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the opening scene of ET is imprinted on my brain as how dnd should look

the opening scene of ET is imprinted on my brain as how dnd should look

We completed section 2 of the 5e starter adventure and the characters gained another level this week, by defeating the Redbrand gang and capturing their leader, Glasstaff.

After defeating the nothic the week before, the adventurers followed one of the tunnels that lead to the gang’s underground common room. They kicked down the door and broke up a game of dice. The bandits were tough though, and their double short-sword attack proved to be deadly for anyone they teamed up against. 4 short sword attacks can knock out any one of the characters, and both the wizard and one of the hobbits nearly succumbed during this battle.

After questioning the lone surivor of that battle they learned the leader was across the hall, so they opened the door to reveal a wizard’s alchemical laboratory with a shelf full of arcane books. The wizard stumbled blindly in, arms out-stretched and nearly stumbled over the large rat scurrying across the room. One of the dwarves stepped up and flattened the rodent of ususal size with a single blow. They opened the next door and discovered the leader attempting to make an escape so they chased him through a secret door into a hallway and to a landing with another door at the top. The wizard stopped at the door while the party, minus the wizard, gathered at the landing to fire ranged weapons.

The enemy wizard took out a scroll and cast Fireball. 8d6 damage, totalling 26. Two of the six were dropped, two others were severely damaged, one warf claeric took no damage by rolling a natural 20 on her save,and the wizard did not pile into the landing. The next round the survivros attempted to take out the wizard with ranged weapons, but failed, so the party’s wizard did a double move through the landing and up the stairs to tackle the evil wizard and grab him around the legs.

The player had two choices, he could make a double move and get a melee spell at the top, but he would have to allow the enemy to cast a spell in retaliation as the character climbed the stairs, or he cold skip magic and go for a tackle. It was a strength vs dexterity check, which ended after a quite pathetic little scuffle rolling around at the top of a flight of stairs, with the good wizard on top, and the bad wizard surrendering.

The town of Phandelver from D&D5 Starter Set

The town of Phandelver from D&D5 Starter Set


Tonight we had a good sized group of six playing, which included doubling up on the pre-gen wizard (for Dave) and we were sadly missing our second cleric and halfling, Jesus and Arya.Hopefully they will be back next week. Prior to the game I was inspired to use my various dungeon and game tiles to create the town of Phandelver for our heroes to explore.

The town is not an exact representation.Basically I just used what I had on hand o make a town-like set up, but there are some characteristics of Phandelver, such as the town green in the center, surrounded by the most prominent businesses, and the shrine to Tymora, made up of the standing stones tile. At the far end of town, you can ser the raised area upon which sits the ruins of the large estate. On the other end of town I took the liberty of including a narrow waterway that turns to swamp on the edge of town, and has a pair of brides crossing it.

But before we get to town, we had a few other housekeeopig chore to take care of. First on the agenda was to eat the delicious tacos supplied boy Dr. Khar, who plays the noble fighter Gruunhilde. They were delicious, and compared fvoribly to the healther veggie burger cooked by our humane and mindful player of the dwarf cleric. Good food all around. Dave, who was in the doghouse for missing so many weeks in a row (not to mention forming his own Wednesday night dnd group!) brought cookies and cool whip for dessert. A good combination. Thanks and you are forgiven for having pie and vodka parties without me.

Magenta Borealis by Chessex

Magenta Borealis by Chessex

One last thing of note, in honor of a new edition of the game I thought it was time to upgrade my dice. I found a perfect set of dice that look dark crimson unless light is shown through them, when they glow a purplish magenta color. They also have gold lettering and flecks of gold within them. They are among the most beautiful dice I have ever owned, and I am glad I picked them up. They seemed to roll ok too, I rolled at least one natural twenty.

So I announced we had a bit oh housekeeping to do – we left off last week right after the bugbear leader of the goblin ambushers became charmed by the wizard. I think the party thought they won and we would move on from there, but oh no, any time you have an evil charmed monster, it is a dicey situation. For one thing, the charm only lasts an hour, and the recipient of such charms always remembers being manipulated afterwards. They wanted to pump him for information and then slit his throat I am sure.

The problem was, Klarg treated the wizard as an old friend, but he was dismayed that his friend had fallen in with such a terrible group that included dwarves, the bugbears sworn enemy. What complicated matters even further was that they needed to find out where their boss, the DWARF Gundren, had been taken. The rest of the party hd outside in the hallway (guarded by Klar’g wolf) while the wizard questioned the bugbear alone in his chambers.

When the wizard slipped up and said that Gundren was his friend and employer, I had him roll a Charisma check. He rolled a natural 1. He has a -1 Charisma modifier. It was a zero. But this was a contest, so the bugbear only had to beat a zero on a d20 roll for a wisdom check to unearth the wizard’s secret love of dwarves. He rolled an 18. I don’t know when was the last time some one rolled a zero, maybe never. Needless to say, it ended in violence. The bugbear screamed in rage and after confirming that the wizard was indeed a dawrf-lover (he was) the bugbear attacked and amazingly missed every time, while the party eventually hacked off the wolves head and came to his rescue. In the middle of the battle the halfling rogue managed to calm everyone down, and agree to a cease-fire, then attempted to stab the bugbear in the back, and missed! They eventually took him down, and only learned the name of the place Gundren was taken- Cragmaw Castle. Fun times.

They collected the loot from the goblin ambushers, which amounted to twenty or so crates marked fr “Lionshield” and also Klarg’s personal stash of loot which didnt amount to much. (There are too many healing potions given out in this adventure.)

One other interesting note, is that when first entering the caves,v they found a group of wolves playing with a freshly severed arm. This turned out to be the arm of the retired officer Sildar, who was saved, and his arm re-attached, though the cleric needed to keep constant care over the arm for it to take. Sildar gave them some info on the ride into Phandelver, something about a wizard he was looking for who was meant to establish order in the outpost. He also said he thought Gundren had found the entrance to a legendary lost cave that had a magic item creation forge within, kn0own as the Wave Echo Cave.

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They arrived in town as the sun as setting, and paid to have their ox cart looked after while they took rooms in the quaint inn. The next day they visited each main locale, turning in the stolen goods, the caravan goods, spaking to the mayor about takin care of an orc band on the east road. The priestess of Tymora asked them to take a jeweled comb as a gift to a banshee in a ruined tower in hopes of learning where a wizard’s spell book might be found. there were a few other quests given out, such as finding a druid in the abandoned town of Tree-something, where the ranger has family, and a personal quest to slay the dragon who resides there. Dragon?!?! The druid might know where Cragmaw castle lay.

A few of the townsfolk offered them entry into certain groups, such as the Harpers, and a few others, if they complete their quests for them. The last place on the list to visit was the Miner’s Exchange, which was down the street from a rough looking tavern known as the Sleeping Giant. Four ne-er-do-wells were lounging outside the tavern calling the group a bunch of puppies. When the proprietess of the Miners Exchange offered them 10 gold for the head of the local gang’s head, a fellow named Glasstaff, the party was ready to oblige. Thus began a street brawl against the original four members of the Redtails, plus four more who came charging out of the tavern.

Fighting the Shirt Tails in Fandango

Fighting the Shirt Tails in Fandango

The fight was quick and deadly with both sides using cover and concealment until it ended up a knock-down brawl in the center of the street. One wizard set a few of them on fire with his flaming hands (does not alight clothing or equipment, but mentions nothing about charred corpses) while the other wizard turned one into a quickly melting ice sculpture with his ray of frost. That particular wizard appears to think he is a chicken, even though it has been repeatedly pointed out that he is merely wearing a feathered cloak and orange tights. One of the thugs managed to run off with a shout that he would warn the boss.

After the fight, a crowd had formed and cheered on the group. A halfling child (quarterling) told them he knew of a secret entrance to the basement of the ruined manor house,where the gang had their headquarters, so the group immediately set out (after a short rest for second wind and regaining a spell slot.)

The halfling led them to a dank tunnel stretching 100 feet into the hillside. He declined the offer to lead the way stating he is just a kid! Sheesh!

O NO NOT A NOTHIC

O NO NOT A NOTHIC

The tunnel led the way to a large natural cavern partially worked. There was a chasm cutting across it, two bridges crossing the chasm, and two pillars holding up the high ceiling. It was totally dark, so only the dwarf and elves could see. The dwarf cast light on the nearest pillar, which revealed a dark shadow crouched behind it. The shadowy figure ran into the nearby corridor. the entire party gave chase and made it halfway across the nearest wooden bridge before it collapsed under their weight. The only one to avoid the fall was the dwarf at the edge, who leapt back onto solid footing.

At this point everyone thought they were dead. It was pretty funny. But then I let them know the chasm was only 20 feet deep and covered with jagged rocks. They took some damage, climbed out, and did battle with the strange creature known as a Nothic.The text in the monster section describes it as being a corrupted wizard, but the picture looks like a crazed reptilian beast with a single huge eye almost as big as its head. It can cause those it gazes at to have really bad stomach cramps. It umped in and out of the chasm but finally the group was able to slaughter the foul beast and found its treasure chest, which included a magic sword, Talon! the noble fighter claimed the blade and we ended there for the night. Great game!

orc or pie or both

orc or pie or both

This week was our second time playing the newly released edition of dnd, as we make our way through the Starter Adventure with a big ol’ group composed of pregenerated characters. Three human fighters, two dwarf clerics, two hobbits, and a wizard made up the adventuring party, and they stomped the living daylights out of the goblin hide-out.

On the menu was the same as last week, with the addition of some fine pies, which casued a bit of internicine drama actually, which I shall briefly lay out for purposes of faithful recording and due diligence. Amongst the pies were a fresh-baked apple pie to die for, and my favorite flavor, key lime. When I was a kid we spent a year in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and we had a key lime tree in our yard which hooked me for life. I love how palm trees grow in the sand, but I digress. There may be others out there in this crazy place we call the city, who have the ambitions to exploit my social experiment (NEVER split the party!) and my right to pie for their own nefarious purposes, possibly to throw vodka-soaked parties. This week at least, my defenses held strong, and I won the pie. In the battle for hearts and minds and stomachs, pie is like a weapon of mass digestion.

Anyhow, I just hit publish instead of save, so I am going to edit and wrap this up real quick by saying that the party of 8 managed to escape a flood trap, slew the tribe of goblins, and charmed the hoblgoblin leader for complete victory. Along the way, they found and saved Stilgar, and may even have successfully re-attached his severed and gnawed arm, but it will require more divine intervention.

Great game so far. The battles are quick yet deadly. The mechanics seem for the most part to be intuitive and take a back seat to the role playing. The personality traits section continues to be my favorite new thing for this edition, and I need to push the players to make better use of it. Perhaps when they make their own characters they will be a little more invested in the bonds, flaws, and traits, although everyone is doing a great job of role playing the pre-gens, so I shouldn’t complain.

It was a great night of pie and elf games.

dnd5e01

In a great intertwining of destinies, this Friday saw the combination of the celebration of the birth of America combined with the birth of the new 5th edition of the worlds most unbelievable game, dungeons and dragons. What better way to celebrate than to invite friends and family over for a gathering of fun, food, and fiery explosions both mythic and real. On the menu were grilled dogs and burgers, a house specialty.

The new edition of the game fifth edition began its staggered publication schedule the day before, July 3, by releasing the “Starter Set,” containing a player booklet, a DM’s adventure, and 5 pre-generated characters for adventure from 1st to 5th level. It also contained a set of cool blue swirled dice, which I decided on the pot would go as a special prize to whomever “won” dnd that night.

The Starter Set offically comes out two weeks from now, but select game stores received an early shipment to promote brick-n-mortar sales. Good on them for that, and because it allowed me to get the game early. Game Cafe in Independence had one copy left when I called them around lunch time, so I rushed over to pick up my copy. Close call! They held it back for me, and it turns out another box of twenty had come in by the time I arrived, so there was probably never any shortage. It was a long wait that came down to the wire!

Our group has been waiting impatiently for the new edition for over two years. When 5th edition was announced, we were just finishing up a 2 year 4th Edition D&D campaign. I don’t know if “finishing up” is the correct term, but the 4e game ended shortly after the announcement. For the next two years we played various shorter 3-6 month campaigns, tried out a few different games, and playtested each new packet of the massive “D&D Next public playtest” as it was released. Now that time comes to an end as we ease our way into the new Edition — hopefully the last new edition before I die, and also hopefully a great enough version of the game to quell the edition warring which mars our hobby.

dnd5e02

Besides the Starter Set, the Wizards of the Coast also released a completely free online pdf formatted “Basic Rulebook” which contains everything “Essential” needed to play the game. To me, it is a combination of ideas. The first idea is the original Basic D&D, which is a paired down version of the game, less complicated, with fewer rules, fewer options, and greater reliance on imagination and storytelling. The second idea is that of the “Essential” line of game books late in Fourth Editions run, where the creators attempted to re-invent the game in a more condensed, cheaper format. Ease of use and low cost are “Essential” components of the new fundamental “Basic” ruleset, in other words. Works for me!

There will be many more words written about the Starter Set and the Basic Rules, so this article is about playing the game, after only a few minutes of perusal but years of wait, instead of going to see fireworks. That’s right, at 10 pm a vote was held to decide if we keep playing or break up and check out the nearby fireworks display, and in one of my proudest moments of gaming, the enthusiastic result was to keep playing which we did until close to midnight.

Philanderin’ towards Phandelver

Someone had to make the joke. So the adventure starts out on the road, ambushed by goblins. Hilariously for this encounter I pulled out the poster map from the first encounter from the first adventure from Fourth Edition, where the party is ambushed on the road by kobolds. The map worked perfectly. Now, as I am an evil dm, I oftentimes feel the need to add my evil twists to the adventure. In this case, we had a party of six adventurers, doubling up on the halfling rogue, so I added two goblins, making it a 6 on 6 fight, instead of the 4 goblins the adventure recommended. In addition, since half the goblins were armed with short bows I had them up in the trees with 3/4 cover. These tweaks made the battle significantly harder.

The cleric and wizard began the encounter in the wagon leading the oxen, with the rest of the party walking along-side. Those two took two rounds worth of arrows before they even had a chance to react, the cleric by dropping to the ground to rescue one of the halfling rogues, and the wizard by hiding under the tarp. Unfortunately his shape under the tarp was still discernible and he took another feathered shaft in the rump while trying to hide like a thief.

The other rogue was a homicidal maniac and when all was said and done she (being my wife) had delivered the killing blow to 3 of the 6 gobbo’s. Both fighters acquitted themselves well, but had to contend with poor dice rolling for most of the battle. No treasure was mentioned so I gave each goblin 1d6 silver to be looted. The weapons and armor were poor quality. After investigating and resting for an hour, they had learned that the dead horses used to block the path during the ambush were the horses of their employer and his bodygaurd who had ridden ahead. They were dragged off into the woods by way of a “goblin trail.”

The goblin cave entrance

The goblin cave entrance

Here the folk hero fighter, played by one of our newest members, took the lead and using one of his flaws, he decided to forget about being careful and to push along the trail as fast as possible. This led to him being caught in a snare. Again, being the evil dm, I could not leave well enough alone. I described how the trial wound through a stand of trees with hideous long thorns all over their trunk. Just then the folk hero stepped into the snare and a tightly bent tree flung him into a thorny trunk, and he took a point of damage, before the rogue climbed up and carefully lowered him. By the book, anyone caught in the snare only takes damage if they are not carefully cut down. Too easy!

The folk hero decided to press on! He only slowed his pace a little bit, but it was not enough to spot the hidden pit! He took another 1d6 falling damage, and then stepped back from the point position. (I was going to make it spiked but at the last second was like “too much.”) For his efforts he was the only character to receive an inspiration point during the night of adventuring.

Just around the bend they saw a stream pouring out of a cave entrance. Here they were ambushed by two goblins with short bows and scimitars, who were carefully concealed behind thick briars. Even though there were only two of them, they caused quite a bit of damage before the cleric was able to leap the stream and start bashing in skulls with his great hammer. The other goblin was taken out by the folk hero, ho after damaging his bow, pulled out his sword and attacked. He missed, but used his inspiration point to give himself advantage, and his reroll struck, slicing the goblin in twain.

They pushed into the cave and at the first side passage, the rogues crept ahead and found a chamber with three growling wolves chained up. They were fighting for a scrap of meat, which turned out to be a freshly severed human arm. The adventurers had to get that arm, and the found a way to distract the wolves long enough to get it. It turned out to be the severed arm of the bodyguard of their boss. Uh oh.

They also leveled up after retrieving the arm. I think I might have leveled them up a little early, but they made it through 3 tough encounters and were pretty much spent. Besides it was a great way to end the night. Everyone had a super fun time and we are all totally stoked about the new edition. Oh and James, who played the folk hero fighter, was the winner, and walked away with the set of dice for his excellent role playing and for gaining and using his inspiration point. The homicidal hobbit came in second because child-like serial killers are scary.

Welcome to Taco Hell this is Satan. Can I take your soul please?

Welcome to Taco Hell this is Satan. Can I take your soul please?

With the imminent release of a new edition of my favorite game, it is time to renew the covenant. As an avowed DM4LIFE I need to play dungeons and dragons to live. When I first discovered dnd as a kid, I had an epiphany that playing dnd could bring world peace if everyone could play, and ever since then I have attempted to spread the faith, for decades now. That means finding people willing and able to suffer my presence and (lack of) skills. Note the subtitle of this blog. I prefer to think of my tenure as dungeon master as a comedy of errors, but I am easily amused.

So in the coming weeks I will actively be searching for 1-3 like minded people to join our regular Friday Night Games, from 7 pm to ? (10:30 pm max, usually), in the Northland Kansas City Missouri area. That was the plug. This blog gets 60-100 views per day on average (more when I am better about posting.) This is I guess my form of social media. If I had a facebook, which I don’t and never have, because it is just a fad, then I would post a picture of the awesome grilled burgers and brats we ate last Friday with a shout out to come over to my place on Fridays for this and more. Oh this blog might be linked to google+ too.

Ya so there’s that. Feel free to pass this along. Our group is a mix of spouses, friends, kids, and friends of kids. Age range is me (42) to as young as a teenager or two. There are all types of people who make up good game groups. From dnd enthusiasts, to game enthusiasts, to people who just like to have a good time and be social and laugh and be stupid, and our game group is made up of just such. For me right now though, to find a few more people who genuinely want to play dungeons and dragons is the goal. I like to play with a larger group, 6-7 or even 8, for reasons that are probably selfish and vain, but my enthusiasm really does seem to make up for a lot of my failures.

One idea under consideration is petitioning any and all members of my “original” game group back in the old days. Little hope of that working, since they all turned their backs on the game as adults, the traitors! Ben (said WoW destroyed imagination, really I think it was because I killed his paladin in 8th grade), Roge (a pastor now?) Guitarist Chris (in Cali), football Chris (?), Billy (?), Steven (no way), Monte (prolly dead), Khar (oops already playing) Sean (ok this I have to think about), is that all?

Another idea to consider is calling up old members of the Encounters groups I used to DM for, first at Game Cafe in Independence, and then from Basement Games. Steve, Ron, Steve, roy, Steve, Bill, Will, John, Jake or new Jake, or Jake’s friend the lawyer whose name I can’t remember. There are so many. It seems like it would be easier to find people to haul their asses on over to my house week after week, but they just keep slipping through my fingers like the sands of time.

So what is the new EPIC campaign? Well as soon as the new Starter Set comes out, we will play the introductory adventure therein contained. That does not sound very revolutionary, or epic for that matter. Quite mundane in fact. OK but that is just to get a taste of the new rules. This few week period, until the release of the Player’s Handbook, in August or whenever, will be for testing and learning the new rules. When the PHB comes out, and the full character list is available we will roll brand new characters for the epic campaign:

New Campaign in Hell

New Campaign in Hell

One night, the character’s home town is cursed to the bottom most pit of Hell. The characters must attempt to save their friends, family, and neighbors as they search to find an escape through each of the 66 layers. The detials aren’t finalized but each level will be a unique world with its own dynamics, and not all will seem to be Hell at all…. at first. The object of the campaign will be to survive and escape each level while defending the town.

This is a combination of ideas. I have always wanted to do an Underworld type game, either striking down, or better yet trying to escape. Then whilst playing Dragonlance this past year, it has been surprising how well the players respond to saving the pepole in their world when they have connections unlike the usual “murder-hobo” tendencies. That idea was combined with a season of Encounters a few years ago (Dark Legacy of Evard) which included a cursed town which descended into the Underdark every night. The result: The character’s home town cursed to the bottom most pits of the Abyss. Not all the characters have to be from the town, but there has to be some connection.

Some of the details are still sketchy, like how the heroes will travel between the town and the adventures, and will the town rise up through the layers as the characters do? How will the town receive supplies? We’ll see…

tree lizards

tree lizards

This recap is a day late and a dollar short, due to a sudden obsession with wining a cultural victory in CIV IV on monarch level. So far I have not done it. But I have a plan this time. It includes Pericles. Athens, Sparta, and Corinth will blaze with the glory of our heroic rise to perfection. But enough of that.

We started the night with a draconian ambush, which was hilarious because the players instantly accused me of falling back on the lame encounter I so deftly spiced up last week. Unfortunately, no, this is merely yet another squadron of dragonborn out to get the heroes at every turn. I can only assume that by the end of the series our heroes will each personally have slain hundreds of draconians.

The battle was unusual in that Caramon used his brother as an improv hurled weapon, to knock the draconians out of the trees. He did indeed hit one and barely managed to catch his fall, but was dismayed to learn that the draconian merely hovered in the air near where he was knocked off the branch. So that is what those wings are for!

They passed through the sla-mori, found the super sword, but ran into trouble when the sword SERIOUSLY did not like traveling with the TWO baby black dragons in the party. One familiar, and one tamed by rolling a 20. So far the dragons are staying 30 feet away from their owners, but it is merely a temporary solution.

Then they somehow ran into the midst of 40 zombies. 40. The midst. Everyone fought tooth and nail, and were each surrounded, alone with 5 zombies to contend with. Somehow, against all odds, it looked like thy would survive, as the heroes were whittled down to single digit HPs. Then Raistlin, who had defeated his zombies with a well placed Flaming Hands, got cocky. He was attacked and torn to shreds (-5 HP) in a savage zombie attack, just as the last remaining undead were being carved into pieces.

Fightin' youths

Fightin’ youths

I told this story during the last game night, and it received enough laughs that I thought it would be worth sharing to a wider audience.

I have some experience wielding polearms, both as a hobbyist and professionally. I learned to fight with medieval weaponry as a kid growing up, and I had a chance to use my skills one day during Basic Training after I joined the US Army Reserves. This is the story of how that all played out.

While growing up in the 80’s, my friends and I discovered D&D, the Renaissance Festival, and the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) at about the same time. This triumvirate of awesome led us to spend a summer building weapons out of dowel rods, foam pipe insulation and duct tape. We primarily built swords with increasingly complicated hilts, but we experimented in other weaponry as well, including various pole arms built using long curtain rods with paper towel rolls duct taped to the end, and other embellishments.

For one full summer we battled it out in the yards of our neighborhood, suffering minor scrapes and cuts. No bones were broken but there were a few concussions, and once my friend Billy got knocked out by a savage blow to the temple. These were serious fights that took place at full strength. We had rules about fair fighting, which saved us from the worst injuries, but we were a tough group of kids not afraid to hit hard enough to make the other cry.

The amazing thing about this summer of melee is that we actually began to develop fighting skills. There were times when a bout would last for more than a few seconds, as we learned to position, feint, deflect, and wait for openings. I enjoyed dueling with long and short sword, but my specialty was the pole arm.

Life went on, and we grew up and out of our combat phase. A decade later, at 26 years old, I found myself newly married, about to be father, and I joined the Army Reserves. (The exact reasons for this are still obscure.) One fall day I set out for Basic Training, and spent eight weeks training with a great group of young men and women, most of them straight out of high school. One of these fine folks was a fellow named Richard Faith. He came from central Kansas, and he had to get a special waiver to join the army. His only available career path was as a boiler-operator. He was also my battle buddy, meaning we did everything together, and had to look out for one another. This big old corn-fed galoot was as big hearted as he was big boned, but he struggled mightily to pass all the requirements of Basic Training that would allow him to serve in the Army.

Faith had to stay after every night at the shooting range to try and get the required “Sharpshooter” badge. He had to run two miles every single day until he could get his time below the maximum. Both of these things he only passed on the day of graduation by the narrowest of margins. While we were getting our dress uniforms on, Faith was out shooting and running his two miles through the snow. When a drill sergeant entered our dressing room to tell us Faith finally earned his badges, a cheer went up. His graduation was truly an achievement, and though I never saw him again afterwards, I am sure he went on to become a success. I have rarely met another with as much grit as he had.

Faith had problems. He was slow, both physically and mentally, and had a hard time in stressful conditions. When it was our day to throw live hand grenades, he had to go around with a big white ‘X’ chalked on his helmet to let everyone know he was NOT ALLOWED to touch a grenade, god save us all.

One day during Basic Training, the drill sergeants led us out onto a playing field, and we all gathered around in a ring. The boxes we brought along were opened to reveal protective equipment as well as big double-ended padded pole-arm like training weapons. Here we go! I thought this would be a chance to really show off some of my skills. The fights were fun, with people cheering and calling out, and finally it was my turn to go.

I stepped out into the circle carrying my pole arm easily, doing a few tricks, spinning it, and moving in different attack and defense poses to the delight of the recruits. Faith eventually got his helmet secured and grabbed his pole arm. I was smiling, having a good time, and I moved into a position with the pole arm held out and up with both hands, ready to deflect and defend against whatever Faith could throw at me.

Little was I prepared for the mad attack Richard Faith unleashed. He held his pole arm like a giant club above his head and charged straight toward me at top speed with a guttural howl. I was surprised but moved into a position to easily deflect his crude blow, only I did not account for the superhuman strength of an enraged Faith who battered my weapon aside with a mighty sweep and them began to beat me into the earth. It was all over in a matter of seconds.

I stood up shaky, and as the sergeant held up Faith’s arm in victory, I shambled back to my place in the circle, bruised in more ways than one. Everyone around me clapped me on the back and said how great it was that I let Faith win. I just nodded, still stunned, and still trying to make sense of what happened. I still think about the episode from time to time, and there are many lessons I have taken from it. One lesson I learned is that getting cocky and underestimating your foe is a huge mistake. Another thing I learned is that victory will go to the person who wants it more, and Richard Faith, though he may have been lacking in skill and ability, made up for all his short-comings with a surplus of drive.

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