“Congratulations,” Greg said about thirty minutes into our game. “You’ve managed to cover just about every perceived female psychosis.”
To be clear, I wasn’t experiencing those psychoses. My newest Gamma World character was. Yes, Gamma World. (I told you. I’m addicted.) But don’t worry: Neither this game, nor the several I played before it, is taking a turn for the serious. It’s Gamma World, remember? I expect it to fly off the rails here pretty soon, just like any good Gamma World game should.
After that first session with the Wyld Stallyns that had me obsessively creating new Gamma World characters, I was invited to join Greg Bilsland’s game. Okay, invite maybe too strong a word.
“You want to crash our game?” Greg asked when I cornered him in a stairwell.
“Just for a couple of weeks,” I promised. “Until I find my own game.”
“I guess it’s okay,” he said, staring at the armful of suitably mutant-looking miniatures I cradled in my arms. “I mean you already have a character. Or… twelve?”
“Sixteen, but I’d like to create another one for this game,” I said.
That Friday, the rest of the group, which included Trevor Kidd, Josh Dillard, and Chuck Arnett, ate their Jersey Mike’s subs while Greg indulged me. Even watching someone else roll up a character can be entertaining.
Welcome to the world, Mojita Especiala, a lime green gelatinous cockroach. She’s not so much cockroach as she is gelatinous. Her blobby being was forced into a roach-shaped bundt cake pan which doubles as armor. It’s like squeezing into a pair of skinny jeans after a long workout.
“Very painful,” I explained. Not to mention humiliating should someone be in the locker room with you.
“Bundt pan armor,” Greg wrote it down. “Got it.”
I hope they like Mojita. She can’t wait to meet them.
Her soon-to-be adventuring party consisted of an engineered human named Victor XVIII (who takes his surname from the engraving on his grandfather’s tank), a barbarian chieftain ghost named Lorthog, Son of Thangdar who can only animate the body of a child-size mannequin in order to interact with living creatures, and Ragnarok a Mythic Entropic.
“A what?” I asked.
“From Famine in Far-Go,” Chuck said with pride. “He’s from the future.”
Fear of Roleplaying
At this point, the rest of the group hadn’t yet met Mojita. They first stumbled into what they presumed to be a NORAD ancillary facility in the Color Radio Mountains.
“Color Radio?” I asked.
“Yep,” Greg said, pinning a map of Colorado to the white board.
They spent much of their time previously looting the ruins in search of weapons used by the “Ancients.” A bonus find was the broken-down Apache helicopter.
“Viktor can get this working again,” Trevor said. “Viktor can do anything.”
Except figure out how to work a proper pronoun into a sentence, I think to myself. What does he think this is? Facebook?
Viktor’s two lackeys take off in search of anything that could help with the helicopter.
“I’m on it, boss!” Lorthog said, taking off.
“Me too!” Ragnarok yelled in pursuit.
Josh and Chuck are really nice guys. They’re always willing to help me judge contests or haul 1,500 shrink-wrapped posters to my car. Once Chuck even helped me weigh the pros and cons of cognac leather verses mahogany suede when I found myself in a winter boot conundrum. (His arguments for both were so well articulated, I ended up buying both pairs.) But I can’t imagine either of them are the kind of guys to call their co-workers “boss.” Especially when they’re not.
Trevor slapped his palm on the table, knocking over my d20 tower. “Hurry! We don’t have all day!”
“I’m looking as fast as I can, boss,” Chuck answered.
Wow, I thought. For someone who wants his buddies to speed it up, Trevor wasn’t exactly stepping on it himself. We may not have all day but Greg did have the room booked for four hours. What’s his deal?
Oh no, I thought. I knew exactly what his deal was. He’s too nice a guy to say it to my face. I’m what’s going on. Me barging in their regular game is cramping his style. I’m messing up their juju. Time to ingratiate myself.
“Want some Twizzlers, Trevor?” I asked. “Sun Chips? What about a King Size Kit Kat? I have two in my gym bag.”
“I’m good!” he chirped, brightening right away. Maybe just the thought of a Kit Kat is enough to lighten his mood.
Josh and Chuck bring back Viktor potential motor part like they’re offering rosemary and wine to a hearth and home god. Or Twizzlers and Sun Chips to a disgruntled player.
Not impressed, Trevor waves them away. “Keep looking, peons.” He pulls out his iPhone. Weird. My iPhone barely survived a week in the Australian outback let alone the apocalypse. But still, Trevor wasn’t acting Trevor-ish. First the sighs, then answering to “boss”, then rejecting my king-sized Kit Kat. He’s the epitome of gamer so I doubt he’s bored. Maybe it was a side effect of all this radiation?
And then it hit me. The talking. And not just the “What are you having for dinner tonight” or “Would you rather have eyes in the back of your head or a giant lizard tail” table talking I’m used to. This was relevant talking. Like important to the game talking. This was—gasp!—roleplaying!
I know what you’re thinking: “This is D&D, you big dummy!” But maybe you don’t remember my irrational fear of roleplaying and playing D&D with people who are:
- Too serious.
- Really good at roleplaying.
This is why I usually create characters that are sullen or naïve or too apathetic to talk to strangers. It’s also why I ended up taking Driver and Traffic Safety in college instead of Intro to Improv! Exactly why I could only move my mouth like a trout out of water when I stood in line to get my tattered copy of The World According to Garp signed by John Irving.
What if I make a fool of myself?
Now, these guys were not serious or jerks, but they did appear to be good at roleplaying. And I’m the new girl here. I’ve got to join them or beat it. I looked down at my freshly rolled up character sheet and thought of poor Mojita.
Oh please, can I stay? She begged. I won’t make a fool of myself!
She’s right. I can do this. I was a theater major! I love public speaking! My cat and dog have voices and at least six conversations a day! (Okay, on that note, what is wrong with me?) What’s so hard about a little roleplaying?
But it was too late. Panic moved in and tossed reason’s possessions to the curb. The guys were chattering back and forth, in character, with Greg interjecting important plot developments or story elements or Alpha Mutation cards now and again. It was only a matter of time before they discovered the new girl! Was it too late to remember an appointment with my therapist? Is it too late to make one?
“Ragarok is going to look down this hallway,” Chuck said, smiling at me.
No! They’re going to discover Mojita soon! Wait. Isn’t that the point? What am I going to say?
Greg speaks up. “You find what appears to be a laboratory at the end of the hall.”
A laboratory! I bet Mojita is there!
“Ragarok bum rushes the door to open it.”
“Give me an Athletics check.”
“You smash through the door,” Greg said, “rather dramatically I might add, and notice something scamper out of the corner of your eye.”
“Guys!” Ragnarok yelled. “There’s something in here!”
Hopefully it’s something a lot more interesting than a green, cake pan wearing cockroach. The other two guys gathered around Ragnarok among the shards and splinters from the door he knocked down.
“You might want to try the doorknob next time,” Viktor said.
After a successful Perception check, Lorthog noticed what Greg describes as “a glob of green Jell-O seeping from behind a large, busted up, walk-in refrigerator.” They send Ragarok to investigate.
The guys look at me.
“Well?” they asked.
“Well?” I asked Greg. “Am I that green blob?”
“Do you see any other green blobs here?” Greg responded. “Hello?” Ragarok asked.
Remember that episode of The Brady Bunch where Cindy was on that televised quiz show and totally froze up when she saw the red “On-Air” light go on?
“Baton Rouge!” Marcia urged from the Brady family room. “She knows this one!”
I knew Baton Rouge too, but at this moment around the conference room table the fluorescent lights might as well have been bright, red bulbs and the answer to hello might as well have been Baton Rouge. I caved to my basic instinct.
“Are you crying?” Greg asked.
Okay, back up. I wasn’t crying. But Mojita was. Way to go, Instinct.
“Why are you sad, little, green blob thing?” Ragarok asked. His sweetness almost makes me cry for real.
“Don’t come near me!” I shouted. Again, I have awesome instincts.
“Hush, little cockroach,” Lorthag cooed. “You’re okay now.”
“How do you know she’s okay,” Viktor asked. “She’s a semi-preserved blob of bug oozing out of a cake pan. Restrain her!”
“Hands off!” I shouted.
“Sorry!” said Ragnarok.
“I need a hug,” Mojita sobbed.
Honestly I wasn’t sure what was up with Mojita other than she obviously didn’t want to be a cockroach. Or gelatinous. Or committed to one emotion. I just watched a documentary about the toils and troubles of teenage girls and am still emotionally scarred from it. (I also have an irrational fear of teenagers. Especially emotionally damaged ones.) No one mutates like a teenaged girl.
“She’s clearly traumatized!” I said, then remembered I’m supposed to be in character. “I mean I’m clearly traumatized. Don’t look at me! I’m a monster!”
Ragnarok moved backwards, covering his eyes. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to stare.”
“Wait!” I yelled. “Don’t go!”
Viktor moved closer to investigate. “Who sent you? What’s your story, Jelly Belly?”
Hmm. Good question. I guess I should have assumed I’d need one.
“No one sent me!” Mojita sobbed. “Can’t you see I’m a victim here? The Ancients’ half-assed experiment backfired and left me as a semi-solidified green globule wedged into a cake pan! Who knows what they were planning to do with me.” There. That works.
“I hope they used Pam,” Chuck said.
“No kidding,” I agreed, thinking of that beautiful praline crumble that got scalped from a pumpkin cheesecake because I forgot to grease the spring form pan.
Chuck shook his head. “Rookie mistake. You should know better.”
“Ahem,” Viktor interrupted, bringing us back to the post-apocalypse. “What do you know about helicopters?”
Here’s the strange thing (and yeah, I know, that’s a pretty high bar when you’re playing Gamma World.) I know nothing about helicopters. But Mojita has the Mechanics skill. So I made some stuff up about helicopters. Conversations were had. Decisions were made. The game moved forward. No one laughed inappropriately. Soon Mojita was inching along behind the group, making moony eyes at Viktor because not only does she have severe body and self-esteem issues but also suffers from an off-shoot of Stockholm Syndrome.
Viktor may have been a bit full of himself but apparently some of that was deserving. He managed to get the helicopter working and even claimed to know how to operate its humongous rocket launcher.
“Oooh, Mojita is impressed!” I said. “Can you put on this fireman’s hat and do that again?”
Viktor declined, but I have a feeling Trevor would be all over that.
What’s a Poong, and How Do I Kill One?
Once airborne, Viktor headed toward the “real” NORAD facility using the coordinates found in a previous game. All was going swimmingly until Greg dropped some Poong on us.
“I’m sorry,” I interrupted. “Some what?”
“Poongs,” Greg repeated. “Glow dragons?”
Right. Of course.
Whatever they are, they dropped from outer space and landed on the helicopter’s skids. Their bright green orbs morphed into flying worms.
Greg spun around in the conference room chair. “They stare at you with their big, shiny teeth.” Clearly he was waiting for this part.
Viktor, our hero, critted with the rocket launcher and scored 37 points of damage to a poong. Greg responded with wonderful sound effects, first of a rocket, then of a severely injured glow dragon.
Mojita focused on the poong Viktor critted, and rolled a big, fat one.
“Sorry guys,” I sighed.
“But you get a mutation card.” Greg handed me a deck to choose from. I drew mind trick, which would grant me a bonus to an Interaction check. Helpful, if only the glow dragons understood us. But not one to let things go to waste, I decided to use it on Viktor to make him believe he’s in love with Mojita.
“Umm…” Viktor said. “You are the color of spring, Mojita.”
The glow dragons bit the chopper and did considerable damage. We were all tossed around inside. The other glow dragon hit and bloodied Lorthag.
“Well that sucks,” I said. I’m not used to how quickly characters go from full hit points to bloodied in this game. Fortunately you can use second wind is a minor action.
Viktor managed another 29 points of damage. Ragnarok scored 9 points of damage by punching one of the dragons in the teeth. Mojita finally landed a shot of her own, and bloodied it with eau de roach.
“I spit in his face!”
The guys applaud and Mojita used their positive feedback to make a very negative decision. She jumped out of the helicopter attempting to land on the back of a glow dragon. I rolled a one.
Greg laughs. “I’ll let you make a saving throw to see if you managed to hang on.”
Thankfully I rolled a nineteen.
“Mojita drips off the helicopter skids like sap from a maple tree,” Greg said.
The good news is I got another Alpha Mutation. This time it’s LMAO, a power that acts similar to the laughing gas your dentist might give you.
“Seriously?” I asked. “I’ve heard of killing with kindness, but dazing with glee? Who comes up with this stuff?”
Greg cocks his head and raises and eyebrow.
I use my new mutation on my next turn and am delighted by how deadly hilarity can be. I deal 21points of damage. And because I hit, I can use my overcharge ability if I choose.
“Only wusses won’t overcharge,” Trevor said.
“Don’t peer pressure me,” I told him. But I was so going to overcharge anyway.
How many 1’s can a girl roll, you ask? I’ll tell you. Three. I know this because that was my third. I hit the glow dragon, but I also hit myself.
“I laughed myself prone,” I told the guys. But I wasn’t out of the game. Mojita is packing hard to kill which allowed her to regain 10 hit points when knocked down to 0.
“It’s true what they say about cockroaches,” Josh said. “They can survive anything.”
That proves to be true of the whole game. We defeated the glow dragons, Mojita defeated her agoraphobia, and I defeated my irrational fear of roleplaying. As for teenagers…
About the Author
Shelly Mazzanoble has not stopped eating green Jell-O since her last Gamma World game. Is that wrong?