Copyright 1995 by Rich Staats
     
         
     The Hideous Horrifying Whole or Gaming Horror Stories
     
     as recounted by Rich Staats aided ably by Phillip Hume
     
        Greetings after a break!
     
        This month's topic lends itself to more of a personal narrative style 
     than past installments.  Gaming horror stories naturally divide into two 
     major categories, experiences as a player and experiences as a GM.  I'll 
     touch on them in that order.  I'm also adding one humorous anecdote on 
     convention attendance at the end.
     
        My experiences as a player only a couple of months, but that was 
     sufficient time to learn many lessons about how to run a campaign and do's 
     and don'ts of GMing.  
     
        It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.  It was the late 
     seventies and early eighties.  The gaming products were not as polished as 
     today's fare, but the hobby was booming.  There were fly by night gaming 
     companies in abundance run from devoted gamers' basements.  It was a time 
     when gaming companies like Judge's Guild produced entire campaigns on 
     colored newsprint for less than $5!  _White Dwarf_ was still a gaming 
     magazine (before being assimilated by Games Workshop's advertising 
     section).  Sure, the typos were rampant, and there were frequent 
     references to nonexistent tables and sections.  The graphics were mostly 
     quick colorized pencil sketches as opposed to the beautiful glossy oil 
     prints of today's products.  Still, the hobby was alive and vital, and if 
     you could dream of it, there was probably a supplement or game somewhere 
     that covered it.  (Fantasy Games Unlimited must have had fifteen to twenty 
     gaming *systems* active at any given time.)  It was a time when a whole 
     campaign could take place in a single expansive dungeon and an inn, and if 
     the GM was really ambitious he or she might add a temple or general store.
     
        I had acquired and read a number of gaming systems including the 
     original Traveller, the D&D boxed set and RuneQuest (all of which I later 
     gave away to aspiring players --- DOH!), and I was just waiting for the 
     chance to really play in an RPG campaign.  The chance arrived, and I 
     jumped on it like a rabid raccoon!  There are many things which could be 
     said about the initial experience, but perhaps the most positive is that 
     it led me to start my own campaign (now running some fifteen plus years).  
     I just figured ``there has to be a better way!'', and there was.  I laugh 
     at the events now, but it was very annoying at the time.
     
     *** Fasten your seat belts --- heavy sarcasm follows ***
     
        The original GM (call him Jon) committed about as many of the faux pas 
     of GMing as are humanly possible.  (By the by, he is still active in the 
     gaming world; I just saw a press release indicating he took a technical 
     editing job for one of the few remaining gaming firms.)  There were three 
     main players, myself, a long term friend of Jon's (call him Keith) and a 
     mutual friend of shorter acquaintance (call him Dave).  Keith's 
     characters showed an extreme form of divine protection.  While Dave and I 
     spent nearly as much time rolling up new characters between sessions as 
     actually playing, Keith's PCs were blessed with immunity to all manner of 
     negative effects.  He did occasionally roll up new characters, but only 
     when malaise overtook him.  (``Send the character away --- he no longer 
     amuses me!'')  
     
        On one occasion Keith's character was holding a grenade which 
     detonated.  Dave's and my PCs were felled by the explosion while Keith's 
     character was merely grazed.  Keith blithely indicated his character was 
     stripping his colleagues of any funds or usable equipment.  When Jon 
     indicated that Keith's character's ``friends'' were still breathing, Keith 
     quickly scribbled a note to Jon.  Jon indicated that, after Keith's PC was 
     done, Dave's and my PCs were no longer stirring.
     
        Although the most glaring and irksome, favoritism was not Jon's only 
     talent.  He was equally capable at being arbitrary and capricious.  You 
     never really had any idea of what was possible and what wasn't.  During 
     one session, it might be reasonable for your character to get up, walk 
     over to the faucet and get a drink without much difficulty, and during 
     the next session, you might have to roll on a drowning table!
     
        Jon also did some of the worst NPC portrayals I have ever seen.  To 
     describe these characters as cardboard would be to do a disservice to 
     paper products everywhere.  If there were ever more than one NPC 
     interacting with the party at a time, it was nearly impossible to tell 
     with whom any particular party member was speaking.  Jon usually reached 
     his frustration point after a minute or two of character interaction and 
     declared a general melee.  (An interesting society to say the least!  
     Imagine the following scene.  You walk into a department store, and you 
     ask a clerk where to find the toilet paper.  You suddenly realize that 
     you are talking to the manager, and the clerk was either an illusion or 
     teleported away.  The manager answers a different question entirely than 
     you asked, but undaunted, you try to follow-up on his cryptic comments.  
     Enraged, the manager, who has inexplicably transformed back into the 
     clerk, pulls out a hitherto unseen great sword and begins hacking at 
     you.)
     
        One would associate some lack of care for the fate of the NPCs under 
     such circumstances, but alas, nothing was further from the truth.  Each 
     of Jon's NPCs or monsters was sacred.  Nothing enraged Jon more than 
     harming one of his antagonistic NPCs.  Frequently rolls would be visibly 
     fudged.  NPCs teleported around the encounter area seemingly at random.  
     Weapons' effects changed without warning or cause, and the NPCs commonly 
     evolved abilities as the melees turned against them.  Imagine the 
     following scene (these items did not all occur in the same session in 
     this close of proximity, but all of them did occur at one time or 
     another).
     
     Jon:  the Kobold blasts you with his staff of fireballs and flies away 
     with his wings, 
     
     Rich:  But Jon, you said he was badly wounded and that we already 
     stripped him.  When did he grow the wings?  OK, I'll roll for my 
     character to hit.  Wow!  A natural 20!  Cool!  What should I roll for 
     damage? 
     
     Jon:  None!  He has a cube of force!
     
     Dave:  Jon, you said I was able to tie him up; plus, you said it was an 
     earthworm!
     
     Jon:  The fireballs home in on your two characters.  Luckily Keith's 
     character does a triple backflip and avoids all damage.
     
     Keith:  Jon, while I'm flipping through the air, I take careful aim with 
     my crossbow and shoot at the Kobold; you know just like I used to do 
     back home.
     
     Jon:  [Rolls a one in front of the party, puts the DM screen in front of 
     the dice and states] Nice job!  You hit the Kobold through the neck 
     *and* are able to catch the cube of force before hitting the ground.
     
     Dave and Rich: How much damage did the fireball do?
     
     Jon: It doesn't matter; you're characters are dead again.
     
     Keith:  Jon, I go over to the Kobold and cut off the wings.  Can I graft 
     them onto my own back and fly?
     
     Jon:  Great idea!  Sure, now you have wings!  
     
        Needless to say, Dave and I quickly figured out another means of 
     role-playing.
     
     *** Sarcasm ends ***  
     
        Dave suggested that I start a new campaign (he indicated he would 
     rather play than GM), and I, who had done some one-ups prior to this, 
     agreed.
     
        What followed were some truly enjoyable years as a GM which continue 
     to this day.  I will relate some generic ``interesting'' situations 
     which have arisen as a GM, but none of them came anywhere near rivaling 
     the ``horror'' experiences as a player.  
     
        The gaming world changed.  Production values improved, and 
     background became the name of the game. Role-playing expanded from 
     underground hack and slash to city and court intrigue and the great 
     outdoors.  The hobby went from a few settings and many companies and 
     systems to a few high quality publishers and a plethora of prepackaged 
     and expensive campaign settings.  The players became used to better 
     presentation, and with the increased expectations of products came a 
     (reasonable) demand for a better level of GMing.  In the early days, 
     anyone who put out a shingle saying he or she was a GM would be 
     inundated with players while more recently players have the opportunity 
     to shop around.  
     
        One of the situations which occasionally arises is that a player is 
     pulled too deeply into the gaming world.  I like to give out lots of 
     handouts in terms of documents, pictures, mockups of items, etc.  I 
     also use sound effects on occasion.  The handouts are very useful in 
     that they give the players a chance to look at something and plan 
     between sessions.  I try to be extremely vivid in my descriptions of 
     situations in the campaign and involve as many senses as possible in 
     elucidating the scene (e.g. indicating the smells, the sounds, and any 
     sensations of touch the characters are perceiving).
     
        By and large, these techniques only result in positive outcomes such 
     as the players truly visualizing the campaign world and thinking up 
     unique and innovative solutions to the problems confronting them in the 
     campaign.  Still, there have been those times when a player entered that 
     world a bit too deeply.  (As a GM, I had to take some large measure of 
     the blame when this happened.)  There are two general cases.  A player 
     can devote more time to the campaign than is prudent, or a player can 
     allow the lines between real world and fantasy conflict to become 
     blurred.  This is not just the demesne of the deranged, estranged 
     teenager forging chainmail in a steam tunnel somewhere either; these 
     have been highly productive, social members of society. 
     
        In general, gaming tends to foster interpersonal interactions, 
     problem solving and offer a form of stress reduction through recreation 
     which fosters other activities players are involved in.  In particular, 
     the trend has been for student players is to actually improve in their 
     studies over time as they delved more into history, calligraphy, 
     biology, statistics, etc. as adjuncts to the game, there have been 
     exceptions where the player began to spend time on the campaign to the 
     detriment of his or her studies, job, marriage, etc.  I know of at 
     least three cases where a player got in significant trouble with a 
     spouse, work or academic pursuits.  In two of these cases, I was able 
     to intervene and salvage the situation, but in both cases, this 
     involved having the players leave the campaign and then taking 
     extraordinary efforts on all parts outside the context of the gaming 
     group.  (There are many examples where the academic standing of the 
     players greatly improved, and I have been personally thanked by 
     numerous parents for being supportive of their children.  So, I don't 
     want to paint too bleak a picture here.)
     
        Even more disturbing is where the line between gaming and non-gaming 
     conflict becomes blurred.  This can run the range from inappropriate 
     actions or comments during gaming to physical actions outside the 
     context of the gaming table.  In one case, I had three party members 
     start to gang up in a gaming sense on a fourth party member who was the 
     elected ``party leader'' or caller.  There is always occasional tension 
     between the leader and other party members; so, I just assumed that the 
     jibes and repartee were par for the course, ``part of the job'' for the 
     party leader.  But, things got a bit out of hand.  I found out later 
     that several of the party members had stopped talking to each other 
     outside of the gaming sessions.  The most serious event occurred when 
     one of the gamers (not the character, the player) *burned* the party 
     contract.  (The party contract was a gaming document signed in situ by 
     the party members, PCs and NPCs, which addressed such issues as 
     division of party treasure, promisors of healing, etc.)  The party 
     members joke about it now, but it was serious (too serious) stuff at 
     the time. 
     
        We can differentiate these issues from strictly gaming conflicts.  
     In one campaign, a PC staked another PC out on the beach to attract a 
     monster!  Still, the *players* were best of friends!  I keep in contact 
     with most of the old players, and we still do belly laughs when we 
     discuss some of the crazy things they had their characters do.
     
        Let me add a funny aside here; sometimes it is not only the gamers 
     who get sucked unknowingly into the gaming world.  Two of my early 
     gamers and dearest friends, Steve and Mike Kunkel, were up visiting me 
     in Washington DC.  We were all walking toward the Washington monument 
     when Steve remarked that the Washington monument reminded him of a 
     temple the party had assaulted when they had played twelve years 
     before.  Mike and Steve recounted fond stories of legions of monsters 
     their characters had fought and valorous deeds done.  My youngest 
     daughter, Beth, stopped cold, whirled around, and wagged a disparaging 
     finger at me as she stated ``Daddy!  That's not very nice!  You put 
     your friends in a dungeon and then you sent monsters after them!  Tell 
     them you are sorry!''  Mike, Steve and I nearly fell in the grass 
     laughing.  I was finally able to convince my three children that this 
     was just all ``pretend'' stuff.
     
        I've been blessed with only one truly antisocial player in all the 
     years of GMing.  We'll call him Michael.  The gaming group has always 
     done more than just role-playing.  We have always stuck together and 
     played other types of games, done trips, attended movies, etc.  
     Michael's mother came up to me and asked if her son could join the 
     gaming group.  Two of the other players' mothers had told her about 
     the group.  In both cases, the players, call them Todd and Chuck, had 
     had some minor scrapes with school officials and the law.  After 
     playing in the campaign for a bit Todd became an honor student, and 
     Chuck was elected to the student body government.   (Todd went on to 
     study history in college, and Chuck became a police officer.)  
     Michael's mother explained that Michael was a good boy, he just needed 
     a positive peer group and some role models.  (Yeah, right!)  I didn't 
     really have the option of turning her son down without good reason 
     since I was running the group through the auspices of the community 
     youth center.  The horror, the horror.  
     
        Michael immediately turned the gaming group against him.  He took 
     utter glee in having his imaginary friend backstab (literally) the 
     other characters.  Michael continually made inappropriate and 
     embittering comments to the other players.  I took Michael aside on 
     several occasions and explained ``things'' to him.  I spoke with 
     Michael's mother and told her that her son was just not appropriate to 
     the group.  Soon afterward the head of the community youth center told 
     me I *had* to keep Michael as part of the group or else we gave up our 
     meeting place.  Eventually Michael came around somewhat at the gaming 
     table.  One day though Michael just stopped showing up.  When I queried 
     what had happened to him, I found out he had been taken into protective 
     custody for assault with a deadly weapon.
     
        There have been unpleasant situations where players have turned to 
     the ``dark side.''  In the Palladium role-playing game (tm) there is a 
     class known as Summoners (tm).  The rulebook explains that most 
     summoners eventually take on an evil disposition as time goes on.  I 
     stole the class for my own campaign, and I have had several Summoner 
     PCs over the years.  The most recent of these followed a classic 
     example of corruption.  Let us call the character Reamer.  Reamer 
     started off claiming to summon only faeries and other fey folk, but as 
     time went on, Reamer began to dabble more and more with summoning dark 
     forces.  Slowly Reamer's motivations became less and less honorable.  
     I knew that the PC had slipped irrevocably to evil when Reamer's 
     controlling player told me that Reamer was going to summon the most 
     powerful demon he could and the instructions would be to ravage the 
     land!  Shortly thereafter Reamer summoned an eldritch fiend he was 
     unable to control and sold out the remainder of this party in exchange 
     for seven years of power.  Reamer *immediately* became an NPC.  
     
        I had another player whose character became more and more involved 
     with vile chaos magics.  The trouble began when the party first found 
     the dire manuscript.  Almost to the last member, the party advocated 
     burning the tome, but this character, call him Pee-Wee, said he would 
     hang on to the dark book.  Pee-Wee began reading the book, and it was 
     only a matter of time before one of the spells in the book proved 
     useful to the party.  It was not long before Pee-Wee began casting 
     truly horrific spells.  (In one case, he inserted an undead cuttlefish 
     into his own abdomen for an extended life span.  Yuck!)  The last the 
     party saw of Pee-Wee was when the party was captured and Pee-Wee cast 
     a blindness spell on the remainder of the party to improve his chances 
     of escape.  Pee-Wee too joined the ranks of NPCs. 
     
     This portion is entitled ``The Convention''
     
        The last couple of tidbits are from a gaming convention I attended 
     several years ago.  it was truly an adventure, and it was one of the 
     only times I've executed a bootlegger reverse since leaving the test 
     track in Heidenheim, Germany.  Eric Zylstra, Joe Wyzorek and I headed 
     out for a gaming convention.  I had gone up the year before, had a 
     great time and found rooms in abundance at all the local motels, but 
     when Joey, Eric and I showed up, nothing was available.  (It turned out 
     that there was a big boating extravaganza the same weekend.)
     
        Undaunted, we started calling around.  The typical conversation 
     with a motel attendant went something like this.
     
        Attendant: We haven't got any rooms, but you might try blah-X and 
     blah-Z.  They're probably filled up too, but it doesn't hurt to try.  
     Then, there is always the Spar-tan Inn.  It is sure to have rooms, but 
     -- well, er -- you don't *want* to stay there.
     
        Rich: Tell me about this ``Spar-tan Inn.''
     
        Attendant: Look, if you go there, I didn't tell you too, OK?
     
        Rich and Joey: [shrug] OK.
     
        Joey: Rich, this Spartan Inn sounds like a *bad* place.  Let's call 
     blah-X and blah-Z.
     
        Invariably these places were filled up, but finally I did find a 
     cottage that was available for only $30 per night!  That is when 
     disaster struck in my conversation with the owner.
     
        Owner: Great!  So that will be a reservation for three.  Now, who 
     exactly will be staying?
     
        Rich: Myself, Rich Staats (S-T-A-A-T-S) -- the mastercard is in my name, 
     Eric Zylstra (Z-Y-L-S-T-R-A) and Joe Wyzorek ---
     
        Owner:  What!  You want three young men from *Boston* staying in my 
     cabin together?  There is only one bed!
     
        Rich: That is OK, we brought along sleepin ---
     
        Owner:  NOT IN MY HOTEL! (*click*)  Bzzzzzzzzz.....
     
        After that, ``not in my hotel'' became a common catch phrase in the 
     gaming group for ``no way, no how!''  :-)
     
        Unfortunately, at the time it was less humorous (though still 
     funny), because we still needed to find a room.  As one would expect 
     for any doughty adventuring party, we ended up at the dread --- 
     Spar-tan Inn!
     
        The sky became overcast, and streams of rain fell from leaden 
     clouds as we rode into the sleepy hamlet.  We parked the car in an 
     overgrown, public lot.  A fish eyed attendant asked us where we were 
     bound for.  When I replied ``the Spartan Inn,'' he croaked ``no 
     charge!''  The attendant smiled with a grin too wide for a normal, 
     healthy human countenance and showed more teeth than I had ever seen 
     in one mouth at one time.  I shuddered and longed for the warm sun of 
     Boston as Eric, Joey and I shuffled slowly ever closer to the Spar-tan 
     Inn.  The villagers regarded us with suspicious glances as we walked 
     up the street.  When we turned toward the Spar-tan Inn though, those 
     few on the streets quickly darted into doorways and the dark warrens 
     lining this section of town. An old cripple, who had made his nest for 
     the night in the doorway of the Inn, grabbed my arm with his retched, 
     knotted hand as I reached out for the latch.  ``Don't go in there 
     sonny!  You'll be sorry!'' he warned.
     
        I patted his hand and thanked him kindly for his advice as I used 
     my sinister hand to open the latch and swing back the door.  Portions of 
     the worm eaten lintel crumbled and fell as the door swung into the yawning 
     darkness.  A fetid odor, an unholy combination of peppermint and burned 
     liver and onions, assailed Eric, Joey and myself as our collective eyes 
     attempted to penetrate the eldritch, unlit gloom beyond.  The cripple 
     moaned and hobbled away, dragging himself with his arms.
     
        The silence stretched for several heartbeats before a horrid keening 
     sound chilled us to the marrow.  The sound came again, a hideous mockery 
     of human speech.  Every instinct in my body told me to dart away and 
     escape the terror that lay within, but from somewhere deep inside me, at 
     the very core of my being, a voice said ``Rich, it will be *cheap* I 
     bet!''  With resolute step, I entered.  Eric and Joey huddled together 
     outside the confines of the Inn glancing suspiciously in the doorway and 
     back toward the car.
     
        My gaze met the source of the keening sound.  It was bipedal.  The 
     ``body'' was draped in a greasy cloth.  Spatters of blood, syrup and 
     mustard covered the cloth in a pattern my mind could not decipher.  
     The body was topped by a misshapen spheroid.  The surface of the 
     spheroid or ``head'' was pale and translucent.  Blue veins bulged from 
     the surface and looked like the river system of some alien world not 
     meant to be seen by mortal eyes.   A tuft of stringy white fur adorned 
     the crown of the head.  Two large, veined flaps of skin or cartilage 
     projected from the sides of the head, not quite symmetric and 
     disturbing.  Small tufts of white fur grew from these flaps at random 
     points.  The eyes, my God, the eyes.  They were completely white, 
     cataract and ulcerated.  Yet, they focused on me immediately as I 
     entered.  My heart froze in my chest, and I didn't realize I was 
     holding my breath until I nearly fainted.  
     
        Sound issued again from the thing.  The smell of peppermint mixed 
     with decay wafted through the air.  I was nearly unhinged by the 
     encounter, and my intellect sought to grasp onto any thread of sanity 
     or hint of pattern or form.  I clung to the sounds and thought there 
     was some sense to them.  Was it my imagination or did the thing say 
     ``room?''
     
        I averted my gaze from the hideous monstrosity and said ``three for 
     two nights.''  A chill ran up my spine and covered my body in 
     goosepimples as the thing chortled and screeched ``that will be grand! 
     Don't get many visitors here.  Not a superstitious fellar are yea?''  
     I did not answer, but the thing went on ``give yea the best room in 
     the house I will.  You shall live like kings.''  A grizzled ``hand'' 
     stretched toward me though the arm or tentacle behind the hand was 
     hidden under the sinuous folds of grimy cloth.  With some trepidation 
     I reached out and took the heavy skeleton key.
     
        The key was composed of some silvery metal.  It was heavier than 
     pewter and shown with some type of inner illumination.  Inscribed in 
     blackface on the key was the number ``13.''  I longed to look back on 
     my companions for support, but I dared not turn my back on the 
     creature here in its very lair, the center of its strength.  I asked 
     ``should we pay now?''  Before the words had fully left my mouth, a 
     claw darted forth from the dark fabric and scratched my wrist.  A 
     trickle of blood ran down my hand as the thing replied ``pay when you 
     leave in what form suits you.''  I ran outside.  The cold, clammy air 
     of that village seemed like a wholesome tonic to my gasping lungs.
     
        Eric asked ``Rich, did we get a room?''
     
        ''Yes,'' I replied  ``We have room thirteen.''
     
        Joey said ``You're kidding, right?  Rich, this place gives me the 
     creeps.  Was this some type of setup?  I bet that's it Eric.  Rich 
     came up here last week and set this whole thing up.''
     
        I said ``let's put the bags up'' without answering Joey's query.
     
        Eric noticed the cut on my wrist and added ``Rich, did you cut 
     yourself?''
     
        I said ``Yeah, watch the door, it has some rough spots around the 
     edges.''
     
        We made our way up the rickety steps of the Spar-tan Inn and came 
     to the door.  We opened the door, and true to its word, the thing had 
     given us a truly magnificent room.  The heady smells of cedar and 
     pine greeted us as we entered the pristine, well lit room.  There 
     were two beds and a cot.  The room had air conditioning, a king sized 
     bath and its own sauna.  There was a microwave and a refrigerator.  
     Internally I wondered how much it would cost us and what the form of 
     payment would be.
     
        I did not ponder for very long as the tendrils of lethe reached up 
     to us, and we passed into comatose slumber.
     
        The next morning we made our way to the convention.  There was no 
     sign of the guardian of the inn as we made our way out to the 
     vehicle, and the door to the parking attendants shack blew in the 
     wind as we left the parking lot. 
     
        Eric and I stuck together while Joey went his own way at the 
     convention.  Eric and I had signed up to do a ``Call of Cthulhu'' 
     adventure with one of the premier module authors.  The assembled 
     players were an interesting lot.  
     
        The topic of discussion when Eric and I entered was ``what is 
     the worst thing that has happened to you in your life?''  The first 
     lad volunteered ``I had to strangle my pet cat one time.  It was 
     rabid.  You would be surprised how long a cat will last when you are 
     choking the shit out of it.''  Eric and I glanced at each other as 
     the next youth chimed in ``once I saw greater Cthulhu --- I lost all 
     my sanity on that one!  Man, that was the scariest thing that ever 
     happened to me.''  He sat down and the vapid look in his eyes 
     confirmed every detail of his tale.
     
        I was roused from my reverie as a perfect bound edition of the 
     CoC rules whizzed by my head, striking the wall behind me and 
     leaving the twisted gore of a squashed bot fly as the rules slid to 
     the floor.  I cast a questioning eye at the ``missileer''.  He 
     answered my questioning gaze by saying ``hey, it's perfectly safe.  
     I do that shit all the time at my house.  I kill hornets there for 
     fun.  I open up the screen door a little bit and let a couple in.  
     Then, I get a couple of books and sit back and nail the f*ckers.''  
     Eric remarked what a good shot he was and slapped me on the 
     shoulder adding ``Rich doesn't mind that kind of thing.''  As I 
     glared back at Eric, the keeper entered the room. 
     
        The session began well enough.  I acted as the caller for the 
     group.  We seemed to be making decent progress when the keeper 
     announced ``well, this is the half way point, and boy have you guys 
     boned this one up!''  The group glanced around each other with 
     questioning looks, and I asked ``what do you mean?''  The keeper 
     tilted back in his chair and said ``you're never going to finish; 
     that's what I mean.  Are you guys stupid or did it not occur to you 
     to talk to the ski patrol as the very first thing?''  I said ``OK, 
     well that is a good hint, and we'll do that as the first thing after 
     the break.''  I noticed that another hapless fly had entered the room 
     eager to avoid any wounds due to friendly fire.
     
        The whole module appeared to be linear in fashion without room for 
     deviation of any kind.  The trail led from the ski patrol to an 
     obscure member of the ski resort staff and onward without any obvious 
     means of connection that our group could fathom, and at last the 
     keeper said ``well hell, I'll just say that somehow you made it to 
     the final encounter.''
     
        The keeper seemed to have an unhealthy appetite for the subject 
     matter at hand in that final encounter.  The session went something 
     like this.
     
        Keeper: The cave is filled with rocky pillars, and you will have to 
sneak up to the front.
     
        Rich: OK, what does the opposition look like that we can see from our 
current position? 
     
        Keeper: you see a couple of thugs on either side of the altar and a 
crazy priest standing over the altar ``preparing'' a young woman for sacrifice.
     
        Eric:  how do we know the priest is crazy?
     
        Keeper: you just can tell!  It is the altar that really attracts your 
attention!
     
        Rich:  Does the girl on the altar match the description of the one we 
are supposed to save, and do we have any clear shots at the guards on either 
side of the altar?
     
        Keeper:  It *could* be the girl, but you notice that she is naked --
     
        Rich:  OK, we get the picture.  Do we have clear shots at the guards and
what is the floor composition like?  Is it something we could sneak along?
     
        Keeper:  She is bound to the altar, completely helpless, with straps of 
strong, black leather --
     
        Eric and several others:  Eeeeewwwww!
     
        Rich:  Fine, now we take up positions to have Jim, Bob and Sam put 
suppressive fire on the guards while ---

        Keeper:  She is moaning.  She might be enjoying this!  The priest is 
taking special cares in his ``preparation.''  He is standing *behind* the woman 
--

        Rich:  Yes, we understand.  Jim, Bob and Sam lay down suppressive fire 
while Tim and Bart rush the altar using the pillars as --

        Keeper:  The priest is disrobed from the waist down and he is --

        The party as a whole:  Eeeeewwww!

        Rich:  FINE!  We launch our attack as soon as we are --

        Keeper:  AND SHE IS FACE DOWN! --

        Rich:  OK, we understand!

        The party:  No more!  Eeeeewwwwww!

        After that ``face down'' became a slang phrase for any overzealous 
description or something gross.

        The payment at the inn ended up being a few dollars less than we had 
anticipated spending at the cabin, and the trip back was uneventful.

        As an epilog, I visited the dorm where Eric and Joey lived a couple of 
months ago, and people there still say ``not in my hotel'' and ``face down.''  
They probably will never know where those phrases came from.  :-)

        -THE END-