Thursday, March 06, 2008

My Favorite D&D Story:

This story happened to an excellent gamer I'll call Adam. Adam was visiting a friend who was DM for a D&D campaign with three other players. The players had been going on at this game for months, and their adventuring characters were very strong. For those of you who have arrived late to this party: The DM knew all about the world the players were adventuring in. Depending on what the players did, the DM confronted them with surprises, rewards, challenges and calamities, all according to his imagination as modulated by the extensive dicing rules of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.

As a visitor, Adam could not simply join the campaign, but there was plenty to kibbitz. At one point the party of three characters walked on a path along the edge of a mountain. They came around a bend and: there was a great giant! The DM turned to Adam. “Why don't you take the part of the giant?” Adam agreed. This appeared to be a fairly routine situation. A giant is large and powerful, but the three D&D characters had excellent gear, many skills, and plenty of magic on hand.

The DM consulted his dice and announced that the players were surprised by the giant, so the giant got to act first. “Adam, what do you do?”

“I overbear,” said Adam.

Overbear? What's that? (I must confess, one of the reasons I like this story is that I already knew about overbearing.) They all went scrambling to the DM manual, where I think Adam referred them to the small print on page 22. Gary Gygax had not just developed tables for combat between swords, halberds, sabers, pikes, shields, armor of all kinds, and even pitiful medieval pistols. He had also developed combat tables for fighting unarmed: wrestling, say, or boxing, or overbearing.

To 'overbear' is simply to fall upon your opponent. It's a good move if you have a big weight advantage, if, say, you're a giant, and your adversaries, standing right next to each other, are elvish or human. The DM consulted the overbear tables with his dice. He announced: “The members of the party are stunned. Adam, what does the giant do?”

Adam answered, “I pick each of them up and throw them off the cliff.”

Of course the characters all died falling off the cliff, ending a wonderful campaign that had occupied the four of them for months. It was a long, long time before any of them would speak to Adam again.

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