Crag considered the older man at the head of the huge table. He appeared at least 20 years the senior of Andre and his friends, yet unlike the youth Crag saw at Louie’s, they respected their elder.
The Elder sat in a black leather spinning chair. He was overweight and moved stiffly. He seemed frustrated at his lack of mobility and exhausted from handling something heavier than his girth. The Elder’s face lit up when he saw Crag’s face. It was almost in recognition of who Crag really was, but the Elder played along. The Elder introduced himself as Mike, but Crag thought the Elder was a more fitting name for him.
Crag was the newest player so he would have to create a new character. He thought making an orc would be a little too on the snout so instead he chose a dwarf. Dwarves like rocks, his name fit. He would portray a Dwarf warrior, there were no further classes which interested him.
A board was set out before them with squares plotted out and scenery added. Each of the character figures stood on the board next to one another. Kermit’s wood elf bard was painted green with brown clothing. Crag reached out and grabbed the tiny elf. The material felt flimsy, but at the same time strong.
“What is this?” the orc asked.
Kermit responded. “It’s my character. He’s a wood elf bard, remember?”
Crag nodded. “I do remember, I mean, what is the character made of? Is it magic?”
Kermit inhaled in thought and exhaled. “Well, I mean, I suppose he could cast magic, music is magical in and of itself isn’t it?”
Crag crinkled his brow. “I suppose.” He set the figure back down, unsatisfied with his answer. He felt like what the figure was made of was probably a question he should know undercover.
“Plastic,” Mike the Elder said. “As opposed to lacquered wood. That’s what Crag was asking.”
Kermit bopped himself in the forehead with his palm. “Duh! Sorry C. I misunderstood.”
C, Crag thought. Strange.
Wrench placed his gnome inventor and behind the gnome he put a larger figure. Wrench said, “Crag, look. My character just created a suit of armor for another character to use in battle. The problem is, it might break if luck is bad or it takes too much damage. Isn’t that so cool?!”
Crag nodded. “Yes, it is… cool.”
Near a blue spot on the board, Fish placed his figure. “This one is my rogue. Since he is a merfolk he has to stay near water unless he brings a bunch with him on an adventure.”
Crag sighed, “… cool.”
Andre placed his halfling character with a slingshot on the board. He didn’t offer an explanation.
Rant placed her paladin the furthest to the right on the board, but not far from the rest of the group.
Crag bared his teeth in his whimsical thought. He asked, “Rant, does your character mate with Andre’s character?”
Rant and Andre exchanged intense stares. Eyes all over the room looked at one another. Everyone except Andre burst into laughter. The laughter initiated a coughing fit in Mike. Andre gained back a bit of enmity toward Crag in his embarrassment. Rant stroked his leg and kissed him on the cheek. Andre blushed harder.
Minion’s half-orc healer stood on the far left of the group. Minion said, “My character stays to the rear of the battle to make sure no one dies. He keeps everyone in sight so he can heal them as they fight.”
“An orc relishes battle,” Crag said.
“Mine does, but he realizes that his place is supporting his family from behind to ensure their safety.”
Crag grunted and placed his unpainted dwarf warrior in the middle of the group, careful not to knock over the other figures with his giant fingers.
The Elder said, “I play the role of Dungeon Master. Basically, I’m telling the story the players are engaging in. I have thought of the enemies the group will face this time around and I’ll be acting on behalf of your adversaries.” The Elder pointed to the other pieces on the board.
Crag crinkled his significant nose and nodded. “Let us begin.”
An hour later Crag was not interested at all. His dwarf warrior kept running into battle and slaying whatever necessary enemies were in his way with perfunctory healing by Minion, support buffs from Kermit and ranged support from Andre. Rant’s paladin stood back and allowed Crag to do most of the fighting in what the group called “leveling up.” She only stepped in to help battle more powerful creatures such as the Beholder, which was a floating eyeball that fired psionic blasts.
Crag’s dwarf almost died a few times attacking the Beholder, but luckily Minion kept him alive long enough to finally destroy the Beholder with help from Rant.
The problem for Crag, there was no stakes. Crag didn’t care if his board dwarf lived. To be fair, he wouldn’t have cared if he had been playing an orc character. He could easily imagine fighting a Beholder because Torxania had something similar called a Mind’s Eye which only differed in that it created fire from its eyes. Crag was able to slay the Mind’s Eye creature more easily than this Beholder, but that didn’t make the board Beholder any more interesting.
The players finished the campaign and hoped that Crag was satisfied. He grunted. “This pastime does not appeal to me. I have engaged in battle, pretending to battle does not excite my imagination the way the real thing does.”
The other players looked at him incredulously. Crag remembered he was supposed to follow his back story. “What I mean to say is, the uh, Legend, of Torxania was a much more physical game. We played our storyline, but we actually fought one another.”
Wrench patted Crag on the shoulder. “We have just the game for you.”
Kermit smiled. “You ever hear of ‘dagorhir’? It is kind of like this, except you wield a sword, or axe or shield and you attack other people to win.”
Crag’s orcish grin was almost scary. Crag stood. “That sounds like a game, much more my interest. Let us play.”
The humans looked out the darkened window. “It’s getting late man, we should get going,” Andre said. “I should probably take you home before mama has a fit. I have school in the morning.”
Crag nodded. “I understand.” He thought about whether Andre would want to mate with Rant before they left, but he felt that best left unasked from the last time he brought it up unannounced.
Mike, the Elder, stood shakily and took a few steps toward Crag. “Thank you… so much… for coming. It has been a pleasure knowing you….” Crag thought Mike was going to add something, but he didn’t.
“Just knowing you,” Mike said. Mike offered a handshake.
Crag wrapped his giant hand around Mike’s and shook it once, possibly harder than Mike should have shaken. Crag sniffed at the air. He said, “Elder, you are sick.”
The left side of Mike’s lips quirked. “Yeah, I don’t like to talk about it. I’m only 35, but I’m in pretty bad shape. I had liver cancer. Something in my genetics. I don’t have long to live.” Mike straightened his shoulders. “But believe it or not, Crag, you have made my life worth it, at least in one way.”
Crag asked, “I am honored. In what way do you mean?”
Mike shrugged. “Maybe we can talk about that at a later time.”
They turned from one another. Kermit put a hand on Crag’s arm. “Buddy, you are going to have such fun. We have a group of folks, dudes and chicks who play dag with us. We’re preparing to go to Ragnarok. It’ll be amazing.”
“Ragnarok? That sounds orcish,” Crag said.
Minion said, “It’s Norse. It’s the name of their final apocalyptic battle.”
Crag’s orcish grin was even scarier this time. “That sounds wonderful. I can hardly wait.”