A Very DERPy Summer

Those of you who have been following Better Than Sliced Bread for any extended period of time will surely remember the write-up of SUB's role-playing club DERP's (short for Department of English Role-Players) first meeting and the events of the first session run there. If you don't, go read it now. Since that first write-up, DERP has had a total of eight more meetings, each building on the events of the first session in a whirlwind Labyrinth Lord campaign set in the Known World known as the Knights Who Say DERP.

At the time of writing the first write-up, it was my intention to make the chronicles of the Knights Who Say DERP an ongoing feature, with updates written after each of the sessions. However, since Summer happened and your truly has gathered quite a huge backlog of sessions that should be written up, I thought it more prudent to write a retrospective on the campaign as it took place during the Summer and one more session at DERP's first meeting this Fall. This is by no means an exhaustive account of the entire campaign, but simply a collection of noteworthy events from the campaign.

Dramatis Personae, Or Who The Hell Are The Knights Anyway?

The first write-up gives a pretty good look at all the characters who were present for the first session of the campaign and since a number of the players present for the first session never made it back into the campaign, I have instead thought it most prudent to present the Knights' newest recruits, along with a short overview of how members of the original cast developed over the campaign.

After the first session, the campaign was shortly joined by Ursula the Slicer, a Fighter with enough Strength to make most men in the Known World jealous. Appropriately, her modus operandi consisted mostly of slicing things, first with as big a sword as she could find on the market and later with an enchanted battle axe. She was also the only member of the Knights to catch a disease known as rat AIDS from a bunch of diseased rats the size of welsh corgis. More on said rats later. During the penultimate adventure she also managed to procure a ring that made her look to the onlooker like a sweet little rabbit, an item which she put into good use to strike terror into the hearts of evil men and orcs guarding the Ruins of Mor.

A few sessions into the campaign, the group was joined by Sara the Astonishing, who made it emphatically clear that she was totally not a thief. Most of her time was spent taking pot-shots with her bow from the back row of the group, occasionally moving to the front to lend the party the aid of her keen hearing and knack for picking locks and disarming traps. (Yet, as she made perfectly clear, she was totally not a thief.) She was also instrumental in getting the party inside the heavily guarded Ruins of Mor, as she was the only person capable of speaking the dark tongue of the orcs. (Which had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she was Chaotic to the core, no sirree.)

The penultimate session of the campaign saw the largest number of new recruits: the group saw the introduction of the Athelstane, Cleric of Cúchulainn (a dog-headed god with a very hazy portfolio), another Cleric named Francis, and the Halfling Yrsa Applebottom. The latter three were only present in DERP for such a short time that writing anything definitive about their character would be a futile exercise, but it bears mentioning that during the group's raid into the Ruins of Mor, Athelstane had his arm smashed by an evil bugbear and was forced to take two weeks off to recuperate.

So, what about the old crew? Well, Jeepers, the ever-pantsless and senile Magic-User, managed to manipulate events to his favor in order to gain the service of a goblin manservant, Gorbaz. Gorbaz would eventually become the first goblin to become a Magic-User in the Known Lands. Furthermore, at the closing of his last adventure with the Knights, Jeepers shocked the entire group by revealing that he had been in possession of pants all along, and as he put on a nice pair of trousers he and Gorbaz vanished into the woods, never to be seen again. (For now.)

As far as the rest of the group goes, remember those diseased rats the size of small dogs? The Cleric Angus Farmhand managed to wrestle one into submission, gaining him a new pet and a great friend titled Skittercreep the Verminlord. Whether or not the voices that Angus occasionally hears coming from Skittercreep are actually real or in his imagination has yet to be determined.

Dobby the Elf is probably the most unfortunate creature in existence: within the space of two separate forays into the dungeons under the Known World, Dobby managed to loose a total of three fingers (one of which was fed to Jeepers' manservant Gorbaz), have his lungs and heart completely mangled by a goblin's spear, and hit nothing smaller than the broad side of a barn with most of his attacks. For his troubles, Dobby was granted a pet ferret and immortality in the Known World, as his name has an exclamation of frustration at failing at everything.

Oh, and Harold the Rat-Slayer, probably the most insane Halfling in the world, has made a name for himself by picking fights with cultists, burning almost everything in sight and defiling an altar of the demon lord Orcus, hitting him with a curse that made him even more insane than before. Thus far, Harold had not sought magical assistance to get rid of the curse.

When Cthulhu Met Orcus, Or The Metaphysical Make-Up Of The Known World

One of the most refreshing parts about running the campaign has been the ability to whatever material I have deemed appropriate to the campaign. Personally, I subscribe to a largely kitchen-sink mentality, so anything that might be remotely cool goes into the Known World. This means that the Known World is a mess of influences, where made-up gods like Thaxon rub shoulders with D&D stand-bys like the demon lord Orcus, player-made inventions like Glob ("god of LSD and rave-parties") and actual mythological figures like Hecate. Also, the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft somehow fits into all of this. The group has already discovered (and then given away) a stave with the ability to summon Yog-Sothoth (I'm not going to spoil whether I shall be using this as a future plot-device, but I totally am) and the possibility of Great Cthulhu himself rising from the ocean to destroy everything remains a clear possibility.

Part and parcel of the "everything and the kitchen sink as long as its fun" mentality is the idea that this campaign hasn't been a very serious one. Sure, there have been occasional brushes with death for certain group members and occasionally the group has barely managed to pull through from their insane hijinks in the various dungeons and ruins that litter the Known World, but the general feel of the game has been one of laughter and merriment. Sure, some of the funny moments in the game have come at the price of immersion and verisimilitude, but I'm not enough of a grognard to think that that's necessarily a bad thing.

An important part of the campaign has also been the amount of voicework gone to it: I don't know why, but for some strange reason my goblins ended up sounding like Beavis & Butthead, and that sparked the idea of having each distinct type of monster have its own voice. (Okay, I did cheat a bit with hobgoblins and bugbears, as their voices are the same as the goblins', only slightly buffer.) I never did manage to get my manticore voice about right, but I'll get there.

Running This Game Has Made Me Feel Old

One of the reasons why I chose Labyrinth Lord as my system for this campaign was that it's a dirt simple system that is easy to learn for most people and at the same time supports an old-school style of play that I was before not wholly familiar with. This exercise has also been one of falling in love with the old-school style through actually running the damn game. While the campaign has been, in many parts, silly and comical, it has also served as a great exercise in player-driven emergent narrative for me. For the most part, I tried to avoid putting the campaign on rails in order to drive the players through some kind of a predetermined plot of mine, but to run the game as a world where stories are emerging through play all the time.

That bit about Gorbaz becoming a wizard's apprentice? Never saw that one coming, but I decided to roll with it because it made for a cool story. The PCs kicking off a plot to stop an evil cult from bringing forth a thousand years of darkness by starting a bar brawl? I actually had another set of potential adventures figured for that session, but the bar brawl served as such a great springing board for something that I'd been thinking of breaking to the players at some point that I couldn't resist it. That annoying elf who spoke in such a terrible voice that I actually hate myself for ever having forced it upon my players? Yeah, didn't plan that either.

Closing Words

DERP will be returning into the Known Lands again at some point in the future, but for now it's time to try out new things and maybe let someone else handle running games for a while. Running games for a group consisting mostly people entirely new to RPGs has been an amazing experience for me and one I hope to revisit again in the future.

Also, if you're a member of SUB and this article made you feel like you would like to take part in some role-playing with your fellow English students, join our group on Facebook to take part in the discussion about games to be run in the future and the times when those games should take place. There is always room for one who says DERP!

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