Game Mastery


Derwit was my sorcerer in a rotating GM game (each player took a turn as GM and we all contributed to the same set of plots).  My concept for Derwit was an adventurer who retired with his wealth, forgot all his spells, and then was forced into adventure again.  Because he’s old and his former companions are dead, I spend no time discussing his actual history, beyond supplying context for his current predicament.  All this backstory does is lead up to the game at hand.


“And then he said, ‘Get thee kids off my lawn!’ KerPOW!” explained Milly.

“He said ‘get thee kids off my lawn kerpow’?” Asked Sheriff Pete.

“No, no, the kerpow was a sound effect for emphasis. He told them to get off his lawn, then pointed at them, and then they exploded. It was witchcraft! I saw it with my own two eyes.”

Derwit, son of Derwold realized at that moment that mayhaps Blackwater was the wrong backwards little village to have retired to.

“He knows what he did.” Milly pointed her finger menacingly in Derwit’s direction. “Twas sorcery, twas.”

Derwit didn’t think it would go over well if he explained the difference between sorcery and witchcraft at his own trial and eventual hanging. That would be counterproductive. Whether or not he burned those kids (and he didn’t, at least not directly or on purpose), he could be hanged for admitting to be a practitioner of the arcane arts. There was a time when that stubborn ignorance had been what attracted Derwit to Blackwater.

Derwit, son of Derwold had been an adventurer some thirty years ago. He wasn’t the toughest or the bravest, but he did fancy himself the smartest. For Derwit did something no other adventurer before him had been able to do. He retired. That’s right, he made a ton of money risking life and limb, and then simply stopped risking life and limb. It really wasn’t all that brilliant when he thought about it, but why hadn’t anyone else figured it out? He hadn’t even heard of anyone else who could retire comfortably at age 25. He even resisted a life of luxury. The possibility of his renown bringing him out of retirement was too great in a big city, so he elected the quietest most run down place he could find. They didn’t even have a village healer for Pelor’s sake!

What had happened with the children was an accident. Derwit did not use magic to harm children. Upon settling down in Blackwater, Derwit buried his fortune in a cell in the front lawn. As long as he’d faced down dragons (and he did) to win his retirement, he didn’t want anyone taking it away. It seemed like a good idea at the time to leave arcane runes and magical traps near the entrance. He had a considerable amount of wealth and wanted to keep anybody else from considering it. Anyway, those damned kids ignored his fence, and ignored his signs, probably would have ignored his dog if it was still alive, and strode right onto the middle of the lawn. Derwit tried to warn them off, but they just kept coming, and as he tried to get their attention the trap went off.

Of course he couldn’t tell this to the people of Blackwater. They’d either lynch him for murder or burn him for magic. And the truly ironic part of all this (which the angry mob surely wouldn’t appreciate) is that Derwit had forgotten how to cast spells anyway. He was certain he could still handle the basics, but having not used magic since retiring his skills had atrophied. Otherwise he’d have flown away at the first accusation, or charmed the townsfolk, or simply dispelled the fire trap when it went off.

“Well, that makes 8 people who have testified against you, Derwit son of Derwold,” spoke Sheriff Pete. “Are you even going to try to defend yourself.”

Looks like he was going to have to talk his way out. Or at least talk his way towards another possible exit. “Those children were killed by magic, but I was not the one who cast it.” If he conceded that it was magic, it would be harder to outright deny what he was saying. “I keep most of my wealth buried under the front lawn. Those boys were killed by a trap that was set to protect it.” This part was true. If they didn’t buy it they wouldn’t buy anything else he said. Maybe he wouldn’t have to admit that he was the one who set the trap in the first place.

“That’s your defense? You’re still responsible for their deaths.”

“I know that. Of course I’m responsible. I feel like shit that this happened. But Sheriff, you’ve got an impatient mob of people who look like they want to kill or burn me.” Cheers erupted from the mob. Sheriff Pete looked vaguely nervous. “But if they do that someone else is sure to hurt themselves out there. Especially now that I’ve admitted that’s where I hid my wealth. I’m from a noble family, you know. Everybody knows I didn’t grow up here. Anyway, I see that I’m guilty. I left something dangerous on my property and it hurt someone else. I don’t think I could possibly argue that I’m not responsible. So what I’m hoping for is that if you let me disable what’s left out there so nobody else gets hurt, maybe you’ll be merciful. All I’m asking for is a little clemency.” He made sure not to mention what would happen to his wealth. Let ’em figure that out for themselves and they’ll be more likely to go along with it. Torches were put out and pitchforks were lowered. “Look at your people, Sheriff. They’re already eying my house. Your mob seems a little smaller too. I wonder how many have already slipped off to get their hands on my treasure.”

“This best not be trickery.” Pete helped Derwit up, but left his hands bound. They marched to the outskirts of town where Derwit had taken up residence. Already the mob seemed less bloodthirsty and more optimistic. Derwit didn’t consider his fortune to be very much any more, but it was still likely to be more than any of these people would see in a lifetime. The sun still hung in the sky when they arrived. The grass was scorched black, but not longer smoldering, and thank the gods you couldn’t smell charred human flesh anymore.

Derwit faced the crowd, “As long as my hands remain bound I will need a volunteer.” Murmers, but no one stepped forward. “As long as I still stand on the grass, no traps will go off. See?” Derwit walked across the blackened grass. Still, no one came forward. “The traps can only be disabled from inside my vault, so I’m going to need some help opening it. Whose first?” At last one of the men who Derwit didn’t recognize stepped over the wooden fence. “Excellent. See that patch of grass over there? I need you to uproot it and reach in the ground. You should find a metal handle.”

The man did so and began to lift. A square section of grass attached to a metal plate came off the ground. Below it was a dark whole, with stairs descending into the ground.

“Light!” commanded Derwit and the stairs lit up. “And now if you’ll follow me.” He descended the stairs. Inside were shelves of bagged riches, potions or more colors than the townsfolk could name, sheathed swords, and bound books. On the far wall was a table with a vial of liquid left uncorked – Derwit’s emergency plan. He broke into a run down the steps, backed into one of the shelves and, with his hands still bound, grabbed a scroll case at random, then made a beeline for the table.

“Get ‘im!” yelled Pete.

Derwit bent over and grabbed the vial in his teeth. The townsfolk ran towards him. Derwit stood back up and faced the ceiling. The mob was almost to him. He swallowed the potion and blinked out of existence and out of the lives of the deadly mob.

Teleportation was a spell Derwit had once been able to cast at a moment’s notice. Those days were long past. The spell potion left him countless miles east in $TOWN_AT_GAME_START. Derwit sighed and realized he would probably have to return to adventuring. It was the only thing he was ever good at. Maybe he’d get a lucky break this time and one of the scrolls he’d grabbed would be something fancy.

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