By Jon Antonsen, Resident Dad uploaded at 8:41 a.m. on Monday, April 16, 2018.
Rise of the Shitlords is a recount of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign that I run with some friends. Our players have been transported from their homeland of Sand Point to a different universe contained within the bowels of the Lost Coast Catacombs. In search of the last Guardian of the Gates, our players are engaged in an interplanar cat-and-mouse chase through spacetime to capture the she-demon Nualia before she unleashes the World Eater unto the universe—destroying everything for a thinly-veiled promise of power in the new world that would come.
In our last installment, our heroes were frozen with the threat of execution. While under the influence of a spell cast by Leo, the party’s big stupid fighter Mices experienced unnatural lust for the captain of Talos 13, Captain Yu. Humiliated in front of his guards, Captain Yu ordered his guards to arrest the players, but Mices escaped before Captain Yu was able to cuff him. The danger of a buff, alien, humanoid thing running amok aboard his space station was enough to drive Captain Yu to escalate the situation by ordering the party’s execution.
That’s when Leo saved the day with his cognac-induced luck. With a silver tongue, Leo tamed the fury of Captain Yu. In exchange, each party member, by order of Captain Yu, was required to wear an explosive collar. If any party member transgressed the rule of the station, their heads would explode.
With this caveat restricting their freedom in the station, each player moved cautiously to enjoy their time on the station. Maer’n and Leo were hired by a butchery to prepare eel-meals, Kaye and Davor left the Med Bay to get wasted on Pangalactic Gargleblasters, and Leo… well, Leo is where our story begins.
Leo entered the Library of Talos 13, hoping to learn more about the technology and culture of these humans, however what he discovered has shocked and appalled him. Within the library was a large conference table and using the conference table was a group of employees playing some sort of game. Leo thought nothing of it at first and began to search through the endless volumes of the Library.
A female with red, curly hair began to speak.
“Alright you guys, you’ve travelled through an interplanar portal; a long, blindingly blue tunnel shot you guys through space and contorted your bodies. A light at the end of the tunnel appeared and began to increase in size until… Y’all were spat out onto a forest floor at great velocity, rolling across fallen leaves into tree trunks and bushes. Your heads hurt and your eyes are blurry. Upon recovering, you notice that you aren’t in Sandpoint anymore,” a girl with red curly hair shouted.
Leo fixated on one word: “Sandpoint.” That was his hometown.
She continued: “A vast, vibrant green jungle surrounds you on all sides. A beast roars in the distance, a large millipede scurries across Maer’n’s garb and disappears under a bush, and a large multicolored bird caws. You take a minute to gather your bearings, but it isn’t enough time: a beast roars again, this time closer.”
Leo’s eyes widened at the word “Maer’n.” These were all words he knew.
Shaken, Leo approached the table, still dressed in his roguish garb. “What are you all doing?” asked Leo.
Without looking up, the curly-haired Dungeon Master said, “We are playing Dungeons and Dragons, the greatest roleplaying game on Earth! I don’t mean to cut you off but—”
She then looked up and saw Leo.
“Holy shit! Did you see our sign on the bulletin board?” she exclaimed.
Leo was frozen with cognitive dissonance.
“Hey, to make you feel more comfortable, let’s get you introduced to the gang,” she said, pointing at the woman next to her.
(Out of game: each of my players have requested to stay anonymous in these articles, thus this allusion will be more complicated to deliver: The names of each of the characters in this scenario who are introducing their characters in their game share the last names of each of my players.)
The woman next to her introduced herself and her character, “I am Elise, and my character is an elvish bard named ‘Maer’n’!”
The woman next to her went afterwards: “I am Karen, and I play a big, human incel [sic] fighter named Mices!”
The rest of the table continued to list off their characters which bore striking resemblance to Leo’s party members. Then came the last one.
“I’m Melanie, and my character is a rogue inspector named Leo,” she said while taking a swig from her imaginary flask. Leo fingered the cap of his flask. His face turned white.
“Hey, you look kind of like my guy!” Melanie exclaimed to Leo, flipping her character sheet over to reveal a portrait of “her” Leo.
Leo took the portrait. It wasn’t skillfully drawn, but all his physical idiosyncrasies were present: his flask, dagger, bow, even the flap wherein he stores his coin. With dread, he flipped over the character sheet of Melanie’s “Leo” to descry the forbidden fruit. His terror was amplified when he saw the stats, inventory, and abilities of “Leo.” This character’s inventory was very similar to Leo’s, and its skills and abilities were incredibly similar to the real Leo’s own evaluation of himself.
Generally, cognitive dissonance can resolve itself. Take, for example, the classic Aesop fable regarding the fox and grapes: the fox wants a low-hanging bunch of grapes, however the bunch is just too far out of his reach. The fox then rationalizes that he doesn’t want the grapes anyways because “grapes are sour.” It is well known that grapes aren’t sour, but the fox has rationalized this because he couldn’t reach them.
The situation wherein Leo found himself was nothing like the fox and the grapes.
Leaving the conference table, Leo huddled in a corner of the library.
“I’ve got to destroy the station.”
As he completed that thought, he found himself losing consciousness. This was not due to the trauma which he had just experienced. Kaye, Davor, Gerald, Maer’n, Mices, and Three Shiv Mac also found themselves losing consciousness.
Leo, alarmed, tried to move around and reverse this condition to no avail. The last thing he remembered was an alarm blaring, bright explosions, and a voice saying “we have to get the aliens to the air ducts—the Wyrm are going to kill them!”
Tune in to the last issue of the University Register to hear the exciting conclusion of Rise of the Shitlords.