It’s best if you read the previous article. The gist: Michael is a horrible DM and Spider and I cannot escape.
In Michael’s Binder of Many Things there were tons of extra classes and races, and he had a long, boring anecdote to tell us about every one. It probably would have only taken us an hour or two to make characters if he hadn’t kept going off on tangents, but how else would we know that we had the option of being Jedi knights?
Really. In a fantasy medieval world. I’d be interested in seeing the size of the clay pot batteries it would take to run a lightsaber.
The custom races were similarly lame, with the most twinky being a breed of elf that had all the cool elf bonuses, plus magical aptitude and wings.
Then I must have made the mistake of mentioning my fondness for orcs, because he went off about all the different kinds of half-breeds there were. It was uncomfortable, because he kept putting emphasis on how the monsters raped human/elven women. I could kind of figure that out myself, but he kept saying “and then this is what you get when a Deep One rapes a sea elf,” and “this happens when a minotaur rapes a human woman.”
I don’t like to think of myself as easily offended, but I was getting pretty annoyed at this. Everybody knows where little half-orcs come from (and it’s not the cabbage patch), but it’s kind of bad taste to keep bringing rape up like it’s a clinical term. He could have just said “when you cross a human and an ogre” and we’d have gotten his drift.
It occurs to me that I haven’t mentioned his laugh. Michael was one of those people who laugh after every second or third sentence, whether or not anything funny has been said. This was more annoying due to his customary volume, but what really made it aggravating was the kind of laugh it was. It was a sort of high-pitched nasal titter, the equivalent of saying “eh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh” loudly and quickly. And constantly. No matter what he was discussing, it would be interrupted regularly by this loud staccato braying. The first couple of times it happened, I was startled.
From his catalog of fantasy miscegenation, Michael segued into the rape laws in his medieval setting. They were pretty harsh, I’d grant that, but he got a little too involved with the listings of various degrees of castration, branding and killing for the various numbers of offenses. It was like he was trying to say “Don’t worry, you ladies and your randomly-determined breasts will be safe in my fantasy world!”
That reminds me: his game world. He eventually, after I asked him several times to describe the game setting, showed us a greasy, worn, lightly penciled map of the planet he used for the game. Half of the continents were just Earth continents turned upside down. It wasn’t accident, either; they were clearly traced from an atlas. The maps were done in colored pencil and ballpoint pen, making them look even more like the doodles of a 5th grader in the back of class.
The whole planet was larger than Earth, he explained, hence the extra room for oceans and more land. I asked by way of making conversation – although Michael made his own conversation quite well – whether that meant that the gravity was different.
He stopped short and was quiet for a good ten seconds, probably the longest he’d been silent the whole time we’d been there. Eventually, he said something very fast about the planet’s density and changed the subject. Not really caring in the first place, I didn’t pursue it. He seemed relieved to have made his Fast Talk roll.
We put the finishing touches on our characters. Since my character was a cleric of Thor and didn’t have much of a personality beyond owning a warhammer, I decided to name her Gerta Dammerung.
See, it’s a pun on Gotterdammerung, the German word for the Norse Ragnarok, the “doom of the powers,” the time when the gods fight the jotuns and they all slay each other, leaving the mundane world to start over. It’s a standard mythological doohickey, but that’s beside the point. Basically, I was making a bad pun and everyone laughed, for real this time.
And Michael’s laugh was delayed for a few seconds, as he struggled furiously to figure out what was funny. Then his eyes lit up and he felt the need to explain the joke to all of us: “Gotterdammerung means the golden ring, like in Wagner’s opera, which was about the Norse gods.” He looked pleased as punch for a moment, then tried to act dismissive of the whole affair.
Earlier, when Spider and I had been leafing through Deities & Demigods, looking for gods for our clerics, he’d been blathering on about mythology, getting everything wrong. I think he’d taken one folklore class at some point and gotten a swelled head. I originally was going to be a priestess of Odin, so while Spider perused the Greek pantheon and I was waiting for my turn to look at the book I mentioned this plan to Michael.
“You’re going to have to have a warhammer, then!” he said sagely, in the manner of a Smart Customer who Knows Things about Mythology.
“Wasn’t Odin’s weapon and in fact one of his symbols a spear? Named Gungnir?” I said, in the manner of one who Knows Things but Does Not Wish to Make Waves.
“Um,” said Michael, eyes darting to and fro as he realized he had Been Called Out, and by One of the Fairer Sex, at That.
“Also, he had two ravens named Huginn and Muninn, Thought and Memory, who flew around the world each day and reported everything they saw and heard. Not that Odin didn’t see a lot anyway, which is why his eye was a hot enough commodity to get him a drink from the Well of Wisdom.”
I have a hard time knowing when to shut up. The right time would have been a couple of sentences earlier. I finally got my paws on the book, which verified my knowledge of the Aesir but also showed in a hidden appendix (which Michael was terribly pleased to point out) that Odin only had male priests. So I switched to being a cleric of Thor and reminded myself that people like to feel Clever, and occasionally I should just Shut the Hell Up.
So after that horrible and pompous mistranslation, I just wanted to kill him. Gotterdammerung is one of the operas in Wagner’s Ring Cycle, but dammit, the title has nothing to do with a ring. I didn’t say anything, though, sensing that attempting to prove myself correct would be both impossible and incur the hostilities of a self-important jerk who was also our host and on whom Spider and Vincent’s enjoyment also hinged.
I shouldn’t have bothered, though. We took a short break after finishing our characters; it had taken about four hours. Everyone went along with Michael’s suggestion that we get something to eat and come back for a short game session. Spider didn’t seem terribly pleased at this turn of events.
As Michael scampered off to take a shower and Vincent went off in his pickup, presumably in search of a hamburger and a smoke, Spider and I got out our packed lunches and conferred. She was pretty worried about how things were going so far and wanted to leave as soon as possible. Because there weren’t any actual bike racks, we’d dragged our bicycles up to Michael’s 2nd story apartment and at his bidding all the way through it to his tiny balcony. We’d come to realize that that was a tactical error. Spider wanted to take ‘em out while he was elsewhere and dash.
She was also worried that I was enjoying myself. My acting skills must be getting pretty good, I assured her, because I was being a Good Sport and showing the Patience of Job. Still, why shouldn’t we give Michael another chance? He would probably feel better once he’d put his face on and got to start the actual business of DMing. She agreed to give it a go with me, and we set up an Escape Clause, namely that she had to be back at the dorms before she Turned Into a Pumpkin and they stopped serving dinner.
Michael bounded out of the bathroom, fresh as a daisy, and talked at us about vampires and computer parts. He knew less than he thought he did about those subjects as well.
Stay tuned for the final chapter Thursday evening, in which the actual game is discussed.
The Worst DM Ever, Part Three
Parts Left Out of “The Worst DM Ever”
The Worst DM Ever: A Rebuttal
And in case you missed it: