Way back when I was in college, every May on Victoria Day weekend, my friends and I would head to Ottawa for a gaming convention called CanGames. For three and a half days or so, you could indulge in playing a wide assortment of role playing, table top strategy, and board games. Whether you were into fantasy, spies, super heroes, outer space, battle bots, World War II, or any other genre, there was something for everyone. Not to mention, a good collection of dealers, plus several evening auctions sure to leave your wallet feeling much lighter.
We would typically arrive on Friday at 5:00pm for the grand opening, to ensure we received our weekend passes, and information kits. Eagerly, we would look at the schedule, and then as quickly as possible try to book ourselves into any games and tournaments we had not already pre-booked ourselves into. By 7:00pm that evening, the first events would start, and so our sleep deprived, caffeine cranked long weekend would begin.
One of the most anticipated and difficult to get into annual events was called “Gap Jackson’s Killer Dungeon”. For this event, you had to design a 20th level Advanced Dungeons and Dragons character, with a full list of items and spells you wanted, for whatever character class you chose. You were also allowed to have any magic items that were listed in the Dungeon Master guide, no matter how powerful the item was, so long as your class and level could use that item. And therein lay Gap Jackson’s evil genius, for legend had it that no matter how powerful a character you designed, if you survived the first round, you were doing well.
With about thirty or forty players gathered around the table, Gap Jackson’s first action of this tournament was to declare: “OK, anybody who has an item that belongs to a God, Demi-God, or Demon, make a saving through versus your Endurance, or you’re dead.”
Amidst a loud uproar of “That’s not fair!” from a surprising number of would-be 20th level heroes, Gap Jackson would reply: “What did you think would happen when a deity discovered you hold one of their prized possessions?
And so, that fighter who thought it would be a great idea to have Thor’s Hammer? Gone! That evil mage who thought it would be fun to have Beelzebub’s ring of soul stealing? Gone! If by some miracle you survived the pissed off deity’s wrath, you certainly lost your most powerful magic items by the end of round one.
My approach to building my character was much more modest. I just wanted to have some fun at this difficult to survive annual event, so I created a high level thief. My character was based on a fun-loving kender named Tasslehoff Burrfoot from the Dragonlance novels. Brave, endlessly curious, and kleptomaniacal (“Gee, how did this beautiful ruby end up in my pocket?”), kenders make perfect thieves. Most of my magic items were very modest, but the one that proved most useful that day, was a “portable hole”.
For those of you who’ve never played D&D, (or watched Loony Toons as a kid), a portable hole acts much like a large circle of cloth on one side. But when the cloth side is laid down on the ground the topside acts like a hole that is deeper than a person could climb out of.
After seeing more than half a dozen adventurers get blasted in the first round, I decided maybe I should just hide under my handy-dandy portable hole. Seeking a judgment from our game-master, Gap Jackson, I asked him: “If I take my portable hole, with the hole side facing upwards, and draping the cloth side over me, could I just crawl around, holding the very edge of it, dragging it around as I sneak and peek my way around the battle field?” Gap Jackson’s ruling was in my favor, he could not come up with a reason why I could not do this.
And so came part two of my sneaky plan. Safely tucked underneath my now truly portable hole, I began to make my way around this battle royal. Seeing an enemy engaged in battle not too far from me, I moved closer, and told our game-master: “OK, now, I move just behind my enemy, and slip my portable hole under him, so that he falls in.” Gap Jackson grinned and said, “I’ll allow that, but, my bad guy gets to roll the dice, minus a penalty because he’s so surprised to have a hole appear suddenly below him.”
This led at last to part three of my plan. On my next turn, I asked Gap if there was a nice little cliff nearby. Looking at the map, Gap Jackson replied, “Yes, you are just a few meters from one. Let me guess, you want to move right next to the cliff, stand up, and turn over your nasty portable hole, and dump my bad guy over the cliff?”.
Of course, that was my plan, and so Gap said, “No problem, my bad guy does not have anything to grab onto. He goes over the cliff, and now he’s dead, or at least badly hurt and out of commission for the remainder of this adventure.”
I had found a strategy for my character to survive Gap Jackson’s notorious Killer Dungeon. However, because I could not actually see very well underneath my portable hole, Gap sent me away to another room, in between rounds. “Your character can’t see much beyond the little peephole you look through when you lift the edge of your portable hole, so, I don’t want you knowing what else is happening around you. More realistic for you as a player that way.”
And so, when it was not my turn, I was banished to another room. To this day, I have no clue what else happened, what the overall plot was, and what the other characters did during the rest of Gap Jackson’s Killer Dungeon. But I had tons of fun dumping eight bad guys over a cliff, slowly and one at a time as I inched my way across the hectic battle field, and watching Gap Jackson laugh his ass off each time and saying to me “You again!? Yeah, yeah, I know what your action is for this round: Dump and crawl, dump and crawl.”
And that folks is how my character Tasslehoff Burrfoot not only survived, but took home a medal for third place in Gap Jackson’s Killer Dungeon.