It occurs to me that I may have lost some of my readers because I’m a nerd and assume everyone knows how role-playing games work. Luckily, the internet comes to the rescue. Knights of the Dinner Table is a good resource. But there’s also Dead Gentleman Productions. Here’s a link to a five-part series (combined into one convenient video) that should give outsiders an idea of how gaming works (it does have some bad words). This is also a bit deliberately exaggerated for comic effect, but I’ve played with gamers like this.
"I don't want his pants. I just want to steal his pants."
Chapter 7: Queer Lodgings
“Well, this is a bigger group than I expected,” the GM said. “Did word get around about last week’s adventures?”
The assembled players looked at him.
“Well, hell, if you roll like you did last time,” Mike Patterson answered, “We’ll be rolling in XPs.”
“Okay, but I’m not promising anything.” He surveyed his players. In addition to Mike Patterson, the regulars of Martin, Terrence, Fred, and George were present, as well as Juan, Seth, and Dave. “So, when last we left our intrepid heroes, you’d managed to not get killed by goblins, not get killed by dire wolves, not get killed by fire, and get rescued by giant eagles. You’re through the mountains and on the ground.”
“But we don’t have any food, any water, or any transportation,” Terrence grumped. “And we’re in the middle of nowhere.”
The GM sighed. “Gandalf tells you he can do one more favor for you. ‘There’s a fellow around here named Beorn who may be talked into helping us.'”
“Just one guy?” Mike asked.
“Yes,” the GM answered hesitantly.
“Well, there’s fifteen of us, so why don’t we just jump this guy and take his stuff?”
“Hey, that’s a good point,” Seth said.
The GM sighed deeply. “Gandalf tells you that Beorn is a were-bear, and has a kinship with bears. He’s very dangerous.”
“Great! More XPs for us!”
“Mike, what’s your alignment?”
He looked at his character sheet. “Um, neutral good.”
With great patience, the GM replied, “Uh-huh. And what about ‘neutral’ and ‘good’ makes you think it’s appropriate for Bombur to suggest killing an innocent person and looting his stuff?”
“Um, well, um… Fine. I guess.”
“Right, so here’s the plan. Beorn doesn’t really like company, so Gandalf is going to introduce you in small groups. He’ll go first with Bilbo, and then you come in pairs about five minutes apart.”
“But that’s seven and a half groups,” Juan said thoughtfully.
“Bombur can show up last and on his own,” the GM said.
“Because he’s fat?” Mike asked sourly.
“Dude, you wrote it on the character sheet.”
“It’s supposed to be funny.”
The GM shrugged. “Whatever. Anyway, Gandalf leads you through the foothills of the mountains.” He rolled his die. “And you reach a valley with giant bees, fields of flowers, and tame animals without any trouble. ‘Beorn takes good care of his animals and will defend them,’ Gandalf warns you. He takes Bilbo and heads to a large, long, wooden cabin.”
“We’re not going to have to listen to you talk to yourself for like, an hour, are we?” Mike asked.
The GM rolled his eyes. “No. Do you all show up like Gandalf says?”
“Bombur isn’t staying behind on his own. He goes with the last group anyway.”
The GM made a note. “Okay. Well, Beorn looks human but he’s over seven feet tall, with black hair, a black beard, and wearing crude burlap clothing. He looks really strong.”
“Huh. Guess it’s good we didn’t attack him,” Mike commented.
The other players kind of shook their heads at him. He didn’t seem to notice.
“Anyway, Gandalf managed to talk Beorn into letting you stay the night by telling him about your adventures.”
“Well, a place to stay is better than nothing,” Terrence sighed. “Still doesn’t get us supplies.”
“Beorn is going to feed you.”
“Yes!” Martin said.
The others gave him a disdainful look.
“What? Bilbo is very food-centric. I’m sure if Nguyen was here, Dori would agree.”
“Well, you all sit down at dinner, and Beorn starts telling stories of his life in the mountains.”
“Do we have to listen to those stories?” Mike asked. He was playing a game on his phone.
“No,” the GM sighed. He looked at the rest of the group expectantly. “So, Beorn seems to know a lot about this area.”
“Can he get us some supplies and transportation?” Terrence asked.
The GM looked crestfallen. “Gandalf will talk to him and see what he can do. So, do you just have dinner and go to bed?”
“Well, there’s nothing else to do,” he replied.
Martin sighed. He understood that the GM was hinting that the party should actually talk to Beorn, but again, he felt Bilbo wouldn’t speak up.
“Okay, you go to bed. Nothing happens during the night, although when you wake up in the morning both Beorn and Gandalf are gone. But there’s food waiting for you.”
“Well, that’s something,” Juan said.
“Does anyone want to do anything today?”
“Are we going to fight anything?” Mike asked.
“Probably not. You’d have to go a pretty good distance to get to an area with random encounters.”
All the players except for Martin sighed.
“I don’t think I’m even going to need my dice,” Seth muttered.
“Okay, so Gandalf doesn’t come back until sunset.”
“Bilbo asks him where he’s been,” Martin asked.
“He tells you all that he’s been following Beorn. It seems Beorn went to check on the story Gandalf told him and tracked all the way back to the burnt clearing. It also appears he collected several bears with him to take out the remainder of the goblin raiding party.”
“Wow, okay, I’m glad we did not attack this guy,” Mike said.
“Dude, no one was voting for that except you,” Juan snapped.
“What? XPs are XPs.”
“Beorn comes back at dinner,” the GM continued. “‘A very good story, Gandalf, a very good story,’ he says. ‘The leader of the goblins is dead. Many dire-wolves are dead. And many goblins are dead. I don’t typically care for dwarves nor do I understand your love of gold, but I will give you supplies and lend you the use of my ponies to take you to Mirkwood forest. You can keep the food, but send the ponies back.’”
“Alright, free supplies,” Fred said.
“That’s not too bad for a boring session,” Mike muttered.
Seth nodded in agreement.
The GM glared at them. “So do you do anything else tonight except have dinner and go to bed?”
“Not much else to do,” George replied with a shrug.
“You don’t want to talk to Beorn?”
“What does some backwoods hermit know about slaying dragons?” Terrence asked. “He already said he doesn’t care for dwarves. Why waste time?”
The GM sighed. He skipped several pages in his notes. “Okay, so you leave the next morning to go to Mirkwood forest. The forest is home to a kingdom of wood-elves, but they tend to keep to themselves. Some kind of evil has infiltrated the forest that the wood-elves haven’t gotten rid of, so it’s pretty dangerous.”
“That’s what I’m talking about,” Mike said.
Seth nodded in agreement.
The GM rolled his die. “And nothing bothers you on the way to the forest.”
All of the players except Martin were visibly disappointed.
“The road into the forest is marked by two giant mostly dead oak trees. The forest is very thick and the only clear path is the road. Gandalf says, ‘You need to return the ponies now.’”
“What? No way, dude, why would we do that?” Terrence asked. “I don’t want to walk through the evil forest. I mean, I’m fine with random encounters, but I know how you roll some nights and we’ll get killed if we don’t get a move on.”
“Roll a perception check.”
Terrence rolled his die. “Eh, 12. Not so great.”
“Can we roll?” Fred asked.
Everyone rolled their die, but only Martin rolled high enough to get a text message from the GM.
“‘You’ve noticed a large bear following you since you left Beorn’s place. For such a large animal, it’s pretty good at hiding.’”
“Um, Bilbo thinks we should let the ponies go,” Martin said.
“What, why?” Terrence asked.
“Gandalf says, ‘Your burglar has better eyes than you do. Beorn has been following us, and he will be most upset if you don’t return his ponies.’”
“Oh, fine,” he said. “Well, at least we’ve got food. Unpack the ponies.”
“Gandalf says, ‘This is as far as I’m going with you.’”
“What? I thought Gandalf was here to keep us alive,” Terrence said.
“You want him to stay?”
“Why?” Mike asked. “There are still fourteen of us. We’ve got a few levels now. Terrence’s dwarf has a magic sword and the halfling has a magic ring. We should be fine. We don’t need to share our XPs with the wizard.”
“That’s the first thing you’ve said tonight I agree with,” Terrence replied. “So does Gandalf have anything to tell us about this forest?”
“Gandalf tells you not to drink any of the water in the forest, and to avoid even touching the water of a large river that you’ll run across. And most importantly, do not stray from the road. Some ancient magic still protects the road, but if you leave the road, you may never get out of the forest alive.”
“Isn’t that the way it always goes?” Juan sighed.
“Alright, next up, you get to enter the evil forest,” the GM said.
“I hope it’s more exciting than spending two days with an NPC,” Mike said acidly.
The GM glared at him. “Don’t worry; there are plenty of dangers in the forest. Even the wood-elves could be dangerous. They aren’t evil, but they don’t like strangers especially since their forest is slowly turning evil.”
“Good! We need more fights.”
“Okay, if that’s what you want…”