Summary: A game is less dangerous than they thought
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the S&MK universe, or any of the games mentioned. I am writing for entertainment purposes only – I don’t make any money from this. Any copyright infringement is unintentional.
Feedback: of course!
Timeline: A couple of years after the 4th season.
The marriage is common knowledge.
I just don't know, Lee. You hear things about these games, about boys getting hurt, and I worry." Amanda's face showed her concern as she looked down at the piece of paper in her hand.
Lee didn't think it was that big a deal, but he didn't like to see his wife worry. "Amanda, I'm sure it's nothing. But if it will make you feel any better, I'll go and talk to them about it, try to understand it better."
Amanda looked at her husband, and then down at the list again. Considering what dominated it, she realized she had little choice.
"Thank you, Lee. I want to get them things that they'd like for Christmas, but I'm just not sure about this."
"Come on, Lee, it's not dangerous. I mean, it's not like we're wandering through tunnels chasing after the bad guys for real."
Ouch - that was too close to home.
"It's just a game. With dice. And paper." Philip rolled his eyes as only a teenager could. "You make up characters based on the rules in the books, and take them through the DM's adventures. At someone's house, inside." he added, emphasizing the last word.
Jamie chimed in. "Dungeon Master. That's the person running the game. He knows what the whole story is, runs the bad guys, that kind of thing."
Lee thought he was starting to make sense of the whole thing. "So you're the good guys, and this - DM - is the enemy. And he makes up the story and you try and beat his system. Am I close?"
"Yeah, I guess." Philip glared at his brother as he continued. "Though some people in the party try to do the DM's job for him."
"Hey - it was my Magic Missile that stopped the evil cleric from Flame Striking the party!"
"Which he wouldn't have known to do if your Scrying spell hadn't let him know we were there in the first place, dork breath!"
"You're the one who set off his Glyph of Warding! That was way worse than what I did and-"
"Magic Missile? Scrying spell? Flame Strike? Glyph of Warding? Lee felt like a rookie at his first Crypto class. He shook his head in confusion, then decided he'd better step in and settle them down. Once the name-calling started, it wasn't long before things really got out of hand.
"Hey!" Lee nearly had to shout to be heard over the arguing. "That is just about enough of that."
Both boys muttered "Sorry, Lee," as they pointedly ignored each other.
"That's better. Now I told your mother I'd try and understand this game better, so that maybe she'd actually consider getting you something off your lists for Christmas." The boys looked at him with eager expressions, but the light in their eyes dimmed a bit at his next words.
"However," Lee paused to make sure they were really listening, "If this game causes a lot of fights between the two of you, I'm not sure I should encourage her to get you anything that might add to it."
Their responses were immediate.
"We won't fight about it, Lee honest!" Jamie started.
"Yeah, Lee, really we won't. I won't even get made if dor-" he stopped himself. "Jamie gets us all killed."
"And I won't be mad at Philip if he runs into a trap and gets us all captured, even though we told him to wait."
Satisfied that this was the best he was going to get, Lee relented a bit. He still wasn't sure what they were talking about, but at least they were talking, not shouting.
"Okay, then. I'll see what I can do. But no promises."
"Aw, c'mon, Lee. If anyone can persuade her, it's you." Philip smiled hopefully at his stepfather.
Jamie nodded, agreeing with his brother for once.
Lee grinned, and headed back downstairs to talk with his wife.
Lee looked around the store in something akin to awe. He couldn't believe how much stuff there was out there for games. And how many kinds! He saw shelf upon shelf of puzzles, cards, and board games. Dart boards and their accessories aligned one section of the wall. Several different chess sets were displayed in the front window. He took this all in quickly, his trained eye categorizing it automatically as he searched for - there! The back section of the store seemed to be his destination.
He walked back, confident that he'd found what he was looking for, but his step faltered a bit as he got closer. There were books, more than he'd expected, and on different gaming systems. Dungeons and Dragons, Tunnels and Trolls, Runequest, GURPs - the list seemed endless. Lee reached into his pocket for the boys' list, grateful that Amanda had talked him into taking it with him.
As he started to try and match up what they had written with the array before him, he heard a voice off to his side ask, "May I help you?"
He turned toward the voice. The name tag she was wearing meant that she worked there, but he was pretty sure she'd be unable to help. She was the most normal looking person in this section of the store. She was young, probably in her late twenties, blond, cute, and couldn't possibly know anything about gaming.
"Well, I'm not sure that you can," he began. "I'm looking for a book on -" he looked at the first title on the list, "Legends and Lore?" He stopped, fully expecting her to have to find another person to help him.
Seeming to realize this, she smiled indulgently. "Let me guess," she crossed her arms as she looked him up and down briefly. "Your son has just started gaming, and asked for some D&D stuff for Christmas. You aren't sure about it, but it seems pretty harmless, so you're here to get him a book, but he didn't tell you anything other than the title." Her smile grew as his eyes widened a bit.
"And now, here you are, thinking you're talking to someone who doesn't know any more about this than you do, hoping you won't be stuck here all day trying to find something you came in on your lunch hour to find. Am I right?"
He gave a little embarrassed laugh as he answered. "Almost - I have two boys, not one. Otherwise, you're closer than I'd like to admit. How did you guess?"
She laughed lightly as she answered. "It's the holidays. I see a lot of confused folk this time of year, believe me. Well, it's your lucky day. I happen to know more about this section of the store than most of the employees. I've been gaming for years."
Lee looked surprised at that, and his eyes wandered involuntarily to the group of teenagers nearby. They had a book open, and seemed to be arguing over how many "hit points of damage" something did, whatever that meant. She followed his glance, and laughed again.
"I know, I know. I'm not what people expect a gamer to look like. If fact being female doesn't fool them, the fact that I look deceptively normal does. But trust me, I know what I'm talking about." She held her hand out. "May I see their list?"
"He handed it over, still unsure that she really knew her stuff. She looked over the list quickly, nodding.
"Looks like they've been playing for a little while - most of these books are supplements, not the basic rules. Do you know if they run the games, or just play?"
Lee shrugged. "I'm not sure I know what you mean," he admitted.
"Do they play characters, or are they in charge of what happens - the plot, the monsters, that kind of thingg?"
He remembered Philip's description of the game. "I think they just play, but Jamie - my younger boy - seems to be interested in doing more. He says that there's more to the game than the 'hack and slash' that his brother likes."
She chuckled. "I know what he means. A lot of DMs - Dungeon Masters, sorry - don't think much beyond trying to kill the party." She looked at the list again, and motioned for him to follow her to a nearby bookshelf. She searched for a moment, and then picked out a book and handed it to him.
"This one should be perfect for Jamie," she said. "Lots of interesting background information, and tips on how to run a game. And this one," she continued, handing Lee another book, "should be great for that 'hack and slash' son of yours."
Lee smiled at her gratefully - this had been much easier than he'd thought it would be when he first entered the store.
"Thanks. You've really been a big help." He stopped for a moment, then decided to ask. "And you really play this…stuff?"
"I really do - have for years. It gives me a chance to do things that I'd never normally do. Well not actually DO things, but role play. It's a lot of fun, pretending to be something you aren't, getting into situations you'd never be able to in the 'real' world. Kind of like acting for those of us too scared to get on stage. It's also a great way to blow off steam - pretend the monster is whoever's bothering you, and hack away."
Her smile softened, as she continued. "And most of the gamers are pretty nice people. In fact, that's how I met my husband. Pretty strange way to meet the love of your life, I know, but we met at a game, and have been together ever since."
She realized she'd been going on, and blushed a bit, somewhat embarrassed. "I'm sorry. I said you wouldn't be stuck here all day, and then I go on. Is there anything else I can help you find?"
Lee thought a moment, and nodded. "Maybe a couple of gift certificates? That way they can pick out some other stuff to go with these books."
The rest of the transaction went smoothly, and soon Lee was on his way back to IFF. He thought back on what the young woman had said about meeting her husband, and smiled. Thinking about a certain train station all those years ago, he shook his head slightly. Not so strange as she might think.
Author's Note: I've been told it's best to write about
what you know. Any resemblance between myself and a certain staff
member of the gaming store is therefore not at all coincidental.
Just took a bit of time travel, and a hop, skip and a jump to an alternate