by Howard S. Modell
As hard to believe as it may seem, letters used to appear in The DRAGON every so often in which the correspondent reports that his or her campaigns are boring! That the only things they do is hack, and slash, and kill monsters, and pick up treasure by the boatloadfull.
How curious! My friends and I don't understand this at all. The campaigns I ran for four years may be characterized in many ways, but I have it on good authority that they aren't boring.  I will admit that I've been helped by having friends who approach the game the same way I do: to have fun. It does help that we all prefer a slightly off-the-wall approach to other things, too. I will illustrate the fine art of enjoying FRP with a short history of our adventures.
My first campaign was built up out of TSR module B-1, In Search of the Unknown. According to the module intro, the Castle was built by Zelegar, a high-level Magic-User, and a fighter acquaintance of his. Since they weren't in attendance, not much description was provided of them. The fighter I tended to ignore, but I found a way to embellish Zelegar's reputation.
I gave him a hobby: botany. Or, perhaps, genetic engineering might be a better name for it. I populated the forest near the castle with the failed fruits of his labors. This allowed me to provide a number of interesting minor encounters, among which were included: the Giant Navel Oranges. These were three feet in diameter fruit, with six inch navels (actually mouths ringed with two-inch long teeth), tiny crab legs at the bottom (so that when they fell to the ground, they could hop around looking for something or someone to eat), a particularly vicious acid in place of orange juice and emerald shards in place of pips. Only a level one monster, but I hoped they'd be fun. I dreamed them up after seeing the sign Giant Navel Oranges for sale for six days in a row, and threw them at the party to see how they would react to them.
The forest also boasted a Marvelous Magic Pool. Here, I confess I went a tad overboard; the pool consisted of Healing Water of such miraculous potency that it would cure just about anything: wounds, warts, the common cold, rust and nicks on swords, and if you put those aforementioned emerald shards in a bucket of this stuff, why they congealed into a sizable emerald. I made up for this beneficence later on in the campaign when I had a roving band of Brownies  take over the pool's glade and they charged a price for any use of the pool. This at least deterred the party from using the pool too often.
My piece-de-resistance was the refrigerator they found in the kitchen of the Castle. I made it a magic refrigerator (a blue glow lit the interior when you opened the door), and in it placed an egg carton. In the egg carton were a dozen Phoenix eggs. (One egg would be a rare enough treasure -- Phoenixes don't normally lay eggs! -- and a dozen ... ?!) The problem for them was: how to get the eggs home without their heating up and hatching Phoenixes ?
In a different setting (a ruined temple belonging to the God Chung Kuel), I set up a room with a Major Magic Item being guarded/investigated by an eighth level Magic-User and her two assistants: an eighth-level and a tenth-level assassin. A lovely room, the door both Wizard Locked and Held. The two groups who have come up against it have each gotten in  each in their own way, and neither was the way I was prepared for!
The first group to attempt the room had a Druid, Magog, with them. After Pocus, the party's Magic-User, Knocked the door, and it still wouldn't open (my decision was only one spell had been undone), the Druid used Stone Shape on the nearby wall and made a doorway!
The second group to attempt it (a completely different group of players) also undid one spell (the other one) and failing to gain entry that way, gave some Potion of Giant Strength to the party's nasty-tempered dwarf Rufus (more on him later) and he kicked the door in! Such were the conditions that I felt compelled to judge that the door flew through the air, unfortunately (for me!) pinning both assassins under it! The poor Magic-User (the one in the room) was so astonished that she lost initiative for several rounds.
The treasure hidden in this room was my version of the Philosopher's Stone.  The second group eventually learned enough about it to know that one touched it to the thing to be affected, and said a magic phrase to activate it, but did not learn what the phrase was. Later, the group encountered Chung Kuel and realized that they might be able to persuade him to reveal the secret of the Stone. One of the party's Magic-Users, Sage by name, was holding out the Stone to show to the god, and one of the other party members was heard to whisper, "Get him to tell us the phrase". Before the god could say anything, Sage suddenly woke up to the fact that (1) he was holding the Stone and (2) the activating phrase might suddenly be said. In a rush, he screamed,"Don't let him say it! I'm holding the damned thing!".
The level below the temple included a large cavern inhabited by butterflies. Mind you, these butterflies had fifty-foot wingspans, always hovered up near the ceiling 300' up, and the air was filled with the dust falling off their wings. The dust, if inhaled, induced hallucinations of a spectacular sort. One party which entered there spent the better part of an hour (by the wall-clock) going through their hallucinations. This room showed up later.
The third setting I've tried was actually a team-effort. I designed a city above which hovered a Cloud Castle designed by one of my players. The Castle was intended to be the major adventuring setting, while the city was an R&R locale (as much to give me a rest from DM-ing as anything else.). The city, Arilin, had a Trade Quarter, a Magic-Users Quarter, a Thieves Quarter, a Fighter's Quarter and a Red Light District. Arilin was in thrall to the Cloud Castle, which was inhabited by Cloud Giants, run by a Storm Giant, and every trap in it was also functional (they served useful purposes for the Giants, e.g., the hurricane-force winds that swept (literally) through the corridors every so often).
I have two fondnesses for cities: Inns and Stores. I feel no D&D city is complete without colorful instances of both. My favorite Inn in Arilin was The Inn of the Three-legged Centaur. As I'm not above "borrowing" ideas, it was patterned after the Inn of the Olde Phoenix in several of Poul Anderson's novels with a soupçon of Larry Niven. It could open out onto any world in any dimension, and thus would be generally occupied by non-humans of all conceivable anatomies and habit, the wilder the better. Unfortunately, the party rarely spent much time there as it made them uncomfortable. A pity.
My favorite store is Marvyn's Magick Shoppe.  Marvyn, who while not a Magic-User himself, somehow obtains a lot of interesting things, will buy and sell items (usually one of a kind) to anyone. One evening, after a particularly harrowing episode up in the Castle, three of the party members (mind you, three of the least experienced and least wise members!) decided to pay a call on Marvyn to complain about some devices he sold them that proved to be less than what they expected,
Two of them entered the store while one remained outside to guard. The two inside somehow convinced any other NPC's to leave, and then they confronted the proprietor. One of them got in a lucky punch and decked both poor Marvyn and his assistant. Then, they carefully shuttered the windows and blockaded the door, intending to ransack the place. Alas, I neglected to make mention to anyone before this point (though the existence of something of the kind should have been suspected) about the "burglar alarm" protecting the store. As soon as any drawer or cabinet was opened by anyone except a member of the staff, these four small gargoyle statues up on high shelves (one at each corner of the room) began to glow. Each statue then leapt to the ground, and grew into a full-size Gargoyle, whose sole purpose was to mangle any burglar thoroughly! In defense, I'm fairly that I did describe the room completely when asked.
My colleague, who designed the Cloud Castle, was no slouch. For example, his Cloud Castle includes a Room of Consensual Delusion. This marvelous room (a recreation room for the Giants) had the property that anyone entering it would see some illusion, generated out of his/her subconscious mind. If a group entered together, the illusion would be a shared one, generated by the collective subconscious (our group found a pantry and kitchen, because someone happened to suggest it might be such.). And, because someone suggested checking the exit door for traps, our group then had the problem that, every time one of us tried to leave the room, he/she was spitted on a telephone-pole-sized spear! Or, so the members still in the room thought (the person leaving really did leave, and found himself/herself out in the hall.). After a point, there was only one real PC left in the room, seemingly surrounded by the entire party (all run as NPC's by the DM) on spits, while the rest of the party was really out in the hall, trying to figure out how to get him out! Only people who entered simultaneously (or close enough) shared an illusion. Separate entries, or re- entries generated a new illusion.
One party that I refereed included two individuals, one a female fighter of some experience named Gertje Börkinder, and the other a ranger named Galbreth. Galbreth was being run by a dear friend of mine, a man who was (and still is) very religious and can't easily play a character who is even slightly Evil. Gertje was an "earthy" type, and at some point (I learned this later), "propositioned" Galbreth. He, of course, virtuously declined. Many weeks subsequent to this, it happened that poor Galbreth put on a Helmet of Opposite Alignment. I decided that Lawful Evil was a sufficient opposite for him, and passed him a note to this effect.
I swear, my friend sat in what seemed a trance for fifteen minutes by the clock, trying to come to grips with having to play an Evil character. I give him credit;he found a way. At the end of the evening, a note passed from him to Gertje, Inever saw what was on it, but I did see her nod her head. I knew what it said. Of course, DM's privilege enters here. After everyone was gone, I rolled some dice;they had a nice night. Some more dice; they had a successful night. I informed Gertje's real-life husband (who was also playing with us) -- Gertje's player being away for a few weeks, and he promised to let her know.
To my surprise, when she returned to us a few weeks later, she informed me that "the same night I rolled Gertje pregnant, the Great DM in the Sky did likewise" for her. We subsequentally "rolled" the baby (whom I've considered kind of a "god-child") into the storyline.
Not infrequently, something will happen on the spur of the moment that leads to wonderful things. One evening, the party was exploring a corridor, and complaining about the lack of interesting things they'd encountered. A challenge! I thought quickly and they found an item I described as "an ornamental knife, with an obsidian blade and ivory handle, and the name Benegar inscribed on the handle." The Knife of Benegar(as it has since become known) turned out to have the singular property that magic would not work within a 60' radius of it. Even a Rod of Cancellation couldn't turn it off (the Rod effect would stop working at the edge of the 60' radius. After pondering it for a while, and coming to the conclusion that it was insufficiently beneficial to keep with them(!), they reluctantly left it there. Or so they thought!
DM's are encouraged to modify "official" objects to suit their purposes and keep players on their toes. I devised a modified Bag of Tricks from which one could extract monsters. Several interesting strategies were created around this. One came up when the party was confronted with a truly fearsome beast of some kind. Galen, the Magic-User who had the Bag just kept reaching in and tossing random monsters at the beastie until he found one that could beat it. Then, he needed monsters to battle the victor, etc. It got ridiculous after a while.
The second strategy developed after I modified it a second time to allow "generic characters"  to be pulled out. Idjm, the Magic-User who had the Bag at that time developed a unique way of transporting the party across a room or corridor; use the Bag and hope the rolls keep coming up "Character". A truly odd series of rolls actually got three PC's across a room that way.
One session ended with one of our Magic-Users being chased away "forever" by the Paladin leading an encounter group. Borlo, the group's Cleric, had beseeched his god for something or another, and the god gave in but told him that he "had been consorting with Evil and had to atone, somehow". When the party encountered this other group, Galen andRufus, the party's two Neutral Evil characters were trying to be inconspicuous and "hide in shadows". Borlo walks up to the Paladin and whispers, "See those two guys over there? They're "Evil". The Paladin steps forward, pulls out this amulet (which was glowing) and announces the existence of EVIL and that
Galen and Rufus headed for the hills, Galen swearing vengeance on Borlo. 
The night IDJM joined us, MORGAN's player had just finished informing us that "he" had never completed his first-level Magic-User course. When Idjm appeared (accompanied by a flash of light), he requested information from the party as to the whereabouts of a "Morgan, who styled himself the Magnificent". He, IDJM, "had been sent by the Academy of Magic to help him complete his schoolwork!" The party did eventually find Morgan where "he" was cowering behind some furniture.
IDJM gave Morgan a "tool" to help him in his studies. He didn't tell him that it was a Wand of Wondersthat he had "acquired" somewhere. This became especially amusing the night of the Great Battle. I'd set things up for the climax of a campaign, such that the party could obtain the object of the Quest if they defeated a nearby Black Dragon. The night of the Battle, unfortunately, everyone was busy and no one was keeping an eye on Morgan. He thought this was a good time to use his "tool". No one was more caught off-guard than I was when the dice I rolled came up with the 3-in-100 chance that the user would be shrunk to one-half inch in height! The only way the party found Morgan after the battle was by the miniscule Color Spray coming up from the sand!
I have found that some of the most enjoyable sessions have arisen on their own from seemingly innocent causes. The one for some time to come started innocently enough. One of my players brought in someone new, Zaphod, to the group. In my improvising to bring him into proximity to the existing party, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision and passed him a note reading, "In your wandering around the second level, you find a knife with an obsidian blade and an ivory hilt with the name Benegar inscribed on it.". He informed me by return note that he put it in his pack. I eventually got him situated within sight of the party, though out of their sight, at the far end of a cavern with a large pool in it.
One of the PC's, Donnerbec (self-styled "The Claw") having previously seen the cavern's main occupant dump what seemed like a body in the pool, announced he was going to use some Potion of Water Breathing and scan the bottom of the pool. I let him get half way down the length of the pool, roughly 60' from the tunnel entrance where Zaphod was watching from, and passed him a note informing him that he was drowning. He assumed his potion had worn off.
A little bit later, after Zaphod had been introduced to the group , he asked the party at large, "By the way, does the name 'Benegar' mean anything to anyone?". I nearly died of suffocation (from holding in laughter) as, one after another, my three best players said something to the effect of "Gee, it sounds familiar, but, no, I don't recognize it.". Shortly after this point came the Challenge to rid the area of the Black Dragon in return for the Object Of The Quest.
The next session, they decided to scout the Dragon's Cavern (filled with impenetrable steam and vapor). One of the Magic-Users announced he would use his Wizard Eye spell. While he was preparing, I asked what everyone else would be doing. Borlo, the group's Dwarf Cleric, announced he would scout out the perimeter of the cavern on foot. I asked who was going with him. Zaphod volunteered among others. Of course, by the time the spell went into effect, the other group was more than 60' away . A little while later, they decided (for some reason I can't remember) to redo the spell. This time the group stayed together.
When the Magic-User (IDJM, as I recall) asked what he could "see", I informed him casually, "Nothing.".
"I 'turn' the eye around to 'look' at the group. What do I 'see'?"
"Expurgated ! The blamed Knife must be around somewhere!" Perceptive of them. "I will move out of the cavern and continue to about 100'. Tell me when I 'see' something."
"Ok. What are the rest of you doing? " They inform me they're all following IDJM. Ok. You're now 100' from the cavern., down the corridor."
"What do I 'see'?"
"Ok. I'll back up another 100'. What do I 'see'?"
"Bleep! We must be carrying it with us! Donnerbec's stupid Fire Lizard must have swallowed it. Ok, leave the lizard here, and the rest of us will continue 60' down the corridor. Now what do I 'see'?"
"What! Darn! One of you guys must have it on you and not know it. Ok, You guys stand there, I'll back up 60' and unsheathe my sword (it lights) . Does it light?"
"Great! Now, one at a time, you guys come over to me."
I swear I did nothing to guide or influence this process, other than to ask who was crossing next. It just happened that Zaphod was left almost by himself, with only Borlo for company, and Idjm's sword was still lit. For some very good reasons, the party could validly conclude that Borlo didn't have it. Almost as one, the swords and arrows came out and were pointed at poor Zaphod. His meek response to the "Ok, sucker! Drop it where we can see it or you're dead meat!" was "But all I have is just this knife." He did survive to continue adventuring with us, though he almost didn't survive trying to trash Marvyn's Magick Shoppe.
This same party had found a sword of great dweomer and greater Evil aura, and decided to use a Wand of Negation on it. Alas, this particular sword was really a first-level Demon which had been bound as a sword. All they did was free it. It was grateful to them (like the Djinn was to Aladdin?) and all it wanted was a review of the last couple hundred years' events. The party got nervous and one thing led to another and before too long, IDJM (the party's best Fighter/Magic-User) was stunned, most of the party were hiding within a Cube of Force field, and the Demon was engaged in a wizard's duel with Sammy the Sock (more on him later).
At this point, the party's novice druid (played by the same friend who played Galbreth) decided to try Summon Insects. This bothered me, and I hemmed and hawed, and then he reminded me that the spell had a 75% chance to draw flying insects. I was looking at my level-map at the time, and it suddenly dawned on me where they were. They were in a large cavern, connected by a ten-foot wide corridor to the cavern of the Giant Butterflies! Who, of course, would answer the summons, or try to. You see, they couldn't get through the corridor, but because of the spell, would still try to, and I could just imagine them feverishly beating their wings near the opening, fanning their wing dust through the corridor...
At about the same time the Wicked Gleam lit my face, my friend playing Morgan realized where they were, too, and the look of Sheer Horror on her face was wonderful to see!
Not all DM traps need be against the party. I started a tradition of trying to surprise anyone whose birthday approximated a D&D evening. An appropriately decorated cake gets prepared, and the "victim" is somehow maneuvered into the front of the party, where he or she can discover "some lights in the distance" which turn into the real-world cake being brought down the real-world hall. The best one of these was perpetrated against me by my wife and a fellow player. My wife snuck the cake into the house, while I was I being distracted by a hastily co-opted visiting out-of-town friend. Then, it just happened (well, I can play along to an extent!) that my colleague was running things that night (we were up in the Cloud Castle), and I wound up running his character in the party. Even though I was waiting for it, I found myself so caught up in an expertly handled encounter such that I completely forgot what I was supposed to be watching for, even when my wife brought it down the hall that I was facing!
While the "The Return of the Knife of Benegar" has yet to be topped, my colleague has come close. A month of so later, I was running a truly obnoxious character, a Paladin named Gideon Emmanuel. This character suffered from a bad case of Humbleness, brought about because he knew he was "less than perfect";his attributes were all 18's except for his Intelligence which was 16.
Anyway, we were rummaging around and all of a sudden, members of the party were being "levitated" and carried off. All except Gideon, whose Protection from Evil aura was stopping something. Well, Gideonchased after the drifting party, who eventually disappeared through the huge Wall of Lightning in one cavern. Gideon, desperate and frustrated by this time, let his Wisdom lapse and touched the Wall with his Holy Avenger sword. The resulting shock killed him instantly. Then, his body levitated and wafted through the Wall. He was resurrected in a large dining hall, surrounded by the rest of the party. At the head of the Hall, some several hundred feet away, was a large Golden Globe of Light. A heavenly "voice" in everyone's head informed us that it needed our help. Its child was being held hostage elsewhere in the Castle in order to keep it (the parent) there to do the Storm Giant's bidding. It wanted us to rescue the child.
We, of course, asked why it couldn't do its own rescuing, and who it was. The answer to the first question I don't recall off-hand except that it was plausible. The answer to the second question was the disappearance of the Globe and in its place the appearance of a Ki-Rin. Now, all the conversation was being held mentally and on a semi-individual basis. Gideon, with his characteristic Sense of Honor, promised the Ki-Rin. that he and the others would rescue the child.
Well, to make a long story shorter, we did rescue the babe (a small Golden Globe), and returned it to the Dining Room presence of its parent. The little Globe rose and "merged" with big one, who then thanked us for our work, and revealed itself finally to be a Demon ! Poor Gideon found himself faced with the horrifying facts that he had not only "consorted with evil, but had "helped it prosper". Mind you, there wasn't a whole lot he could have done. The Globe/"Ki-Rin."/Demon never came close enough the anyone, particularly him, to allow its evil to be detected. There was literally no way for him to even suspect anything. The Demon was honorable, after its fashion, and left us intact and unharmed. When last seen, Gideon was seen riding off to do penance somewhere and regain his Honor.
Easily, the thing that has always kept things lively and amusing for us are the wonderfully eccentric characters my friends and I have brought in, to react against. For example, Chilne, the Halfling Thief. A character of long-standing for the friend who played "him", Chilne would gleefully set fire to your cart, or exterminate monsters with a smile, or loan a Kingdom's Ransom in PP to his teammates. When pressed for a decision (like what kind of Pizza to order), he would always roll dice, even they were two-sided. Sometimes, he was less than careful in what he wanted to do, such as the numerous times he'd tell me that he was going to scout for traps by "floating his Ring (of TK) | down the hall." We always had visions of this Ring floating down the center of the corridor, with a frustrated Hobbit dangling helplessly from it, cursing how he meant "to float a coin down the hall!"
Then, there was Donnerbec "the Claw". Originally an NPC of the DM who ran him, intended mostly as an instigator, Donnerbec was also a Halfling Thief, always precise if not always very wise. For example, we get into a new city, and I'm passed a long note with the request that "I need to know if any of these items are available in the city." He rode a Fire Lizard, which everyone else in the party loathed simply because he'd bring it down into dungeons with us. He was "The Claw" because of a "childhood accident which mangled one of his hands". One session, he made an offer of a deal with IDJM to perform a Polymorph Other spell on him to heal his hand, in return for suitable fee. IDJM did as requested and healed Donnerbec's hand, and changed his sex for him as well. Unfortunately for us, Donnerbec (who obstensibly was wanted on 40 worlds across 10 planes) liked the idea of now being female (thus not recognizable as himself). She now needed to find a seamstress in the next city we went to, to order new outfits. She decided to style herself, Derdessa the Talon now.
When the party was wandering the Cloud Castle, Derdessa found herself possessed of what she thought was a Ring of Flying but which was really a Ring of Contrariness. She tried to use it to fly during a hurricane-like wind, almost causing herself to fly into the Wall of Lightning. She flew up to investigate some odd stalactites in a singularly dry room, only to discover;by the expedience of touching it bare-handed;that the stalactites were part of the de-humidifier system for the Cloud Castle. When her arm (the "new" one) was already desiccated up to the elbow, and we'd exhausted all of our means to get her down, poor Derdessafound herself having to hack off her own arm! Next, at the party's first encounter with the "Ki-Rin", Derdessa the Stump asked it to restore her arm so she could be more effective. The "Ki-Rin" made some remark about her not seeming to be quite all she should be, and poof! Derdessa was Donnerbec once more! Later in the same evening, someone in the party ran afoul of an Air Elemental, and when the party gathered to decide how to help this poor cornered individual, Donnerbec, for reasons no one has ever fathomed, made some rude remarks about the Elemental, and found himself being chased by it! The party caught up with them in a dead-end corridor, the Air Elemental threatening Dire Consequences, prompting Gideon to request aid from the "Ki-Rin". The heavenly "voice" said it would help, and poof Donnerbec disappeared from our sight. We were informed that he had now reappeared in his original world;without his Fire Lizard (it had long since been eaten by a Roc), without his cart of supplies (down in Arilin), without his pack (dropped in his haste when the Air Elemental started to pursue him)!
As has been hinted above, we've had some fun with Fighters, too, over the years. For example, one of my friends had a haphazard schedule and he couldn't always be there to play his character, Morgaine Alm Undy, a Bard. Well, one such evening, when the party had been confronting a hive of Giant Ants, they reached a point where they had initiative but had already used each of their weapons for the round and were looking for something else to attack with. Morgaine's personality, as "fleshed out" up to this point, included a noticeable measure of egotism. I facetiously suggested they throw Morgaine's "vaulting Ego" at the Ants, and they agreed. I decided that it counted as a blunt weapon, and rolled "to hit". A hit! I rolled damage: Dead Ants!
Then there was Rufus Burrows. Rufus was an interesting character. A Dwarven Fighter, Neutral Evil, and an Intelligence of 6. The party had discovered that a party of Orcs were camped out nearby, and decided to set up an ambush. They told Rufus that they would hide, and he should go to the Orcs and taunt them in Dwarvish, getting them to chase him to where his friends would be waiting. From behind his character sheet, Rufus's puzzled voice was heard to ask, "Is Dwarf one of the languages I speak?" Rufus was also very acquisitive. By the time he left us, he was carrying or dragging behind him, seven swords of various sizes up to and including a two-handed broadsword.
I've already mentioned Idjm and Gideon, certainly two of our more colorful fighters, but I don't think anyone would fault me for retaining a special love for my own character, Loof Asnem. Loof was a Paladin, but just barely; his characteristics were minimums to say the least: Str: 12, Int: 9, Dex: 6! I figured the only way he ever rose to 10th level was (1) he found a +5 luckstone, (2) a +4 Ring of Protection, and (3) he had a patron deity who loved him and watched out for him. The first time anyone met him, the party was at the inner end of a cave/corridor and this mysterious shape "appeared" backlit at the entrance, only to disappear a few moments later accompanied by a panicked "Aaaiiiii". He had fallen into a pit trap the party had triggered earlier, and luckily caught the edge before falling all the way in.
Loof was intended for pure fun, and tended to provide it.  Somewhere along the line, for reasons that made sense at the time, I deemed it suitable that he passed through a magic doorway which had the property that it reversed the sex and alignment of whomever so passed through it. Loof the Paladin became Lola the Anti-Paladin. Same dexterity, same intelligence. Good thing for the Luckstone, or she'd never have survived practicing poisoning;on herself. She never did become good a sneaking around silently.
One of our players invented a whole family of characters. The patriarch was Blendar of Oster Castle, a fighter of some reknown. He and his Druid wife, Spice, were "perfect";their primary characteristics were all 18's, and this perfection offended an evil witch of some power, who cursed them and their future family. They eventually had a small horde of children, each of who was "deficient" in one of the major characteristics. There was Blundar, a fighter with very low intelligence. There was Sassafras, his Druid sister, with a low dexterity. (Side note: each of the boys was named some variation on "Blendar"; each of the girls was named for some natural herb or root.)
Morgan the Magnificent was described to us as a first-level Illusionist with delusions of grandeur, and the maturity and wisdom of Ronald MacDonald, who he resembled somewhat. Morgan was the kind of character who, if the party was rummaging around in a bedroom, would pull out a pair of under-shorts from one of the bureaus and put them on over his head and pretend to be invisible. Half the party wanted to kill him the first night they met him.
A few months after he joined us, I was informed that Morgan was going to acquire a familiar. Never mind that Illusionists aren't allowed familiars; Morgan would have one. He introduced us to "Sammy" the sock" puppet. This was allowed to go on for a week or two, at which point it was suggested to me that it might be interesting if a wandering elemental from the Plane of Chaos were to happen by, see this curious party and decide to inhabit the sock. So it came to pass.
A more wonderful team-up there surely has never been. They were sort of Magic-Usertually "familiar" to one another. Most of the time, Sammy would be puppy-like, and follow Morgan with adoration in his fake eyes. (Morgan once asked Sammy to try and become invisible and "he" did;by turning himself inside out!) When danger threatened, however, Sammy was a power to be reckoned with. Think of a Chaotic Elemental as "Murphy's Law" incarnate and you'll have some idea of his power. (My wife has since then given birth to a daughter, and I understand the properties of an Elemental of Chaos even better now.)
The end of this relationship was climactic, as might be expected. The party was besieged by the Storm Giant, and Morgan, who for reasons that aren't important now was dressed in blinding white robes, stood up from behind the party's barricade and announced himself. The Storm Giant promptly Ki-Rin him with a lightning bolt and all that was left was a black blotch on the floor. Where was Sammy? He had been sent straight up with a knife in his mouth, to drill his way up through the ceiling. Unfortunately, the substance of the Cloud Castle was self-repairing, and the Sock found himself encapsulated.
All was not lost, however! The Elemental who was Sammy reluctantly disassociated itself from its "body" (which was only a dirty old sock, after all) and returned to its home Plane. There, it re-met up with Morgan's soul (he was, after all, as Chaotic a PC as they come) and after a jolly celebration, Sammy granted Morgan the boon of reincarnation. Morgan came back to us in the "body" of the Sock. The only real problem with this was that, without hands, he can't make the gestures for most of the Illusionist spells. Morgan, being Morgan, has never let this depress him.
There was a period when Morgan was absent from us, having returned to the Academy to take his Illusionist Exams, and as a replacement for him, I brought in Pukal DenMar. Pukal is Morgan's grandfather (on his mother's side), and a dottier old Elf there can't be. A 15th-level Illusionist at the peak of his career, Pukal was well into senility now. His caring family had long ago given him: a Ring of Unseen Servant (permanent) which Pukal somehow became convinced was really a marvelous (he always knew exactly where to scratch) body servant he referred to as "Poofter"; an Onyx Dog which could become a lovable St. Bernard whom Pukal named "Borjamoi" (unfortunately, he couldn't understand where the Dog disappeared to for most of the week, and kept cussing the endless supply of small dog statues he kept tripping over, only to put them into his pocket where it sat for a week until he next called the Dog's name.). He had several vials of Dust of Appearance/Disappearance, and one vial of Dust of Sneezing and Choking, and can't remember which was which. He claimed to have "taught Morgan all he knew" and was annoyed that the boy never came to visit.
Another of my friends (in a different party) played a Magic-User, Abra Cadabra, who was
created as being Lawful Good. The problem here was that LG ended up meaning "Shirley Temple" or "the Osmonds". We tolerated this as long as we could, when "fortunately" the party acquired a Deck of Many Things. Abra turned up the card which forces you to change your alignment, and everyone rejoiced! She chose to become Chaotic Neutral. Unfortunately, she subsequently also turned up the card which caused her Charisma to go to 18.
For reasons that escape me now, I decided that as this was a magical improvement, her new Charisma was more like 18/50. This, in turn, implied that everyone loved her! Walk through the forest and you couldn't see her head for the swarm of devoted gnats, and all the animals and birds around would come near and follow her adoringly.
The same party had an Elven Magic-User, Zephyr, in the party. I was still relatively new at the job of DM, and I told her she could speak any languages she wanted. She chose "Wall". I did my best with it. Everytime she tried to speak to the walls, asking for information, the wall in question would be "stoned", or "board", or "plastered", or at best only knew what was on its other side.
 I mean, how many DM's can boast that one of the PC's "died"and "reincarnated" as a dirty sock?
 I envisioned them sort of like four-inch tall Hell's Angels, complete with leather jackets
 I meant it to be difficult to get in ... not impossible.
 when touched to an object and the activating word spoken, all the atoms of the most prevelant element in the object would change into another element whose atomic number was rolled on percentile dice.
 branches of it, complete with Marvyn himself, tend to show up in most of my cities and towns.
 By "generic" I mean that the die roll indicates simply "Fighter" or "Magic-User", etc. Generally this gets filled by the nearest such PC or NPC, especially out of the party.
 GALEN eventually met a sad end. At some point, he came back to "haunt" the party, and ran afoul of IDJM (who was his uncle). IDJM chased GALEN across town, and GALEN started pulling beasts out of the Bag and tossing them back at his uncle. IDJM just slashed through them like a buzzsaw (he had a Sword of Sharpness) and eventually cornered GALEN. After forcibly divesting him of magic items, IDJM, who was in a particularly pissed mood by this time, hacked poor Galen to pieces.
 Even folks planning to vacation the following weekend postponed plans for this one!
 After all, if the DM specifically tells you of something, it must be important, right?
I played fair -- the Magic-Users in the group were informed that they "felt weak", the same effect they felt the previous time with the Knife around
 they'd played with me before when they encountered nothing with a capital N -- the kind of nothing you see out the back of your eyes. Understanderably, this upset him to see this when looking at his allies.
 I had a dog, who for very logical reasons is named Lufe. The resemblance is frightening at times. He was strong, white (half-samoyd/half-retriever), large (100#), sweet dispositioned, a klutz (especially when wagging his long, "+5 Holy Avenger" tail), and not the brightest of dogs. He died at the age of 12. He was my Best Friend.
 I thought things would get too dull without him
 I've never been allowed to see the full script for The Cloud Castle [frown]. I will never forgive him for that.
 No, "benegar" doesn't mean anything or refer to anyone in particular.