Openning at SLIP - screened Blue Lobster and played games

30thJun. × ’08

the plan:

Friday June 27 - Fast Times at Junior High revisited
short films: Junior High School Peanut Butter Animation, Deep Springs College Labor Video, Brown University Peanut Butter Dancer Video
performance: Play Dungeons and Dragons with the MASTER, and fight the DRAGON!!!!

the reality:

short films: BLUE LOBSTER (the cut that begins with Henry Chamberlain auditioning for a work-sensitivity corporate video about PMS and Hemorrhoids) and FRITZ DONNELLY WILL NOT SUBMIT HIS FILM TO THE FESTIVAL (starring Seth Ludman) and BERTOLOTTI’S ICE CREAM COMMERCIALS (starring the junkyard dog) and EN AMERIQUE a surreal wedding video shot in the Hamptons - the Deep Springs college and Brown University videos have temporarily disappeared, clamour and we may find them.

performance: A bunch of people who had never played Dungeons and Dragons before and a couple of people who had, a collection of strangers, made characters and did some amazing things. Eyal’s character jumped on a fire ball without burning himself and rode it through a clearing. He amazed the goblins in the trees and made them dig in the ground until they made porridge. Clint’s CENTAUR ran into the clearing and fell into a pit trap and was almost killed by two tiny green gilled men inside. Even though they were only 3 feet tall and his character was eight or more. His character has a Charisma of 3. Annie’s HALFLING THIEF snuck around and stabbed one of the goblins in the back. They wore long knee high socks. She didn’t take these but took a brass armband. She also didn’t take the necklace of preserved rat heads the goblin was wearing, though Christina liked these. Christina also liked the scaly arms that the these little fellows achieved by cutting a hole in the back of a fish, hollowing it out, and pulling the skin onto thier arms so that the fish mouths served as cuffs. Christina’s character was later taken over by Paris who described the character as a “sweaty politician from Connecticut, as long as he’s surrounded by people he feels just fine and won’t do anything.”

The game started by each person rolling 3 six sided dice and adding up the results of each role and assigning them to six attributes.* Then the player choses a class (an occupation) and a creature type (human, elf, centaur, etc.). After that you just listen to the Dungeon Master (Fritz) describe the setting and then you describe what your character does. It’s group storytelling with some loose rules and a reward system for resolving conflict creatively.

// * Three attributes describe the character’s physique: Strength, Dexterity (nimbleness), Constitution (hardiness, health). Three describe the character’s mentality and presence though the way the character is played greatly influences these things: Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. //

Back to the action. As soon as the group arrived at the clearing Annie’s friend’s GNOME tried to detect if their were creatures with bad intentions lurking around. It seemed like a good place for a trap, and it was a trap. He detected about 8 creatures who were lurking in the woods around the clearing. But nonetheless the centaur ran into the middle of it. Jesse’s ELVEN MAGE cast a fog spell. A mist bubbled out of the ground and enveloped most of the characters including the nice new guy who arrived at this point and played a CLERIC so he could heal people in case they got hurt. The people in the fog were hidden but they also couldn’t see out. Like life, Dungeons and Dragons is full of these little trade-offs. In H. G. Welles’ Invisible Man, only the man’s chemistry is made invisible, so to be unseen he must be naked, and since he’s from northern europe he spends a lot of the novel shivering in the woods. Anyway Jesse’s mage crept to the edge of his fog so he could see what was happening in the clearing. I can’t remember who threw the rolling ball of fire; it may have been the nice man’s cleric. In the end the Centaur crawled through a tunnel and jumped into an underground pool to swim and emerge on the other side surrounded by more 3 foot men with fish cuff arms who flung stones at him. He only had 1 hit point left (out of 10) and would have been killed by the stones but Jesse’s mage, now being played by Clint as Jesse had to go to bed, cast a telekinesis spell. I had earlier stipulated that this spell could move 10 pounds. Jesse’s mage used it earlier to shake a goblin out of a tree. The goblin fell ontop of Eyal’s surprising character. When I first asked Eyal what race he wanted to be, he replied “a plate.”
FRITZ: “A saucer?”
EYAL: “Yeah. Spinning around so fast and whoosing everybody up.”
F: “Isn’t that a little asocial. You won’t have a mouth. It helps to communicate in this game. Wouldn’t you like to talk to people?”
E: “A flying saucer, i’ll fly around.”
F: “How about some arms and legs?”
Eventually we compromised on his character’s race: human being.

I used to play this game with a group of friends when I was in Junior Highschool. The game has a strange reputation. It varies from a kind of goth-nerd cross obsession, to some kind of Cloak and Dagger renenactment troupe, to a fantasy gang just like the bloods and crips but with robes and cloaks instead of red checked shirts and blue bandannas. It isn’t any of those things. It’s group story telling in the fantasy milieu. It’s more like Harry Potter mixed with gambling and free association. I was clique-less in school
but I was an athelete. The guys I played the game with all went to another school full of strange new girls you’d never met before. Somehow there was plenty of time to chase after these girls, swim in the lake (you’d come out green) and still play this game all night long. That was the ‘weekend,’ what a great invention. We’d often walk three miles to the grocery store to eat 4am donuts. Somehow there was always a factual argument along the way about something that none of us had any facts about. Like if you had a sliding glass door to outer space and you stepped out would you explode or implode? Shouldn’t you explode because there’s so little matter in space? It’s basically empty. Don’t molecules spread out to distribute evenly in a given volume? Brownian Motion. Yet it seems that things float around in space just fine. The planet stays together, comets drag a bit but stay on course. Mark Twain’s comet has been coming back every 75 or 76 years and it holds together. [If you edit a blog post a month later does it pop up as a new post and leave it's place in the chronology? I might like to edit some of this later. It may be a little "talky" for my taste.] So maybe you don’t implode or explode, you just float away on the same momentum that pushed you out into space in the first place. This could be a friendly discussion but of course somebody’s friend’s father was an astronaut so all kinds of evidence is brought into the conversation. But nobody’s friend’s father is an astronaut are they? What are the chances of that? We lived nowhere near an airport, much less a space launch pad. [Remind me to put episodes of Astronaut's Diary online.]

So the Mage rolled a 17 on 3 six sided dice. It was actually me rolling, and that’s a pretty difficult role to make. You see Christina’s character–later played by Paris–is a good example of what can happen when you roll these dice. All of her rolls were between 9 and 12. These are the most statistically probable numbers to arise and they mean that your character is totally ordinary. If I’d put this to Christina a little more gently she might have stayed in the game longer. She’s a wonderfully creative person and makes things up all the time, you’d think Dungeons and Dragons would be in her nature. I heard her answer the phone today with a quack. Or an oink. The sound of a kind of happy but puffy animal moving into a smaller space. Like the noise in someone’s mind when they move from their farm in Alabama to an apartment on the Lower Eastside. There’s pleasure in that sound too, but it’s mixed with other things. I once played Dungeons and Dragons with my mom and sister and let me tell you when I killed the donkey, their donkey, it was all over. Anyone who likes mystery novels would like this game. I think there’s a place for group visualization and storytelling, not just in movietheatres. I think that will be a new form of entertainment in the future, or that technology will facillitate a rather old form of entertainment. It’s all hapenning inside a person’s head anyway, might as well amp it up a little.

So Jesse’s elven mage as played by Clint, saw 17 of the 18 stones that were flung at him and the centaur. He redirected the stones so that they fell on the little creatures in front of them who had surrounded them with spears. Then the centaur leapt over these creatures, over a barricade where the little kobolds who had thrown the stones were hiding, and up a steep hill. He stopped at the top, Jesse’s elven mage on his horse back, and saw the castle. The castle ruins that the group’s secret treasure map indicated. Annie’s friend had taken a clever diplomatic approach. He had bargained with the little kobolds, for they were kobolds, a small cunning and cowardly creature who has a good fashion sense and a flair for outrageousness. The kobolds agreed to back up the group and to show them a secret way into the castle, if the group would destroy the knee-high sock wearing goblins who had been opressing them. This is much how Genghiz Khan took over the world. In most of the new cities and kingdoms he approached he first contacted the most opressed people, often religious people or people of another kind of minority, and offered them asylum if they would rebel. They didn’t need to rebel until his force was already in a superior position. Annie’s friend’s character enlisted a couple dozen of the kobolds to back them up. The game ended with the ambush thwarted, none of the main characters dead or too angry at one another, and a horde of little green people with fish decorated arms and long spears looking around nervously.

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6 Comments

  1. admin
    Posted June 30, 2008 at 3:08 am | Permalink

    photos by A Jesse Jiryu Davis

  2. Posted June 30, 2008 at 3:56 am | Permalink

    Yep, that’s me!

  3. Posted June 30, 2008 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Oh, except the shot of Seth jumping off a rail is by Simone, using my camera.

  4. Posted July 1, 2008 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    d&d recounting is a great idea. We should all live in Eyal’s world.

  5. Posted July 1, 2008 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    I love it. D&D recounting that is. We should all live in Eyal’s world.

  6. Posted July 1, 2008 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    What? There is a moderator? I thought this to a democracy! DOwn with…ompgh my voice was silencemph…

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