The evening started innocently enough with five upstanding Friendswood City community members agreeing to a friendly dash though an obstacle course. The competitors included City Manager Morad Kabiri, Police officer Kevin Crouch (who was recently promoted to detective, so congratulations Kevin!), City Council member Steve Rockey, Assistant Library Director Karen Hart, and Youth Services Librarian Christina Hicks. Sadly, Ms. Hicks, and Mr. Rockey would be the only competitors to cross the finish line as the others lay critically crippled on the course.
OBSTACLE COURSE: I should make it very clear at this point that all of this happened through the iconic collaborative storytelling game known as Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D, for short. So, technically Mr. Rocky didn't actually win first place in the race, his PC (player character) Strong Linen took that title as well as the magical boots the king granted as the prize for winning. Ms. Hart took a close second, leaving everyone else in broken agony, covered in oily mud at the base of the 20' climbing wall from which they had each fallen after losing their grip.
Even though City Manager Morad Kabiri's PC (Donatello) didn't actually win the race, or technically even survive to the finish, everyone agreed that the highlight of the race was him dashing straight down the middle of "Sucker Punch Alley" avoiding every single swinging padded log. The dice might have failed him on the climbing wall, but they were on his side then!
ARCHERY: After having all their injuries magically healed by the court clerics, everyone gathered for the archery competition. The targets were placed at a reasonable range of 75' then moved back to 150' which caused Ms. Hart...er...I mean, Willow to shoot at disadvanatge because her weapon of choice (hand crossbow) was beyond normal range. For the final round the targets were moved out to 300' where everyone shot at disadvantage due to the extreme range.
The king has decreed that future matches will have 3 arrows at each range increment as this short competition demonstrated that a gust of wind, the call of a bird, or an unlucky roll of the d20 can cause a skilled archer like Detective Crouch's PC Rolen to barely hit the outer circle of the target on one shot and miss it entirely on the other two shots, while brutish barbarian Strong Linen dominated and took first place with two bull's eyes! And while Aspen and Rolen were trading quips earlier in the competition having come from different elven clans, I suspect that Rolen was secretly glad that second place went to Aspen. Everyone knows that elves are rather proud of their archery skills and if Rolen couldn't take second place himself, he must have felt some modicum of solice knowing that it at least went to a fellow elf.
MORTAL COMBAT: All the contestants walked into the cage, but only one would walk out. The rest would be carried out on stretchers. Strong Linen already had two first place victories and he was the crowd favorite to win this competition for a triple crown. I mean, a tough meat-shield of a human barbarian against a few elves and half-elves, some of whom weren't even proficient with martial weapons.
But the other competitors knew that Strong Linen was a threat and so they seemed to focus their efforts on him, trying to take him out in the first round. In fact, the only attack that injured anyone else the first round of combat was when Donatello "accidentally" shot Rolen in the back while Rolen was busy engaging with Strong Linen. Eveyone in the crowd could see how such a mistake might happen as it seemed obvious that Rolen was simply in the way of a shot targeting Strong Linen. However, some by-standers suggested they saw a glimmer in Donatello's eyes as he drew his bow and a satisfied smirk as the arrow pounded square into the middle of Rolen's back.
Please remember that all the weapons, of course, had been magically enchanted and caused only half damage, and even that damage was merely sudual. But any of the contestants will assure you, it still hurts!
Willow (played by Karen Hart) seemed to have the strategy to attack from afar while everyone else seemed to mix it up a bit. If it was a conscious decision to stand back and let everyone else battle it out then it seemed to work on this day. Ultimately it came down to Youth Services Librarian Christina Hicks fighting for her life against her boss, Karen Hart. I'm not sure if Ms. Hart has ever actually fenced with a rapier before, but her PC Willow certainly seemed comfortable with the weapon. After several rounds of cat-and-mouse sword play involving jumping from behind cover to swipe before spinning behind another barrier of protection, thrusting, parrying, dodging, and ducking, Willow ultimately defeated the agile Aspen (Christina Hicks) and stood triumphant in the blood splattered ring.
CONCLUSION: It is both interesting and informative to note that all of the first place winners in this tournatment were played by people who had NEVER played D&D before this game. D&D has a reputation for being a confusing game with lots of difficult rules, but the truth is that a good GM (Game Master) should make it easy and seamless for a new player to learn the rules WHILE they play. If you've ever been curious about D&D, visit your local library or a nearby gaming store and see if they have an opportunity for you to either watch, or better yet, play.
I'll be back at Friendswood Public Library on Saturday, Jan. 11, at 12:30 pm and again the next day, Sunday, Jan. 12 at 11:30 am. All the events at Friendswood Public Library are free, just like all the events at YOUR local library, so come out and enjoy the fun. I'll also be hosting similar games across Texas this summer at a library near you, when the theme is based on fantasy and story telling.