Foreword by Sean Lypaczewski
When the words are spoken
The spell begins to wind
The cast is called, the weapons drawn
The clock counts down its time
Though hearth be warm
And cups be full
Our tasks are grave and grim
So here we sit
The chosen few
Our bloody joys begin
For in the darkest parts of woods
We temper our great steel
With equal parts of skill and luck
Our destinies reveal.
I’m going to steal a line right from the author to start here. He had it in the intro before he asked me to write this. He said, “This story is a love letter.” I can’t think of a better way to describe this book. It’s a love letter to Dungeons and Dragons. It’s a love letter to a campaign that has ebbed and flowed over a decade: Where the characters have changed, the worlds evolved, and the players themselves matured. It’s unlikely that many who haven’t taken part, even in some small way, will read this; but if they do, they shouldn’t be worried. The following is a glimpse into a world that has been in the making for a very long time, by people who love this place immensely. Even if you’ve never played the game, get ready for one hell of a story. You may not get all the inside jokes, but this book will not disappoint. For those who have played, especially for the gentlemen who this book is dedicated to: hold onto your butts.
The game Dungeons and Dragons is an act of world building. When people sit around a table, no single person is in control, but rather they come together and decide to see where the night takes them. Sure, there may be an end goal, but a good DM (dungeon master, or otherwise known as the poor soul trying to keep everyone in check) knows that even the best laid campaign will sometimes go sideways. In that lateral motion, everyone involved finds the freedom to explore; to dive deeper into a character that started as nothing but an idea on a piece of paper; and to open up to the possibilities that they couldn’t have even imagined a dice roll before.
Here’s an example:
At the start of a new story we found ourselves on a ship - I can’t remember why, or if we were prisoners, but the why hardly matters. Our characters, newly created, were blank pages aside from some small character flair and stats saying what they were good at:
An eccentric wizard with his owl, Owly
A war cleric clad in crimson and black armour
An elf ranger with an inborn hatred of humans
A surly man-druid who, unlike the normal tree loving kind, was tied to the sea
And I’m pretty sure Chris played a rogue. Or a sorcerer. Honestly there have been so many campaigns that some things are blurry. Also, I know I’m missing characters... this was a big one, so please bear with me.
Our boat came under attack. The mast was aflame, the hull slowly cracking before our eyes. We were tasked with trying to save the ship, fight off the attackers, stop the fires, and get to shore safely.
We screwed the whole thing up.
No one could agree on a course of action. Everyone’s turn was trying to solve some other problem. We bickered like children as the water rose around us. Inevitably we had to abandon ship and face some hard rolls to make it to shore. Steve refused to take off his armour - he spent a long time crafting this look, dammit, and this armour was going to be the key to his success in future battles. So he drowned. Naturally.
The scraggly, bearded, homeless looking druid, played by Darren Hutz, was clearly pissed when we reached safety. Soaked, with all our weapons gone, he didn’t even have his shillelagh, which was actually his character’s only possession. He tried his hardest to keep us in order on the boat, and blamed us all. My elf, who hated humans already, didn’t take kindly to this (plus I think I was drunk and a bit surly myself). So we fought. Hand to hand. Each roll was an eye gouge, a knee to the kidneys, a fist to the face, a hand around the throat trying to wrench the life out of the other. We were supposed to be on the same team, and yet here we were.
By the end, Darren was face down unconscious in the water, and I was bleeding pretty badly. All the other players just watched. I can’t remember who pulled the druid from the sea, but he lived. None of that helped our goals and poor Steve spent his time that night working through the books to make a new character (one that would die spectacularly by a perfectly shot arrow right through his skull, an unbelievable three twenties in a row making him our first victim to the house rule of instant death). But that random decision to scrap on the beach brought more out of my and Darren’s characters than we could have come up with on our own. Without it, I can’t imagine how this human druid and my human-hating elf could have worked together, but after that they had the same begrudging respect that comes from a real fist fight. That bond only grew stronger as the campaign continued.
This is only one story of millions that could come from the same group of guys, rolling the same dice in the same sets of basements, but to me it helps highlight what makes Dungeons and Dragons spectacular: spending time with your best friends; having some drinks and catching up; all the while playing a game that can be hilarious, heart-wrenching, exceptionally difficult, and even more rewarding. It is the best movie you’ve ever seen, it’s the best story you’ve ever heard, it’s the best book you’ve ever read - because you get to make it- with some of the best people you know.
This book takes the story made by many and continues it: moving it forward, filling in its past, and ensuring an even richer future for the games that are now bound to happen. It is a love story to those characters and to the world they live in. The author has created a team around him in hopes of making this the best thing you’ll read all year. It’s a testament to his own hard work and commitment to the players that have taken him, and many others, along for this crazy ride.
It has been an honour to get to work on it on your behalf. Steve, thank you. I cannot begin to describe how much fun this has been. Working on this with you has meant the world to me. This has been a joy to be a part of.
Thank you old friend.
But I’ve taken up too much of all of your time already.
Let’s begin shall we?