Daily Illuminator

March 7, 2015: Drama And Dracoliches

I once spent several minutes exchanging pleasantries with a dracolich, causing my family to convulse with laughter. We were playing Castle Ravenloft, a rather fun cooperative boardgame distillation of the Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition ruleset that sends the heroes on missions where they have to work together to accomplish their goal. In this case, the goal was "kill the dracolich"; we'd gotten halfway to that goal by finding the dracolich, and then it boiled down to combat primarily between me (the best fighter of the party) and the undead beast.

Unfortunately, neither the dracolich nor my fighter could roll above a 6 on a 20-sided die (and we each needed at least a 10), so we both just kept missing each other. After about four rounds of this, I started making up both sides of the conversation about what the hellbeast and I were really doing instead of hitting each other.

"Sooo . . . How's it going? You like it here?"
"Oh, it's not bad. Get to kill a lot of heroes; that's fun."
"I bet it is! Yep. [rolls a 5] Say, nice weather we've been having."
"[rolls a 3] Is it? I can't tell; I'm trapped here in a castle serving my evil master."
"Oh sure, that makes sense. [rolls a 6] Say, do you like cinnamon rolls?"
"Not a big fan. I don't have a stomach, so anything I eat just rolls out the ribcage. [rolls a 1] Whoops; almost tripped and fell on you!"
"No worries! Anyway, where were we? Ummm . . . Who's your favorite Beatle?"

(etc.)

My son and wife -- while trying to maneuver their heroes to my area to help -- were cracking up at this improvised drama.

But that's why my favorite games have a strong narrative pull to them, encouraging players to make up their own stories, like the time a Zombie Dice green die rolled five footprints in a row, and I concluded he was some kind of marathon runner who didn't even notice he was being chased by a zombie. Some of the games I find most fun make it really easy to imagine the story that's taking place, such as the entirety of the Munchkin line. (And, of course, I help keep things running smoothly on the GURPS line, which strongly supports storytelling as its raison d'être.)

So for everyone who makes up the stories that take place behind the games, I salute you all. And a special thanks to all those at my gaming table who find my improvisational antics amusing -- or at least don't get so annoyed that they feed me to the dracolich (who, I've learned, is actually a Ringo fan . . .)

-- Steven Marsh


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