Eric and the dread gazebo
Whenever I hear someone tell me that they're worried that they don't know how to roleplay, or that they're worried that they're playing their character wrong, I smile and think of Eric and the Dread Gazebo; because, no matter how badly you think you're roleplaying your character, at least you didn't waste a +3 arrow on a white gazebo.
I've reposted the story in its original entirety below, that future generations may forever know the story.
The Tale of Eric and the Dread Gazebo
In the early seventies, Ed Whitchurch ran "his game", and one of the participants was Eric Sorenson. Eric plays something like a computer. When he games, he methodically considers each possibility before choosing his preferred option. If given time, he will invariably pick the optimal solution. It has been known to take weeks. He is otherwise, in all respects, a superior gamer. Eric was playing a Neutral Paladin in Ed's game. He was on some lord's lands when the following exchange occurred:
ED: You see a well groomed garden. In the middle, on a small hill, you see a gazebo.
ERIC: A gazebo? What color is it?
ED: [pause] It's white, Eric.
ERIC: How far away is it?
ED: About 50 yards.
ERIC: How big is it?
ED: [pause] It's about 30 ft across, 15 ft high, with a pointed top.
ERIC: I use my sword to detect good on it.
ED: It's not good, Eric. It's a gazebo.
ERIC: [pause] I call out to it.
ED: It won't answer. It's a gazebo.
ERIC: [pause] I sheathe my sword and draw my bow and arrows. Does it respond in any way?
ED: No, Eric, it's a gazebo!
ERIC: I shoot it with my bow. [roll to hit] What happened?
ED: There is now a gazebo with an arrow sticking out of it.
ERIC: [pause] Wasn't it wounded?
ED: OF COURSE NOT, ERIC! IT'S A GAZEBO!
ERIC: [whimper] But that was a +3 arrow!
ED: It's a gazebo, Eric, a GAZEBO! If you really want to try to destroy it, you could try to chop it with an axe, I suppose, or you could try to burn it, but I don't know why anybody would even try. It's a @#$%!! gazebo!
ERIC: [long pause. He has no axe or fire spells.] I run away.
ED: [thoroughly frustrated] It's too late. You've awakened the gazebo. It catches you and eats you.
ERIC: [reaching for his dice] Maybe I'll roll up a fire-using mage so I can avenge my Paladin.
At this point, the increasingly amused fellow party members restored a modicum of order by explaining to Eric what a gazebo is. Thus ends the tale of Eric and the Dread Gazebo. It could have been worse; at least the gazebo wasn't on a grassy gnoll. Thus ends the tale of Eric and the Dread Gazebo. A little vocabulary is a dangerous thing.
The above is Copyright © 1989 by Richard Aronson. Reprinted with permission. The author grants permission to reprint as long as all copyright notices remain with the text.
"Eric and the Gazebo" was written and copyrighted by me in 1986. It was based on an event at a role-playing game, but the addition of several jokes moves it out of journalism, or at least into Docuhumor. Some of the people at the game retold the event, each with their own spin, but I was the one who told it to Lee Gold, editor of the fanzine "Alarums and Excursions," who insisted I print it up for her. After reprinting in several amateur publications, it leapt to "The Mensa Bulletin." I then foolishly allowed a reader to reprint it on the internet (who knew from internet in 1989). For many years his was the only interent reprint which even mentioned that there was a copyright on it (thanks, James Chu). Eventually I became a professional game designer for Sierra On-Line and the late lamented "ImagiNation Network" and after having been accused of stealing my own story at a gaming convention I have spend several hours every year protecting my copyright, especially since I incorporated E&tG into a chapter of my as yet unpublished novel. " - Richard Aronson, Feb 15, 2000