Initiative or What? – Archives – Pre 2008

October 31, 2007 by deadorcs

Non-Player Characters

In the role-playing world, there are two sorts of characters. There are “player” characters which represent real people playing the game, and then there are “non-player” characters who represent everyone else (your friendly neighborhood barkeeps, stable boys, peasants, random robots, that cute receptionist on the 5th floor, etc.).

Well, it just so happens that where I work, I have a fantastic vantage point for viewing the extraordinary variety of humanity that crosses the corner of 8th and Topeka every day. Some of these folks are rather…um…”unique”, and have been given nicknames. I’ve tried to be kind with these, as these folks are actually probably just getting out and getting some exercise. It just so happens that while they go about their ordinary and extraordinary lives, I can spy on them from my 2nd story perch. These are my NPC’s. Real folks. I wonder if any of them have quests to hand out? Here’s a list of the better ones:

Doc Brown: Doc is a tall gentleman and is named for the lovable professor in the Back to the Future series. Like the movie Doc Brown, this NPC is named for his quite wild mane of stark white hair that flows out behind him whenever he takes a walk. Occasionally he wears a hat.

The Walkin’ Dude: I didn’t name this character for Randal Flagg, the evil nemesis in Stephen King’s book, The Stand. No, I named this individual for his unique walk. It’s difficult to describe, but it’s kind of like a goosestep done by someone totally laid back and mellow — long slow strides with deliberately placed feet, his upper body inclined just a little past the vertical. At the same time, The Walkin’ Dude usually has a cigarette going, each drag deliberately timed between steps, from an arm bent only at the elbow. I’m almost certain The Walkin’ Dude has a back condition, which is unfortunate, but I totally dig his cool walk. He should really stop smoking, though.

Cane Lady: Cane Lady hasn’t been around much recently, but for a long time, she made a regular and sometimes harrowing journey from a house across the street, to the Wendy’s that occupies the lot outside my office building. Moving along at a pretty good clip despite having to use a cane, Cane Lady is probably well past 80, but still going strong. I wonder what she orders from Wendy’s?

Mr. Hustle: This NPC, also named for his walk, is a little guy, probably no more than 5′-5″. What makes him interesting his is walk. Actually, he doesn’t walk, he hustles. He hustles everywhere. He doesn’t jog or run — he hustles. Bent over slightly, arms pumping, Mr. Hustle seems to need to get to everywhere in a hurry. Even waiting at a light, his legs don’t stop moving, and he stays bent over, ready to hustle headlong into whatever adventure next awaits him.

Power Mullet: I’ve only seen this guy a couple of times, but he needs to be mentioned. I figure he lives in the neighborhood nearby, as I’ve seen him pass in front of our cafeteria windows on the 1st floor on more than one occasion. As you might have guessed, he’s named for his haircut. The guy has a mullet that would put Joe Dirt to shame. Power Mullet is not ashamed of his hair. He revels in the fashion of the past. His hair is his strength, and he stops for no man.

Well, those are some of the NPC’s in my neighborhood. Thank you, Miss Regina, for providing the inspiration for this post. I look forward to hearing about the NPC’s in your neighborhood too. – originally published 9/27/2006

Lancing the Dragon

While the great majority of my free time (both stolen and earned) is spent playing World of Warcraft these days; I occasionally endeavor to dig out the musty tomes, unearth small figurines both malevolent and benign, and tumble the geometrically chiseled polyhedrons. Separately, these items are unassuming. Together they combine to form my first and best role-playing love – Dungeons and Dragons.

I know. That admission alone qualifies me as a elite nerd, a geek of the highest caliber. Fortunately, the pocket protector and taped glasses are no longer part of the uniform (statute 094584D of the Geek Protection Act of 1992).

I have been fortunate that I have been able to find a number of kindred spirits with which to share my affliction. A number of the guys at my place of employment share a similar interest, and our gaming group, The Dead Orcs Society, continues to play on a fairly regular basis.

Recently, my good friend (and now mouse slayer) D.F., approached me about running a campaign. His best love is Dragonlance, and he has read many of the novels. Currently, D. runs a campaign in something called the “Age of Mortals”. My bard in that campaign, Martin Barre (yes, it’s an homage to the lead guitarist for Jethro Tull), enjoys this campaign setting immensely.

However, the campaign he wanted me to run takes place during the War of the Lance. It seems the D. had managed to purchase a copy of Dragons of Autumn, a 3.5 rules version of the original Dungeons and Dragons modules written for the Dragonlance Saga.

I didn’t have to think too hard about running this one. Not only would I get to dungeon master (DM) something I hadn’t done before, I was going to get to steep myself in nostalgia I had nearly forgotten.

The nostalgia part is what this post is really about.

In 1984, I had only been playing Dungeons and Dragons for about 4 years. I was a junior in high school; and my best friend, my brother, a couple of other friends, and myself formed a tight (but very loose) gaming circle. My best friend, S.I., usually served as our DM. Somehow, he got wind of this new campaign series that was supposed span 12 (count ‘em!) 12 modules (a module is a booklet that describes an adventure). Of course, as a DM, S. had to have these, and when we scraped together the money, we went after them.

Every few months, S. and I would climb into his rattle-trap Mustang II and head out to East Wichita. There was a little shop (there on what was then the “edge of town”) called simply enough, “The Game Shop”. The Game Shop sat in a strip mall next to a place called “The Grape”. Of course now, the area is like a combination dance club and martini bar, but then it was a nice little row of shops.

The Game Shop was owned and run by a guy named, “Bob”. The following comprises what I knew about Bob:

  • He was bald.
  • He was a veteran of the Korean War.
  • He enjoyed the clam chowder served by the restaurant next door called, “The Grape”.

Bob was pretty cool for an old dude (remember I was just sixteen at the time). Bob knew his regular customers, and never hesitated to show us a new product or something we might be interested in. Bob sold me my first Mah Jongg set. Bob had a big old German Shepard that he would let us pet (if we moved slowly and were gentle). I remember that the German Shepard liked to sleep in the sun that came through the window behind the register counter.

One of the coolest things about Bob, though, is that he would let us buy his previews. Occasionally, (as the owner/manager of the store), his gaming distributor (I believe it was Random House at the time), would drop off a preview copy of some upcoming new release. If it wasn’t something he was using himself (he was an avid gamer, no surprise), he would let us buy it off of him. I know on at least two occasions, we were probably the first to play a certain module in the Wichita area. It was a pretty cool deal.

I loved The Game Shop. Any time my parents were on that side of town, I had to persuade them to let me stop in for a look. It was one of the few places I was sad to find out had gone away – out competed by direct internet sales and Wal-Mart.

Still, we played the holy hell out of those Dragonlance modules. Utilizing pool tables, ping-pong tables, kitchen tables, and other horizontal surfaces, we made the world of Krynn come alive.

Now I have a chance to live that all again. Sadly, I have no The Game Shop to make regular pilgrimages to, but I will get the opportunity to see a great adventure story come to life. I’ll get to spend some quality time with my friends of today; while remembering with nostalgia my friends and adventures of yesterday.

I don’t know where Bob is, but I’m sure he’s smiling. – originally published 6/9/2007


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