“Um… Okay. You’re standing at a crossroads. You see before you a mist rising from the marsh.”
Duncan stared out above his screen, only his eyes visible to the players crowded around the too small table. To his left was Mark; a Half-Elf Thief unimaginatively named ‘Marc’, a surly sort, always looking over his shoulder and muttering to himself, then came Xander as ‘Rogkar’ the Dwarf, a Warrior whose great battle-axe was nearly taller than he was. On the right sat his brother, Aaron; playing an Elf Predator Druid named ‘Sinese’ currently in her Tiger form and next to him sat Bryon with his Human Paladin, ‘Adama’, complaining about both the Half-Elf and the Dwarf incessantly.
“I don’t want to go into the marsh.” That from Mark. Or ‘Marc’. Sometimes it was difficult to tell which was doing the whining.
“Coward!” bellowed Adama, slamming his hand down on the table and causing everything to jump and shift slightly to the left. Duncan hated that name. He wanted to force Bryon to change it to something less Battlestarish but he was afraid that ‘Starbuck’ was next on his list of names, so he kept his mouth shut.
“Do you have to hit the table?” asked Xander as he scrambled to reset the minis on the map.
“I say we send the Thief into the mist – he should be right at home sneaking through the dark!” Adama again. Bryon rarely broke character during a game.
“Sinese purrs her agreement,” said Aaron.
“I’m bored!” Mark whined. He was the youngest of the group, only just thirteen. Duncan and Xander were fifteen, Bryon fourteen and Aaron thirteen and a half.
“Come on Mark,” Duncan pleaded. He really wanted this campaign to move forward. He had plans. Serious plans. Plans within plans. It had to move forward! “You said you wanted to play.”
“It’s stupid,” Mark complained, thudding his head on the table. He muttered something else.
“What?” Duncan asked.
Mark looked up again. “I said I wanna play Xbox.”
“What is this ‘Xbox’ the fiend speaks of?” shouted Adama. “I know not of such things! Surely it is some evil witchcraft! BURN HIM!”
“Are you always a douche or only on Fridays?” Xander asked him. Bryon’s eyebrows drew together but he said nothing, simply crossing his arms and leaning back in his chair.
The group was falling apart! It was up to Duncan, the Dungeon Master, to pull them together again.
“Why do you want to play Xbox, Mark? This is soooo much better than any Xbox game!”
“No it’s not!” Mark whined. “I want HD graphics and explosions and monsters!”
“But, this has all of that and better!” Duncan countered. Mark looked unconvinced. Duncan took a deep breath. “Look, your imagination is better than any old Xbox graphics! Let me paint a picture for you; You are standing at a crossroads. The night is cool, the air crisp and clean. To your left you can hear the music from a lively inn. The air carries to you the scent of roasted pork and sweet apple wood burning on the fires. You can just make out the glow from those fires beyond the curve in the road. Before you, the road trails off into a misty covered marshland. You hear the sounds of crickets and frogs and smell the musty/wet scent of old growth and rotten, decaying foliage. Down this road is the half-sunken temple of the old King Dorain, his wealth legendary, his obsession with protecting that wealth overshadowing that legend. Rumor has it, that temple is guarded by the undead, Zombies who want nothing more than to eat your brains. To your right, the dirt road becomes ancient stones five paces wide by five paces long. It stretches on as far as your eyes can see and deep into the distant mountains, leading into the West and becoming the Road to Faloan, seat of the High Elves and their massive forests.”
Duncan looked each of his players in the eye. Aaron sat with his mouth open, eyes wide and filled with excitement. Duncan could only smile at his little brother, proud that he had awed him so. Byron had a similar expression on his face, eyes wide and mouth open. To his left, Xander sat with a smirk on his face. He alone, as Duncan’s best friend, knew the work that had gone into this campaign, all the hours he’d spent, research he’d done. Duncan nodded to him and Xander nodded back. Plans within plans.
Then he looked at Mark, who looked like he swallowed a bug.
“See? If you use your imagination, there is so much more possible! There really is no limit!” Duncan pleaded with him.
“That’s stupid!” Mark cried. “I don’t wanna use my imagination – I wanna play Xbox!”
Duncan hit his head on the table, then tossed a die on the table, not even bothering to see how it landed. He muttered to himself.
“What?” Mark asked.
Duncan looked up and shouted, “A DRAGON SWOOPS DOWN AND EATS STUPID MARC IN A SINGLE GULP AND THEN WINGS AWAY WITH A FULL BELLY AND A SMILE NOW GET OUT AND GO PLAY XBOX!”
Mark exited quickly, slamming the door to the basement as he hit the landing above. Duncan looked over his screen at his remaining players. They were each staring at something of interest on the table before them so they would not have to meet his eye. Duncan picked up his dice, rolling them over in his hands. “Okay, so, you’re standing at a crossroads in stunned silence at the pointless, sudden and violent death of your comrade. You see before you a mist rising from the marsh…”