Eric and the Gazebo

Copyright 1986 by Richard Aronson (Original Story)

Let us cast our minds back to the early days of fantasy role-playing… In the 1970’s, Ed Whitchurch ran “his game,” and one of the participants was Eric Sorenson, a veritable giant of a man. This story is essentially true: I knew both Ed and Eric, and neither denies it (although Eric, for reasons that will become apparent, never repeats it).

The gist of it is that Eric… well, you need a bit more about Eric.

Eric comes quite close to being a computer. When he games, he methodically considers each possibility before choosing his preferred option. If given time, he will invariably pick the optimum solution. It has been known to take weeks. He is otherwise in all respects a superior gamer, and I’ve spent many happy hours competing with and against him. *Even today, if any player in our group takes an unreasonably long time to decide what to do, he draws calls of “Hurry up, Eric.” So if you imagine pauses before any Eric response, with the word pause to indicate an unreasonably long pause, you’ll have the flow down pat.

Ed, on the other hand, is very quick witted, of the general school that if you do the wrong thing quickly it may work out better than the right thing slowly. His pauses were usually signs that players were asking something very important or unbelievably unimportant.

So… Eric was playing a neutral paladin (Why should only lawful good religions get to have holy warriors? was the rationale) in Ed’s game. He had a holy sword, which fought well and did all those things holy swords are supposed to do, including detect good or evil (by random die roll). He was exploring some lord’s lands when the following exchange occurr.

Ed: You see a well-groomed garden. In the middle, on a small hill, you see a gazebo.

Eric: A gazebo? What color is it?

Ed: (Pause) It’s white, Eric.

Eric: How far away is it?

Ed: About 50 yards.

Eric: How big is it?

Ed: (Pause) It’s about 30 feet across, 15 feet high, with a pointed top.

Eric: (rolls dice) I use my sword to detect whether it’s good.

Ed: It’s not good, Eric. It’s a gazebo!

Eric: (Unusually long pause, even for Eric) I call out to it.

Ed: It won’t answer. It’s a gazebo!

Eric: (Pause) I sheathe my sword and draw my bow and arrows. Does it respond in any way?

Ed: No, Eric. It’s a gazebo!

Eric: I shoot it with my bow (rolls to hit). What happened?

Ed: There is now a gazebo with an arrow sticking out of it.

Eric: (Pause) Wasn’t it wounded?

Ed: Of course not, Eric! It’s a gazebo!

Eric: (Whimper) But that was a plus-three arrow!

Ed: It’s a gazebo, Eric, a gazebo! If you really want to try to destroy it, you could try to chop it with an axe, I suppose, or you could try to burn it, but I don’t know why anybody would even try. It’s a @#%!$*& gazebo!

*(author’s note: Ed was in the army, and no, he did not say @#%!$*&. The letter count has not been changed for the linguistically curious. Clue: it was a gerund.)*

Eric: (Long pause – he has no axe or fire spells) I run away.

Ed: (Thoroughly frustrated) It’s too late. You’ve awakened the gazebo, and it catches you and eats you.

Eric: (Reaching for his dice) Maybe I’ll roll up a fire-using mage so I can avenge my paladin…

At this point, the increasingly amused fellow party members restored a modicum of order by explaining what a gazebo is. This is solely an afterthought, of course, but Eric is doubly lucky that the gazebo was not situated on a grassy knoll.

Sneaking up on Dragons!

Party finds a sleeping dragon & hoard. Lawfull stupid Palladin decides he must slay yon evil beast, of course he has to cross an underground stream first. QUIETLY he removes his armor and sword and tells others to throw his sword to him after he crosses. The Palladin crosses and signals for sword, the dragon is still asleep.
DM: “Roll a d20 to throw the sword to him.”
Player: (rolls a d20) “A One!”
DM: “Crit fumble, you impale the palladin with his own sword.”
DM (asking palladin): “You’re about to pass out, what do you do?”
Palladin (cold bloodedly): “I scream.”

The Head of Vecna

Many years ago (back when we all were still playing D & D), I ran a game where I pitted two groups against each other. Several members of Group One came up with the idea of luring Group Two into a trap. You remember the Hand of Vecna and the Eye of Vecna that were artifacts in the old D&D world where if you cut off your hand (or your eye) and replaced it with the Hand of Vecna (or the Eye) you’d get new awesome powers? Well, Group One thought up The Head of Vecna.

Group One spread rumors all over the countryside (even paying Bards to spread the word about this artifact rumored to exist nearby). They even went so far as to get a real head and place it under some weak traps to help with the illusion. Unfortunately, they forgot to let ALL the members of their group in on the secret plan (I suspect it was because they didn’t want the Druid to get caught and tell the enemy about this trap of theirs, or maybe because they didn’t want him messing with things).

The Druid in group One heard about this new artifact and went off in search of it himself (I believe to help prove himself to the party members…) Well, after much trial and tribulation, he found it; deactivated (or set off) all the traps; and took his “prize” off into the woods for examination. He discovered that it did not radiate magic (a well known trait of artifacts) and smiled gleefully.

I wasn’t really worried since he was alone and I knew that there was no way he could CUT HIS OWN HEAD OFF. Alas I was mistaken as the Druid promptly summoned some carnivorous apes and instructed them to use his own scimitar and cut his head off (and of course quickly replacing it with the Head of Vecna…)

Some time later, Group one decided to find the Druid and to check on the trap. They found the headless body (and the two heads) and realized that they had erred in their plan (besides laughing at the character who had played the Druid)…The Head of Vecna still had BOTH eyes! They corrected this mistake and reset their traps and the Head for it’s real intended victims…

Group Two, by this time, had heard of the powerful artifact and decided that it bore investigating since, if true, they could use it to destroy Group One. After much trial and tribulation, they found the resting place of The Head of Vecna! The were particularly impressed with the cunning traps surrounding the site (one almost missed his save against the weakest poison known to man). They recovered the Head and made off to a safe area.

Group Two actually CAME TO BLOWS (several rounds of fighting) against each other argueing over WHO WOULD GET THEIR HEAD CUT OFF! Several greedy players had to be hurt and restrained before it was decided who would be the recipient of the great powers bestowed by the Head… The magician was selected and one of them promptly cut his head off. As the player was lifting The Head of Vecna to emplace it on it’s new body, another argument broke out and they spent several minutes shouting and yelling. Then, finally, they put the Head onto the character.

Well, of course, the Head simply fell off the lifeless body. All members of Group Two began yelling and screaming at each other (and at me) and then, on their own, decided that they had let too much time pass between cutting off the head of a hopeful recipient and put the Head of Vecna onto the body.

SO THEY DID IT AGAIN!… [killing another PC]

In closing, it should be said that I never even cracked a smile as all this was going on. After the second PC was slaughtered, I had to give in (my side was hurting)…

And Group Two blamed ME [Mark] for all of that…


Some other anecdotes:This one is legendary in my circle of aquaitances, and whats more, it’s not a player quote, its a GM quote. Party approaches bridge guarded by humungous troll with equally sized two-handed troll maul. The party stops short of the bridge .

The troll looks on and shouts ‘SEND FORTH YOUR BEST RIDDLER!’

There is heated argument about who is the best riddler among the players…

‘I should go!’….’I have the best intelligence’ etc…

Finally one of the players marches up to the troll. ‘I’m the best riddler!’ he announces brightly.

The troll splats him dead. ‘I hate riddlers.’

Drow Quests

A long adventure where at this point the party was captured by drow because of something they tried. Now the drow wanted to send them on a mission, as it amuses them to use good PC´s. For the quest they wanted to cast a geas on the PC’s, there is no save for that if you accept it. So I asked the players to leave the room, all except one.

To him I described what happen:
He was tied with his arms and legs in a position reminiscent of a turkey, set on a platter and an apple was put in his mouth. Some carrots were put on the side and he was served on a table. Then a drow matron asked him whether he would “please” accept a geas to do a quest for her, apple still being in his mouth. Now seated around the table were about 4 lesser demons, with a fork in one hand and a knife in the other who at that moment started banging their utensils on the table and saying “NO! Don’t do it, don’t accept her mission please!!” I role-played by banging my fork/knife at that moment. In one case when a PC was still in doubt, the demon started delicately and happily pouring gravy over him.

Needless to say, all PC´s accepted the mission.

Some One Call a Witchdoctor?

Our party was attacked by monster and one character is knocked up pretty bad, but still alive and conscious, so the party’s barbarian remembers that the shamans from his culture uses some herbs to cure wounds. So he makes an INT check and rolls a one. He then grabs some poison ivy and tries to stuff it down the injured guys throat, resulting in an even more injured PC. The injured PC tries to tell the barbarian about the hurting but the barbarian didn’t speak common…

To the Rescue

We were playing 2nd Edition AD&D, mid-high level, around 12-ish if I recall properly. We were on a hunting expedition to rid the kingdom of a menacing green dragon. We approached what was reputed to be the dragon’s lair, and were ambushed! The dragon used his magic and breath weapon on us from out of reach, and things were grim. He even got a bit cocky and started fighting us on the ground. Then we got lucky, and injured his wing so he couldn’t fly. Things started to swing back in our favor.

Then, disaster! The paladin got smacked hard and dropped. The player of the paladin was upset, but his bonded war horse was still around. So he claimed it wanted vengeance, and he kept attacking with his horse.

The next round, disaster again! The ranger was mauled and dropped. He also kept attacking with his animal friend, this time a large brown bear, pumped up with magic. Soon, PC’s were dropping left and right. The last PC dropped without the GM noticing. The bear’s turn in initiative came up, and he rolled a 20! The maximum damage strike was enough to topple the mighty dragon!!!!! At this point we realized the horrible truth. The only survivors of the encounter were a bear and a horse, the entire party was dead. Oh, the shame. We had to start over again with new characters, none of us could live with the shame.