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I’ve written about this before but I’m writing about it again because it felt like a big moment for me.
More than thirty years ago I was on Bendermere Avenue across from the Wanamassa School in the late afternoon. We were sifting through the Spelljammer Boxed Set and I agreed to run a game. I had no idea what I was going to do but I did have an image in my head of a floating pyramid on fire drifting through fantasy space. That was enough.
Having just read about in media res in my freshman English class I told the players, as they made their characters, that they were chasing said fiery pyramid through space. We didn’t know why yet.
As folks announced what they were playing, my friend, Pete noticed that no one is playing a thief. He lamented this dearth of stealth and trap disarming. He continued to do so as we traded books back and forth to make characters.
Rob: Jay, what is the modifier for a 16 Strength?
Jay: I have no idea.
Rob: I thought for sure you’d know.
Jay: I’ve never played a character with a Strength that low before.
(Did that happen during this game or am I mixing and matching my memories? Three decades later…who cares?)
“Guys, we don’t have a thief. Someone should ditch their concept and play the thief.” Pete didn’t let things go.
“You had a thief, Pete. Your thief was killed by the dead sun pharoah on that flying fire pyramid.”
“He killed our thief! He’s fucking dead.”
Suddenly we knew why we were chasing that pyramid through space. We learned how ship to ship combat worked. I remember nothing else about that game.
That is the hobby in a nutshell. That is why I love this story and have told it several times over the years. We get our friends to care about things that don’t exist. We dare them to put on imaginary masks and fight for these things and create memories in doing so.
If there’s a better way to spend a few hours around a table with friends I haven’t found it yet.
The players made up characters and picked a ship. One of the players mentioned that they didn’t have a Thief. I had just learned about in media res in English class.
“We’re starting in media res!,” I announced, proud of my ability to play 8th grade English to D&D. “You are chasing this fiery pyramid through space, trying to catch and kill the Sun Pharoah!”
“Why are we chasing him?”
“Because the Sun Pharoah killed your party’s thief!”
And off we went…
I was in college and we had spent the day in Ithaca’s gorges but had gathered in the late afternoon at a friend’s house. We were perusing his milk crates of 2nd edition material. Someone said something about gaming and someone else said something about how off-the-cuff games never seem to work. Jason looked at me because he knew I’d take that as a personal challenge.
Jason was right.
I asked the players to make up anything they could make from the material in the crates – their characters had to be criminals who were imprisoned on the under-side of the Rock of Bral. “The only catch is that you were not framed. You did the crime.”
While they made up characters I jotted down a page full of names. We gamed out asses off and it was good fun.
Good times, Spelljammer.