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(TFT) Lunch at the Pizza Buffet
Lunch at the Pizza Buffet
Robbies Dad is a professor of world Economics at Louisiana State
University. Robbie, being the well connected physics nerd that he is has
gotten his own set of keys to the S.B.S. room under the Observatory on campus.
He launches a campaign with a new game called Traveller. We play there, not
because the lab tables, or school chairs are in any way comfortable. No man.
Its on the campus, its adjacent to a freaking huge telescope, and weve got
the keys man.
Brian Sciner plays a couple of sessions, but stops coming. Every so often
a theoretical point will come up and Robbie will go off to another world with
the two other physics nerds and completely forget about all the rest of us.
Some discussions go for an hour straight. One incident is about curved
Nerd-1 ``Well, if we _could_ see infinitely far . . .``
Robbie `` . . . and space really is curved . . .``
Nerd-2 ``Then all those stars really _could_ be just our star.``
Thats how it starts anyway. An hour later they conclude, no.
Robbie ``While the red shifts could conceivably be different in special
cases, the elemental bands in spectral analysis would all be identical.``
I try to keep up, looking at it as a learning experience, but Ward, Mark,
and Jimmy are not so into it. While we do occasionally get some action it is
not near the level or pace that they are used to. So we play a trick on
Every Hyperspace trip the ship makes our characters get a month of
training. In Traveler there are no experience points. The only way a person
can get stronger, faster, or a better education is through at least four moths
of serious training. Usually we work on our areas of development. When we
have accumulated enough months on Robbies sheet we can get a point of CON,
NAV, Pistol, or what ever we are spending our free days practicing on.
Robbie goes around the table asking ``What do you do for four weeks.``
Apparently it takes four weeks to get anywhere by ship.
Nerd-1 ``Navigation again.`` Robbie puts a hash mark down.
Nerd-3 ``I study piloting.`` Robbie writes in a new subject for Nerd-3 and
puts a hash mark next to it.
Then he asks me.
I grin. I look at the others who grin. I reach down into my book bag.
They reach down into theirs.
``Well. I . . .`` I pull out a stack of books.
Ward lays down a battle Matt.
Mark sets up miniatures on it. A miniature already in each space between
the fingers of each hand. He deftly places both hands palm up, facing each
other, over the battle mat. Widens his fingers and slides his hands clear.
Boom. Two semicircular formations, one of players, one of goblins, facing
Jimmy has already placed an AD&D book with character sheet in front of
each player. Ward is passing out polyhedral.
I have a borrowed DM screen up, dice out, and pencil in hand.
``We play . . .`` I say to Robbie.
``DND.`` We all say in chorus.
I turn to Ward, who actually has a sheet of graph paper and is mapping.
``The ten foot wide corridor goes eighty feet and comes to a tee
intersection`` Ward Maps that out.
Robbie looks from me to Ward, then back to me.
``At the intersection you see four goblins.`` I use my pencil to indicate
the battle mat.
Robbies eyes bug. He doesnt realize he is standing and sits in his chair
with a bit of a thud. In a small voice he says ``You guys are serious arent
``You said we have four weeks right?`` Asks Jimmy.
Then he shakes his head like hes coming out of a fog and says ``Alright.
Alright, I get it, I get it.`` He looks almost apologetic. ``I wont ignore
you guys so much.``
We put away our books and materials.
From now on at the sessions instead of being doled out maybe one fight for
the whole day, we are now asking the questions. We are driving the story, and
the physics nerds are trying to keep up. Like this one incident during a
hyperspace jump. The nerds assure us that a hull blow out at these speeds
will be fatal to the whole ship.
``So the guy in cabin 8 has a thermite bomb somewhere, and hes holding a
trigger device that . . . if his thumb comes off the button, it detonates.``
``Yes.`` Says Robbie.
``Or I would have drilled him right there.`` Says Jimmy.
``Can you see the bomb?``
Jimmy looks askance at Robbie.
``You dont see it in the room.`` Says Robbie.
``Computer.`` I say ``Monitor all broadcast frequencies.``
I look at Robbie. He nods. ``The computer can do that.``
``Are there any frequencies being broadcast that are not coming from
``Yes. One.`` Says Robbie.
``Replicate that signal and broad cast it yourself please.`` I look at
Robbie. ``Than I go back there and shoot the bastard.``
Or another incident, we just finger print the rubber grips of the charging
device. The guy had been at that house for a week. Robbie had said the lawn
looked freshly mown. It was pretty easy to track him down after that. You
get the idea. We very quickly overcome all of Robbies applied obstacles. So
he decides to read up on a module that comes with Traveler and take us on it.
One designed by Mark Miller himself, the ex navy computerman who designed the
game. Its called Twighlights peak.
So we have this massive Diary that may lead to a lost military ship of
combat drugs. The biggest payday in gaming history. Tons of the most
expensive item in the game. A cargo bay full.
``So what do you do with the book.`` Robbie asks.
``Uh.`` We all look at each other. We dont actually have the book
physically, just our characters do. He hasnt given us a book. So hes
asking us to roleplay having a book. He says it is really long and badly
written, but thats all we know.
``Its really long and badly written.``
Ward. ``Um, I read the book.``
``Its really long, over 400 pages and badly written. What do you do with
We can tell hes getting exasperated with us. But we have no clue what he
wants or what he is asking. The physics nerds are just looking down at their
sheets. I guess they dont know either.
Mark ``I search the book for secrets.``
Robbie inhales deeply and just sits there shaking his head for a while.
The wile grows into an awkward five minutes. Finally Jimmy, Robbies brother,
figures out a way to unblock Robbie.
Jimmy. ``Maybe you could give us a clue?`` he asks weakly, the last word
trailing off into uncertainty.
``I dont know. You could ask the computer to analyze it.`` Robbie says.
The two nerds look up.
``I ask the computer to analyze it.`` Says Jimmy.
Robbie promptly hands Jimmy a photocopied sheet. Its a list of like 99
simple factual sentences. Its a summary of the book. I remember thinking,
that this is not the only thing Marc Miller gets wrong about computers. More
tonnage being better is another.
The sheet is passed around. I see a sentence that says ``We fought
wolves`` and I stand up.
``Somebody hand me the book on building worlds.`` I wiggle my hand at Ward
while still reading the sheet. ``Ward get out the sector map.`` Jimmy and I
look in the world book together. ``Ok. They say it snowed, mark off any
planet that doesn`t have water, or any atmosphere they were attacked by
wolves, also we know there is no star port. We read each line eliminating
planets. Ten minutes flat there are only 3 planets left on the map and they
are right next to each other. Looking at the three we just know which planet
``There.`` I say while putting my finger under it on the sector map.
We all look at Robbie. His mouth is agog. After a moment he licks his
lips and blinks a lot. ``That was supposed to take ya`ll months of travel and
looking for clues.
``We go.`` I guess that means we found it.
An adventure happens.
We are all highly animated as we walk across campus to Mr. Gatti`s Pizza
for the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. We have just had a huge laser fight,
and we are still talking about the lost combat ship that we are now in control
We push some tables together, drink coke, eat pizza, and plan for the
``God those weapons are awesome.``
``What are we going to do with the drugs.``
``Man how many tons is that anyway.``
``How are we going to get them through customs.``
``What about the video tape of the murders, maybe we can use that as
``Oh, I know, I mean there I am, I`m shot and bleeding. And you, you can
like pick up a shotgun and help or something. But nooooo. . .. You just stand
there with the camera and keep filming.``
``How much do you think the drugs are worth.``
I feel a sharp pain in my shin. Someone has just kicked me under the
table. I look across at Jimmy Flammang who has been stage whispering at me
``. . . around, look around.``
So I look around. Let me start by saying it is lunch, in an
all-you-can-eat pizza buffet next door to a university. It is an
understatement to say the place is packed. The really scary part is that no
one besides us is saying a word. No one else is even moving. Everyone is just
looking at us. Silent. No eating.
``Guys.`` Our table dies down, then goes quiet. My friends are looking
around. We are all too young to be in college. The room doesn`t seem
This college girl gets up from her table. She walks over to the edge of
our table and says ``Are you guys smart?``
Every eye looks at here, then at us. I look at Ward who is shifting aobut
realizing that everyone in the room is looking at us. Darryl sees the buffet
line has stopped moving and he recoils. Robbie looks behind him. A table
full of people is searching his eyes. He turns back to the table and his head
sags. Mark`s eyes pan the room looking for people`s hands. He seems tense
like he is waiting for the first person who is going to come at us. I quickly
analyze every role playing line of reasoning I can think of to apply to that
question, and I determine that the best outcome for all of us is to turn this
into a comedy event.
I say loud enough for people to hear ``My mom says I am.``
A general level of murmur returns to the room and people turn back to their
food. Her next question is heard by no one but us. ``Are you guys from
My friends relaxed that the crisis is over proceed to answer all her
David Michael Grouchy II
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