I was going to tackle a pretty involved Nobody’s Favorite post I’d been putting off for a while, but then this arrived…
…my contributor copies of the Death Saves anthology! In honor of this happy event, I’ve decided to discuss the background of “Brassfist of the Gore” (scripted by me and gorgeously illustrated/colored/lettered by the mighty Matt Digges).
This will be as spoiler-free as I can make it, though it isn’t going to make a lot of sense if you haven’t already read the tale. You’ve been warned.
“Brassfist” was based on a real-life run I was roped into during my freshman year at UMass Boston. It was shortly after I joined the college’s Sci-Fi Club, and was my introduction to a bunch of fine folks I’ve remained pals with to the present day.
I’d already begun to drift away from most of my geeky pals from high school, and joining the campaign seemed like a good way to meet new people who shared some common interests. It was a old school 1st Edition D&D run, which I hadn’t played since I switched my allegiance to Warhammer Fantasy Role Play a few years prior.
The other players were pretty decent folks, though no one really got along with “Jewel” who was in real-life a dogmatic college socialist who though all punk rockers were Nazis and was prone to launching into quasi-Stalinist rants if given an opportunity. (On the day after the L.A. riots broke out, Maura and I overheard her announcing “The Revolution has begun, brother” to an equally lily-white comrade in the hallway outside our classroom.)
The DM, on the other hand was a whole ‘nother ball of irritating character traits. He wasn’t a bad guy, but he personified every single negative geeky stereotype circa 1990 — a extreme dedication to Rush, reflexively pedantic mannerisms, constant quoting from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He’d have been over the top even as a supporting character on the Big Bang Theory.
His gamemastering techniques were pure power-tripping, the thrill of exerting control within one aspect of his life, at least. There was no rule so small or inconsequential that he would not apply it in force, which would have been more tolerable if he didn’t need to pause the action every five minutes to consult a rulebook.
Even worse, he felt compelled to bring a lot of in-jokes and references from his hometown D&D campaign into the run, which were completely lost on us. The penultimate straw came when he introduced his very own Tom Bombadil knock-off into an adventure and forced us to spend most of the session listening to shitty cassette recordings of even shittier filk songs.
I would have quit then and there, but I really enjoyed hanging out with the other players. Despite — or because of — the DM-inflicted idiocy, we’d become pretty good pals.
(Fun Fact: “Father Flynn” was not our cleric’s name, but a nickname Southie Dave tagged him with because of his aggressive combat style. “Gosh and begorrah, it’s Father Flynn the fightin’ priest come to whip these wayward souls into salvation.” It eventually became the nickname of the player — a very Zen army vet — as well, much to his mild chagrin.)
My not-quite-passive-aggressive response to the DM’s idiocy follows pretty close to the comic story, though the final fate of Brassfist was left unresolved. The exchange with the party cleric was where that week’s session — and the campaign — left off.
A few hours before we were scheduled to continue the adventure, Southie Dave and I decided to blow it off and check out a game store in Malden I’d told previously told him about. It was a long subway ride from Dorchester, so we spent it complaining about the campaign and talking about other games we played before college.
On the ride back, Dave told me that I should start my own Warhammer campaign. A couple of weeks later, I did, poaching all of our former DM’s players (except “Jewel”) in the process. Its gore-spattered, horror-tinted twist on fantasy tropes turned out to be extremely popular, with a large number of the club’s regular members participating in it at one point or another. When the elections for club officers rolled around, Dave won treasurer and I won the presidency by a landslide.
The reaction of our former DM was hard to pin down. At first he seemed almost relieved, but later threw a massive hissy fit when his grand plan to get a TSR-sponsored tournament event fell apart when everyone told him they’d rather play Warhammer instead.
He just sorta drifted away after that, though it might also have had something to do with Dave telling him that he could no longer use the club office as his unofficial dorm room. I don’t know what happened to him after that, but I’m sure a worn-to-threadbare Rush concert shirt is somehow involved.