This is RPG-ology #15: Vivid, for February 2019.
Last month I told a story of a real-life adventure on a canoe trip from which I have vivid memories. I promised that this month I would tell of another adventure.
There were six of us. We had been traveling with a larger group through some underground caves when a collapse separated us from our guides. However, we had reason to believe that there would be another exit through the caverns, and we had food and water for several days. We began looking.
Within a couple days we had by process of elimination established that we were going to have to cross a chasm. It was at least a hundred meters wide, and there was a visible exit from a ledge on the far side. The good news was that the dim light in the cavern revealed pillars of rock rising to our level, as if carved islands in an ancient river, so we could in theory move from one to another. The bad news was that this dim light came from a river of magma perhaps a hundred meters below, making the space oppressively hot and promising a swift end to anyone who missed a step.
We went to work, using our equipment and skills to scavenge materials from the caves, building a pair of primitive catwalk bridges and supplementing our ropes with some woven vine-like growths. We doused ourselves and our gear with most of our remaining water, and lassoed stalactites on the ceiling for safety ropes, also tying ropes around our waists to anchor us as we crossed, and in short hops we moved our selves, our bridges, and our ropes across the open space, only too aware of the danger below. It was a tense couple of hours, and we lost a rope to a breaking stalactite, caught a man who slipped off a bridge, dropped a bridge into the depths below, and made the last hop swinging Tarzan-style across the final gap. We collapsed on the ledge, hot, sweaty, breathless, spent, and yet happy that we had gotten all six of us across.
As we had hoped, the passage we had viewed across the canyon led swiftly to an exit, and we were out of the caves.
It is probably obvious to most readers that this is not a real occurrence. It becomes less real when I mention that I was dralasite, and my companions included a yazarian, a human, two vrusk, and another dralasite, and the caves were underground on a planet known as Volturnus. The entire adventure occurred in the imaginations of three players and a referee.
Yet some of my memories of that adventure are as vivid in my mind as those of shooting the rapids in Skinner’s Falls at flood stage. There is some truth to the notion in Total Recall that once you come home from the vacation all you really have is the memories and maybe a few souvenirs whose value lies in their ability to trigger the memories. Sometimes our role playing games create memories, some of them vivid, some of them tense, some of them funny, and all of them fun. Whether they are bare knuckles success stories like this one, or hysterical failures like Chris and the Teleporting Spaceships, poignant moments or exciting adventures, they become memories, sometimes vivid memories, transporting us to fantastic worlds not only when we’re playing but years, even decades, later when we remember what we only imagined doing as if we had done it.
That is one of the amazing things about this hobby. It brings worlds alive, and puts us in them, perhaps in ways no other medium has yet managed.