Memory and Regret on the Island of Cetaiaphas
July 3, 2023
For several years of my life I was part of a small group of intrepid and morally unmoored adventurers explored the island of Cetaiaphas, led by our creative dungeon master, Wesley. Cetaiaphas was an island full of ancient necropolises and forgotten libraries, of genocidal alchemists and politically savvy dragons.
Wesley is a brilliant DM who offered us fantastical descriptions of enemies and settings. I lived for lines like this:
John: "I don't happen to see the body of a god in here, do I?"
Wesley: "You see a body, very dead. Face: blahhh. Lightly on fire."
Along the way, I played two characters: Jacobite the gloomy druid and Gavial the garrulous bard. Jacobite kept a journal, intended to keep track of where we left off week to week. Later, Gavial began an epic ballad, an undertaking that lasted maybe 4 weeks. Since I had a journal in front of me for both characters, I began writing down quotes that made us laugh around the table.
Low perception rolls
We were not model D&D players. We often found ourselves distracted by food, conversation, or just daydreaming. Sometimes it is clear from the quotes that at least one member of the party was not paying as close of attention to Wesley's game as they should have been.
Parker: "He's giving us a blanket?"
Wesley: "No! Blanket is a modifying adjective"
"We weren't the only people attacking this place"
"Wait, we weren't even attacking this place, we were defending it!"
(after unnecessarily attacking and killing an NPC)
NPC: "No...no....I was...free......."
John: "Oh no, he was free! Maybe we should have negotiated?"
Me: "Don't look at me!"
John: "Oh yeah, I guess I fucked that up"
Caleb: "Is it a real skull?"
Me: "...we're in a Necromancy Tower"
Russell: "Hey John, it's your turn to stab somebody"
John: (busy crafting an elaborate cheeseboard) "STAB TIME?!"
Parker: "We don't like these guys, right?"
Me: "They invited us over for dinner and then tried to kill us"
Parker: "OH RIGHT. It feels good to cast a guilt free fireball"
Though by and large we were more of a "what would be coolest" table than a "what's technically accurate" table, occasionally Wesley had to step in and course correct to keep things on track.
John: "Throwing a zombie ghost is totally an action"
Wesley: "A bear cannot hold a flower, I'm not having this argument"
Wesley: "Krusk threw a rock at the sky, that's not the same as an arcana check"
John: "There are big quills sticking up"
Parker: "O. M. G...!"
Wesley: "....No you may not 'detect thoughts' through quills"
Parker: "Animate objects, I instruct the books to attack whatever appears in the room first"
Wesley: "Can we abstract out this damage so we're not rolling 10 times?"
John: "Sure, roll a low and high to establish the bell curve of damage"
(still in the animated book room)
Wesley: "It disengages and--"
Parker: "No opportunity attacks? Mannn"
Wesley: "NO. I'm not doing 10 of those. I'm NOT. I BAN IT."
Russell: "Small piece of bookkeeping -- if a giant centipede has a climb speed can we assume that regular centipedes do as well?"
Are we the baddies?
Our game often took us into confusing situations, complicated by the fact that our characters felt morally superior while doing an awful lot of murdering and mind controlling, etc. Occasionally, very occasionally, a moment of clarity would bubble up in our conversation.
John: "That was the voice of God -- you live in a morally ambiguous game"
Wesley: "That's the problem with mind control, it really messes up contract law."
Parker: "Can I find any dead bodies to animate?"
Wesley: "You could rob a graveyard?"
Parker: "I don't want to grave rob."
John: "Yeah, that would be fucked up"
John: "You're such a corpse dragger"
Parker: "To each their own, buddy!"
Russell to Parker: "You really need to take off the rose tinted glasses when it comes to your necromancy."
Me: "Some of these bard spells are creepy. I don't want to control minds"
John: "Yeah, not like the more ethical murder spells"
Wesley: "It has been a THOUSAND YEARS OF TORMENT!!!!"
Russell: "Buddy it's been maybe MONTHS of torment"
We choose the fun option
When you are playing an RPG as a ragtag team of not-quite good guys, the "cool" choice is often the best one. Sometimes, our puns were not as cool as we hoped they would be, though.
John: "It does sound like we're all committed to creating an awkward situation."
"So this is a stone-robo-zombie?"
"More or less"
"Oh, I'm glad we decided to anger it"
Wesley: "It would have been very unreasonable to not have a giant shark in an underwater adventure"
Russell: "I have a permanent psychic link with....The Boss"
Wesley: "Yes. YES! All the best plans start this way"
Parker: "I'll let fate decide"
Russell: "You control fate!"
Parker: "Well...I'll let more of it decide this time"
Wesley: "Oh no....but YES!"
Russell: "I believe that Paggan and I shall not be crossing swords with anyone but shall be instead relying on bylaws and guidelines"
We'll regret when we're dead
Towards the end of our multi-year campaign, we discovered that the Lord of Regret was using dreams to wage war against our world. The only thing for it was to travel to the Land of Regret and take the fight to him. This led to many regret-filled, often confusingly backwards situations.
(entering the Land of Regret)
Me: "I step through the portal"
Wesley: "Do you like water?"
Me: "For a while"
Wesley: "Do you like swimming?"
Me: "Not in full armor"
Wesley: "Well, then you instantly have regrets"
(after I became a shark to avoid the whole drowning in armor thing)
Wesley: "You rip through the figure, and you'd think it tastes like regret, but actually it's like the resolution to someone else's regrets"
Me: "NO REGRETS"
Wesley: "Yes, yes. You'll process this a lot later but right now you're a shark"
Russell: "Has anyone tried to get past the wall? What did they try?"
Russell: "Oh. That's what I was gonna try."
Wesley: "...climbing, digging, spite"
Parker: "Has anyone tried hope?"
(visiting the Bank of Sadness in the Land of Regret)
Me: "I want to make a deposit" (smacks fist)
Russell: "Do you mean a withdrawal?"
Russell: "I super want to stage a heist on the Bank of Sadness"
John: "Just think of all the memories of flowers and shit you could end up with"
(Brig. Gen. Philomanca pulls her regret orb out of her body)
John: "That was pretty cool, lady, I'll just uh...." (takes it)
Wesley: "It's all gooey"
Night on the town
In one memorable session, John (Krusk) and I (Jacobite) decided to ignore whatever the rest of the party were doing and have some fun in a tavern. We ended up competing in games of skill, but paid for it the next day.
"On this day, 9th Murtil, Krusk did win a competition of skill at handaxe"
John: "Whoa, natural 20! I retire from my career of playing cards while I'm ahead"
Me: "We don't hear the sounds of combat or thwacking, do we?"
John: "I'm definitely ignoring it"
(Jacobite's journal entry the day following) 10th day of Mirtiel: Hungover. We are going to meet Carnaxus.
And the rest
Not all the quotes from our campaign can be organized into a nice bucket. Whether making a terrible pun, referencing an inside joke, or just making humorous observations about whatever ghoul-filled situation we were in, we managed to have a lot of fun.
One important member of our party is barely represented in these quotes. That's because Kelsey sat at the table sharpening her blades and watching us with unreadable eyes. At any moment she might end an argument by gutting an NPC or kicking down a door. Her contributions are not fairly captured in this document, but just picture her waiting, watching, as you read these.
John: "My only magic is hard work and common sense"
John: "Ah! I see you also have the power of common sense!"
Russell: "We organize the books and destroy every few"
Me: "The Dewey Decimate system"
Russell: "No, you cannot! Stop aping my shit!"
Wesley: "No, you cannot! Stop aping Ozz's shit!"
(after transfiguring Kelsey into a creature with a mind of its own)
Me: "I don't want to run the risk of being scorpioned by my own scorpion"
Kelsey: "I am NO ONE'S scorpion!!!"
Wesley: "That's kind of the problem"
"How did he know a great doom was coming to the island?"
Wesley: "Eh, a great doom comes to the island every 600 years, it was a decent guess"
John: "Literally skull***ing. I went there. It was so obvious. I'm sorry I upstaged your 'boning' pun."
John: "Come on, baby needs a new pair of willpower!"
John: "Ah! A rock of 1 to 5 pounds!"
Russell: "The hero's weapon"
John: "This guy is a bad guy, huh? He is trying to kill you in a less polite way than I am accustomed to"
All good things come to an end
Eventually, our time on Cetaiaphas came to a close. After we toppled the Lord of Regret and filled the throne with our friend Casper the friendly Necropolis ghost, there was nothing left to do but walk off into the sunset.
I'll leave the end of this blogpost to John, aka Krusk the half-orc, aka Paggan the gnome.
Howevermany years ago I was curious about this game where people talked about giant centipede climb speed and such. Wesley was kind enough to indulge me by running an apparently one-shot campaign so I could learn. Obviously it's become so much more! Wesley, your storytelling ability is incredible. You took us to places with emotional depth. Sometimes allegorical, but never simple. Always legendary.