Entry #8: Bic and the Bear

Two weeks ago, I announced that we would give away 5 copies of Dungeons & Dreamers (coming in March 2014) for the best stories about playing Dungeons & Dragons, or MMORPGS, or role-playing games, or computer games in general.

Today is the last day to participate, so get those stories to us.

The rules aren’t really important. Telling us a good story about playing games with friends is the key to winning. To enter, just send a link or your entry through the Contact Us form or leave it in a comment on one of the entries.

You can see the entries and demo stories here.

This entry comes from Nick Monitto, whom you can follow on Twitter.

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Back in the 1980’s, I was in a long-running  AD&D (1E) campaign of 5 players and the DM. Since we were a group of good friends, there were often funny & interesting things happening through the games, but this one with my character is my favorite.

In the short games I played outside this group, I favored Half-Elf or Elven Rangers. Heroes of the forest, strong and swift with bow and blade,. But for this campaign we were assigned characters by the DM, and mine was quite different. A Fighter/Illusionist named Flick Rainbowsited, a Gnome who was rather small even for them (barely 3′ tall!) I was a bit bummed at first, but took him as a role-playing challenge to be mastered. His signature weapon was a clever DM creation: a switchblade version of dagger which was named Bic. Like as in, “Flick your Bic”; hey, it was the 80’s and we were easily-amused teenagers!

As the campaign went on, I felt like I needed to find a way to better contribute to the party’s success. I had spells, but few that were as good as the Magic-User or Cleric. I could dart around melees with little notice, but a dagger only goes so far. Plus, when you’re really short, it’s not easy to keep up with all these seeming-giants around you! As it happened, my solutions to both of these issues would converge.

I knew I couldn’t use every weapon in the Player’s Handbook, but being a Fighter I should have some alternatives. I looked for any limit on what a small Fighter could use. What I found amused me so much that I can remember the rule just about verbatim:

“Characters under 5 feet in height may not use the longbow, or any weapon over 12 feet in length.”

There was also a follow-up rule that a character under 200-lb in weight could not use a 2-Handed Sword, maybe another extremely heavy weapon. But that was it! Letter of the rules, I could have almost any sort of sword. Or a spear. Or a… halberd! Oh, I loved the look of that one (and its damage stats), I knew with one of those I could really contribute to a battle. Little guy, flailing about with it, but I could have it modified a little so the balance was better. But how could I carry around a weapon of that size?

I went to the DM with my idea, based on the notion that Bic gave us freedom for unusual weapon designs. My suggestion was a halberd with a collapsible handle; I don’t remember what I compared it to back then, but in a modern example, the premise was much like the “snap your wrist to extend” toy Lightsabers. Collapsed it was 1/4-size and could be used like a hand axe. But if Flick were to release the catch and snap his wrists, it would extend to full size and lock!

Around the same time, Flick had been working to solve his other problem. The Ranger had summoned an animal companion, a large bear. Flick spent plenty of in-game time with the Ranger, getting comfortable with the bear to the point that he would let Flick ride on him. That solved the problem of getting around, though it meant that the bear’s natural fighting ability was lost if we were surprised.

Or was it? I was allowed to design a new weapon, why not a solution for this too? The bear was already friendly and comfortable enough with Flick that we’d been able to fashion up a sort of saddle/seat to ride on. I reasoned that with a couple modified stirrups and a sort of “seat belt”, that would help keep Flick on the bear’s back. He could ride the bear into a fight, with the halberd like a sort of modified lance. And in close quarters, the bear could still rear up to claw & bite without throwing Flick off his back. More than a few enemies were vanquished before they could truly figure out the sight of this Gnome lancer on the back of a charging bear!