Off track

A few years back, I rode with a friend who had a speaking GPS. As we exited the interstate to get gas, the functional female voice said, “Off trail.” But then we turned left onto the overpass and crossed the interstate, provoking the voice to update us with, “On trail… off trail,” with barely a pause in between. Credit for picking up on our brief position above the interstate, but negative points for failing to realize we were traveling sideways. And now I have to wonder how high we could go directly above the interstate, lifted by a helicopter perhaps, before the GPS informed us we were off trail again. There’s a cute movie scene in there somewhere.

Anyway, we’re going off trail here.

I have no clue how apparent this might be to anyone familiar with this blog (if such a person exists,) but many years ago, I was a role-playing gamer. Yes, I had my bulky collection of AD&D books and gaming dice, dog-eared character sheets and Dorito-stained fingers (and thus Dorito-stained character sheets, though to be honest, Doritos were a lot less powdery then, one of the few ways in which us old folk had it better.)

So, I can thoroughly enjoy DM of the Rings, a brilliant mixture of stills from the Lord of the Rings movies and captions from a fictional attempt to role-play the storyline. I’ve had this link for years, probably before I started the blog, but just revisited it and decided it needed more sharing.

For anyone unfamiliar with such sessions, Shamus Young nailed it. Nobody that I ever met was entirely focused and locked into role-playing, but nearly everyone had their ability to sidetrack, disrupt, and outright destroy whatever campaign had been meticulously planned by the DM (dungeon master,) the one person who knew all the secrets. And Shamus expresses the other traits, too: forget the satisfaction of completing a campaign or successfully figuring out the mystery – the players are motivated by treasure, increased character levels, and yes, the pathetic idea of implied sex. People in real life would be delighted to spend a few days in the woods and never encounter anything even remotely dangerous, but that is irritating beyond all measure in the role-playing realm. “Give me something to kill!” is a cry that I’ve heard more than a few times.

Yet, the primary skill of a good DM is being able to cope with the inventive ways that the players will thwart your plans – sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. Also important is an extreme tolerance of going off track.