You find your way again to the mysterious tavern. As the smokey smell of the fire mixes with the smell of dark beers, you realize that this place was indeed not a dream. The self-proclaimed dwarven woman, who does look like the dwarves depicted in some of your games now that you are prepared to see the similarities, sits at the table near the door.
Her wares are carefully placed at the table and displayed prominently you see an RPG module with a skeleton bear depicted on the front. You make your way up to the bar and purchase a mug of ale.
“Ah, traveler! You’ve returned. But you’ve changed, my friend. There’s a spring in your step and a color in your cheeks that wasn’t there before. That can mean only one thing.”
“What’s that?” You ask, sure she’s going to talk about her lost magic again.
“You’ve got romance on your mind.”
You’re surprised and a little taken aback by this gruff old woman mentioning romance. Maybe you even blush a little.
She smiles broadly, teasing. “Love is the greatest adventure, and powerful magic, after all.”
You find yourself admitting that there is someone on your mind, “But so much gets in the way.” you admit.
Arven sighs and gives a sad smile. “Like all truly great magic, love is often complicated and difficult. If you don’t know where to start, I suggest trying this Date Night Dungeon: Rescue of the Blackthorn clan module with your beloved (or a good friend). Not only will it strengthen the bond between you but you will see how these skills will help you in the real world.
This module is compatible with many versions of the dungeons and dragons game and takes you on an adventure as a ranger and sorcerer. There is action, adventure, and if you so decide with your companion – romance.”
You find yourself smiling, the merchant peddles her wares so seamlessly, with such confidence that you can tell she believes in what she sells, and wouldn’t deign to include a product she doesn’t believe in.
“Not only will this training be valuable to honing your skills, but it is also quite an enjoyable adventure. There’s everything you’d expect from a module such as this, but with the added intrigue of a device called ‘attraction points’, you and your companion would control the romance of course! That way things don’t get awkward. Why I played with my friend Veros just the other day and it was… quite an adventure.”
Arven stops her tale suddenly, blush spreading across her face. She suddenly seems interested in straightening her wares.
“Well hold on now, Arven,” you start, a grin spreading across your face, “You can’t just breeze over this friend of yours!”
Arven stops her needless straightening to give you the sourest look you’ve ever seen on anyone, you suppress a laugh – though you’re sure that if these monsters she speaks of are real, they certainly couldn’t have stood against her.
“Come on Arven! You can’t expect me to believe this story of a world with magic, and breeze over your own part in it! You say, gesturing for the bartender to bring two more mugs over.
With a sigh, she gives a tight smile as she accepts her mug and takes a long draw on it.
“Fine, fine! You are impertinent, aren’t you? Veros is a good friend,” she says with a wink, “but my first love, now there was a love for the ages. The kind you live for or die for.
When I was a young lass a young human named Alrick stumbled into my clan’s home. He was handsome, brave, and bright – a cave explorer, spelunking through the mountain’s many caverns. Unfortunately for him, my family didn’t take too kindly to strangers -especially human ones. They imprisoned him, and I was charged with bringing his meals until the high council decided what to do with him.
Alrick was surprisingly accepting of the truth of our people, and surprisingly kind. I found myself loitering at his cell longer and longer each time I delivered a meal – so much so that my parents ordered me to stay away from the cells.
Naturally, I disobeyed, and when the time came for the council to make up their mind I spoke on his behalf. Punishments for stumbling into our home ranged from amnesia potions to being fed to the owlbears that we tended to – held deep in the caves for our protection as well as theirs. While I couldn’t let him be fed to those creatures, the idea of Alrick looking at me like a stranger seemed just as unbearable.
So I stood up to the council, much to the displeasure of my parents. My arguments didn’t sway the high council nearly as much as his acceptance of his fate did. I’ll never forget the resolute tone in his voice when he requested to be fed to the owlbears.
“I would rather die knowing the truth of this world, and knowing Arven, than live out a life never knowing even a hint of what I, and our world have lost,” said he looking at me.
The council realized Alrick was just the type of human we needed on our side to help find the magic, but a Dwarven hamlet was not a suitable home for a human and he was sent on his way. I left that day with him, and thought I would never return.”
Arven pauses, taking a long sip of ale as you blink rapidly against the emotion welling up inside you from her tale.
“We spent many years traveling, searching for the magic and reveling in freedom, adventure, and each other. But we knew it couldn’t last. Dwarves, you see, live much longer than humans. We thought if we could find the magic, maybe we could change that. Maybe Alrick could stay with me. But as years passed and we found ourselves no closer to finding it, I began to lose hope.
Returning to my home, we had a traditional dwarven wedding. Ah, the sight of my husband being thrust into a band of drunken dwarves for the groom dance – I will never forget the look on his face!” She lets out a sharp laugh, thick with a mix of emotions, “We started a family, unconventional as we were, and taught them the history of our world as we traveled.
I found a happiness I never thought I could know and enjoyed every moment with Alrick. But without the magic, time caught up with my dear husband, though he lived to see not only his grandchildren but the birth of his first great-grandchild, a gift neither of us thought he would receive.
I’ve lived to see eight generations of our children grow, some are attending the college here in the city and some are even starting to settle down and start families of their own. They quietly pass the story of their heritage on to the next generation, playing these RPGs, training, and searching. My own clan.” Arven lets out another sigh, refocusing on you with a fierce intensity.
“My point is that these are not simple games that you play, the worlds that you create and explore will prepare you for what needs to be done. They will help you hone your skills and your relationships. There’s a world out there that we devoted our lives to saving, and now it’s up to you.”
You look at the module again, this time with more appraising eyes – you never thought of your games in such a way, but now you wonder if there really is more to them than you thought. Maybe, just maybe, they will unlock something magical.