Eric and the Gazebo

This classic gamers' tale has been reprinted numerous times in print and on the Internet... unfortunately, sometimes without proper accreditation, and usually with the final word given as 'knoll' (which destroys the intended pun). Eric and the Gazebo was written by Richard Aronson, and originally published in The Spell Book, the newsletter of the Fantasy Gaming SIG of American Mensa, Corey & Lori Cole, editors. Unlike other versions found on the Web, this is the complete text as originally published.

Richard Rambles On
by Richard Aronson

Humor is hard to define. Vocal humor is always easier than written humor, and acted plus vocal humor easier still. Think of how many movies/plays/TV shows you have laughed out loud at, then think of the surely smaller number of cartoons/comic books you have laughed at, and the yet smaller number of books (without pictures) you have laughed at. So I have been handed a tough assignment -- make people laugh with only the printed page for my instrument. Actually, if I could draw, I'm sure I'd be allowed to use a graphic device, and perhaps one will be inserted by ye Editors, but ever since they moved out of L.A. I've had much less input into the actual production values of The Spell Book, so I really cannot do more than suggest, whereas in times past I was able to say: Hey, look, right here should be a picture or an ink blob or something to liven up this otherwise drab piece you wro.... But I digress. While I can recount many tales that would (and have) make (made) people laugh out loud, I can think of only one that might, might mind you, work in this altogether restrictive setting: Eric and the Gazebo.

Let us cast our minds back to the early days of Fantasy Role Playing, back when ye Dread Gygax was loose upon the land. Funny how humor and horror can start out so alike. Let us go still earlier (yes, it is permitted to breathe sighs of relief) to the days before Gygax (and the courts) thought that he owned FRP. In the early seventies, Ed Whitchurch ran "his game," and one of the participants was Eric Sorenson, a veritable giant of a man. This story is essentially true: I know both Ed and Eric, and neither denies it (although Eric, for reasons that will become apparent, never repeats it either). If my telling of it does not match the actual events precisely, it is because I've heard it many different ways depending on how much of what type of intoxicants Ed had taken recently.

The gist of it is that Eric, well, you need a bit more about Eric, or else I won't fill quota. Eric comes quite close to being a computer. When he games, he methodically considers each possibility before choosing his preferred option. If given time, he will invariably pick the optimum solution. It has been known to take weeks. He is otherwise in all respects a superior gamer, and I've spent many happy hours competing with and against him, as long as he is given enough time.

So, Eric was playing a Neutral Paladin (why should only Lawful Good religions get to have holy warriors was the thinking) in Ed's game. He even had a holy sword, which fought well, and did all those things holy swords are supposed to do, including detect good (random die roll; it could have detected evil). 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 fifty yards.
ERIC: How big is it?
ED: (Pause) It's about thirty feet across, fifteen feet 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 plus three 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 woken up the gazebo, and 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 what a gazebo is. It is solely an afterthought, of course, but Eric is doubly lucky that the gazebo was not situated on a grassy gnoll.

That is the story of Eric and the Gazebo. It's funnier when I tell it in person. Isn't it always, though. Be seeing you...

(Reprinted from The Spell Book, issue #13, fall 1987, pp. 2-4; Corey & Lori Cole, editors.)

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