So instead of working on my next “Nevermore and the Ravens” book like I’m supposed to, instead I got in my head to write a parody of The Hobbit as if the whole story had originally been a low to mid-level D&D style role-playing game complete with a tired Gamemaster. But when my Muse pushes me, it’s best to go along with her. It’s a bit long, but I hope you enjoy it. And yes, I am a huuuuge nerd.
Chapter 1 – An Unexpected Party
“Okay, okay, has everyone finished rolling up their characters?” the GM asked. “Martin, was there anything you didn’t understand?”
“Just because this is my first time gaming doesn’t mean I can’t figure out how to make a character,” Martin replied, looking annoyed. He pushed his glasses up his nose. “So, I don’t have to be a klepto, right?”
“No, no, that’s just a stereotype halflings get. But you are a level three thief,” the GM said.
“Yeah, but look at my background.”
“Yeah,” Martin said. “I’m kind of a rich halfling with no real plans, but dreaming of a big adventure. I was also definitely in trouble as a kid.”
“Okay, I can definitely work with that. What’s your character’s name?”
“‘Bilbo Baggins.’ Like a bag of money.”
“Bilbo,” snickered another young man at the table.
“Terrence, please, try to act like you’re in college instead of high school,” the GM sighed. “Let me see your sheet.”
Terrence handed it over.
The GM raised an eyebrow. “Your background is ‘royalty?’ Okay, sell me on that.”
“My kingdom was destroyed and as the heir to the throne, I’m out to reclaim it and get revenge on all those that took it away.”
“You know what, I like that. You sure you want to be a dwarf?”
“Revenge takes a high constitution score.”
The GM nodded. “That’s a fair point. Fred, George?”
The twins passed their sheets over.
“Okay, how can you also be royal dwarves? Terrence just said he’s the last heir.”
“No, I said was the heir. Fred and George are going to be my dwarf’s nephews. See?”
The GM sighed. “Yeah, yeah, fine. Since you don’t have a kingdom, I guess it doesn’t matter.”
“Wait, don’t we get our hereditary axes to start with?” Fred asked.
“Yeah, everyone knows dwarves pass axes down through the generations. We should at least start with a weapon and some armor.”
“Oh, hereditary armor now? You guys are such munchkins.”
“Come on, JR, it only makes sense,” George said.
The GM sighed. “Fine, fine, I’ll allow you three access to basic level weapons and armor but you still have to pay for it from your starting gold.”
The other three assented to this agreement.
“So, what’s your name, o’ mighty prince?” the GM asked sarcastically.
“‘Thorin Oakenshield.’ I got the nickname in a fight with an orc and used an oak branch as a shield,” Terrence replied.
The GM typed some notes on his laptop. “Now this is what I like to hear. Fred, George?”
“I’m Kili…” said Fred.
“And I’m Fili,” said George. “We’re too young to have cool battle nicknames. But maybe we’ll get one by the end of the quest.”
“Right, right.” The GM looked through his vast collection of hardcopy, home-brewed dungeon crawls until he found one he liked. “Oh, hey, here’s a good one and it’ll fit right in with your character’s back story, Terrence.”
“What about me?” asked Martin. “How is a halfling going to meet a lost dwarf prince?”
“I’ve got that covered.” The GM pulled out a character sheet. “Meet Gandalf. He’s a wizard.”
“Oh, man, no way,” Terrence said. Fred and George were similarly put out. “We are not sharing our XPs with some NPC.”
“What’s an XP and what’s an NPC?” Martin whispered to the GM.
“Experience points and non-player character.”
“No NPCs,” Terrence said.
“He’s only there to provide the adventure hook and to get you out of trouble. I really don’t want another TPK. That’s total party kill,” he said to Martin. “Remember the kobolds and the fondue?” he asked Terrence.
“That was Fred’s fault.”
“It was not!”
“Or the elven archery contest?”
“That was an honest mistake,” Terrence said.
“The Forbidden Tomb?”
“Look, Mike was a terrible mapper…”
“I meant the other time…”
“Julie’s halfling was a klepto, okay?”
“I meant the other, other time.”
Terrence, Fred, and George looked at each other. “Fine,” Terrence said, crossing his arms. “But just the plot hook.”
“And to save you.”
“I’m telling you, he won’t be needed.”
“And that’s great,” the GM said. “Okay, so we’ll start our journey in the halfling village…”
There was a knock on the wooden double-doors of the fraternity house library.
“Damn it, I signed the room out for the night,” the GM sighed.
“Oh, it’s probably just Mike. He found out a new group was starting and wanted to play,” Terrence said.
“Which Mike?” the GM asked.
The knocking was louder now.
“Damn it, you can’t just invite people to the group without telling me,” the GM snapped.
“Sorry, JR, but you know how hard it is to find a good GM.”
“Fine, fine, he can join.”
Terrence got up and let a young man enter the library. “Hey, we’re just getting through character creation. We’re playing FantasyMaster 3.7 edition. Do you want to be a dwarf and join us on a quest for our lost kingdom?”
“Cool!” said Mike.
“Do you ever think we’re really big nerds?” Martin asked.
“You know, I can’t tell if that’s sarcasm with you,” the GM said, and passed Mike a character sheet.
Before he was finished, there was another knock at the door.
“Seriously? Does no one in this [expletive] house look at the sign-up sheet?” the GM asked.
“Oh, that’s probably Juan,” Mike said. “He really wants to play.”
“Fine,” the GM said.
Mike let Juan in. “Dude, you should totally be a dwarf and join our clan.”
“Okay, now I’m up to six people,” the GM muttered. “I can do this.”
Two more young men just barged through the doors. “Hey, Mike, is this the place?” said one.
“Hey, JR, heard you were running a game,” said the other.
“Mike, did you invite Mike and Steve?” the GM asked.
Mike Jackson looked only slightly ashamed of himself. “Well, no one wants to GM in the house anymore. Anyway, we’re not going to be here every week so you can just shadow run us.”
“That’s just great,” the GM said with gritted teeth. “Everyone, we’re defaulting to the ‘multi-Mike’ rule. Nguyen,” he said, addressing the new Mike who’d just walked in, “and Steve, I suppose you both want to join Terrence’s clan of dwarves?”
“Hell yeah,” they said, and sat down at the long library table with the others.
“So, did anyone else invite someone else to my game without asking me?” the GM asked.
Mike Jackson raised his hand.
“Well, I think I mentioned you were running a game, so there might be some other guys who show up. But you know, we’ve all got classes so it’s not like we’ll be here every week.”
“Oh, my god,” the GM said, and put his head in his hands as someone else knocked on the door.
One by one over the next hour, the group came together while the GM muttered expletives under his breath. One by one they handed over their character sheets and the GM typed up notes.
“Okay, everyone shut up,” he snapped. “I’ve got to make sure I’ve got all of this straight. Terrence is Thorin Oakenshield, a sixth level dwarf fighter and the last heir of the Kingdom under the Mountain…”
“I need to write that down,” Terrence said.
“Fred is Fili, and George is Kili…”
“No, I’m Kili,” Fred said. “And he’s Fili.”
“Right, right, twins who are Thorin’s nephews, and both fourth level fighters with the subclass ‘scout.’ Mike Jackson is Dwalin, a fifth level dwarf fighter from the ruined kingdom, Juan is Balin, an eighth level dwarf fighter in the advanced age category, so I’ll just have to lower your strength and dexterity stats here… Mike Nyugen is Dori…”
Some of the group sniggered.
“Shut up! It’s not a girl’s name. It’s a noble dwarf name,” Nyugen said.
“Steve is Ori, Dave is Nori…oh, you guys are just screwing with me now, aren’t you?” the GM sighed.
The trio laughed.
“Anyway, three more fifth level dwarf fighters. Amal is fifth level fighter Oin…”
“No, it’s not pronounced ‘owen’ it’s pronounced, ‘oy-n.'”
“So Mike Baker is fifth level fighter Gloin?”
“Yep,” Baker agreed.
“Eric is Bifur… Bifur. Really, Bifur?”
Eric tried to keep a straight face. “It’s a noble dwarf name,” he replied.
“Seth is Bofur… okay, that’s enough. You can’t name your character ‘boff her.'”
Seth couldn’t keep a straight face. “I didn’t. I named him ‘Bofur’ and that’s a noble dwarf name.”
Some of the other young men were trying not to laugh.
“And you guys graduated high school, right? Okay, two more fifth level fighters last we’ve got Mike Patterson as Bombur, also a fifth level fighter. Great.”
“And me,” Martin said, looking intimidated at the large group.
“Right, and Martin as the only non-dwarf of this group, Bilbo the halfling who is a third level thief. So that’s thirteen dwarves and one halfling. Seriously, guys, I’m flattered but fourteen people in a group is just enormous,” the GM said.
“Oh, you’ll figure it out,” Terrence said.
The GM rubbed his temples. “Okay, okay. Martin, I need you to leave for a minute while I catch the dwarves up on their back story. I’ll come get you when I’m ready.”
Martin was visibly disappointed. “Okay,” he agreed, and left the library.
“Okay, way back when your kingdom was the pride of the land. The mountain was also the beginning of a river. Your people were rich, like really rich, trading with a town of humans called Dale which lived by the Long Lake, and farther downstream on the Running River, trading with the wood elves of the Greenwood forest,” the GM said, showing the group a few rough sketches.
“Cool!” Amal said.
“But one day a nasty dragon…”
“What color and what age?” Terrence asked.
“An ancient red wyrm, of course.”
The group looked properly impressed.
“A dragon named Smaug got it in his head to take over your kingdom and that big mountain of gold. Thorin, your father Thrain was on the throne at the time, and your grandfather Thror was still around too. You were out with your buddies doing, I don’t know, whatever you like, so you weren’t home the day Smaug showed up. So this ancient red wyrm snuck up on Erebor…”
“Dude, no way,” Fred said. “A dragon that size can’t sneak up on anyone.”
“Okay, I didn’t mean literally. I mean he came in so fast that no one had time to organize the army to fight back. He came right in the front door, here, which was the only way in or out.”
“That seems like poor planning,” Juan said.
“Well, no, it’s great for defense,” Jackson countered.
“Except against a dragon!”
“Hey, nothing is really a good defense against a dragon,” Nyugen said sagely.
The others agreed with this wisdom.
“Right, and so the kingdom fell and only those dwarves who weren’t in the mountain at the time managed to escape, except for King Thrain and Thror. They showed up at the survivors’ camp covered in ashes.”
“How’d they get out?” Terrence asked.
The GM scribbled a note that read, “They escaped through a secret door; you can choose to tell your group about it.”
“Cool,” Terrence said. “Are all these guys in my party?”
“Well, to make it easy since there are thirteen of you,” the GM said with irritation, “I’m going to say you are all survivors and after a hundred years of living like poor peasants and having to scrape by Thorin has decided it is time to reclaim the mountain.”
“Yeah, we’re going to kill a dragon!” Terrence said.
The others enthusiastically agreed.
The GM passed Thorin another note and this one read, “Your grandfather and father died a few decades ago and the wizard Gandalf found you and gave you this map, which he said your father had. You can read some of the runes, but not all of the runes. You know there must be a key to this door, but you don’t know where it is.” The GM also gave Terrence a pre-generated map from his binder of dungeon-crawls.
“Wait, how did he get this?” Terrence demanded.
The GM just shrugged. “He’s not good at giving straight answers, but he is going to help you, and he has a reputation for helping people, or making trouble, depending on how you look at it.”
“Who’s going to help us?” Baker asked.
“The wizard Gandalf,” the GM answered.
Several people groaned. “There’s already so many of us; we don’t want to share experience points with an NPC,” was the general sentiment.
“I already told Terrence, Fred, George, and Martin, he’s just an adventure hook and there to bail you out of trouble. I don’t want any TPKs.”
There was a pause. “You’re still mad at me about the Forbidden Tomb,” Jackson said.
“That is seriously the last time we ever let you map,” Terrence said.
“Anyway, Gandalf wants to help but everyone knows thirteen is an unlucky number so he’s going to find you a lucky number fourteen, and also maybe someone with a different character class than fighter, and scout is still a fighter you two,” he said, looking at Fred and George.
“Diversity would be helpful,” Eric agreed.
“So, anyway, Terrence, you figure out how much you want to tell them about your notes and I’m going to talk with Martin for a minute,” the GM said, and exited the library.
Martin was hanging around in the pool room playing a game on his phone.
“Okay, Martin, so it’s a lovely spring day in your little village. What’s Bilbo doing?”
Martin thought about this. “He’s sitting outside and smoking a pipe.”
“He doesn’t have a job?”
“Nope. Rich parents, large inheritance. That’s why he was up to no good when he was younger, and why he’s a third level thief.”
“Okay, well, this morning an old human with a long white beard, wearing a gray cloak, a blue hat, and a silver scarf carrying a wooden staff walks up to your fancy house. What do you do?”
“Um, I say ‘good morning,’ to him.”
“‘What do mean by that? Do you mean it is a good morning, or I should have a good morning, or this is a morning to be good on?’”
Martin looked a little puzzled. “‘Um, all of the above?’”
“‘I am the wizard Gandalf.’ Roll a knowledge history check.”
Martin dropped a twenty-sided die on the pool table. “Um, eleven.”
“Okay, you’ve heard of Gandalf. He’s come through the village a few times and makes fireworks. People also think he’s a trouble-maker.”
“Oh, okay. ‘Gandalf, what are you doing here? Are you going to show off some new fireworks?’”
“‘Not today. I am looking for someone to go on an adventure.’”
“‘Well, I don’t want any.’”
Now the GM looked puzzled. “Um, Martin, you said Bilbo wanted an adventure.”
“Oh, well, yeah, but he’s not just going to run away from this cushy life just like that. You’ll have to convince him to go along,” Martin answered.
The GM blinked a few times. “‘I thought you would like an adventure,’ Gandalf says.”
“‘Oh, no thank you but come to tea if you like tomorrow,’ I say, and quickly go inside and close the door. I hide until he leaves.”
“Martin, you know he’s a wizard.”
“Yeah, but Bilbo doesn’t know he’s like super-powerful or anything.”
“I should have known better with a theater major,” the GM thought. “Alright, well, let’s go back into the library.”
The rest of the group was laughing and talking. The GM took his seat at the head of the table and set up the GM screen in front of his laptop. The group immediately quieted down.
“So, Bilbo, it’s the next day and you hear the doorbell.”
“Oh, it must be Gandalf. I didn’t actually expect him to come to tea! I open the door.”
“But it’s not Gandalf. It’s Dwalin!” the GM said.
Jackson sort of startled. “‘Oh, hey, there little fellow. I would really some ale!’”
“Oh, I guess I invite him in,” Martin said.
“Remember to describe your characters,” the GM said.
“Oh,” Martin replied. “Well, Bilbo is rotund, even for a halfling, very well dressed with a nice vest with shiny buttons to show he’s well-off, and very neatly groomed. He’s also got a lot of flowers in his house.”
“Okay, well, Dwalin has a long beard and is wearing armor,” Jackson said.
There was a pause. “That’s it?” the GM asked.
“What? I’m a dwarf. What else is there?”
The GM sighed. “Yes, you’re definitely a dwarf. Okay, Bilbo, you’ve got Dwalin settled down and the doorbell rings again.”
“It better be Gandalf. I open it.”
“And it’s Balin. Juan?”
“Oh, right. So Balin has a long beard but it’s white, like totally white, because he’s really old. ‘Hey, Dwalin, is there some ale for me?’”
“I guess I invite him in,” Martin said.
Soon all the dwarves had arrived at Bilbo’s house, and besides Balin, Bombur, whom Patterson described as “totally fat, because fat guys are funny,” Kili and Fili, whom Fred and George described as young, and Thorin, whom Terrence described as “looking kingly,” all the dwarves had pretty generic descriptions.
“And finally Gandalf shows up,” the GM said.
“‘About time! Do you know what these dwarves are doing here?’”
“‘Indeed I do. I invited them, you see. They have business to discuss, and an offer for you. Now, how about some ale?’”
“This sucks,” Martin said. “They’re eating everything.”
“Yep,” the GM agreed. “So after the party eats pretty much everything you’ve got, Gandalf calls the room to attention. ‘Well, everyone, Mr. Baggins has provided us a nice dinner, but now we get down to business. Thorin, here’s the key to go with your map,’ and Gandalf hands you a solid, metal key. ‘Thorin, you have thirteen and that’s an unlucky number, so I’ve found Mr. Baggins to join your party. He’ll make fourteen because I’m not going with you all the way, and he’s also a thief, which you’ll need.’”
“‘He doesn’t look like a very good thief.’”
“‘I’m not a thief. And what are you talking about?’”
“Right, Martin wasn’t in the room. ‘Thorin, you should explain the situation to your thief.’”
“Oh, okay. ‘So I’m prince Thorin Oakenshield. My kingdom was destroyed a long time ago and me and the survivors are going to reclaim our treasure.’”
“Oh, that’s so cool. But wait, what do you need a thief for?”
“Well, there may or may not be a dragon sitting on the gold, and we need someone with a positive stealth score to find out for us.”
“A dragon!” Martin repeated. “‘You mean you don’t know if the dragon’s alive?'”
“‘He’s probably dead. No one’s seen him in a really long time,’” Terrence said.
“Over sixty years,” the GM provided helpfully.
“‘You’ll get an equal share of the treasure, of course.’”
“Hey, no way,” said Baker.
“Don’t worry. He probably won’t live that long,” Terrence said.
The GM smacked his hand against his forehead.
Martin looked irritated. “Oh, that’s great guys, really great. ‘Well, as generous as that offer is, I’m really not interested.’”
“Well, now that brilliant negotiation has failed,” the GM said, “what are you going to do now?”
Terrence consulted the other dwarf players. “Alcohol it is! Get him loaded up and he’ll sign anything!”
Martin rolled his eyes.
“Um, ‘Mr. Baggins, you’ve been such a good host, please try a little of this as our thanks,’ and Thorin’s going to give him some liquor from his flask.”
“‘No thank you,'” Martin said.
“Actually,” the GM whispered, “it’s really bad to refuse a host gift. You don’t want that to get around the village or your reputation could go down.”
“Oh. Okay, I mean, ‘Thank you most graciously,’ and I drink the shot of liquor.”
“Okay, I’ll keep offering it until he looks like he’s about to pass out, and then I’ll hand him the contract again. ‘Come on, go on an adventure. It’ll be great, and I’m sure the dragon is dead.’”
“Martin, give me a will save with a minus ten.”
“Oh, man.” He rolled the die. “Well [expletive] me. That’s a four.”
“You think this is the best idea you’ve ever heard.”
Martin shrugged. “Okay, I guess I sign the contract. ‘Wow, this is the best idea I’ve ever heard! I can’t wait to get started! When do we leave?’”
“‘In the morning. We need to get some sleep.’”
“Okay, great,” the GM said. “In the morning, all the dwarves and Gandalf are gone. Bilbo, you wake up with a terrible headache and a note to meet the party.”
“Oh, no way, I can’t be held accountable.”
“Actually,” the GM said, “Dwarves don’t consider being drunk a reason to void a contract.”
“Yeah, we’re usually drunk,” Nyugen said.
“Okay, well, you’ve got to meet the party in ten minutes.”
“What? I don’t have time to pack or anything. Damn it. I guess I just grab my coat and run out the door.”
“Alright, and that’s where we’ll end for the night,” the GM said. “Everyone hand me your character sheets and I’ll give out XP. Next week, the party goes out to the wilderness!“