The Ineffectuals, Part 1

Tuesday, June 10th 2008

This past weekend, Wizards of the Coast released the long-awaited 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Although it's been years since I've actually played, I first got started with the TSR basic red box back in the eighties, and soon after picked up 1st Edition "Advanced" D&D, thereafter advancing through each edition as it was released. I've got lots of books in some box in my garage.

My cousin sent me mp3 files (link | link) of Penny Arcade's Mike and Jerry test-playing a D&D game, and while listening I grew inspired to throw together a humorous little tale of the misadventures of a party of new 4th Edition adventurers. Heck - I should check out Order of the Stick. I'll bet they've got some good jokes about the new ruleset.

Anyway, here's part one of the story. I made no effort to take the time and do what I'd qualify as good writing, and it's a bit ridiculous and juvenile by design, so I make no excuses. Enjoy.

The sun was setting on the walled city of Bergtonburyville as Ominous Buttcrack led his party through the town's gates. The numerous scorch-marks covering the cracked wood of the heavy gates told of the abuse it had been taking of late. With any luck, Ominous and his friends could help put a stop to these attacks.

Behind Ominous's horse, his two companions followed on foot. They had not been able to afford the luxury of a mount, having spent their starting money on things like armor and weapons. Blacksash the Cleric wore a shiny new chainmail shirt which had obviously never seen battle, and a heavy flanged mace swung from his belt. These being his sole purchases, he carried naught else, the clothes on his back having been assumed. Standing some four heads shorter, Blusterfuss struggled to keep up with her human companion. Being a halfling, she had to take approximately five steps for every two of his, and she was sweating copiously as she jogged to keep pace. It had been a long journey.

Blusterfuss wore a pair of short shorts that left nothing to the imagination and a studded leather halter top that revealed far too much of her unlikely bosom. Her chest seemed to comprise at least half of her body weight, making it apparent that some kind of anti-gravity magic must be at work. Across her mostly-bare back she wore a pair of long, wicked-looking daggers, and the hilts of shorter knives protruded from each thigh-high boot.

Blacksash eyed the Inn longingly as they passed. Although he'd not spent the past week jogging, he was indeed tired, and watching Blusterfuss's bouncing had quickly grown tiring. Ominous continued through the streets of Bergtonburyville, ignoring the local bar despite Blusterfuss's protests and curses. They had a job to do, and Ominous Buttcrack would see it done.

At the home of Bergtonburyville's Mayor, Ominous dismounted and straightened his robes. Blusterfuss came to a halt, her hands on her knees while she caught her breath, and lost her balance again, falling forward. It seemed she was a bit top-heavy. Seeming not to notice, Ominous continued to the mayor's front door, followed by Blacksash as Blusterfuss struggled to her feet.

Bergtonburyville's mayor was short and more than a little overweight. A black tophat sat anachronistically atop his head, and he started incredulously at the travel-worn adventurers on his porch. Adventurers were a distasteful sort, but a necessary evil, especially in times such as these.

"I take it you're adventurers?", the mayor asked, eying the party's weapons.

"We are." Ominous's deep and mysterious voice caught the mayor by surprise, and he stepped back, re-evaluating the party's mysterious hooded leader. Ominous glided forward, his form shrouded in mystery. "I am... Ominous Buttcrack." The dramatic pause seemed to make quite an impact on the mayor, who struggled to remain composed in the face of such an imposing and mysterious figure. Behind Ominous, his companions rolled their eyes.

"This... is my cleric, Seekolun Blacksash the unpious. Ominous gestured grandly at Blacksash. "And my rogue, Brazen Blusterfuss. We are here to solve your problem." Ominous leaned forward and added mysteriously, "Is it goblins or is it kobolds?"

The Mayor blinked, obviously further taken aback at Ominous's uncanny and very mysterious deductive powers. "Why... how did you know?" Ominous nodded sagely, saying nothing. "It... it is the goblins and the kobolds. They've all disappeared!"

Now it was Ominous's turn to be surprised, and Blusterfuss took this chance to pipe in. "Wait. So you sayin' they all gone? Who we supposed to kill?"

"As far as I can see, this is all part of Bartleby Blackspell's plan." The mayor's face pinched with worry, and he waved the adventurers into his home's entryway. "The black tower at the top of the hill outside town has always been inhabited by an evil warlord or dark wizard of some kind. When one is killed, another soon takes his place. But each time, adventurers come. They begin by killing the area's goblins and kobolds, and soon grow strong enough to confront the tower's master. But Blackspell is smart. He seems to have realized how things work, and he's done something with the goblins and kobolds!"

Ominous seemed to have caught on. "And without them, the adventurers have no way to gain experience."

"Yes!", shouted the mayor. "Instead of sending goblins and kobolds after them, he sends ogres! Big ones, with character levels! The adventurers stand no chance!"

Everyone stood silent. The problem was clear. 4th edition was so new that there were not yet any high-level adventurers to tackle the problem, and Blackspell had removed the only means of achieving a higher level.

"Could we kill maybe some local wildlife for experience?", asked Blusterfuss.

"No.", said Ominous, "If they're not aggressive, we don't get XP."

Blacksash stepped forward. "How about giant rats or fire beetles? Maybe some wolves or boars?"

"Blackspell has cleared the forests of wolves, boars, jackals, badgers, and every other predator. And he's gone through the caves too. No more giant rats, no more stirges. And those fire beetles haven't been around since first edition."

Ominous breathed deeply, rising mysteriously to his full height. "Don't worry, mayor. We'll get to the bottom of this." He turned towards the door. "We'll contact you once we have more information."

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