. Everyone else was gathered near the wizard, weapons ready. They were on a narrow road in the pass itself, with a slope up to the left and a sheer drop to the right, when the wizard got a reading.   

I rolled the dice and checked the books. The party had found the demon, but the amulet of ESP had malfunctioned. I scribbled a note and passed it to the wizard’s player. He read it and gave me an incredulous look.

“Hey, guys,” said the wizard, reigning in his horse. “That demon is here, but that demon is the Demogorgon. We are doomed.”

Everyone stared at the wizard’s player, then at me. Everyone had read the Monster Manual. The entire party came to a halt. Then the characters began to guide their horses back the way they had come, looking around with nervous grins.

All but the paladin, that is. He stopped where he was, stood up in his stirrups, raised his sword, and shouted, “COME OUT AND FIGHT, YOU MISERABLE @#$ + §&%*!!!” at the top of his lungs. Seconds later, a giant ball of darkness appeared on the road ahead.

Before anyone could react, one of the characters was telekinesized off his horse and hurled into the canyon beside the road. He took 20 dice of damage and became a memory. Every one of his companions bolted – except for the paladin, who roared, “SHOW YOURSELF, DEMON!!!” (The rest of the players screamed that they were riding away all the harder.)

The darkness fell away and there was the demon, not Demogorgon but it hardly mattered as it was one of those brutal 11-HD Type IVs. It grinned through its boar’s tusks and traced a symbol of fear in the air as the paladin spurred his horse and charged the monster. The paladin made his saving throw and cut through the demon with his sword – easy enough to do as the demon was a projected image. The demon just laughed.

Enraged, the paladin began cursing the demon in language that most of us assumed paladins would scarcely admit to knowing, much less using, but the most telling insult was “coward.” I figured that any demon worth his evilness would take offense at being called a coward by a mere mortal, so the projected image vanished – and the real demon appeared on the road, roaring out its own challenge. It began tracing another symbol in the air as the paladin charged again.

The paladin made his saving throw and struck at the demon – and his sword bounced off the demon’s hide, as the sword wasn’t powerful enough to affect the monster. The paladin’s player realized his character had only one weapon left that might do the trick. Wheeling his horse around and coming back for another charge, the paladin drew his dagger +2, then leaped off his horse and tackled the demon.

Had this been any other player, I would have pointed out the usual problems involved in leaping off a charging horse in plate mail to tackle a 10’-tall demon with a dagger, but the paladin’s player had that look on his face that said he was really into it. He wanted that demon badly. He got it. Screaming and roaring, the paladin and the demon tore into each other, dagger against claws and teeth. The paladin slammed home every attack, but so did the demon. Worse yet, the demon began to levitate itself and the paladin over the road. Dice rolled, blood flew, hit points plummeted, and the other players began shouting, “Get ‘im! Get that thing!”

The demon died at an altitude of about 100’. Its levitation spell shut off. The paladin, still attacking, clung to the demon’s body all the way down. When the rest of the party finally mustered the courage to ride back, they found the paladin – in the single digits of hit points, but alive.

“Got ‘im,” said the paladin, brushing himself off.

A legend came to life that evening, though we had not meant to create one. We had courage, heroism, danger, and excitement, all there in the rec room of an Army barracks far from home. Ten years later, the thrill and the glory of that paladin’s triumph still live with me. It doesn’t matter that the paladin wasn’t even my character.

I like a lot of things about roleplaying games – the friends, the laughter, the bad puns, the munchies – but creating a legend is the best part of all.

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