On a rogue moon orbiting our galaxy perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic I'm setting up the ultimate Dungeons & Dragons session beneath a spectacular sky spread not with the hard sparkle of stars but the oblong smears of distant galaxies. The Milky Way extends itself enormously off the head-bending curve of the gray, too-near horizon, providing a dim, but sufficient, light for what is sure to be an unforgettable, uh, evening, I guess.
A borrowed alien artifact—a hemispherical field generator—keeps the good stuff like air and warmth in while keeping the bad stuff like hard radiation and micrometeorites out. At least for the amount of time I have on the contract, which, if I understand it correctly, should be more than enough to complete the adventure as written.
The gaming table is a cheap wooden picnic table complete with bench seats and splinters, all I could afford after stealing a time machine and trading most of the human race for the favors and technology to make this session possible. But otherwise I have provided for my guests, rolling up characters for them to save time, effort and confusion. Also spread upon the red-and-white checkered tablecloth are bowls of off-brand pretzels and poverty sodas with names like Dr. Popper and Poopsie Cola. Not for a lack of desire for nicer things, but only because where we are and what we're about to do has cost most of what the human race would produce in its entire run. At least that's the price quoted by my alien benefactors, and what do I know? I'm a Dungeon Master, not an economist, dammit.
I shuffle through my notes one last time, take in the entire spread from universe to snacks, and, after a deep breath, snap my fingers.
In four staticy discharges of collapsing ball lighting, they arrive.
He laughs, he cries, he'll do handcuffs and Nazi outfits. Should go a long way toward putting the tic in Chaotic Neutral.
Audio-Animatronic Abraham Lincoln
The only guest with special needs, I've provided RoboLincoln with a small nuclear pile to keep him perpetually powered, and a dual tape deck from the 1980s so when one of his program tapes runs out the other one has a pre-programmed tape-swap sequence that allows him to flip sides without interference from a human operator.
John Wayne Genghis Khan
Hot off the set of The Conqueror. Who says an American Icon can't be a mongoloid? You?
Plain Ol' Eleanor Roosevelt
Yep. Just that. I'm hoping she can be the face of the party.
For the briefest of moments they sit around the table, looking first, with a start, at the person across from them, then around at the awesome gaming spread and finally up into Forever.
I smell the unmistakable odor of Human Endeavor—someone has crapped their pants.
Eleanor Roosevelt lets out a piercing shriek and falls back from the table, nearly upending it as she goes. I realize she's failed her SAN roll—and we're not even playing a game where that's supposed to happen!
John Wayne Genghis Khan rushes to her fetal form, trying to comfort her. He shakes his head in disbelief. "Holy cow—you're Eleanor Roosevelt!"
Ms. Roosevelt blinks rapidly, the madness suddenly fleeing her face. "And you're... Genghis Khan?!"
"No ma'am," he laughs, hearty and deep, with real mirth. "If I were I'd've already raped you by now."
Emotional Spock stiffens bolt upright. "What," he asks with eerie calm, "did you just say?"
"I said," John Wayne Genghis Khan drawls, "'I'd've raped her by now.'"
EmoSpock pushes himself up from the table with his fists, eyes smoldering. "You will do. No. Such. Thing."
"Calm down there, skinny, I'm not gonna hurt her. It was a hypotheti—aww, screw it. Why don't you siddown before I make you."
"THEN MAKE ME!" screams EmoSpock.
John Wayne Genghis Khan stands and puffs out his chest. "Don't think I won't, pilgrim!"
EmoSpock snarls and they meet over the careful spread of dice, character sheets, maps and minis. It starts like a windmilling slap fight, as if neither of them wants any but both are too manly or enraged to admit it. The row rapidly escalates as EmoSpock keeps trying to pinch John Wayne Genghis Khan's neck even as he is throwing loopy haymakers that constantly fail to connect. Mutually frustrated, they go to grappling and start rolling around on the table, ruining everything.
This is the part where I pull the gun from my sweatpants waistband and pop a round into the ceiling. Of course it ricochets around the inside of the field for a sphincter-clenchingly long time before burying itself, thankfully, in the bone-dry regolith.
EmoSpock is crying, bits of pretzel and minis stuck to his wet face.
"Look, guys, c'mon—let's just sit down and play this really fun game I've set up for you. It's called Dungeons and Drag—"
"You brought us here?" EmoSpock's face twists with rage, the cords in his neck standing out like F-Majors, if F stood for fuck you up.
I swallow. "Uh, no. He did." I point at John Wayne Genghis Khan.
"Aw, that's a loada bull—"
But EmoSpock has hurled himself over the table and planted a double side kick to the sternum just like they teach at Starfleet Academy. They collapse to the floor into a furball of cocked limbs and profanity.
Maybe I can pull something out of this after all. I turn to RoboLincoln. "Okay, you stand at the top of a dark stairway carved from the very bones of the Earth. It winds down into the depths one ten-foot drop after another—these are not steps for mortal men. Somewhere in the deep you hear something like distant thunder, or screaming." I lean forward expectantly. "What do you do?"
RoboLincoln clicks and buzzes, looks from the dice in front of him to his character sheet and then seems to regard me thoughtfully. "Four score and seven years ago," he starts, "Bzzzurt, fathers brought forth incontinent, a nude nation, conceived in Labia, and dedicated to the propositioning that all men are created fzzzapt."
"Ah. Yeah. I'll take that as a 'going down.'"
Thin shapes at the edge of my vision—they're here for the field generator.
"Wait! No! Just a sec—"
It pops like a soap bubble and the atmosphere leaps away into the frigid sky. The air in my lungs hops after it, scampering out of my face in a gut-punching rush. I feel the spit boil off my tongue. As my blurred vision dims I can only think, oh, god, this is bad, but RoboLincoln—and then the Final Darkness swallows me whole.
RoboLincoln sits at the table soundlessly reciting the Gettysmeg Address, dutifully flipping his tape over whenever it runs out... for four score and 10,000 years.