ell? Let’s get on with it then!"
the dragon said to the knight in shining armor.
His impatience was understandable. After all, he had dealt with such situations
before, and while a couple of those tin men turned on their heels as soon as
they spotted him from a distance, few of them just stood there staring as if
they were waiting for better times.
"What are you waiting for?" the dragon repeated. He nodded towards the damsel in
distress, a maiden who was tied to a derelict column nearby, ready to be
sacrificed to His Vileness. Not an uncommon scenario. "Let’s get this clear:
You want that maiden, and I need some breakfast. So draw your sword
and, you know, yadda-yadda-yadda... – Or did you miss some lessons in knight
"Hold it, dragon! Hear me out first!" the tin can suddenly began speaking. There
was indeed life behind that iron visor! "I'd like to talk with you about a new
thing first. It's all over town right now."
"New thing? What in the adamants’ names are you half pint talking about?" the
"Well, it's about other ways of dealing with conflict solving," the young
paladin elaborated. He peeked through his protective visor, gauging the dragon's
reaction. "So I looked into it and brought this book with me…"
"Is that so?" The dragon didn’t seem too thrilled about breaking his routine
from the tone of his voice. The maiden behind him at the column also looked as
though she preferred some hard action to a librarian on a mission. "Gonna read
me a good-night story, tinny?" the dragon snuffled. "If you haven’t realized,
it’s still early in the morning!"
"No, no. Nothing like that," the knight assured him. He finally swung open his
visor, feeling safer now that a conversion has got under way. "That’s a rule
book, dragon! For role playing!"
"Roll playing? Ruling of rolls? Never played with rolls before and don’t plan
to. I only play with live food. Which is good, as you just came along... More
fun that way!"
"It’s role playing. Like in ‘pretending to be another character'," the
knight corrected His Vileness. "And in here are the rules how to play." He
pointed at the book. "The whole thing suggests a" – he read from the back of the
cover – 'playful, non-violent approach to settle matters: be it relationship
problems, work-related issues or the common hero vs. monster confrontation'.
Like maiden problems between knights and dragons," he added.
"Aha..." the dragon said. "Still, little one: Games, pshaw! What’s so special
about roll... uhm... role playing anyway?"
"Glad you asked!" The paladin now dared to take off his helmet. Armor sure
wasn’t the best attire for hot days! In combination with the glistening sun it
was quite the killer.
"Let me just explain for a moment!" He leafed through the little handbook of
his. When he found the passage he was looking for, he read: "Role playing
brings not only a breath of fresh air to conflicts, it also teaches valuable
lessons on identity with minimum effort. The act of slipping into a different
personality opens up whole new perspectives for everyone involved and is a
joyous self-experience to boot. Preferable to getting your head bashed in! Don’t
"Hmmm..." the dragon made. What he actually missed was breakfast that didn’t
Even the maiden rolled her eyes, though she preferred to keep quiet. Rescue
efforts used to be much more valiant in the days of yore.
"That’s all nice and dandy, tinny," the dragon said at last. "But why should I
play fancy games with you? What’s wrong with a good old traditional fight? Have
you forgotten your weapon? A couple of adventurers lost some equipment when I
bit them in two, so you could borrow theirs. They sure don't mind in their
"But shouldn’t dragons keep up with the times as well?" the knight said. "Think
about it: We can skip most of the bloodshed! Maybe even all of it! Don’t you
see? You’d be fresh as morning dew come the next knight if we'd only play
instead of fight to the death for real."
"Oh? But still: It's not quite the same, is it?"
"Well, don't be a spoilsport! We'd just duke it out the fun way for once. Of
course you will still devour me in case you win," the knight said. "Tell you
what, as it's the very first time you play: If I win, I get the lass, but will
spare your life nonetheless. How does that sound? You might even enjoy it, trust
"Uhm... This is all mighty strange..." the dragon said, tilting his heavy head
to one side then to the other, blowing some smoke through his giant nostrils. He
always did that when he was thinking hard. Admitted, the whole week he had done
nothing but bask in the sun; boredom seemed to be his preferred way of life
anyway. But he had noticed in the process that one could get bored of being
bored. Maybe the tin can was right, and it was time to shake things up a little?
"Well? What do you think?" The young paladin looked at the monster while his
thumb kept moving up and down the pommel of his sword. The maiden in the
background sighed audibly, fearing the worst. Where was a stalwart knight with a
decent lance when you needed one?
"What would I have to do?" His Vileness asked probing the waters. It appeared to
be all risk-free anyway, so what the heck?
"It’s very, very simple actually," the knight explained. "It works this way: You
pick a character you’d like to play, and I pick another."
"Yes, a person, a beast, whatever. Can be anyone."
"Then I pick…" There was a dramatic pause. "…myself!"
"Uhm… except that. See, that’s what role playing is all about," the paladin
said. "To master a challenge as someone else. Say, as we’re fighting a
duel here and to keep it simple, I suggest you play me, and I am the dragon."
"But the dragon’s always the stronger one!" His Vileness snarled.
"Now do you want to play or not? Believe me, it’s all about the decisions you
make. You’ll see you have the same chances at winning as I do! All characters
start with the exact same strengths and weaknesses. It’s the way you play as
that character which decides whether you win or lose."
"It better be that way!" the dragon grumbled.
"Now, the story is all here in this book." The knight held the tome up. "At the
beginning we’re placed at two different entrances of the same dungeon. Each of
us goes exploring, picks up items, casts spells, finds secrets, defeats monsters
– until we meet for a final confrontation. The better you manage to advance your
character, the easier it will be to defeat me. You’ll get the hang of it, don’t
worry. – So..." the paladin drummed with his gauntleted fingers on his
breastplate, tingling with expectation. "Ready to plunge in?"
"I… I… guess so..." The dragon still was not that convinced. But the new
challenge sounded interesting, and he wanted to master it. He could always
return to boredom as a second option.
"Fine then!" the paladin said, opened the book and offered the following story
introduction: "You’re standing at the entrance of an ancient crypt, full of mold
and cobwebs. Broken urns stand around in the corners. This is the supposed home
of... – what’s your name?" the paladin paused. – "Myfex, little one!" the dragon
provided. – "Myfex the Infernal, a millennia old fire dragon of the very worst
"Haha, I like that!" Myfex exclaimed. "Especially the name!"
"Remember, you’re the paladin in this game who needs to defeat the dragon!" the
paladin pointed out. "You need to get into being a knight and act like one!"
"Ah, I see... Sorry... – I mean: Die, vile creature!" the dragon snapped right
into paladin mode. "Diiiiiiiiiie! Har, har, har, har!"
"We're getting somewhere now..." The paladin nodded. "Now, you have three
choices: Go through a hallway to the east, or the one to the west, or try
opening a sarcophagus right in front of you."
"Erm... I’ll open that coffin of course!" the dragon was quick with making up
his mind. "It's bound to have treasure in it!"
"You push the heavy lid back from the sarcophagus, accompanied by scratching
sounds that make the skin crawl. But it is well worth it: You spot an amulet
gleaming through a thick layer of dust! – However, immediately you are attacked
by two rats which have been gnawing on the bones of a skeleton resting there for
the past decade or so. – What do you do?"
"Chop them to pieces of course!" the dragon roared.
"With whatever I have! Do I have a sword?"
"You have a sword and a dagger!"
"The sword it is!" the dragon declared.
"Roll these dice then," the paladin instructed, handing his opponent a pair.
"The higher the numbers you roll, the better you’ll hit them."
Thus the dragon rolled the dice, and with a six and a five slew both rats with a
single stroke of his sword.
"Now you may grab the amulet if you want… It makes you stronger by three
The dragon produced a braying laughter. "Oh, that is so fun! I’ll show that
dratted Myfex what a paladin is capable of!" And on he went to explore the next
Picture description. How to
handle the problems with abducted maidens the role playing way... Image drawn by
Half an hour later the game drew
to a close.
The dragon, playing the paladin, had slain hordes of monsters by now. Thanks to
a magic scroll he had found tucked in a trap-protected alcove he had even turned
a hideous wraith demon into a mouse and now kept him as his pet. Almost all
important pieces of armor were in his possession and he was wielding the
legendary +3 Two-Handed Cleaver of Annihilation – that one he had retrieved by
solving puzzles in a secret room in the lower catacombs. Combined with the no
less rare Necklace of Agility, of which he had convinced a mummy to part with,
his weapon now had extra speed for delivering mortal blows. In short: His
fighting statistics were unmatched, and thus endowed he entered the final
confrontation with all the advantages on his side.
Let's face it: Things looked dire for the paladin. Playing Myfex the dragon, he
had barely survived his latest fights; struggling with half a dozen ravenous
undead led by a spell weaving lich had proved to be a pain in his beastly
backside. Once these creatures were disposed of he was forced to gulp down his
penultimate remaining health potion just to stay on his wobbly feet, but a
certain someone was already waiting behind the next corner...
"Haha, Myfex! Your time has come!" the dragon cheered as he led his knight in
shining armor into the final duel.
"Spare me!" the paladin besought his alter ego, but he knew quite well that no
mercy was to be expected. This was the battle the dragon had been waiting for
all along! The dice rolled, again and again, and lucky as he was, the dragon's
paladin struck the paladin's dragon one, two, three times with his cleaver. He
did not just graze his opponent, but dished out one gaping wound after the
The last health potion had its big moment at this point. Trouble was, it was the
last one. The probability of further big moments reached zilch.
Then another gashing blow.
The paladin’s parrying attempt went nowhere.
With the last desperate saving throw going awry, the health points of the
paladin's dragon suddenly dipped into the negative. Which is a problem if
there's no magician around capable of casting a resurrection spell.
Succumbing to his injuries he dropped there and then, dead as a doornail, the
glittering scales on his back clinking as they hit the musty stone floor. That
is, if you have some imagination you'd have heard them. However, out there in
the wilderness a profound silence spread over the role players' battlefield as
the substitute game for the duel ended.
The dragon leaned back, pounding his chest with clenched fists in a proud
display of victory, roaring his triumph in all directions he could think of:
into the skies, towards the next settlement a couple of strals off, into the
canyon close by, where his screams echoed again and again, informing the world:
"Myfex is dead! ...dead ...dead!" And: "Long live the paladin ...din ...din!"
"Speaking about tin," His Vileness said and turned back to his role playing
partner. "Time for my reward then, eh, tin man?"
Oh my, the lady in the back thought as she watched the tragedy unfold.
He's quite the loon, that so-called 'knight'! Handsome, but a loon. A loser and
a fool, who can't even trick that dratted dragon to lose the stupid game of his!
If at all, we'll be holding hands in the dragon's stomach! What a glorious end!
"So, what about that reward?" the dragon repeated, patting his growling belly.
"Ah yes," the paladin replied. "I'll cut the maiden loose then and get out of
your hair in a jiffy."
"Whaaat?" the dragon hollered, almost choking on his own smoke that came
fuming out of his massive nostrils.
"I said: Don't worry about the lady, I'll handle that!" the paladin said. He
went over to the column, drew a knife from his boot. The maiden looked at him as
bedazzled as the angered dragon himself, but found his unexpected confidence
charming for a change.
"Hey, hey, she's mine!" the dragon snarled, grabbing his role playing companion
by the shoulder with his sharp claw. "Leave her be! You've lost, remember?"
"Myfex, Myfex!" The paladin turned around. "First: Careful with that claw of
yours – don't scratch my precious steel!" Myfex retracted his claw, quite taken
by the knight's commanding voice. "Second..." The paladin shook his head. "Now
you've demonstrated your valor and still you act as if you have no idea about
role playing whatsoever! – Who won the game? The dragon or the paladin?"
The dragon had to think about this for a moment, but then he said, quite sure:
"The paladin of course!" After all, he had been the paladin. First he had
thought it might be a trick question, but no, the paladin had won, and so he
"So, who lost then?"
"Well, the dragon..." Based on his previous answer Myfex had no difficulties
coming up with the logical conclusion. And yet, it didn't sound right. "Uhm...
"No buts, Myfex!" the paladin interrupted him. By now he had cut all the ropes
and freed the maiden. While His Vileness's claws were still hanging in the air a
few palmspans next to his head like a monument to the beast's indecision, the
knight chose to ignore them and went on explaining: "Now, pray, just look at
yourself," he said to the dragon. "What do you see?"
"What do you mean, tinny? What am I supposed to see?"
"Is there a tail? Are there claws, that sort of thing? Can you breathe fire?"
The knight drew himself up in front of the monster, hands on his hips.
"Of course I can breathe fire! You bet I can!" Myfex snorted. "What has that to
do to with anything? And I'll show you if you don't quit teasing me!"
"That's not the point, big one! But what you must have noticed yourself by now
is: You look suspiciously like a dragon to me! I just can't help it! – Ah,
excuse me for a moment," he interrupted himself in order to help the lady get
her shaky feet around a puddle. "There, there, sweetheart. Now, darling, don't
you agree with me that our friend has the typical features of a dracoid?"
The rescued damsel in distress nodded, glancing back at the abominable monster.
Considering she had little to lose, she said: "Aye, very much like a dragon you
appear to me, uhm, dear dragon... Don't be mad at me for saying so."
"So?" Myfex replied. "And what about it? Of course I'm a dragon!"
The paladin sighed. "Now think straight, big boy, and don't be so childish:
Didn't you say yourself that the dragon just lost? Which makes the paladin the
"But I won!" the dragon fumed. "I won all the paladin's battles!
"…we both have to thank you for that," the paladin said and bowed. Even the
maiden curtsied following the knight's example. "Without you we couldn't have
defeated that fierce and vile beast, which you clearly are, you must admit
"Indeed, that I am!" A fierce and vile dragon, yes, that's what I am, the
dragon thought, taking it as a compliment.
"There, you've said it again. And now quit playing games with us, Myfex, for
we've played enough for today. Maybe some other time." The paladin turned on his
heel. "Hence, pray excuse us now, but we must be on our way. To live happily
ever after, see? That's how these stories always have to end." He glanced at his
conquest and said to himself that he could have done worse when rescuing a
maiden. And the tender kiss he now received, proved just that.
"After you, my dear!" The knight led the maiden to his white stallion, which
stood tethered to a withered tree nearby, and helped her into the stirrup. Then
he mounted himself, his bride to be in front.
The dragon only gazed at them. The words he had meant to say were still stuck in
And thus the knight in shining armor and his damsel rode off, waving at the
befuddled monster they left behind.
Myfex the mighty dragon however remained frozen on the spot. Contradicting
thoughts were chasing through his giant head. He wasn't quite so sure anymore
whether he was a paladin or a dragon. There were arguments for and against. Oh
dear, all that role playing had made him so confused that he even considered in
earnest to go dragon hunting himself! Though he seemed to have misplaced his
Well, and if mighty Myfex hasn't been slain by now he probably is still debating
all this amongst his selves, that poor, poor dragon.