The Twenty-Sided Die of Doom

It is often as bizarre to my friends and acquaintances to learn of my experiences in the world of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons as it is for them to hear stories from my fraternity days.  Before you pass judgment on me, understand that I did not really fit in in either endeavor.  Think of me as a renaissance man instead of a socially confused misfit and I’ll feel a little better about the whole sordid situation.

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon during a particularly lovely weekend when the events I am about to describe took place.  The few clouds drifting lazily by in the otherwise azure expanse above only added to the idyllic conditions that day, though a storm was brewing in the unlikeliest of places.  The birds of unknown genus tweeted merrily outside the window of the small house in Ocean Gate, though the brilliant sunlight failed to pierce the gloom of the front porch where our story unfolds.

I won’t embarrass myself by giving you a run down of the typical AD&D adventure rules and game play as it is still uncomfortably fresh in my mind.  I will instead describe the company for you…

Tommy O. – The Dungeon Master:  He was a true AD&D gamer who could quote stats from a Gary Gygax compendium of monsters as readily as reciting his shoe size.  His was the hand of God when it came to meting out the dangers inherent in an adventure to acquire famed magic relics and experience points.

Chris D. – Longtime friend of Tommy O. and even longer-time older brother to me.

Scott G. – Friend-ish, acquaintance-ish individual who navigated the same strange social waters as Tommy O. and my brother.

Paul S. – The host to our motley assortment of would-be adventurers, though he was closer socially to Scott or Tommy than my brother.  He was often the host as his mother tolerated our noisy adventures much as George Harrison’s mother tolerated the Beatles practices.

Thomas D. – Myself.

I think my own parents would have quickly become tired of our seemingly nonsensical behavior, and Paul’s house was conveniently and centrally located to all of us.  We were all around middle school age, though I was the youngest of the bunch.  The era was the early eighties and it was not yet hip to curse constantly, drink to the point of inebriation, do methamphetamine or get girls pregnant at thirteen so our antics were pretty tame by comparison to youngsters of the twenty-first century.  I know that teen pregnancy and alcohol abuse were around, but as the internet was not available to us and I rarely read sociological statistics for kicks in those days I was blessedly ignorant to such behavior.

So there we were, frittering away a lovely Saturday afternoon in the dark confines of a bungalow when the typical bonhomie that embodied our gatherings took a serious blow from an unlikely source.  We were preparing to start an adventure and had only been at our respective pre-game activities and chit chat for less than an hour when the first signs of trouble began to appear.  The dungeon master was in an uncharacteristically bad mood, and for some reason his ire was seeking a target early in the proceedings.  As I was the youngest in the group, I suppose I was the logical choice though I had already developed a reputation for unpredictable and violent displays of temper (if you can believe that) making it a less than optimal approach to fight picking.

We had just begun the adventure when the need arose for me to roll my twenty-sided die to determine one outcome or another.  For the uninitiated, there is indeed a die with twenty-sides that resembles a geometrically altered meteorite with sharp, clean edges and lines above the nine and below the six.  My own twenty-sided die was extraordinary in that it was opaque powder-blue in color and not one of the colored , semi-transparent kinds that were popular in some circles.  The die that I shook in my fist had long ago lost the hard corners and had since become much more spherical than polygonal.  The dungeon master gave the order to roll, and I released my die with the practiced hand of the initiated.

For the first few seconds it seemed like everything was going fine, but as the die continued to tumble awkwardly around the table’s surface it looked like it was possessed by the spirit of a hamster trapped on its wheel.  Eventually it made it’s way to the edge of the table and rolled onto the floor.  I scooped it up and made as if to roll it again when the dungeon master asserted his rank.

“You’re not using THAT die again.” he stated with authority.

“It’s my twenty-sided die, and I AM using it.” I retorted, rolling it onto the table decisively to begin another circumnavigation of the littered surface.  The dungeon master scooped it up and took it out of play, sparking a violent reaction from me.

“What is your problem?” I demanded, reaching out to wrest my property from the grip of the increasingly annoyed dungeon master.  For those purists out there, I know I should refer to Tommy O. as the DM, but as the experiences of the AD&D adventurer are probably lost on most readers I fear it would just be confusing.

“The stupid thing just rolls around forever and I’m tired of waiting for it to stop.”

“Just use mine.” offered Paul in an attempt to dispel the negative vibes emanating from the air between myself and Tommy.

Now keep in mind that this could have worked and we might have continued the game without things getting any more out of hand, but it had become a matter of principle to me and I was not about to back down.  I proceeded to decline Paul’s offer and demanded the die back immediately.  At this point my brother got involved as the die in question was shared by the two of us.

“Just give him back the die and lets get on with the game.” said Chris wearily as the argument raged on around him.  The words became more and more heated and eventually the die was returned to me.  Tommy refused to continue the game as long as we used that die, and I was in no mood to continue anyway after the shabby treatment I had received at the hands of the dungeon master.  Chris and I gathered up our assorted manuals, dice and folders of characters and walked home in the glare of the afternoon sun, the breeze at our backs and the few errant clouds casting fleeting shadows at our feet.

Games with the old AD&D group were never the same after that day and it was shortly after that fateful day that we disbanded our little group.  I suppose I feel somehow responsible for the events that transpired so long ago as I could have just as easily backed down and been the bigger person for the sake of a peaceful return to the carefree roll of the four or eight-sided dice, but alas it was not meant to be.  Though I was only 13 years old at the time, I already knew that I was incapable of behaving rationally and compassionately.  It took me another couple decades (give or take) to realize that being good at being a creep is not necessarily something to aspire to.

Still, I sometimes look back on that day and wonder how I managed to leave that house without punching the dungeon master in the face…