Every night for the past few weeks, Tabitha and I have ended our goodnights with the same bit of conversation. “You’re not issued dwarves, Dad!” she says as I walk out of her room. “Couldn’t prove it by me,” I respond.
This probably requires some backstory.
Tabitha has recently acquired a fondness for a game she calls “Scenarios.” Basically, she gives me a story set up and my job is to figure out what to do next. Most of these scenarios borrow from fantasy literature tropes, which is appropriate since both of us enjoy reading that kind of thing. It’s a fun kind of lateral thinking game, and her problem is that she is playing with an opponent whose thinking is so lateral it borders on inverse and who has read more of these books than she has.
These Scenarios rarely go as planned, in other words.
For example, the first one she gave me had me in a locked dungeon with only a rusty sword and two dwarves for companions, facing an angry fire-breathing dragon. I chose to throw my dwarves at the dragon, in the fond hopes of confusing it. After that it got weird.
At one point, with my dwarves all used up and my character in desperate need of a new trick, I had it reach into a desk and pull something out. “Wait,” Tabitha said. “You don’t have a desk.”
I looked at her. “Why not?”
“Because you’re in a dungeon! There are no desks in dungeons!”
“Tabitha, you’re telling me that I’m in a dungeon with an angry dragon, a rusty sword and two projectile dwarves and the thing that strikes you as implausible is that there might be a desk?”
It’s that element of determined weirdity that makes it fun, I think – just pushing the envelope of what is expected until it bursts and we collapse into fits of laughter. Keeping a straight face in these Scenarios is not even a goal.
I’ve noticed a pattern with these Scenarios, though. I’ve always got two dwarves with me. It’s like they’re standard issue. You go to the quartermaster at the beginning of the story and he hands you things – hat, shield, sword, dwarves, boots, armor. It’s all standard equipment; please try not to dent any of it.
My characters have been stranded at the tops of trees, locked in dungeons, marooned in seas of lava, and generally mistreated in entertaining and creative ways, but they’ve always got two dwarves with them. And even when they don’t, they still do. There was one Scenario where Tabitha didn’t mention any dwarves, so I asked about them. “Where’s my dwarves?!?”
“You don’t have any dwarves.”
“What do you mean I don’t have any dwarves! Of course I have dwarves! I’ve always got dwarves.”
“Okay. Your dwarf companions were struck by lightning and fried to a crisp. Now you’re on your own.”
“Wait. They gave me defective dwarves?”
“Dwarves aren’t fireproof!”
“Of course they are! Why else would I throw them at dragons! I have been issued insufficiently-fireproofed dwarves! You’ve issued me bum dwarves.”
“You’re not issued dwarves!”
“Not high quality ones, anyway.”
We never did get to the rest of the quest. We rarely do. Eventually we arrive at our destination – so many of these Scenarios happen on our way to somewhere – or something else intervenes, and we leave it hanging.
So every night as I leave Tabitha’s room, the argument continues.