Hi all! In case anybody missed my waves and salutations in the Introduction thread, I'm Ryan, and I'm new to the forums. I've been listening to the podcast through iTunes for about a week now, and I love it more with each new episode I hear. One of my favorite bits of the show is when Ross and Tom share anecdotes that they receive, so I thought I'd toss my own chips into the pot and share a hysterical happening from my gaming experience.
In my gaming circle, several people have picked up the reigns as storyteller / GM at one point or another, but no one has failed as epically or as frequently as our friend Erik. Erik is one of my oldest friends, and a regular face at the table when I'm running a game, but to us, his turns behind the screen have become the stuff of bad game legend. Even before I joined the group during my freshman year of high school, Erik was running games that were so bad that we still talk about them today, more than a decade later. The example that springs most readily to mind is a travesty that came to be known as...
"The Birthday Game."
I'm tempted to believe that if Andy Kaufman ever ran a Mage game, this is the kind of game he would have run. Given Erik's track record though, I'm pretty sure he planned this out as a straight game and was completely perplexed by the fact that it irritated and confused everyone at the table.
I am happy to report that I was not involved in this session; I heard about it from another friend, Paul, a few months after it happened. The premise was simple: the players were a group of mages who were summoned to an abandoned warehouse by an informant claiming to known the whereabouts of the big bad that they were chasing. As soon as they set foot in the building, the doors slid shut and sealed behind them, eliminating their only visible means of egress. What the players found within was a series of locked doors that could only be opened by solving puzzles, word games and math problems that Erik provided them with in real life. Once they'd solved a puzzle, the door it was associated with would open, and they would get an item for their trouble, as well as passage through to the next door. Once they had completed a few puzzles and collected an armful of imaginary random crap--including a shovel, a bottle of ketchup, and a floorlamp--my friend Paul began to grow impatient.
"This is bullshit," he said. "We're just collecting a bunch of useless junk. Why don't we just blast our way through and find this guy?" The other players balked at this notion.
"I don't think we should," my friend Evan said. "We're probably going to need this stuff at the end of the game. I mean, why would he be giving it to us if we weren't going to need it?"
Even though he had glimpsed the terrifying outline of Erik's designs in the misty distance, Paul decided to bite, and played through another two hours of puzzles before he finally became frustrated enough to take action. By this point, the party had solved so many puzzles that their characters were hauling their door prizes around with a shopping cart that they'd won along the way. Paul began to bore his way through the remaining doors using Forces magick, disregarding everyone else's protests that they were going to need the items that solving the puzzles netted them. When Paul breached the final door, the scene that awaited him left everyone at the table speechless.
"You see a man sitting at the head of a long table that's covered with confetti," Erik said. "He's wearing a polka-dotted party hat and a cheesy bow tie. Behind him, there's an enormous banner that says, 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY!' in big, bubble letters. On the table in front of him is a gigantic birthday cake with chocolate butter cream icing, a single candle burning on top."
" 'What the hell is this?!' " Paul asked, in character.
" 'Welcome to my birthday party, friends,' " Erik responded. " 'Did you have fun playing the party games that I set up for you?' "
" 'Don't you have some information for us?' " Evan asked. " 'About the villains we've been trying to hunt down?' "
" 'Oh, no,' " Erik replied as the hapless NPC. " 'I just told you that so that you would come to the party!' "
As you can imagine, the reaction to this was violent. They tore down the banner, tied this guy up with it, doused him with kerosene, and lit him on fire with his own birthday candle.
Even though it happened more than ten years ago, The Birthday Game is a story often revisited and retold among my gaming friends, and is perhaps the most popular with those who weren't there, myself included. It was a predictor of disastrous things to come in Erik's GMing career, a pathway littered with the bones of abandoned campaigns and sworn oaths that he would never again run a game.
I'll save those stories for another time, so that this post doesn't turn into a novella. However, I have affectionately entitled them, "With Do I Can Kick Your Guts Out," and, "Kill the Mayor, Spare Us The Details."
Thoughts? Comments? Threats on my life?