Another sleepless night. I used to suffer from them quite often, what with that whole ‘insomnia’ thing being a thorn in my side for many years. In recent times however, I haven’t had much trouble sleeping, so I’m going to attribute this particular restless night to the other affliction I’ve dealt with for years: allergies. Ugh. Was I that ignorant to not realize Phoenix has a ridiculously high amount of pollen floating around? Apparently so.
Don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into Matt’s Medical Journal. I’m just setting the scene.
Anyhow, what very little sleep I did get was filled with hallucinatory dreams about pink cats (again!) trying to drown me in quicksand until retired professional wrestler (and 16 time World Champion! Woooo!) Ric Flair showed up to save me. I woke up from that, accepted that it was simply another in a long, production-line length series of dreams that a sane person would consider ‘weird’, and promptly fell back into another fitful slumber. However, I was soon to experience another dream that would become not only the catalyst for this post, but would ultimately inspire me to change the name of this site to something a bit more fanciful (which I was hoping to do from day one).
The dream featured a harsh, barren landscape. A dry riverbed in some godforsaken desert wasteland, perhaps? Or maybe the surface of an uninhabitable alien planet? It really matters not where it was… all you need to know is that life is null and void in this place. There is no civilization around for miles.
Much to my surprise, a little reptilian looking creature scuttles across the landscape. I look closer (I think I’m just floating around without actually being there in this particular dream) and discover that the reptile looks an awful lot like the basilisk from the AD&D 2nd edition Monstrous Manual. Kinda weird huh? So the basilisk runs along, almost as if it was running from something…
Moments later, a roar of screeching steel breaks the silence of this deathly landscape, and along rumbles a tank. That’s right, a fucking TANK. The tank stops for a moment, a dwarf pops his head out from the top hatch, looks around, spots the basilisk off in the distance, and continues the chase. Both the dwarf-driven tank and the reptile soon disappear from view.
I had just had a dream about my ultimate D&D related inside joke.
Everyone has these silly stories and their own inside jokes about playing the game, but I don’t even know if I can correctly describe how this ludicrous scenario originally happened without the use of regression therapy and some seriously hardcore drugs. The game in question was simply two players, my friend Chaz and myself. We would often take turns playing as DM, and on this day it was my turn. His dwarf, the awesomely named Flash Pendragon, was the one who ended up in the tank… a magical tank. He would soon become involved in a high speed pursuit with this damned basilisk that just wouldn’t die. The dwarf became obsessed with trying to kill and flatten this thing once and for all, and thus a lifelong Wil E. Coyote/Roadrunner-esque chase began.
It was such a ridiculous scenario, but being good MST3k fans, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do some callback jokes. So the next game we played, which didn’t even involve Flash the dwarf, and was set on a completely different world, the basilisk would show up with the tank in high pursuit. I would pull this shit out of nowhere and move on before any real sense could be made of it…
“The road to Neverwinter is particularly treacherous at this time of year, due to the heavy amount of rainfall in the area turning the path into a quagmire of slippery mud. Just then, a basilisk runs out in front of you. Before you can even react, the reptile runs away. Suddenly, and from out of nowhere, a tank pops into existence and roars past in pursuit of the creature, flattening trees along the way.
Yes, as I was saying, the road is difficult to travel on at the moment.“
It got even better when Chaz started doing it when *he* was DMing. One of my characters would be roaming through the wilderness, traveling through the plains, or simply gazing out at the landscape from high atop a tower when they would spot this little brown reptile fleeing in terror from a tank. A friggin’ TANK! As if D&D characters, in their medieval fantasy setting, knew what the hell a tank was supposed to be! Aw man, I loved our stupid jokes. There was another one about the color gray, but… that one is more ‘painful ha ha’ than ‘funny ha ha’.
Anyway, I decided to name my blog after this crazy inside gag. I’ve played many games with many groups, both online and in the real world, but I have to say that some of the best times I ever had were playing with Chaz back in those days that seem like ancient history to me now. Whether it was in my parents basement (where the pool table saw more use as a games table with rolling dice than it did as an actual surface to play billiards) or in Chaz’s stifling little attic bedroom (where he usually had no less than 27 industrial strength fans going at the same time during the summer months), the fun was never-ending. We played 2nd edition AD&D until between the two of us we had slaughtered damn near every monster in the book. We toyed around with other games every now and then (I remember Call of Cthulu, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, and a few others). We drank enough Mountain Dew that we could probably piss it for the rest of our lives. And the junk food… mighty Odin, don’t get me started. I’m really glad our local Pizza Huts stopped doing that ‘Brooklyn-styled’ pizza after a while, or I would’ve died from a heart attack at age 15.
I could compose novella length blogs about our exploits, both RPG related and the experiences that went beyond the DM screen. Perhaps I will someday… I’m sure I could get a good 5,000 words or so out of how we somehow found the resolve and fortitude to play through the entirety of Final Fantasy VII on the PlayStation without falling fast asleep every time that stupid Knights of the Round materia came into play, or puking our guts out at the sight of the emo male queens with 13 foot long swords prancing about with fake lolita ninjas and Mr. T wannabes. Honestly, that game was the fucking pits… and as if we hadn’t experienced enough pain with that one, we decided to play through Xenogears after that! A ha … a ha ha ha… Gods, I hated me as a teenager.
Getting slightly back on track here, I honestly feel as if I’ve been a shitty friend to Chaz from time to time. Back in the old days, he had to put up with a lot of crap from me. Truth is, I had a pretty rough go of it as a child and later as a teenager (and I’m not here to tell a sob story or gain any sympathy, I’m just trying to give some insight). I couldn’t make any new friends, and I had serious difficulty getting along with my parents. I’ve since discovered some of the reasons why I had these problems, but as I said, this isn’t turning into a medical journal, so I’ll spare the reader any details. Point is, my social problems led me to shunning the company of the few close friends I did have from time to time, which is something I certainly regret now. I feel as if I could have had 100 more dungeon crawls with my friend if only I hadn’t been such an antisocial stick-in-the-mud.
Well, unfortunately, I believe I still am an antisocial stick-in-the-mud. The only difference now is, I think I’ve come to understand the importance of friendships. I’ve also realized just how important these ‘stupid, evil, and Satanic’ games were to me in developing those friendships. I’m not going to waffle on about this like I’m Dr. Phil or anything*, but to my pal Chaz I wish to say this: Cheers, man. Thank you for your friendship. I truly, genuinely would not have made it through my teenage years without it. I dedicate this very silly blog to you and to all the gamers out there who have discovered friendship across a table with a set of dice in one hand and a character sheet in the other. All of you really make this world a better place.
…and now let’s talk about slaying dragons, beer, NASCAR, and other ‘manly’ stuff so I’m not accused of being some goofy, elf-loving wimp. Huzzah!
* my second Dr. Phil reference in such a short space of time… you would think I watch this guy’s show or something…