YCH Story, the characters belong to their respective owners.
A new game group forms to try out a table top RPG… And a little shrinking magic will put the players right in the middle of the action.
Mazes and Micros
An ad in the local game shop had gotten the attention of a few people. A local GM had apparently unearthed a rather rare tabletop RPG and was looking for players. He had promised an unforgettable experience that really put you into the game in an adventure that was larger than life. Also, there would be snacks, probably more than anyone could hope to actually eat. Who could resist an invitation like that?
Yet upon arriving at the GM’s residence, the five would be players couldn’t help but feel like they were the victims of some unfortunate prank. The address they had been given appeared to just be a hole in the ground in the middle of the woods. Sure, there was a mailbox outside said hole, but that didn’t make it a proper home. The five of them stared in silence unsure of if they should try to ring a doorbell (if they could find one) or simply leave.
“So it’s not just me, everyone else finds this weird, right?” The first to speak up was Zeelo. He stood out the most in the crowd being a human without fur or scales. He was dressed fairly simply in jeans and a sweater. The brown haired youth nervously adjusted his glasses while kicking at the dirt with his shoes.
“I dunno it seems kind of cozy to me!” Kido chimed in happily. If Zeelo stood out for being human, Kido was at odds with the rest of the group for being the most animalistic. The light blue and white arctic fox looked less like a civilized animal and more like a feral who had learned to walk on his hind legs. He didn’t wear clothes, and was much shorter than everyone else not even making it to the five foot mark.
“You think so? Maybe… Personally I think I prefer being a bit closer to the city.” The third member of the group was called Raxinath. As a dragon, he towered over everyone at nearly six and a half feet tall. He did not possess wings like a western dragon, but had blue and gray scales covering his body with a yellow chest and belly. He sported a shaggy mane of black hair that nearly covered his horns and ears, and grew thinner as it ran down his back all the way to the tip of his tail. He was dressed lightly in an earth colored vest and shorts. He was unsure of what to make of this place. Civilized animals tended to have a variety of lifestyles, but he he hadn’t met one who lived in a burrow before.
“Well, someone ought to ring then right?” The fourth member of the party grinned playfully. He went by Cryo. The silver and white sergal was dressed up in a formal black shirt and slacks. He had his black hair combed neatly and was also wearing a fancy red vest. “Or, given I don’t see a doorbell, maybe knock?” Despite his suggestion, neither him or anyone else in the group moved closer to the hole.
“You guys are being ridiculous. Just let the GM know we’re here already.” The final member of the party was a snow leopard named Woxy. She wore a rock themed t-shirt, with a black and white skirt and matching stockings. Her eyes gave everyone an annoyed glance from behind her black framed glasses. She took a step towards the hole intending to knock… But paused as she tried to figure out where. There was no door, and she was fairly certain just patting the dirt ground wouldn’t make much noise. She wasn’t entirely sure how to actually go about getting its occupant’s attention. She briefly considered just sticking her head down into the hole but was fairly certain that would be considered impolite.
“You certainly showed us how it’s done.” Raxinath chuckled.
“I’m just trying to figure out…” Woxie shot Raxinath a glare. “Look at least I’m not just standing around hoping someone else says or does something!”
“I was just teasing, didn’t mean anything by it. Raxinath did his best to hide his smile.
“What is all this ruckus outside?” The owner of the hole in the ground finally appeared. It was the GM who had posted the ad, Kickaha. He was a curious creature known as a foxyote, half fox, half coyote, and wore only a green cloak. He slowly climbed out of the hole and onto his feet and looked around. At three feet nothing, he was dwarfed even by Kido. “You! You must be the ones who saw my ad! I was starting to worry you were going to be late! Come in! Come in! My burrow is your burrow!” Without another word the small creature turned and leaped back into the hole.
Everyone else stared at each other blankly for a few minutes. Woxie was the first to act, ducking down into the hole and disappearing. After a few seconds the others followed. What awaited them was a sight that was strange in how normal it was. The walls and roof inside the burrow were naturally made of dirt since it was a hole in the ground. However… The place was laid out like an actual house. The entrance took them to what was clearly a living room, while they could see a couch, coffee table, bookcase and a few potted plants. It was even comfortably lit, though it wasn’t clear how… there didn’t seem to be any light fixtures. The foxyote gestured them past this flagrant normalcy into a slightly smaller room behind it.
This was the den. And someone had put a ton of effort into getting it set up for the game. A large circular table sat in the center of the room with chairs completely circling it. The table itself was split into two sections. Half of it was covered in snacks. There were chips, cookies, sodas, nuts, pizza, burgers, hotdogs, potato wedges, fried chicken and even a delicious-looking cheesecake the size of a small TV. The other half of the table was set up for the actual game. Graph paper had been thrown down over this half of the table with large complicated maps drawn out atop them. Plastic buildings, trees and mountains then sat atop the paper making it look like its own miniature world.
It was an impressive setup. There was but one problem. Everything was sized for Kickaha, who was considerably shorter than his players. For most of them, this meant having to kneel down on their knees. For Raxinath it meant having to go all the way down onto all fours to crawl through the house.
“A bit cramped…” The dragon muttered.
“I think it’s cozy!” Kido wagged his tail. Other than Kickaha he was the only one short enough to actually stand up inside the home.
“Should we maybe try to drag the table outside?” Woxie looked over at their host. “It might be a bit easier for us to fit out there.”
“Relax! It’ll be fine!” Kickaha flashed a wicked grin. “Once we get started it’ll feel quite spacious.”
“That seems unlikely.” Cryo rolled his eyes. “But whatever. So which game are we playing anyway?”
“Well the thing about that…” Kickaha lifted up an ancient looking hardcover book and slammed it down on the table. The front cover had been almost completely worn away by time. “I can’t really read the title… I bought it used and it’s pretty old. Missing quite a few pieces too so I had to make a few substitutions. I assure you that you won’t notice the difference! What I can say though… Is this game is larger than life! Are you ready for an adventure of a scale you’ve never seen? To stand in the boots, or lack thereof of the heroes themselves as you stare down monsters ten times your own size! Are you prepared to play the most immersive RPG of all time that literally puts you down on the board in the middle of the action!?”
“YEAH!” Zeelo gave a shout. The human then blushed and looked away from everyone when he realized no one else quite shared his zeal. “What… I thought we were doing a thing, and we were all going to get excited.”
“I’m excited!” Kido wagged his tail.
“I don’t think it’s that the rest of us aren’t excited to play…” Woxie interrupted. “It’s just that it’s a bit cramped in here with all of us. Poor Raxinath doesn’t even look like he can move.”
“Ugggh.” Raxinath would have retorted but the snow leopard was right. And now he was slightly concerned that he wouldn’t be able to back out of the room after cramming himself in.
“Look! Look! It’s fine! I don’t know how many times I have to explain!” Kickaha sighed. “Look, let’s just get you changed into your characters and I’m sure everyone will be more comfortable. I have the Character Guide somewhere around here.” He ducked unto the table and ruffled through his supplies before producing a large book.
“Wait… changed?” Cryo asked. “Is this some kind of LARP?”
“I mean, that’s not completely inaccurate…” Kickaha muttered as he opened the book. The second he did, a bright light filled the room… and all five players began to glow.
“What… What is this?” Raxinath covered his eyes to protect himself from being blinded. As he did, he became aware of the fact that the room was suddenly becoming much less cramped. It was to the point he could stand up properly. As he did he felt his trousers slip right off his legs. “What the?” He risked opening his eyes to get a look at what was going on.
“This feels really weird!” Cryo shouted himself as his own clothes loosened off him. More than that though he noticed something sounded odd about his voice. It was higher pitched. “Is.. is that me? My voice? Why’s it so bright and…” He paused as his shirt fell off of his shoulders and landed on the ground. “And I’m naked and… Small!?” His tail went to between his legs as he tried to cover himself and continued to shrink.
“What kind of trick is this!?” Woxie demanded angrily as she began to shrink into her own clothes. Her tail thrashed angrily, which didn’t stop her skirt from slipping off as the snow leopard soon found herself caught underneath her own shirt.
“G-guys!” Zeelo squeaked as he shrunk. He felt his glasses slip off his face and his own clothes start to slip off. As his shirt started to fall off of him he grabbed the neckline and tried desperately to hold it up and maintain some modesty. It was a losing battle. The fabric was getting bulkier and heavier by the second and soon he found it folding in on top of him.
“This is fascinating!” One member of the group was less alarmed than the others. As Kido shrunk in size the fox’s tail began to wag. He did his best to keep his eyes open despite the bright light so he could marvel at all the furniture increasing in size until it towered over his head. Being the only one not wearing any clothing, he was able to fully see what was going on when the light finally began to fade. Four piles of clothes lay around the room, the other players lost among them. Kido was completely free to walk along the dirt floor and approach the wooden leg of the table. It was as thick as a big oak tree compared to him now!
“Guys…” Kickaha slammed the book shut with a weary sigh. “It’s a tabletop role playing game. As in you have to be on the table top to play! What are you all doing down there on the floor?” He quickly squatted down to look around for each of them. He scooped up Kido first before digging through the clothes of the other players. After managing to find everyone he quickly dropped the diminutive figures on top of the table close to one of the plastic castles. Each of them was somewhere between one and two inches in height now, with Raxinath still as the tallest coming in just short of the two inch mark. To say they were in shock was an understatement. Cryo and Zeelo looked nervous and embarrassed, both of them were trying to cover their nudity, especially Zeelo who was now very much aware that he was the only one here without fur or scales. Raxinath looked completely dumbfounded as if he wasn’t able to process that this had really just happened. Woxie was clearly irritated, her fur standing on end and ears folded back. Only Kido was calm, who seemed to be enjoying the sudden drop in his height.
“What in the actual heck!?” Woxie demanded as her fur bristled. “Did you just!? How did you even! You can’t just do something like this without warning!”
“Without warning?” Kickaha tilted his head in genuine confusion. “I kept explaining that the room wasn’t going to be crowded, that the adventure was larger than life, that you’d literally be down in the middle of the game… You’re telling me you didn’t see this coming?”
“How about you, I don’t know…” Woxie’s tail thrashed. “Say, hey everyone! I have a weird magic game that will literally shrink you!”
“Well I mean that is basically what I said…” Kickaha looked hurt. “I just said it in a more grandiose and playful way. I’m the GM. A certain level of showmanship is expected from my performance.”
“You know…” Raxinath seemed to finally recover from his shock. “Using magic like this, it is an interesting way to get in character… If I had realized this was going to happen I wouldn’t have been against it… As long as it was temporary of course.”
“Relax!” Kickaha grinned. “This is all just a game! Nothing here will do any lasting harm! When the final boss is slain and the day is won, everything goes back to normal.” He then paused and looked at Raxinath. “Though you might want to duck when that happens. The game won’t do you any harm, but if you rapidly unshrink in here you might bump your head. And that would be a rather a rather rubbish way to end an evening of fun.”
“So… So…” Cryo found himself constantly being caught off guard by the sound of his own voice when he spoke. It was so strange being high pitched. He sounded like a cartoon mouse. “So everything goes back to normal afterwards?”
“Yup!” Kickaha nodded eagerly. “The Character Guide’s magic just last till the end of the game.”
“That was the book that shrunk us?” Cryo asked nervously as the sergal edged across the table closer to the book. “And whatever it does goes away after the game is over?”
“Yup!” Kickaha nodded. “Oh that reminds me, we’re going to need a few other things before we begin play…” With that he rushed out of the room disappearing from the board and leaving the shrunken players by themselves.
“Is that so…” Cryo looked at his party and then looked back to the book that had shrunk them. He was curious about something and it was starting to give him a little bit of a wicked idea. It might turn out to be a bad idea! But it was all temporary anyway right? And he wanted to check how something worked. With the GM out of the room he hopped all the way over to the book. It was as thick as he was tall, so he could just barely reach the cover. He began to push up on it.
“What are you doing!?” Kido had snuck up directly behind Cryo. The fox’s tail was wagging as he studied the sergal.
“GAH!?” Cryo let out a yelp being caught off guard. As he did the top of the book flew open just long enough for a small amount of light to flow out of it. Most of the party was too far away for this to matter, and Cryo himself being right up next to the book was safe in its shadow. Kido on the other hand.
“Yiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip!” Kido gave a shout as he suddenly began to shrink again. He had already been the shortest to begin with and now was getting even smaller! The lightly colored fox dwindled down in size until he was eye level with Cryo’s toes. He blinked a few times as he realized what had just happened to him and looked around in confusion. He blinked a few times and stared up at the now comparatively giant Cryo before speaking. “Again! Again!”
“You know, I think we’re going to get along fine.” Cryo grinned down at the tiny fox as he heard his squeaking. He glanced over at the rest of the players who were busy talking amongst themselves and hadn’t noticed this little incident yet. Being small just meant a bigger adventure right? And the really little guy didn’t seem to mind. “Since you insist…” Cryo began to lift up on the book again.
“OI!” Kickaha’s voice roared throughout the room. The foxyote appeared in the doorway carrying a cardboard box. He dropped the box with a crash before running over to the book and yoinking it off the table. “Bad sergal! Leave the magic books alone!”
“Wait what happened?” Zeelo asked as him and the other party members looked over to the commotion. It took a moment for any of them to spy the now much smaller Kido. “What happened!?”
“Huh so it can make people smaller?” Raxinath rubbed his chin. “And why were you over there playing with it?” He walked towards the sergal.
“Oh well you know!” Cryo grinned cheekily as he tried to think up a good excuse. “Just… Um! Looking for the character rules and! Guess I poked something I shouldn’t.” Cryo stuck his tongue out playfully.
“What did you do to Kido!?” Woxie demanded.
“Um… It was an accident?” Cryo rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.
“Everyone is so big!” Kido gave a shout. “I could literally climb your tails!” With that the very tiny fox pounced upon the tip of Cryo’s tail. The sergal lifted the tail up with the fox in it who playfully bit at the sergal’s tail tips.
“He doesn’t seem to mind at least…” Zeelo shrugged observing the two.
“I can’t take my eyes off any of you for a second…” Kickaha sighed. “I don’t think he’s really going to be big enough to act as a player character now. Maybe he could play an animal sidekick or something…”
“I can do that!” Kido wagged his tail happily as he hung upside down from Cryo’s tail.
“I’ll keep him!” Cryo smiled mischievously.
“Are we really going to just play a game like this?” Zeelo stared down at his own body blushing slightly. “I mean… Naked and everything?”
“I mean I don’t really think that’d be a problem…” Kickaha like most intelligent and practical people did not wear pants. “But I did think costumes would help everyone get in character! That was what I was fetching… Before SOMEONE!” He shot a glance at Cryo, “decided to start making trouble.” With that the foxyote quickly retrieved the box he had been carrying and emptied its contents onto the table. Piles of leaves, candy wrappers, pins, thimbles, acorns and other pieces of assorted junk.
“Trash?” Woxie raised an eyebrow as she stared up at the giant foxyote.
“Equipment!” Kickaha explained. “You should figure out what kind of character you want to play, and try to make yourself up a costume! Don’t forget you might want a weapon.”
“Huh… so it is a LARP.” Woxie shrugged before she and the others bent down to dig through the items. It would take them some time to finish their outfits.
Raxinath was finished first. “I decided I’d try a barbarian class. Tried a sorcerer last night, got my face smashed. Thought I’d do the face smashing this time.” He had tied a microfiber around his waist as a sash and covered his right shoulder in tin foil to form a pauldron. His outfit was simple and didn’t cover much… His weapon on the other hand. He had found an X-Acto Knife that was absolutely massive in comparison to him allowing him to wield it as an oversized greatsword.
“I personally prefer a bit more finesse. I’m a ranger.” Zeelo was far more modestly dressed with leaves tied to his body to form the image of armor. He wore a candy wrapper as a cloak and carried both a paperclip bent into the shape of a bow and a sewing needle as a sword.
“Guess I’m pulling support duty.” Woxie shrugged in her new costume. “I should make a pretty decent bard.” She had used tin foil to craft a chest piece for herself while torn cloth made a short skirt. She wore a thimble as a hat with a ripped piece of tissue paper cut into the shape of a feather. Like Zeelo she carried a sewing needle as a weapon. She also had a lollipop stick she had cut down to the size of a flute for her.
“And I’m the black mage!” Cryo flashed a grin. “I casts the spells that makes the peoples fall down!” He was dressed in a brown wrapper from a peanut butter candy folded into a rope with a piece of tissue tied into a cloak. He carried with him a small twig, sized perfectly to be his staff adorned with a shiny red bead. In addition, he had the diminutive Kido resting on his shoulder.
“And I’m his familiar!” Kido chimed in. As small as he was even with the items available he couldn’t make a proper costume. However Cryo had helpfully cut a very small piece of thread and hung it around Kido’s neck like a dog collar.
“Then let the adventure… BEGIN!” Kickaha nodded now that the players were ready and playing along. He quickly moved several of the plastic buildings on the table closer to the party, including two large towers and a stone patterned wall. “It has been a year since the Mastermind’s invading force captured Epoch Castle. Even now the good king sits a prisoner in his own dungeon while the Mastermind terrorizes the kingdom. After assembling an army the United Races were able to successfully launch an attack in an attempt to seize the castle back. However they can not win this battle. But they do not need to. The army is only a distraction. An elite team formed from the most skilled warriors of all the United Races was dispatched to infiltrate the castle through a back route while the army kept the main forces distracted. You and your friends are this team. Your mission is simple. Find a way into the castle, discover the identity of the Mastermind and either kill or capture him.”
“Seems a basic enough starting point.” Raxinath nodded as he drew his ‘greatsword.’ “So let’s just bust our way in through that wall and get to work.”
“It won’t be that easy.” Kickaha tsked. “You see while the majority of his troops are on the battlefield, the mastermind was not foolish enough to leave his flank undefended.” As Kickaha spoke he began to set down several small pewter statues of various colors. They appeared to be small reptilian creatures armed with weapons made out of wood and bone. “A small band of goblins awaits you. Decked out in darkiron armor wielding steel blades. You are sighted by a watch on the towers who sounds the alarm as you approach.”
“Wait… Goblins?” Zeelo looked at the reptilian figurines. “Those are clearly kobolds… Armed with sticks.”
“No, they’re goblins.” Kickaha tapped the table impatiently. “Dressed in darkiron, whatever that is, and wielding giant steel blades.”
“… I mean they could be lizardfolk.” Cryo suggested helpfully.
“Or maybe dragonkin!” Kido chimed in from his shoulder.
“But they’re not goblins.” The sergal shook his head.
“Except, as the GM I have informed you that they are in fact goblins.” Kickaha gave an exasperated sigh.
“Perhaps they’re goblins with a skin condition?” Raxinath snorted with a laugh.
“Come on guys I already told you! The game was missing a few pieces!” Kickaha gave a weary sigh. “So I had borrow some figures from other games. I didn’t have any goblin figures, so you’re fighting kobold shaped goblins.”
“I don’t know…” Woxie’s voice took on a teasing tone. “It seems kind of immersion breaking. Wasn’t the entire point of shrinking us that it’d be just like the real battle?”
“FINE!” Kickaha threw up his hands. “They’re goblins who have been polymorphed into kobolds and used illusion magic to disguise their gear to um… To make it look like they were less well armed than they appeared! But I guess you saw through that! But just so you know! Since we confirmed they have scales, that means they’re getting a bonus to their natural armor!”
“Now… Now hang on! We don’t need to be so hasty!” Woxie requested.
“Too late! After all wouldn’t want to break immersion.” Kickaha began to move the ‘goblin’ figures around the map so that the party was completely surrounded… then paused, as he counted the figures. There were ten, including the two archers on the tower there were 10. He then looked skeptically at the party.
“Something wrong?” Raxinath asked. It was clear he was itching to get to the combat.
“Not exactly…” Kickaha muttered. “But before someone messed with my book… I had planned for this fight to involve five party members. I’m worried with just four of you the difficulty might not be balanced properly… How to fix… Aha!” Kickaha flicked two of the figures over. “Unfortunately for the enemy goblins, living in such close quarters in their camps has led to an outbreak of the Contrivance Flu. It’s so lethal, it kills 1 in 5 goblins infected, even if they’re polymorphed. The physical exertion of preparing to meet the party was just enough to accelerate the symptoms on two of them killing them in an instant.”
“Smooth.” Woxie rolled her eyes.
“The rest is up to the party.” Kickaha muttered. “Roll for initiative!”
“Roll? How?” Zeelo looked around. “We’re not exactly big enough to be using dice.”
“I guess I should roll for everyone then…” Kickaha muttered.
“Oh no you don’t!” Woxie thrashed her tail. “You think after your little surprises I trust you not to fudge our dice rolls!”
“Now that is most uncalled for!” Kickaha was genuinely taken aback. “I may mislead, omit information and occasionally use very loose definitions. But cheating? How gauche!”
“Still it’s not going to be very exciting if we’re just waiting on you to roll dice all night.” Raxinath chimed in. “So let’s just act out the fight and let the pieces land where they fall.” As he spoke he charged forward swinging his greatsword. He caught one of the goblins on the chest, smashing into it as hard as he could and sending it flying off the map and even off the table.
“H-hey! We need to at least take turns!” Kickaha whined. “Two of the goblins move to flank Raxinath. They draw their swords disguised as bone clubs and lay into him.” Kickaha picked up one of the figures and tried to nudge it into Raxinath who dropped to the ground and rolled away. “And they apparently miss. Of the remaining three on the ground, they split up, each one intending to fight the other party members one on one. Meanwhile the archers take careful aim from atop the tower preparing to fire arrows next round.”
“How far apart are the towers?” Cryo asked.
“Um about a hundred feet I’d say…” Kickaha peered at them trying to eyeball it.
“Can someone get this guy off me so I can cast?” Cryo grinned as he formed a plan.
“I’ll do my best master!” Kido jumped down from Cryo’s shoulder and began to bite at the base of one of the figures.
“… Someone elses my need to help…” Cryo looked down. He had to admire the little guy’s spirit at least.
“You can do it! Fight! Fight! Fight!” Woxie began to sing as she backed away from the closest figure. “Also my bardic abilities will totally let me take two attacks here!”
“Well I guess it’s a good thing I picked up the Fire into Melee feat.” Zeelo smiled. “First off, I do a Point Blank Shot on the goblin in front of me with my bow! With the bonus damage from bardic performance and point blank, that should be enough to defeat him!” Zeelo tipped the figure over onto its side. “And then I use my second attack to fire a trick arrow! I bounce it off of the goblin’s skull near Woxy into the one near Cryo to take them both out with one blow!” As he did this he acted out firing with his paperclip as Woxie and Cryo tilted the figures near them over.
“And in the clear… I cast Temporal Echoed Fireball!” Cryo pointed his staff at the towers. “Temporal Echo is a bit of time magic that lets me reproduce the effects of a spell as long as it’s within 50 feet!”
“But the towers are a hundred feet apart!” Kickaha objected. “So it won’t reach!”
“That’s where you’re wrong!” Cryo smiled. “Fireball itself has a radius of 30 feet! So I cast the first fireball exactly 30 feet out from the closest tower! Just enough to hit the target atop it… Then I cast the the second fireball exactly 50 feet away from that one. The radius is again 30 feet…. Add it all together… And the second explosion will reach a distance of up to 110 feet away from the first!”
“And that just leaves the two on me.” Raxinath grinned. “And since they wanna team up… I just got an idea.” He dropped his sword and instead picked up one of the figures near him. He held it over his head before throwing it directly into the other knocking both of them to the ground.
“Okay timeout.” Kickaha crossed his arms. “I’m pretty sure most of those abilities are actually in the game. You’re all just making this up as you go!”
“Maybe…” Cryo’s grin never faded. “But this isn’t exactly a normal game. Now… I believe the towers should be exploding.”
“Fiiiiiine.” Kickaha pulled out a tube of red glitter and emptied it over the towers to simulate fire from an explosion before removing the figures. “But I hope you know this means I won’t be holding back from here in. The Contrivance Flu has just miraculously been cured.”
With the enemies defeated, the only thing blocking the way forward was the wall.
“Oh! Oh!” Kido jumped up and down. “Toss me over the wall! I can be all sneaky and scout ahead.”
“He is small enough to be easily overlooked.” Woxie nodded. “What’s the bonus to stealth checks for being that small?”
“Um…” Kickaha paused. “A lot… I guess being that small does make him a good scout.
“Yeah…” Cryo gave Kido a strangely longing look. “Imagine there are other uses someone so small could serve we haven’t even thought of yet.” Then with one fluid motion he lifted the tiny fox up by himself and flung him up onto the wall.
“Wheeeeeee!” Kido gave a gleeful shout as he flew over the wall. The actual wall was only about four inches in height but it might as well and have been the great wall of China from his point of view. Once safely atop it the fox ran to the other side and stared over the edge looking for any bad guys. “Huh. It’s completely in the clear. Nothing at all over here!”
“Nothing at all? Zeelo squinted. “Must be a trap then.”
“Or our lovely host hasn’t set up the next encounter yet.” Woxie suggested.
“So quick to think the worst of me.” Kickaha crossed his arms and did his best to look down on the party with a scornful look. It wasn’t very effective.
“Seems to me we just beat up the guard far too fast for anyone to be ready.” Cryo shrugged and leaped onto the wall and began to climb it. “Perhaps too fast for guards to summon backup… or too fast for the GM to get set up! Doesn’t matter. I say go for it while it’s clear.”
“You’re not the cautious type are you?” Woxie teased, but she was the first to follow after him and over the wall. Zeelo and Raxinath weren’t far behind.
The other side of the wall was completely empty. There were no enemy figures or buildings placed down.
“Clearly a minimalist approach to decorating the castle.” Woxie giggled.
“How very zen.” Raxinath joined in the teasing.
“FOOLS!” Kickaha shouted over them. He reached below the table and produced a small cage out of chicken wire and slammed it down over the party. “You should have known the Mastermind wouldn’t make it so easy to infiltrate the castle! As you walk along the path a trap door opens beneath you dropping all of you into the dungeon. It is a dark and dank place full of rotting skeletons with the only sign of life being the sputtering of rats.”
“Hey that’s not fair!” Zeelo shouted. “We didn’t even get to check for traps! You just dropped a cage over us.” He grabbed at the cage wire and shook it.
“You’re the ones who decided to just jump a wall.” Kickaha tapped on top of the cage. “You can’t look for traps after the fact. Next time show a bit more caution. I’m afraid now you’re stuck here and will likely be-”
“What about me!?” Kido asked. The small fox was still standing atop the wall. “Can I help?”
“Eh?” Kickaha’s ears twitched as he struggled to hear the small fox. “Do you have an idea?”
“Hmmmmm.” Kido thought to himself for a few seconds and twitched his tail. “I bet I could find the keys! And if I get caught in a cage too I’m small enough to squeeze through the bars.” The fox leaped down from the wall. It was a long drop and he had enough time to question this decision. Luckily he weighed basically nothing and so landed unharmed on all fours.
“Hey, you know, if I had gotten to play with that book a little longer, we’d all be small enough to squeeze through the bars.” Cryo stuck his tongue out.
“Yeah, and we’d all be too small to actually fight, ya nerd!” Woxie shoved Cryo atop his head playfully.
Kickaha got to work setting up the scene. He set out fake walls meant to simulate the inside walls of a dungeon. Kido was left by himself to navigate the dungeon. He turned one corner and found the figure of a snarling hulking dire rat. It looked big enough to gobble Kido up in one bite!
The very tiny fox held his breath and moved as slowly as possible to avoid alerting it. He seemed to luck out as the large pewter figure never moved or came after him and the only disturbance Kido heard was a large foxyote complaining about size bonuses and stealth.
“After navigating the halls you eventually come to a large room.” Kickaha narrated Kido’s adventure. “There is a massive bugbear asleep in a chair in the corner of the room. A golden key dangles loosely from his belt.” The figure mentioned was visible. The figure was covered in feathers and fur and had a mean looking beak. A small plastic key was tied to it by a string.
“Wait, you said a bugbear?” Kido tilted his head. “Do bugbears have feathers?”
“…Yes.” Kickaha replied with some hesitation. “They also have really good hearing so you won’t want to ask too many questions or he might wake up.”
“Meep!” Kido held his mouth shut with his paws. He then slowly crept up on the bugbear and tried to figure out how to reach the key on its waist. The only option was to climb it. He did so with glacial speed. As Kido began climbing a leg be worried the creature might stir any second. In a fight he was sure to lose… Stealth was his only option.
Eventually he reached the key. But another problem arose. Kido tugged on the key and it wouldn’t come loose. He tried pulling with all his strength but it was no use. He let out a frustrated growl before biting the string trying to sever it with his teeth. Finally the string snapped! And both fox and key tumbled to the ground.
“The key make a clanging noises as it collides with the ground. Suddenly, the bugbear snorts awake and looks down right at you.” Kickaha spoke in an ominous voice as he shined a flashlight in his face for dramatic effect.
“Double meep!” Kido grabbed the key in his mouth and took off running on all fours.
“You try to escape but the bugbear gives chase. He lets loose a savage roar as he follows you, clawed feet slamming down against the cobblestones!” Kickaha gently nudged his finger against the figurine to slide it across the map after Kido. The ‘chase’ continued like this until Kido found himself back in the room with the cage.
“Kido!” Cryo’s eyes widened as he saw the monster pursuing him. “Quick, get us out of here!”
“Better idea! Get me in there!” Kido shouted as he dove between the chicken wire bars into the cage before running behind Cryo’s legs to hide.
“The bugbear stops short of your cage as he enters the room.” Kickaha started.
“Bugbear?” Woxie tilted her head to the side. “Pretty sure that’s an owlbear.”
“The BUGBEAR,” the foxyote insisted, “smiles evilly at the trapped party. He draws a long spear, apparently intending to skewer you through the cage.”
“Someone get this thing open now!” Raxinath demanded as he drew his greatsword hoping to deflect the spear.
“Working on it!” Zeelo quickly grabbed the key from Kido and began grasping at the cage bars. “Um… Where’s the keyhole? It’s just a mesh.”
“There’s gotta be a keyhole somewhere or why would there be a key?” Cryo barked.
“But I don’t see any place where there could be one… Or even a door.” Zeelo furrowed his brow.
“Not everything is a perfect replication!” Kickaha reminded the party. “Use your imagination! Meanwhile, the bugbear-”
“Owlbear.” Woxie corrected.
“THE BUGBEAR,” Kickaha intoned icily, “thrusts his spear through the cage bars. Raxinath does his best to defend himself, but is stabbed in the shoulder for four damage. The shaft of the spear raps Woxie across the knuckles for one point of insubordination damage.”
“Arrrgh!” Raxinath grunted in pain.
“Imagination doesn’t really give me a spot to shove the key in…” Zeelo complained. Then he looked thoughtful for a moment and quickly grabbed the bars of the cage. “Passed a Disable Device check!” He lifted up on the cage moving it over the party and tossing it aside.
“Finally.” Raxinath charged the bugbear driving it through with his greatsword.
“Raxinath lands a critical hit for 22 damage!” Kickaha pressed a finger down on the figure to stop it from wobbling over from the blow. “But the bugbear doesn’t go quite yet! He reels up and attacks again for another 6 damage!”
“One-two, one-two, and Snicker-snack! All monsters must beware!” Woxie started to sing as she drew her rapier and thrusted it at the bugbear. “My vorpal sword cuts through and through and slays the owlbear!”
“Bugbear.” Kickaha corrected. “And six damage. That’s just enough to put it down.” He tipped the figure over.
“Well, THAT guy was a jerk.” Raxinath grunted and held a hand over his shoulder where he had supposedly been hit.
“Don’t be so grumpy! He barely scratched you.” Woxie held out the palm of her hand. “It’ll only take me one cure spell to patch you up.”
“Hey guys?” Now that the battle was over Zeelo was looking around the dungeon confused. “I think something’s wrong… Why are we the only ones down here?”
“I guess they don’t have any other prisoners.” Cryo offered as he retrieved his familiar and placed Kido back on his shoulder.
“But remember the start of the game?” Zeelo scratched the side of his head idly. “We were told the king was a prisoner in his own dungeon. So shouldn’t he be down here?”
“Well, shouldn’t he be?” Woxie shot a look up at Kickaha.
“What you see is what’s here!” Kickaha insisted. “So he must be somewhere else.”
“So in other words you forgot to put a figure down here for him.” Raxinath stuck his tongue out at the GM.
“You can’t prove that!” Kickaha crossed his arms and huffed. “Besides, you have bigger things to worry about. You may have escaped the dungeon… But the greatest threat to you still awaits. The Mastermind is in the throne room.”
“I guess since we’re inside the castle now it shouldn’t be that hard to reach him.” Zeelo muttered.
“Kido, did you see any monsters outside from the bugbear while you were scouting?” Cryo casually scratched Kido beneath his chin.
“There was one! A big one!” Kido insisted. “A giant scary rat! I think it wanted to eat me!”
“So nothing serious…” Cryo smiled. “Meaning if we hurry we might be able to get to the throne room unopposed.”
“Then let’s have the party head that way shall we?” Kickaha picked up the dungeon walls and removed them from the table. This time he placed new walls down that appeared to be brighter colored and in better condition. Banners and torches had been drawn on the side of the walls giving them a more regal ambience. This time instead of narrow corridors Kickaha built the walls around the party large enough to have plenty of room to move around. Then he sat down a single figure in the middle of the room. “You make your way to the throne room unopposed. You have your brave allies waging battle outside to thank for that. But as you enter the throne room you feel a strange sense of foreboding come over you. A single cloaked figure with his hood drawn to obscure his face sits on the throne. He slowly rises to his feet as you enter and speaks in a raspy voice. ‘So the battle outside was just a diversion? Not surprising. But I am surprised they would send such a small strike force against me.’ He lets out a low sick laugh.”
“Sure are cocky for a decrepit old man.” Raxinath took a step forward. “We have you cornered. You might as well give up now and save yourself a beating.”
“A decrepit old man? Is that what you see in me?” Kickaha continued to act out the part of robed character. “You will find your eyes are easily deceived.’ As he speaks, his body begins to distort between the robe and swell in size! It grows larger, and larger seeming to risk taking up the entire throne room. The cloak is torn to shreds revealing black scales, wings as dark as knight, a spiked tail, and the grinning fang filled mouth of an elder dragon!” Kickaha reached below the table grasping for something. He then paused. “An… elder dragon?”
“Is there a problem?” Woxie gave the GM a sly smile.
“No problem at all…” Kickaha muttered. “As I mentioned some pieces are missing but… I’m sure I have a suitable replacement for the Elder Dragon… Somewhere…” He dropped down below the table and began to dig through numerous boxes. “I… Need to run to the other room for a moment!” With that he vanished from everyone’s sight.
“Someone grab Cryo please.” Woxie said as soon as he was gone.
“What? Why!?” Cryo demanded as Zeelo grabbed his tail.
“Because you’ve already proven you can’t be trusted.” Woxie stuck her tongue out.
“Ah come on! I only messed with the book once!” Cryo insisted. “Though I do wonder if it does the same thing each time…”
“Only one way to find out!” Kido wagged his tail from where he was perched. “I don’t mind trying it.”
“See! Kido is game! That’s because he’s a good boy!” Cryo insisted.
“I’m pretty sure the rest of us are in agreement. you don’t get to go anywhere near any of the books or game pieces on your own.” Raxinath stepped so that Cryo was stuck between Zeelo and himself.
“You guys are no fun…” Cryo whined.
It was at this moment that Kickaha reappeared. He picked up the cloaked figure from the board and replaced it with the item he had brought.
“And so the Elder Dragon appears before you!” Kickaha placed a very old and very worn looking plush toy of a pink pony down in the middle of the map. It was clear that he had likely owned it for quite some time.
“Oh hey! Isn’t that-” Zeelo started.
“An. Elder. Dragon.” Kickaha spoke loudly with an edge to his voice. “And nothing else.”
“Really cause it looks to me like-” Raxinath started to speak but fell to the ground as Kickaha slammed his hand on the table.
“Elder. Dragon.” The foxyote stated very directly. The party chose not to fight him further there.
“I guess this is our boss fight huh?” Woxie drew her rapier then began to sing. “Fight fight fight! Knock that dragon for a fright!”
“You don’t have to tell me twice.” Raxinath lowered his greatsword as he prepared to strike.
“W-wait a minute!” Kickaha interrupted them. “You can’t just stab her! I mean… Attack the dragon with those really sharp weapons! It’s um… Magically protected!”
“Seriously?” Raxinath asked.
“Right!” Kickaha nodded. “So… All your weapons stop about an inch before making contact due to an invisible forcefield! But… It doesn’t stop all damage! Just reduces it! So you don’t have to figure out a way around it or anything.”
“I think I get the idea.” Raxinath growled.
“Yeah, yeah, our weapons will just barely avoid making contact.” Woxie rolled her eyes.
“Good, I’m glad we’re on the same page.” Kickaha nodded. “Now then… The Elder Dragon opens its maw and unleashes a green flames flooding the throne room! Easily hitting for 25 damage a piece to each of you even after you make your saves!”
“Not me!” Zeelo rolled onto the ground before drawing his bow. “Rangers get evasion! I’m in the clear!” He then began to act as if he was firing arrows.
“Fine, everyone who isn’t a cheating ranger takes 25 damage.” Kickaha shrugged.
“Everyone fan out!” Raxinath shouted. “Don’t let him use his breath weapon on all of us at once!” While Raxinath spoke he charged the dragon and swung his sword at it. Of course it stopped inches (millimeters) away from its target due to the forcefield.
“Lightning Bolt! Fireball! Lightning Bolt! Fireball!” Cryo pointed his staff at the dragon while circling around it. “Hopefully it doesn’t have spell resistance.”
“And if it does?” Kido asked as he huddled down on Cryo’s shoulder.
“Well, I suppose I could throw you at its face and see if you can claw it’s eyes out,” Cryo mused.
“Ready and willing!” Kido wagged his tail.
“Still singing, still singing, but also keeping my sword swinging!” Woxie had to stay close to the dragon to reach it with her rapier, but chose to at least move to its hind side hoping to flank it with Raxinath.
“Time to settle this dragon to dragon, let’s see if tooth and claw can beat solid steel!” Raxinath beat on his chest and let out a rageful shout. “ROOOOOAWR!”
“The battle rages!” Kickaha switched to narration mode as he watched the players. “Raxinath swings his mighty sword! But the Elder Dragon is quick! Pulling its head back from attacks and striking with its claws! Raxinath is able to get a few hits in, but isn’t quite able to hit the dragon in a vital spot! It leaves no spot undefended! Even as Woxie tries to roll beneath it and stab at its underside she finds herself slapped away by its tail! The best she can do is try to pierce its armored part of its hide! It’s armor seems impenetrable… Like Damage Reduction 20 levels of impenetrable! It’s shrugging off both Zeelo’s arrows and Cryo’s spells! And Cryo put Kido down. Just a reminder if you throw your familiar at the dragon it’ll just eat it. And now! The dragon prepares to take flight as it inhales ready to use its breath weapon and! What’s this? Zeelo adjusts his aim, and fires his arrows at the dragon’s wings! The arrows pierce through the much thinner membrane, preventing the dragon from taking flight! And… Wait, Cryo you’re casting… A Grease spell? I guess… Technically spell resistance wouldn’t apply but it’s not like it’s going to…” Kickaha picked up a die and rolled it real quick. “Huh… The dragon comes crashing down hard from its failed flight, only to slip in the new puddle of grease and fall onto its side! It’s vulnerable spots are open! And… Woxie you’re not attacking? Oh… Woxie focuses all of her energy into a spell, making Raxinath’s sword glow with holy energy! He strikes the dragon with his enhanced sword, cutting through the belly and piercing its heart!” Kickaha quickly grabbed the plush toy that was still completely unharmed and removed it.
“We did it!” Zeelo jumped up and down.
“Was there ever any doubt?” Raxinath puffed out his chest.
“Alright hang on a minute you did good…” Kickaha dug through his belongings before he picked up a book. “But there’s stuff written here about what happens when you defeat the dragon. Let’s see… The dragon’s body writhes in pain! And then it begins to shrink down to its previous size! As it resumes its human form you see the body of the figure once shrouded in cloak… It is no other than your king! The very one you had hoped to save!”
“Wait… The king is the bad guy?” Cryo asked.
“Maybe he was being controlled?” Kido suggested.
“So that’s why he wasn’t in the dungeon…” Woxie rubbed her chin.
“The party no doubt has a million questions racing through their mind as they see the dragon’s true form!” Kickaha continued. “But what they don’t realize is that they’ve stumbled upon a mystery that will now have them face an adversary that threatens far more than just their own homeland! For the truth will change everything! Unseen forces that have toiled for centuries will be brought to light! And! To be continued in the next volume! Sold separately in a game store near you… Wait what!?”
“WHAT!?” Everyone else shouted in unison.
“There’s a second part!” Kickaha threw the book aside and looked around the room. “But I only have one scenario book! I didn’t see another at the store.”
“But then what happens!?” Raxinath demanded. “Was the king the bad guy or?”
“I… I don’t know!” Kickaha explained. “Okay! Nobody panic! I can fix this! I’ll run down to the game store and see if they have a copy of volume two! And, and, pay for it with the money that I’m sure I can raise with a quick and hilarious scheme!” Without waiting for another word from the players Kickaha vanished from the room for a third time.
“Um… Okay?” Woxie looked around in confusion. “Guess… We’ll just… Wait here, stuck tiny on a table…”
“He won’t be gone too long!” Zeelo suggested. “Just to get a book.”
“Just to get a book that’s no longer in print and may not be in stock.” Raxinath corrected.
“Hey! He’ll probably come back and change us back if he can’t find it at any of the nearby stores!” Cryo suggested.
“Right!” Kido added. “I mean it’s not like he’s the type to just keep looking for it no matter how long it takes and keep us hanging!” Kido’s statement brought an uncomfortable silence over everyone as they realized that Kickaha might in fact be exactly that type.
“… At least we have plenty of food in the meantime.” Zeelo looked across the table to the giant snack pile.
“I suppose silver lining.” Woxie shrugged and began walking towards the snacks.
“Oh! Oh! Someone break me a piece off one of those skyscraper sized cookies!” Kido leaped down from Cryo’s shoulder and took off running for the snacks.
“Yeah those look really good.” Cryo nodded. “Will try them in just a second. I wanted to take a peek at something while we have a moment.” As he spoke he started to edge his way towards the pile of books near where Kickaha had been sitting.
“Oh no you don’t.” Raxinath grabbed Cryo by the tail and dragged him in the direction of the snacks. “You don’t get to touch anything.”
“Awwww come on! I wasn’t going to mess anything up!” Cryo objected but made no effort to avoid being pulled towards the snacks. He was pretty hungry himself.
And there was no hurry for anyone there. It might be awhile before they could go anywhere else.