"I'm sorry," Lou corrected himself with wry sarcasm. "That's Ennie award winning writer John Ling, isn't it?"
John smiled quietly and said "And don't you forget it, bitch!"
Thus was the atmosphere on Saturday night when Conflict-RPG founder Mark Scott, gaming associate Marco Orapello and I sat down to demo Conflict-RPG with Werecabbages John Ling and Lou Argresta. The beautiful Library of the historic Canterbury Hotel was filled with portraits of George Washington, stately oak furniture, and about 20 gamers who had come to watch the long anticipated match. It was going to be an interesting night.
Lou showed up in a bright orange suit and top hat, looking much like Willy Wonka after accidentally falling into a vat of orange creamsicle. John, on the other hand, wore a modest t-shirt, jeans and a cap. Both had their tactics and their game faces ready, and both were out for blood. They'd been waiting to meet on the battlefield for months, and now they had their chance to back up their long running trash talk with some dice rolls.
Mark took his seat at the GM's chair and announced the match type. "Tonight you'll be playing Brother's Keeper. Geo, you're on John's team. Marco, go with Lou."
Brother's Keeper. Two to a team, each player with a ring of shield other they can activate for three rounds. Scoring a revenge kill brings your brother back to life. The object is to eliminate the opposition.
Lou had his character ready, a human wizard. John took the half-elf ranger. Marco and I grabbed the halfling sorcerer and dwarf monk, respectively. I thought to myself, this was going to be fun!
The round started with John and me on the roof of our keep. Marco was inside the building on his side, and Lou placed his wizard boldly on the battlements, in plain sight of the ranger. True to his boasts, Lou made sure to let us know his character was wearing nothing but a gold scale loincloth and an amulet.
We rolled initiative. It was me, then Lou, then Marco, with John in last.
The monk took his move first. A quick +20 to jump from his ki pool and a 56 on his jump check took him easily across the tops of the pillars, just in time to catch Lou's wizard shaking his loincloth brazenly at the opposition."A small loincloth," John added.
""That's because he keeps it coiled up under there," Lou clarified to our horror, and then cast invisibility.
I realized later that had John been just a little quicker on initiative, a few arrows would have ended this feud on round one.
Then all was silent. John waited quietly on the roof while I went in to flush the casters out. They were busy casting buffs.
It was a tense few minutes of searching before a giant frog popped up in front of my monk. I knew Lou was a conjurer—I had built his spell list—and was a bit surprised. A giant frog was hardly a threat. The monk squashed it underfoot with an attack of opportunity… and it became a cheetah. I had forgotten about Lou's quickened summons. It was a ruse.
Now the enemy launched their attack. While John was waiting on the roof, one of the casters decided to lob a scorching ray at him. The fight was on!
The bucket of Coronas between us was slowly emptying, and the battle map was slowly filling. The next few rounds saw a swift retreat back to John's side, where he swung a rope around in a desperate attempt to strike something invisible. Everyone was silent as Lou made his next move.
""I cast Summon Monster IV!"" he proclaimed, and placed another token on the map. John and I were on the roof dodging spells while Marco and Lou flitted about invisibly, hurling rays of every sort at us. Below us, Lou's summoned cheetah was scrabbling its way up the walls of the keep. And now a triumphant Lou opened up a Pathfinder Bestiary to show us the next challenge he had planned.
It was a hound archon.
Despite standing toe to toe with an augmented celestial wielding nothing but a longbow and leather, John stepped back calmly and made a perception check.
""That's a nat 20!"" he smiled.
Mark pointed to the corner of one pillar. " "You hear the mutterings of arcane magic coming from this area.""
John loosed a volley of arrows. Even with the effects of a ray of enfeeblement and an invisible foe stacked against him, his ranger was potent. Two arrows struck their target. Now there was blood, enough to make Marco's begin to sweat.
But now John was backed into a corner on the roof of a building, with nothing but a dwarf monk standing between him and a greatsword wielding celestial dog. And it was Lou's turn.
""Boom… boom… BOOM!""
Something was barrelling our way, and it occupied a 10 foot square. Another hound archon, but this one was bigger, faster, and covered in glowing shields.
""Go, my faithful archon!"" Lou said— he was thoroughly in character at this point—""and destroy them!""
The archons, now joined by an angry cheetah, swarmed the group. The monk alone couldn't hold them off, not with DR 10 and augmented summoning on their sides. Stunning fists bounced off their hides, and disarms were futile. A natural 20 pounce from the cheetah was followed by bites from the hound archons, and it was all over.
Lou Argresta was victorious.
The two writers stood and, with a spirit of gentlemanly competition, shook hands across the table. John's ego was unbruised despite being beaten by a man in an orange suit. Winning an Ennie probably helps. The evening kicked off in earnest after that, with two more games and gallons more blood to follow. It was a good day.
I've played a lot of Conflict and expect to play a lot more, but this game was fun for a completely different reason. Under normal circumstances a loss, especially one so important, would have left me with an unwelcome taste in my mouth. But losing this game was unusually fun because, despite all the table talk and competitive hype, John and Lou and the Werecabbages are just a great bunch of guys. Even more rewarding than getting to demo a good game was to do it in good company, and they were about as good as company gets. We all got to share a fun experience, and that's all that really counts.
Now to find a way to get them back for round two…
Geo Basley is a professional lunatic raised by a pack of wild boy scouts in upstate New York. During his lucid moments he teaches English and math. Otherwise he's busy leading his fellow wererats in a secret war against the goblyn hordes from the underbelly of the Sovereignty of Free Trade. He enjoys long moonlit walks on the beach, playing bass guitar, and writing up impossibly dramatic scenarios for his PCs to ruin with their inevitable metagaming.