The Intercontinental Proliferation of Disgusting Characters


Roger M. Wilcox

(Originally begun on July 10, 1989)
(Re-begun in earnest in September 2000)

chapter 1 | chapter 2 | chapter 3 | chapter 4
chapter 5 | chapter 6 | chapter 7 | chapter 8
chapter 9 | chapter 10 | chapter 11 | chapter 12

Unbelievable Sword found himself in total darkness.  All he had to see by was his permanent infravision spell; the infravision capability of his robe of eyes; the constant infravision power of his Unbelievable Ballista, Unbelievable Broad Sword, and Bracer of Unbelievable Defense; the 5 foot radius of light cast by each of his ordinary, run-of-the-mill, non-artifact magic weapons; his various continual light flashlights and torches; the flame tongue, sun blade, and sharpness capabilities of all 8 of his artifact weapons; his ring of shooting stars; the light power of his staff of the magi; the continual light power of his staff of power; the 40 opals on his helm of brilliance; and any light-producing or see-in-the-dark spells he cared to cast.

He was back in his normal body, at the bottom of a flight of stone stairs 10 feet wide and 30 feet long.  A stone hallway 10 feet wide by 10 feet high continued for 20 feet in front of him, then split off in a 4-way intersection, each side-corridor of which was also 10 feet wide.  50 feet beyond the intersection, the main hallway ended in a stone wall with a wooden door set into the middle of it.  The place looked vaguely familiar to him, in an ancestral-memory sort of way.

"It's a dungeon," he said, in case the Dungeon Master was listening.  "It's a plain old garden-variety dungeon-crawl dungeon."  He turned around and muttered to himself, "Let's see what's topside."

Unfortunately, as he climbed the stairs, he found that they only led up into the stone ceiling and stopped.  "All right, then," he muttered, doused himself with oil of etherealness, and marched up the stairs and into the ceiling.

It came as quite a jolt when his head bumped into solid stone.  "What?!" he yelped.

"I told you this pocket multiverse doesn't have any other planes of existence," the Dungeon Master's voice filled his ears.  "You can't become ethereal without an Ethereal Plane."

Unbelievable Sword furrowed his brow in worry, then reached into his portable hole, pulled out a firefly that had been buzzing around in there for a few years, and chanted the magic words, "Fiat lux!"  The air beside him erupted into a 20-foot radius globe of light (not equal to full daylight).  He wrinkled his nose, pointed to the center of the effect, and asked, "What do you call that?"

"A light spell," the Dungeon Master's voice replied.  "Duh.  You just cast it."

"It was the wizard version of a light spell," Unbelievable Sword insisted.


"So," Unbelievable Sword retorted, "Wizard spells work by drawing energy out of the Positive and Negative Material Planes!  If there aren't any other planes besides this one, how did my light spell work?"

There was a long pause, then the Dungeon Master's voice came back: "Oh, here we go.  The Book of Planescape Wisdom, page 10, table I.  There's a limited list of spells that require access to other planes.  All the rest of the spells are fair game in a one-plane multiverse.  I guess that magic-user-spells-have-to-access-the-Energy-Planes rule was only in First Edition."

"You guess?" Unbelievable Sword said with one eyebrow raised.

"I wanted spells to still work," the D.M. insisted.  "I'm the Dungeon Master!  If I want my pocket multiverse to behave just like the normal multiverse, it does!"

'So this place is going to behave just like the normal prime material plane,' Unbelievable Sword thought.  'Check.  In that case, I should be able to make my own exit.'  He took out a pinch of sesame seeds from one of his portable holes' many spell component compartments, waved his jittering hand vertically like Curly trying to befuddle Moe (neither of whom had been invented yet), and chanted the mystic words, "Passwall!"

The spell dissipated with a small puff of dust.

"What in the —" Unbelievable Sword blinked.  (And, no, dear reader, the word's not in italics, so I don't mean that he cast a blink spell or used his ring of blinking.  Sheesh!)  "How can a passwall spell not work on a stone ceiling?!"  He touched his outstretched finger to the ceiling, and chanted the mystic words, "Phase door!"

And again, the spell flickered out with no effect.

"Grrrr," Unbelievable Sword clenched his teeth.  "Transmute rock to mud!" he cast.  No effect.  "Stone to flesh!"  No effect.  He hauled out his mattock of the titans and smashed its business end into the ceiling with the full force of his 25* Strength.  And still there was no change to that smooth surface.

Unbelievable Sword sneered, "Behave like the normal multiverse, my patootie!  That ceiling should have a ten-foot-long shaft running through it right now!"

"Um," the Dungeon Master's voice began.  The voice paused, as though trying to come up with an excuse.  "Uh, just because the walls and ceiling look like stone doesn't mean they are stone.  They're acutally . . . um . . . solid adamantite.  Built to look like stone."

"Okay, then," Unbelievable Sword cracked his knuckles, "If it's a metal ceiling, I can just cast a crystalbrittle spell and —"

"Erm, no!" the Dungeon Master's voice interrupted  "Um, I mean, it's special super hyper indestructable adamantite!  Designed specifically for the purpose of keeping player characters from going outside the map."

Unbelievable Sword slapped his hand down across his face in disbelief.  'All right then,' he figured, 'Even if I can't walk through this ceiling, or tunnel through this ceiling, I should at least be able to see through it.'  He kicked in his ring of x-ray vision, and started staring through the stone-looking adamantite.

And beyond the adamantite, he saw . . . more adamantite.  It was nothing but adamantite all the way out to the 10-inch limit of his ring's penetrating power.  This wouldn't've been anything noteworthy if it were an ordinary stone dungeon ceiling, but 10 inches was rather thick for solid adamantite.  Puzzled, the 17-year-old disgusting character switched off his ring of x-ray vision and engaged his permanent potion of clairvoyance at 150% effectiveness.

When he placed his clairvoyance perspective point 10 feet above his head, it was inside solid adamantite.

When he placed his clairvoyance point 20 feet above his head, it was still inside solid adamantite.

When he placed his clairvoyance point 45 yards above his head — the potion's maximum range for unknown areas — it was still inside solid adamantite.

"Nothing but adamantite above me for at least 45 yards," he muttered to himself.  "I wonder . . ."  45 yards was the potion's range for seeing into unknown areas, but known or obvious areas could be seen at any distance.  Perhaps he could finagle the rules into letting him specify "straight above me 200 yards up" as an "obvious area."  It was worth a shot — and, lo and behold, he got away with it.  He managed to place his clairvoyance point 200 yards above his head . . . yet even there, it was still inside solid adamantite.

In fact, Unbelievable Sword's clairvoyance showed him nothing but solid adamantite when he placed his perspective point 1000 yards above his head, or 1000 miles above his head, or 1000 light-years above his head.

He sighed.  There was no way to go outside of this dungeon, because there was no outside to this dungeon.  That was one way to limit the scope of a pocket multiverse, anyway.  He had no choice but to explore this labyrinth like the characters of old.

And that frightened him.  "If you can survive my dungeon," the D.M. had said.  Normal dungeon monsters were never a threat to any disgusting character worthy of that title, but this was a specially-created pocket multiverse here.  The D.M. could have decided to "balance" the playing field by throwing million-hit-point monsters at him that got a thousand attacks per minute at a THAC0 of -50,000 which did half a million damage points each.  However, for now at least, Unbelievable Sword figured he was safe.  His earlier activity would surely have given his presence away to any monsters wandering around in the hallways, so the fact that no monsters had yet charged to attack him meant that either there were no wandering monsters to worry about, or that all the wandering monsters were waiting in ambush for him.  But, any monster that was powerful enough to be a threat to him would have no need to wait in ambush for him, and would be smart enough to know this.  No, for the time being, he needn't worry about monsters.

All he had to worry about for now were traps.

His 95% find/remove traps thief ability, his artifact bracer's constant detect snares & pits and Detect stonework traps powers, and his permanent detect magic spell ought to be enough to alert him to ordinary dungeon dangers, but Unbelievable Sword wasn't going to take that chance.  There could be any number of illusions or detection-proof traps lurking in this hallway.  He cast true seeing on himself, threw in a foresight spell for good measure, snuffed out the light spell he'd cast, waited the few seconds for his infravision to come up to full strength, kicked in his permanent potion of flying at 150% effectiveness, and began floating down the stairs in the exact center of the hallway.  Then he figured that the exact center of the hallway might be exactly the place where a wily dungeon designer might place a trap trigger or aim a wall-mounted vorpal sword machine gun, and shifted over so that he continued floating one foot to the right of the exact center of the hallway.

Twenty feet beyond the end of the stairway, he reached the four-way intersection and jerked himself to a stop just before he entered it.  He re-engaged his permanent potion of clairvoyance at 150% effectiveness, and placed his perspective point 5 feet in front of himself so that he could look down the side hallways without exposing his body to whatever lay within them.  Unfortunately, all his clairvoyance could reveal to him down the side hallways was darkness; he'd forgotten that clairvoyance didn't allow him to use his infravision.  He'd have to shed light on the area, which might alert an automatic surveillance system to his presence.  He took a deep breath and had his permanent unseen servant fish out one of his omnidirectional continual light torches.  The magical glowstick floated forward until it stood in the center of the intersection, where his clairvoyance point was.  He breathed a sigh of relief; the ceiling hadn't collapsed on him, nor had the walls slammed together and squished him, nor had any sphere of annihilation cannons popped out of the floor.  So far.  He could also see that the left hallway ran for 40 feet before ending in a wooden door, while the right hallway ran for 110 feet before angling off to the right and had two other side corridors in it.  There was nothing obviously amiss in either hallway.

Okay.  A half-pound glowing baton was one thing, but the full bulk of his body was quite another.  There might still be trap triggers in this intersection that could distinguish between a full-grown man and a small object.  He'd better not risk it.  He kicked in his permanent potion of polymorph self, turned himself into a frog (a frog with 25* Strength, of course), and gingerly flew through the intersection along the exact same path the torch had taken.

Once across, he turned back into his normal disgusting-character self and had his unseen servant retrieve the torch from midair and stuff it back into its portable hole.  Then, with a jolt, he realized that this was an incredibly stupid move, because whoever designed the dungeon would have expected an intruder to shrink himself down to frog-sized to avoid any trap triggers in the intersection, and would have put traps on the far side of the intersection — smack-dab where Unbelievable Sword was right now — just waiting for someone to grow back to normal size because they thought they'd be "safe."  He'd better shrink back down right this instant.  No, wait!  That was exactly what they were expecting him to do!  They were waiting for this very kind of panic attack to grip an intruder so that he'd suddenly shrink back down again, and they probably had this area lined with traps set to go off whenever someone shrinks!  The bastards!  Well, they weren't going to fool him!  He'd foil their plans by not shrinking and staying at exactly the same size he was, and floating straight down the corridor one foot off to the right just like he was doing befor— oh no!  Nice try, dungeon designers, but not this time!  Unbelievable Sword wasn't going to fall for that!  Hah ha!  He shifted over, and continued wafting down the corridor one foot to the left of its center.

Just to be on the safe side, though, he once again kicked in his ring of x-ray vision and scanned through the first inch of adamantite in the walls around him for seams or hinges that could hide a spring-loaded sword-of-sharpness-firing ballista or something.  The corridor was clean.  In fact, it was completely clean.  There were no traps of any kind anywhere. . . . Or at least, no visible traps of any kind.  The walls could be six-inch thick plates on pneumatic pile drivers just waiting to squish him like a bug.  He'd read about some of those traps in Dragon & Dragrace.  They could kill anyone trapped within them no matter how many hit points their victim had.  And since pure adamantite was +6, these walls here could even hurt someone protected by a potion of invulnerability!  At 150% effectiveness!  And who could tell — maybe the triggering mechanism had inherent 100% magic resistance so that it wouldn't be detected by his true seeing spell or trip off his foresight spell!  How could he ever hope to survive such a —

He bumped into the door at the end of the hallway.

"Huh," he commented aloud.  "Didn't set off any traps for the whole 50 foot length of that hallway.  Maybe this place isn't as bad as I —"

Or maybe, Unbelievable Sword realized, the dungeon designers just wanted to lull him into a false sense of security before springing the real trap on him!  Oh, sure, his 95% find/remove traps roll and his true seeing spell weren't detecting any triggers on the floor below him, but that was just what the level designer was expecting him to see!  All it would take was one automated anti-magic shell spell followed by an array of artifact-level vorpal spikes slamming down from the ceiling, and he'd be deader than a doornail.  And with no Heaven in this pocket multiverse, his soul wouldn't have any place to go once he died!  He wouldn't be able to cast resurrection on himself!  He couldn't even wish himself back to life!

It was too much to bear.  It was simply overwhelming.  He sank to the floor despondently . . . and completely failed to set off any traps.

"Oh," he noted, somewhat embarrassed.  "How 'bout that."

In any event, there was a wooden door right in front of him.  This was clearly another job for his ring of x-ray vision.  He stared through the door . . . and found that it was plated in a layer of lead foil on the inside, which his ring couldn't see through at all.

'Wonderful,' he mused in his head.  'Ten inches of adamantite won't stop x-ray vision, but a thousandth of an inch of lead will.  All right, then, I'll just stare through the wall area surrounding the door, and —'

And, apparently, they'd thought of that.  The far surface of the wall surrounding the door was covered in lead foil, too.  He stared at a slant angle through the last bit of the hallway wall, to see if he could see into the room beyond that way, but even there, the inner walls of the next room had been coated with lead.  And, as Unbelievable Sword bitterly remembered, lead sheeting would also foil a clairvoyance or clairaudience spell.  Or a permanent potion of clairvoyance or potion of clairaudience at 150% effectiveness, for that matter.  The best he could hope for was his old-fashioned 95% Detect Noise thief ability.  He cast a quick repel insects spell on the door to ward off any ear seekers that might be lurking there, and pressed his ear up against the wood.

Nothing.  He could hear no sound at all emanating from the next room.  Of course, faint sounds like low breathing couldn't be heard through a door anyway, so all this meant was that there were no noisy creatures on the opposite side of the door.  Wary of an ambush waiting right behind the door, the raven-haired disgusting character backed up 40 feet — temporarily forgetting about the possibility of floor-triggered traps in the hallway, which there weren't — and cast a knock spell.

The door swung open on its creaking hinges . . .

. . . and suddenly . . .

. . . from beyond the open door . . .


"Kobolds," he said flatly.  To Unbelievable Sword, under the influence of a permanent potion of speed at 150% effectiveness, the kobolds seemed to be charging toward him and waving their short swords at him in slow motion.  His true seeing spell wasn't revealing any illusions, polymorphs, or other distortions, nor was his permanent detect magic spell picking up anything.  Then again, detect magic was notorious for not being able to detect artifacts, so there was every possibility that the kobolds' short swords were artifact weapons.  Probably +6 — maybe even more, in this multiverse — with vorpal and sharpness abilities, and with huge AC and THAC0 bonuses like the ones Danny'd bought for his own artifacts.  Damn, Unbelievable Sword wished he'd thought of that.  And, of course, just because they looked like kobolds and ran like kobolds didn't necessarily mean that they were kobolds.  For all Unbelievable Sword knew, they might have a million hit dice apiece, along with the commensurate base THAC0 that so many hit dice would entail.  And within melee range, they might be able to launch a thousand attacks per minute.  Each.  With those damned vorpal sharpness artifact short swords of theirs.

Unbelievable Sword didn't dare close ranks with them to find out.  He had to test their defenses first.  He cast a fireball spell at them — of course, he'd be caught in the blast too, but a brief sauna never hurt a disgusting character — and crossed his fingers hoping that these "kobolds" didn't react to flame like brown mold would.

In fact, they reacted to the flame just like kobolds would. All that remained of them were kobold-shaped lumps of charcoal grasping blackened short swords.

"I disbelieve!" Unbelievable Sword stammered aloud, sure that this had to be an illusion immune to his true seeing spell.  Nothing happened.  'Damn,' he thought, 'A 25 Intelligence, and disbelieving still doesn't dispel it.  This must be an incredibly powerful illusion.'

He scratched his head with his left hand trying to figure out what kind of a dirty trick the Dungeon Master was pulling here . . . and in doing so, noticed the bracer adorning his left forearm.  And he remembered.  His Bracer of Unbelievable Defense had the table 24, entry 17 artifact power: "Imbue the user with immunity to illusions."  Total immunity.  To all illusions.  As an artifact power, and therefore not subject to anti-magic shell or any other effect that could suppress the powers of ordinary spells or magical items.  His immunity to illusions had to be working.

Which meant that this wasn't an illusion at all.  His lowly 10-die fireball really had killed the kobold-looking creatures who were attacking him.

His eyes narrowed.  He once again engaged his ring of x-ray vision and stared at the crispy-fried corpses.  All their internal organs looked perfectly normal.  There were no bombs hidden inside them or anything.  In their pockets — or, rather, in the space where their pockets were before their pants had been flambéed — the first kobold was carrying 14 copper pieces and the second was carrying 10 copper pieces, corresponding exactly to the Treasure Type J carried by normal kobolds.

With his eyes narrowed further, Unbelievable Sword walked — on the ground — into the room formerly occupied by the two kobolds.  No trap doors opened onto bottomless pits beneath his feet, no darts or arrows or lightning bolts shot out of the walls, no unholy vorpal sharpness life-stealing nine-lives-stealing blades of disgusting character slaying swung down from the ceiling.  The two corners hidden from sight at the doorway contained neither Orcus nor Demogorgon.  It was a plain, unadorned 50-foot-wide by 20-foot-deep stone room with a 10-foot-square exit niche on the west end in front of him, ending in a plain, unadorned door.  He stalked right up to the door — again, without setting off any traps — and, throwing caution to the wind, pushed the unlocked door open with his 25* Strength.

The door opened onto a huge rectangular room, 100 feet wide and 120 feet to the far end.  From benches around a rough table in the center, three goblins clad in leather armor rose and charged toward Unbelievable Sword, again with the same apparent sluggishness he'd come to expect from his permanent potion of speed at 150% effectiveness.  They waved their short swords in the air in seeming slow motion as they lumbered toward him; and once again, Unbelievable Sword's permanent detect magic spell came up empty, his true seeing spell showed nothing, and his foresight spell failed to sound any alarms.

He shook his head.  Were these creatures just 1-1 hit die goblins, as ordinary as the kobolds had been?  There was one easy way to find out.  He pulled a live cricket out from among his spell components, waved his hands, and chanted the mystic word "Sleeeeeeep!"  Instantly, the three goblins collapsed on the floor and began snoring loudly.

Unbelievable Sword sneered.  They just keeled right over!  A plain old first-level sleep spell couldn't affect more than 8 total hit dice worth of creatures, tops, and then only on a good roll.  He strolled over to the slumbering shrimps and looked down at their little leather-clad bodies.  He thought about using his ring of x-ray vision again, but remembered that it would drain a point of Constitution from him if he used it more than once an hour.  He wondered, briefly, why his Constitution hadn't already been drained from x-raying the kobolds, and the door to the kobolds' room, and the side walls of the corridor he'd walked down, after he'd x-rayed the ceiling — but quickly realized it was just another DM oversight, and if he didn't mention it he'd get to keep his full 25 Constitution without the DM being any the wiser.  Instead, he quietly knelt down and rummaged through the goblins' pockets.

Sure enough, they carried 3-18 silver pieces each.

"Treasure type K," he said aloud.  "Three textbook goblins.  And those two creatures back there were textbook kobolds."  He scanned the room.  The three beds, the rough tables and benches, the cloaks and leather sacks hanging on pegs along the north wall — again, it all seemed to hark back to some vague, ancestral memory he couldn't quite put his 25* Strength finger on.

Darn it, what was it about this dungeon that was so darned familiar?  If the 1st Edition rules were still in force, he could just use Artifact Side Effect VI:L to find out, but the 2nd Edition Book of Artifact Wisdom was distinctly lacking in any "limited omniscience" Artifact power or effect.  He couldn't gain the information with a wish spell, because that only altered reality.  Commune was useless in a multiverse devoid of deities.  The Sensitivity to Psychic Impressions psionic science would only reveal the strong emotions of those who'd previously been here, without revealing their identities.  Divination would tell him what he ought to do, but not why he ought to do it.  Legend Lore would give him a few verses of rhyme full of the names of folks who only existed in this pocket multiverse, and as far as he could tell, this multiverse had no library he could visit to look them up.  His bard ability to identify the general purpose and function of any magical item wouldn't help him with this place, since a dungeon wasn't exactly a magic item.  It would help him, though, if he subsequently came across any magic treasure in this dungeon.  Heh.  That bard ability was supposed to work because the bard picks up various bits of legends and lore along his travels, yet here in a multiverse no Central Earther had ever seen or heard about before, he would still be able to use this bard ability to obtain general information about magic items, simply because there was no rule in the Book of Infinite Wisdom against it.

In fact . . .

"That's it!" Unbelievable Sword snapped his fingers in triumph.  He turned his face to the ceiling, addressing the Dungeon Master.  "I hereby spend one of my 65,170 unspent Nonweapon Proficiency slots on Local History of this place."

"What?!" the Dungeon Master's voice sounded incredulous.  "You can't do that!"

"Show me where it says I can't," Unbelievable Sword countered, his arms folded smugly.

"You'd need a teacher," the Dungeon Master's voice replied.

Unbelievable Sword shook his head.  "I'd need a teacher to learn the Reading/Writing nonweapon proficiency, because the description for that proficiency on page 61 of the 2nd Edition Book of Finite Wisdom says I do.  The description for the Local History nonweapon proficiency makes no such stipulation.  No teacher necessary."

"How could you possibly know the history of an area you've never been to and never heard about?!" the Dungeon Master's voice asked.

The 17-year-old disgusting character shrugged his shoulders and smirked.  "Rules are rules."

"I don't believe this," the Dungeon Master's voice grumbled.

Suddenly, Unbelievable Sword's head was filled with the full knowledge of every major event that had happened in the dungeon he was in.  Of the epic battles against the giant spider and her giant spider eggs in Room J.  Of the travails of first-level characters with names like Elfypoo and Daisy Dwarf and Iran the Terrible and Gandy the Cleric.  Of the strange, almost mythical alternate reality that originally pervaded the dungeon, in which dwarves and elves and halflings were not races but outright character classes.  Of wide ranges of weapons from daggers to two-handed swords that all did 1d6 base damage, even though all characters (fighter or otherwise) could attack twice per minute with a dagger yet could only hope to attack once every other round with a two-handed sword.  Of "turns" that were 10 minutes long and consisted of 10 "melee rounds," yet somehow each of these melee rounds lasted for only 10 seconds.

"Oh my God II," Unbelievable Sword lowered his voice to a whisper.  "I have heard about this place.  This . . . this is the sample dungeon from the back pages of the Original Basic Rules!"

Unbelievable Sword turned around slowly and took in the room with a new sense of awe.  The Original Basic Rules!  The rules that pre-dated the First Edition!  He remembered the nursery rhymes that Ridiculous Sword — or maybe it was Jimmy — had taught him about the Original Basic Rules from long ago.  He could still recite some of the more hilarious passages that these mythical rules supposedly contained:

"There are a number of other character types which are detailed in the Book of Finite Wisdom yet to come.  There are sub-classes of the four basic classes.  They are: paladins and rangers (fighting men), illusionists and witches (magic-users), monks and druids (clerics), and assassins (thieves)."
That "witches" reference was always good for a laugh.  The grouping of monks under clerics used to fill a room with knee-slapping guffaws, too, until the Second Edition eliminated monks from the main character class roster and introduced a "Fighting-Monk" class kit in the Complete Handbook of Priest's Wisdom.  As far as he knew growing up, the Original Basic Rules were just a fairy tale — but here he was, right in the middle of the very dungeon that came from its pages.

The dungeon.  Okay.  The room he was in right know was room A.  The 20-by-100 foot room he'd just been in was one of the rooms labelled room E.  Hmmm . . . according to the Local History Nonweapon Proficiency he'd just picked up, room E was always supposed to be an empty room, yet that room had contained two kobolds.  There were no wandering monster rules in the description for that Sample Dungeon, either.  He narrowed his gaze and sneered.  Obviously, the Dungeon Master was adding monsters to this dungeon, above and beyond those monsters it was officially supposed to contain.  Whether the D.M. was adding things besides monsters was anybody's guess.

But of all the monsters the D.M. could have added . . . why kobolds?  Why not Tarrasques, or Tiamats, or even other disgusting characters?  Kobolds posed no threat whatsoever to someone like Unbelievable Sword.  Something didn't add up here.  There was something about this "challenge" the D.M. wasn't telling him.

Perhaps an answer lay in the next room.

Unbelievable Sword opened the door at the far end of the room, walked down the 20-foot corridor beyond — the threat of traps no longer worried him — and opened the door beyond.  The 30-by-25-foot room ahead was supposed to conceal a giant spider near the ceiling far above. 

Instead, the room was stuffed to the rafters with a great wyrm red dragon.

The dragon bellowed its challenge, opened its gullet, and rained incendiary death and destruction down upon the merely-human-sized 17-year-old intruder at the door.  Unbelievable Sword ignored it.  He was concentrating on using his ring of x-ray vision again to see past this dragon and scan the room beyond.  The other 3 doors were exactly where his local area knowledge of the dungeon said they'd be.

"How," Unbelievable Sword complained, "Did a full sized great wyrm dragon, with a 174-foot-long body and a 162-foot-long-tail, squeeze through 10-foot-wide corridors to get into this room in the first place?!"

The dragon slashed down menacingly with its great and terrible foreclaws, missing its mark both times, then bit down with its monstrous maw and finally rolled that dreaded Natural Twenty that all combatants fear. Its teeth rammed down into Unbelievable Sword's flesh, gouging wounds that should by all rights have cut him in half.

"I mean, it's not like it could have teleported in here," Unbelievable Sword continued, still in the creature's mouth.  "Even at the great wyrm age category, red dragons can only cast wizard spells of up to 4th level, and teleport is a 5th-level wizard spell."

The dragon shook its head violently from side to side, ripping and tearing at the fleshy morsel between its teeth, then threw Unbelievable Sword against the far wall like a rag doll.

"And it's already been established that phase door and eterealness won't work through these walls," the 17-year-old raven-haired lad went on, "So the only other alternative is that the dragon wandered into this room and then was walled off in here."

The great wyrm whirled around and slashed its enormous tail right into Unbelievable Sword's side, where it would have propelled him all the way across the room again had Unbelievable Sword's armor class bonus from being a weapons master not been so unbelievable.  Instead, Unbelievable Sword knocked the tail aside with his off-hand dagger, and continued, "Or maybe the dragon wandered into this room when it was a hatchling, and then ate so much that it couldn't get back out again.  But it takes over twelve hundred years for a newborn dragon to grown to great wyrm size, so what's it been eating for all these centuries?"

"WHY WON'T YOU DIE?!" the red dragon bellowed.

Unbelievable Sword quickly lobbed a cone of cold spell at the beast, which did 97010d4+97010 points of damage to the beast and would have extended for 91 miles had there not been a wall in the way.  The dragon froze to a thousand degrees below absolute zero and shattered into ice dust before the spell had even finished rushing past it.

"Don't interrupt," Unbelievable Sword said.

Suddenly, the stone-looking solid indestructible adamantite walls and floors of the dungeon warped and congealed, then spun into themselves and winked out of existence.  The dark void they left behind rapidly dissolved into the tabletop map within the Dungeon Master's gargantuan basement bedroom.  "Well done," the teen-aged Dungeon Master congratulated the dragon-shaped lead figurine into which Unbelievable Sword's élan vital had returned.  "You have successfully navigated my dungeon and defeated the dreaded Smawgzilla, the most powerful red dragon in my pocket multiverse."

Unbelievable Sword paused for a very pregnant moment.  ". . . and that's it?"

"You have proven you are a truly worthy adventurer," the D.M. folded his arms smugly, as though he were rewarding a puppy for learning a new trick.  "I hereby award you 20 000 experience points."

"That was it," Unbelievable Sword's thoughts continued to ask, "The dungeon crawl from the Original Basic Rulebook?  Peppered with the same first-level monsters that it was originally written with, plus one lousy dragon that was obviously thrown in at the end as an afterthought?"

"You get to keep any of the dragon's treasure that you can carry out of the dungeon with you," the D.M. continued unabated.

"I mean, come on!" Unbelievable Sword insisted telepathically.  "He couldn't even stand up to one lousy cone of cold spell, which the Book of High Level Wisdom says is supposed to be limited to 10d6+10 damage nowadays!"

"It does?" the D.M. asked.  He quickly reached over to the giant bookshelf sitting next to him, picked up a paper-bound black book with the mysterious runes "DM Option: High Level Campaigns" etched on its spine, and flipped to page 70.

Suddenly, the stone-looking solid indestructible adamantite walls and floors of the dungeon warped and reconstituted back into existence.  The pile of ice dust that had just a moment before been the remains of a great wyrm red dragon was gone, and in its place now stood that selfsame red dragon, frostbitten but still with plenty of fight in it.

"Oh, for crying out —" Unbelievable Sword stammered.  "Again?!"  He rolled his eyes, drew a ship's belaying pin (non-magical) from his portable hole, jabbed at the dragon's foot with it, and hit the dragon for 48 536 damage points.  The dragon again crumbled to dust, and the dungeon once more winked out of existence and replaced itself with the D.M.'s private boudoir.

"Now as I was saying," Unbelievable Sword began telepathically.

"Well done," the Dungeon Master congratulated him again as though the first time had never happened, "You have successfully navigated my dungeon and defeated the dreaded Smawgzil—"

"Oh, put a sock in it!" Unbelievable Sword cut him off.  "That stupid little beginners' adventure can't have been the dungeon you were challenging me to survive!"

"Sure it can!" the D.M. replied.  "It was great!"

The lead-entombed disgusting character transmitted the telepathic equivalent of a puzzled expression.  "How was that anything great?"

"Because," the D.M. smiled and inhaled deeply, "You were adventuring."

Unbelievable Sword looked at the Dungeon Master as though seeing a side of him he never knew was there.  (Of course, he didn't actually look at the Dungeon Master, because his eyeballs were just two little bulging areas of lead, but he had that permanent potion of clairvoyance at 150% effectiveness that he could use for . . . oh, you get the picture.)

"You were maneuvering through underground corridors," the D.M. went on, "With doors that you couldn't see through.  You were wary of traps.  You didn't know what could pounce on you in the next room.  And you fought monsters without being sure whether you could defeat them or not.  That was what originally drew me to the gaming table.  Not those level-and-treasure grinds you guys all engage in non-stop.  Not those equally-matched-character-on-character battles where everyone's powers are the same, and where the only reason their powers are the same is because that particular set of powers is the most cost-effective in terms of experience points.  Real adventures!  With monsters that are more than a match for the average character!  With armies that can't all be wiped out by one cone of cold spell cast non-chalantly over the back of your shoulder!"

Unbelievable Sword puzzled more.  "You . . . miss that?"

The D.M. hesitated, unsure if he should let his guard slip.  Then, quietly: "Yes."

Unbelievable Sword, too, paused, unsure that he should broach the obvious, and finally said, "You know . . . eliminating the optional one-experience-point-for-every-gold-piece rule would bring some of that back."

"I know," the D.M. sighed, "But not enough of it.  You disgusting characters are still going to be spending you time robbing centaurs for their four 100 000 gold piece gems, if only to finance your artifact powers arms race.  If I want to bring adventuring back, I have to find a way to take the gold-piece-grind out of the disgusting character equation every bit as much as the level-grind."

Unbelievable Sword shrugged telepathically.  "Perhaps there are other optional sets of rules you could invoke?"

"Other rules," the D.M. whispered to himself.  Then, just at the barest limits of audibility, Unbelievable Sword's permanent potion of clairvoyance (at 150% effectiveness) picked up the D.M. mumbling: "I wonder if I can afford it."

There was a tense, pregnant silence.

"We done here?" Unbelievable Sword asked.

"Oh," the D.M. replied, "Yeah."  He shooed away the lead figurine with his hand, and suddenly, Unbelievable Sword found himself back in the Prime Material Plane of the Multiverse, hurtling toward Central Earth at a sizable fraction of the speed of light.

"Whoa!" Unbelievable Sword gasped, now back in his own flesh (albeit surrounded by the hard vacuum of interplanetary space.)  This part he remembered from his mother's meeting with the Dungeon Master the year before he was born.  Ridiculous Sword had been able to prevent herself from taking any damage when she struck the ground because she'd been part monk and had landed within 30 feet of a wall.  However, in the Second Edition, "monk" had been relegated to a class kit for priests (with the word "fighting-" conveniently tacked on to the front of it), and these fighting-monks had no special ability to avoid taking damage from a fall.

The blue-white disk of Central Earth rushed in to fill his field of view even faster than it had when Ridiculous Sword had returned from visiting the Dungeon Master.  In a split-second, he would slam into the atmosphere and be heated to white-hot incandescence.  Even with his permanent potion of fire resistance at 150% effectiveness, his ring of fire elemental command, and the constant protection from fire power of his Bracer of Unbelievable Defense, this much heat would cook him in an instant.  His mother had had the advantage of total fire/heat resistance, but that wonderful artifact power had vanished at the same time as the rest of the First Edition rules.  Thinking as quickly as his 25 Intelligence allowed, he rammed his hand into his portable hole, pulled out his cube of frost resistance, and activated it.

The atmosphere smashed into him with the force of an erupting volcano, but the heat didn't affect him at all.  For you see, the temperature within the 10-foot cube surrounding an activated cube of frost resistance is always 65 degrees F.  The wording of the rules had given him the loophole necessary to save his life.

Or at least, to save his life for the trip through the atmosphere.  His impending meeting with the ground was another matter.  Even the feather-falling power of his ring of air elemental command wasn't enough to slow his descent.  Going ethereal wouldn't help him, because despite the fact that no one in an ethereal state could touch non-ethereal objects, there was nothing in the 2nd Edition rules which prevented an ethereal person from taking damage by hitting the non-ethereal ground.  He cursed himself for not having a potion of gaseous form in his inventory, or the Table 17, entry 9 artifact power to assume a gaseous form — although he wondered, briefly, what would happen to a gaseous person screaming through the air at relativistic speed.

He wondered about this very, very briefly, in the fraction of a millisecond before the surface of Central Earth was upon him.

Space scientists in the late 20th Century C.E. would frequently build computer models of what happens when two solid objects run into each other at orbital speeds.  These computer models are designed to replicate, as closely as possible, the outcome of such impacts in the real world.  Both objects in these models — the impactor, and the impactee — are treated as though they are liquids.  Nothing in the solid nature of the materials matters, not the hardness, not the tensile strength, not their force of will; nothing.  The only thing that matters is how heavy they are.

This is how impacts at orbital speeds are modelled.  Unbelievable Sword was travelling a thousand times faster than orbital speed when he hit the ground.

The 150-odd pounds of body weight that made up Unbelievable Sword, plus the few pounds of external equipment and portable holes he'd been carrying, plowed like a liquid projectile through the liquid-like dirt and rock and metal of Central Earth.  It took miles before the mass came to a stop.

None of the spectators there at the First Town Church of My Deity saw the flash of light through the sky or heard the sonic boom until it was all over.  Horrendous Halberd and Festering Footman's Flail were lucky enough to be right next to the impact.  When they turned to look, there was an Unbelievable-Sword-shaped hole in the surface — they had no idea what the shape of the hole was beneath the surface.  As the noise and realization dawned on the rest of the gathered crowd, Unbelievable Sword's closest relatives clamored toward Ground Zero, pushing through the throngs with their 25* Strengths.  Ridiculous Sword peered over the edge and suppressed a shudder at what she might see down there.

It didn't matter.  One Strength check at -8 later, Unbelievable Sword sprinted to the top of the hole at five times his 30 720 movement rate in yards per minute (a little under mach seven).

Ridiculous Sword's eyes nearly dropped out of their sockets.  "How . . . how did . . . how . . . but . . . how did —"

"What?" Unbelievable Sword quipped, puzzled by everybody's amazement.

"You were going at least a million miles an hour when you hit the ground!" Danny blurted.

"A little over sixty million," Unbelievable Sword corrected him.  "Assuming a negligible reduction in my speed from that fraction-of-an-instant of atmospheric drag I experienced right before impact."

Disgusting sword piped in, "So how in the name of the Nine Hells —"

"The Nine Baators."

"— did you come out of that hole just now without so much as a scratch on you?!"

"What are you talking about?" Unbelievable Sword asked.  "I took 20d6 worth of damage."

"That's it?!" Danny gaped.  "You hit the ground hard enough to plow, what, ten miles down into it?  And you only took 20d6?!"

"Of course," Unbelievable Sword shrugged.  "It says so right there in the Falling Damage rules: '1d6 points of damage for every 10 feet fallen, up to a maximum of 20d6'."

Gross Sword smacked himself in the forehead.  "That's supposed to be assuming you were only falling at terminal velocity!  Which, need I remind you, is a mere 120 miles per hour."

Unbelievable Sword grinned.  "That may be, but nowhere in the rules does it say you take any more damage if you fall faster."

"Oh, that's a load of poppycock!" Jimmy scolded with his fists on his hips.

Suddenly, the sky rent itself in twain, and for the second time in the history of the multiverse, the Dungeon Master spoke directly to its inhabitants.

"He's right, you know," the D.M.'s voice boomed, "Falling damage IS limited to 20d6."

"There, see?" Unbelievable Sword said smugly to the crowd.

"Or at least, it was."

All eyes were on the hole in the sky through which the Dungeon Master's voice poured.  Even moreso than they were a second or two earlier.  "Huh?" came a confused huh? from the crowd.

"The pathetic, puny mortal among you named Unbelievable Sword has managed to convince me that the rules, as they stand today, encourage the enslavement and systematic slaughter of billions of centaurs.  Even with the optional one-experience-point-per-gold-piece rule taken out, the wealth of the centaurs' randomly-generated gems means you'll still want to raise them in captivity by the gazillions to finance the thousands upon thousands of times each of you is going to want to buy certain artifact powers.  Deleting one optional rule will simply not be enough.  No, the time has come to embrace . . . a whole new edition of the rules."

Unbelievable Sword's jaw dropped.  "A new edition?!  What are you talking about?  We just switched whole-hog over to the Second Edition only a week or so ago!"

"I, the Dungeon Master, already know this," the D.M.'s voice replied.  "What, didst you think I was born yesterday?!"

"Didst?" Ridiculous Sword whispered to herself.

"It was all part of my master plan all along," the D.M. tried to reassure his listening throng.  "I, the Dungeon Master, work in mysterious ways, and everything happens according to my brilliant master plan.  Which is so mysterious I'm not even going to tell you about it.  So there.  You see, um . . . uh, lemme see here . . . oh, I know!  They only made rules for converting your Second Edition characters to the new edition.  They didn't make any rules for converting First Edition characters, or those weird hybrid First/Second Edition characters you guys were running for a while."

"Who's 'they'?" Disgusting Sword asked.

"Uh . . . pay no attention to what you just heard.  I didn't say 'they.'  There is no 'they.'  That was merely I, the Dungeon Master, testing the faith of you pathetic puny mortal creatures in my grand multiverse-spanning creation.  Yeah, that's it.  And need I remind you that I, the Dungeon Master, hold all the cards here?"

Danny folded his arms defiantly.  "Card games haven't been invented yet!"

"WHAT-EVER!" the D.M. thundered.  "Like it or not, you're all getting yet another whole new set of rules, so you'd better take the time to convert your characters again.  This set of rules is a complete overhaul from anything you've ever seen before, so this time I'll give you a week to switch yourselves over — three-and-a-half times as long as when I gave you all those Second Edition supplements a while ago."

The crowd thought they heard the snap of a divine pair of fingers, and from out of the hole in the sky rained a torrent of brown-colored rulebooks — a new Book of Infinite Wisdom, a new Book of Finite Wisdom, a new Field Guide to Central Earth Wildlife (renamed back to its original title since the Fieldous Guidous to Centralous Earthous Wildlife just never caught on), an Epic Level Handbook for Unbelievable Sword and his ilk, a short stapled-together printout titled "Conversion Manual," a new Book of Psionics Wisdom . . . the new titles kept on falling and falling.

"Now, you all had to rearrange your experience points very recently to accomodate the switchover to the pure Second Edition rules.  It's not really fair that you should be stuck with that arrangement, since at the time you didn't know that this new edition would be coming out.  So, I give you the opportunity to rearrange your experience points one more time into any Second Edition character configuration you like, prior to having to following the character conversion guidelines to be found in the new Conversion Manual."

Unbelievable Sword raised his eyebrows in surprise at this little outpouring of Dungeon Master generosity.

"THE DUNGEON MASTER HAS SPOKEN!" the thunderous voice from the sky concluded, and the heavens began to seal themselves shut once again.

"Wow," Unbelievable Sword muttered.  "Not just a change in which optional rules we use, a whole new rules system.  I wonder how long it'll take me to find the loopholes."

Ridiculous Sword stared at her son in disbelief.  "You actually managed to convince the Dungeon Master of something?!"

"Well, yeah," Unbelievable Sword acknowledged, "I guess I really did!"

"That's absolutely amazing," his mother replied.  "The Dungeon Master I met those seventeen years ago wouldn't have budged on so much as the x.p. value of a mongoose.  How'd you do it?"

"I'm not sure," Unbelievable Sword admitted.  "I —"

Before he could finish his thought, the sky quit closing and reopened.  "Oh yeah," the Dungeon Master's voice resumed, "One other thing.  Unbelievable Sword?"

'Uh oh,' Unbelievable Sword thought.  "Um, yes, Dungeon Master?"

"Remember when I told you that I'd grant your request, and maybe a little more?"

"Um . . ." Unbelievable Sword ummed, "Yeah?"

"Well, here's the 'little more' part."  Again, they all heard the sound of a divine finger snap, and the sky closed back up again, this time completely.

As the gathered throng waited expectantly, there was silence.

Unbelievable Sword furrowed his brow, wondering, guessing at possibility after possibility with the thought-speed of a 25 Intelligence.

Then, high overhead and far in the distance, just barely at the limit of perceptibility (for anyone not wearing eyes of the eagle), a tiny golden light winked into existence.  It subtly grew and spread horizontally, and with it in the silence, those disgusting characters who had bard as one of their classes could almost swear they heard the dimmest hint of music.

Beautiful music.  Haunting music.  Swelling to cross the lowermost limits of their hearing threshold.  It sounded, and felt, like the hint of the beginning of that really really pretty theme at the end of Jurassic Park, even though Jurassic Park hadn't been invented yet.

With the brightening golden light in the sky came the slow crescendo of the music.  With the music came a swirling, a slow maelstrom of visible, palpable whirling wind that seemed to grow straight out of the golden light.

And as the music reached its grand thematic climax, emerging from the sun-hued light and whirling slowly along with the wind, there finally materialized . . .


Unbelievable Sword couldn't believe it.  He tried to Disbelieve, but the vision was still there.  The apparition looked half-ghostly, and it lacked the plate armor and other paladin accoutrements he'd gotten so used to seeing on his grandfather, but it was him!  With the unmistakable spark of life already showing in his slowly resurrecting eyes!

Danny recognized him too.  As did Sheila, and Eric the centaur, and Josephus, and Ridiculous Sword, and Disgusting Sword, and Gross Sword, and Jimmy, and nearly all the old timers that had long ago made up the Intercontinental Union of Disgusting Characters.  And Izabella.

Ringman, his arms outstretched as if by a higher will, spun slowly around in another three-quarters of a circle as he descended, and came softly down to the ground mere feet in front of Danny.  The paladin's son felt almost sick with joy and disbelief, a moment that the Jurassic Park music from the sky only served to drive over the edge into bursts of tears.

Ringman gazed from face to face across immense crowd, utterly puzzled.  "What . . . what happened?  Where's Heaven?  And Peter Perfect?  And— MMMPH!"

Izabella grabbed him from behind, spun him around, and kissed him fervently with one fluid motion, seeming to defy her apparent Strength and Dexterity scores.  Her old, still-wet tears of sorrow from the funeral, seemingly moments ago, commingled with her newfound tears of joy.  She pushed him back just far enough to catch her own breath and exclaimed, "I thought you were gone forever!"

"So did I!" Danny blurted.  "I saw you get annihilated!"

Ringman's eyes slowly widened as the memories of what should have been his final moments returned to him.  "I . . . I should have been!  I remember it as plain as day — There's no way that last blow from Peter Perfect's hammer of thunderbolts wouldn't have reduced my soul below -10 hit points.  And then, poof, I appeared in the sky here above Town.  What did you do to pull me out of the fire?"

Danny swallowed hard.  "I didn't."

Ringman's brow furrowed.  "Huh?"

"I didn't reach you in time," Danny continued.  "You were annihilated!"

Ringman folded his arms.  "Oh, come on, that's impossible!"

"He's right," Unbelievable Sword interjected.  "Your soul was utterly destroyed.  It's been over a day since you ceased to exist.  You don't remember anything in between then and now because there was no 'you' to experience the intervening time."

"But . . . but . . ." Ringman sputtered.  "But . . . but . . . but . . . but but but but —"

Unbelievable Sword put a 25* Strength hand on his grandfather's now-very-definitely-corporeal shoulder.  "The D.M. brought you back."

"But . . . but . . . but . . ."  Ringman continued to stammer between flabbergasts.  "But . . ."

Unbelievable Sword opened his mouth to explain more, but cut himself off when he noticed another tiny golden light in the sky.  This one, too, grew in intensity and width as the Jurassic Park music began to swell again.  And this one, too, carried someone into their world in a whirl of light and wind.

"Another one!" Unbelieveble Sword pointed as those in the crowd who also noticed it turned to look.

He strained to make out the passenger of this second whirlwind at the very limit of his eyes of the eagle.  He didn't want to waste the time kicking in his permanent potion of clairvoyance at 150% effectiveness.  This time, the new arrival was a woman.  A woman with long, flowing blonde hair.  An 18-Charisma-beautiful woman.  Unbelievable Sword didn't recognize her, but there was something familiar about her — as though he'd seen visions of her while reading other peoples' minds.

Ridiculous Sword, though, let out a gasp.  She could hardly believe her own eyes of the eagle.  It had been a long time, but she did recognize this woman!

"Mom?" she exclaimed.

Ringman puzzled for a split-second, then inhaled a sharp gasp of his own.  As the blonde incarnation came closer and closer, his heart raced faster and faster, and finally skipped a beat when she got close enough for recognition to finally hit him full force.

Sick Sword!!

Even Ringman's newly de-widowed wife Izabella stopped fawning over him long enough to look and gasp, "The Fire Eater!"

Like Ringman before her, Sick Sword spun slowly to the ground in a feather fall of grace and majesty.  . . . And, like Ringman before her, she was every bit as confused.  "Ringman!  But I was just in telepathic contact with y— where'd Heaven go?!  And Gross Sword?— Did I roll a double zero on my Divine Intervention check?"

"Mom!" Gross Sword pushed through from the crowd.  "Mom!  I thought I'd never see you again!"

Sick Sword gasped in fright.  "You managed to follow me!" she exclaimed.  "And you've disguised yourself to look older!"  She threw up a Tower of Iron Will for psionic defense and instinctively reached for the melee weapons that weren't there.

"It's okay, mom," Ridiculous Sword's tremulous voice blurted out in between shudders of emotion.  "Gross Sword learned the True Meaning of Christmas."

Much to Sick Sword's utter surprise and delight, Gross Sword surged forward not to hack her to death with an artifact broadsword and dagger, but to give her a great big hug.  Only then did she recognize the woman who'd just spoken as her younger daughter.

"What . . ." Sick Sword began, "What's going —"

"Welcome back to the land of the existing," Unbelievable Sword declared as he stepped forward, hand outstretched in greeting.  "You were annihilated eighteen years ago.  The D.M. just now decided to bring you back, something none of us had ever before considered possible."

"And . . . you are?" she asked, shaking her head in continued disbelief as she tried desperately to sort all this out.

"Your grandson," the 17-year-old raven-haired disgusting character replied.

Sick Sword would've fainted if she hadn't had an 18 Constitution.

"I've been annihilated?  For 18 years?  But I'm back to life again?  And now . . . " And now, she thought, her face brightening, I've got a second chance!  I can make up for the mistake I made back when my kids were only babies!

She turned and scanned the crowd closest to her.  It was hard to see through the age that had been heaped on everyone she knew, but one man was in her heart and in her mind so strongly that she recognized him at once.  "Ringman!" she cried, running over to the just-ex-annihilated paladin and flinging her arms around him.  "I'm so, so sorry!  I never should have kicked you out of my life, and the lives of our children!  I can't count the days when I sat around the Small Keep, my stomach tied in knots, wanting desperately to run to you and beg forgiveness but too damn proud to move a muscle."

Ringman's jaw went slack.

"Just say the word, my mate, my one greatest love," Sick Sword crooned to him, "And I'll never leave you again!"

"Uh . . ." Ringman began.  "Uh . . . I'm . . . a married man now."

Sick Sword's heart sank.  Then she recognized the woman standing next to him.

"Wait a minute," Sick Sword replied, "You're not . . . you're not, seriously, married to her, are you?  That ditzy little frump from Fordinchuarlikomfterrablaxxuuuuuchh'chh'chh-pt?  Come on!  I mean, look at her! She's got maybe 10 Charisma, tops.  I'm way hotter than she'll ever be!"

"I have bigger boobs than you," Izabella retorted, sticking her tongue out at Sick Sword.

"I'm sorry," Sick Sword apologized, realizing what a jerk she was being.  "I didn't mean any of it, she's your wife, you two have probably had a life together and kids of your own and everything.  But, but, Ringman," she clasped his hands in hers, "Let's try again.  You and me.  I want our old life back."

Ringman shook his head sadly.  "Sorry, hon.  I loved you dearly, but like you said," he squeezed Izabella's waist, "I have a life together with her."  He nodded, smiling, toward Danny and Shiela.  "And kids of our own."

Sick Sword sighed.  "I understand."  She shook her head.  "Well, my mate is married to someone else, and my kids have all grown up.  But my old brownie familiar Homer won't have abandoned me!"

Homer the brownie popped out of the astral plane on Unbelievable Sword's shoulder.  "Well, er, actually, about that . . ."

"You too?" Sick Sword groaned.

Unbelievable Sword shrugged, "What can I say?  He likes being the familiar of a 97010th level mage."

Sick Sword's eyes practically dropped out of their sockets.  "Ninety-seven thousand and tenth level?!"

"And a 97000th level Weapons Master," Unbelievable Sword gloated.

"Boy," Sick Sword shook her head as she took this latest shocker in, "The cutting edge of character power sure has advanced since I was around.  A 30th level weapons master, 39th level cleric, and 49th level magic-user like me used to be top of the heap, second only to my kids."

"Yeah yeah," Ridiculous Sword rolled her eyes, "Cry me a river, mom."

Sick Sword straightened herself up.  "Well," she announced, "I can still count on the loyalty of my trusty artifact broadsword, can't I?  Where's the Sick Sword these days?"

"WELL, ER, ACTUALLY," boomed a voice from the scabbard at Jimmy's side nearby, "ABOUT THAT . . ."

"Uh oh," Unbelievable Sword interrupted.  "I've just taken a tally of all the new rulebooks that have dropped from the sky.  It's far more than there were when the Second Edition Revised rules crashed down on our collective heads.  I don't know if a week is gonna be enough time to absorb it all.  We have to get started figuring out our character rearrangements prior to the Big Conversion right now!"

"Oh my gosh, you're right!" Danny exclaimed.  "Come on, Dad," he turned to Ringman, "We've gotta get you converted to a 3rd Edition paladin lickety-split!"  He grabbed his father's wrist and began walking away from the crowds.

"Only if we stick to the rulebooks and don't cheat!" Ringman replied as he got hauled away.

"Shoot," Ridiculous Sword said to Disgusting Sword as the two of them made a hasty exit, "Do you think the psionics rules are gonna be changed as much as last time?"

"I'll bet they're gonna be changed even more," Gross Sword answered as he walked away with his sisters.

Inside of a melee r— er, a minute, the entire throng gathered at the First Town Church of My Deity dispersed, leaving the entire area deserted . . . except for Sick Sword, who just stood there alone.

"Well," she muttered, "This sucks."

The Intercontinental Proliferation of Disgusting Characters is concluded in the epilogue.
Main Disgusting Characters Page | Roger M. Wilcox's Homepage