By Daniel Brown
Paradise is table-top gaming
Four adventurers set out on a noble quest to rescue their friend from mysterious forces.
Floating intangibly in the space above and yet also alongside and within them, four players sit around a table. Some are eating chocolate, some are eating chips, and one guy got the bright idea to pour Mountain Dew over his chips and eat the lot out of a small bowl. Over and above them, and yet alongside them and disgusted by this green bowl of soggy potato, is the God of this world; he who holds all the cards and rolls the dice without explaining what it was for. This being has no character in the story for they are every character, their will be uncontainable within a single shell; call them Legion, for they are many. In combat they are the hydra, the many headed foe. Slay one and two more shall take its place. In a tavern they are every barmaid and every patron, and they are endlessly propositioned. They oversee a map made of squares, and it is here that our adventurers find themselves.
A dwarf, two humans, and a half-elf enter a bar. It isn’t a joke, this is just how every quest begins. They are sitting on their high, wooden bar stools, ignoring every lead supplied to them by their God. The half-orc at that table in the corner who looks angry about something? They’re fine. The mysterious juke box that started playing when they entered the room? Sleeping dogs, they say. Instead, they have begun a spirited deconstruction of their characters. The dwarf is detailing their family history going back generations, and in chronological order, while the half-elf is responding to direct questions in as evasive a manner as possible yet being sure to interject cryptic statements into others’ conversations. They order another round of drinks.
‘That’ll be five gold pieces each.’
‘But the first round was free!’
‘Aye, but I liked you then, and now I just wish you’d get a move on with that quest o’ yours.’
‘We buy them anyway.’
Above them, their players are getting a look from the DM, who rolls on a random encounter chart.
Back in the bar, a loud crack like Thunderclap erupts in one part of the room, but only the four adventurers seem to notice. They stand up from their stools (‘Finally’), and walk towards the centre of the 10ft bludgeoning damage-ed area. Before them is a large, blue and purple ball that appears to have come through the ceiling. The dwarf asks the room how many sides it has, but fails his Intelligence check, and so they do not know. The party moves closer to investigate and finds that alone a member can cause it to move, a little bit.
‘What if we shove it?’
‘Is that an Athletics roll?’
The party line up on one side of the object, with the strongest in the middle and the half-elf on the edge so that they can run from any danger (they are hesitantly assisting). The surface of the object is smooth and slippery, made of a substance none there can identify. The dwarf and the half-elf give each other a look.
‘Alright then, let’s do this.’
The party shoves, and shoves, and the many-sided object begins to turn, rolling over into a new position. At that moment the dwarf is struck by a sudden realisation: they now know that this is a d20, common in taverns as an aid to role-playing games, and that its position can determine the success or failure of any venture.
‘Interesting,’ they say.