Lockdown Diaries: Day 24 (The Games People Play)

Locked Down in London, Day 24: Dungeons & Dragons

Last week in Lancashire we found Mr Anglo-Saxonist’s old (Advanced) Dungeons & Dragons books and set of dice in his late parents’ garage. Thank you to the lockdown, today we gave it a go.

D&D dice [Image by Diacritica via Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0]
For those of you who don’t know, Dungeons & Dragons is an old role-playing game from the 1970s. I’ve never played it before, and well, what can I say? Setting up the characters alone took a couple of hours… and on our first encountering a new character in a pub, we didn’t know what to do next, until I had the happy notion to invite him for a beer! It seems an incredibly complex game, not helped by the fact that Mr Anglo-Saxonist, who is acting Dungeon Master (a sort of game master and umpire), can no longer remember the rules or even understand the abbreviations in the rule books… But we did kill 3 hours this afternoon, and although it gave him a headache, the rest of us were reasonably entertained. As this is a game that apparently just goes on and on, we’re taken care of for another few weeks of lockdown at least?

Virtual Escape: A Game of Poaching in the Scottish Highlands

Photo by Matteo Badini on Pexels.com

Our virtual escape today has been inspired by us playing D&D, and takes us to the Scottish Highlands – where three eminent gentlemen suffering from ennui and in need of excitement deliver a sporting challenge to local landlords: they propose to go poaching on their lands and dare the landlords to catch them. If they are caught, they will donate money to a good cause.

The book under advertisement is John Macnab by John Buchan, of The Thirty-Nine Steps fame, and even if you’re not into hunting, it’s solid entertainment. The titular character is the nom de guerre assumed by the three eminent gentlemen (a lawyer, a cabinet minister and a banker) for their game of poaching.

“Now, look here.” Lamancha had shaken off his glumness and was as tense and eager as a schoolboy. “Didn’t your doctor advise you to steal a horse? Well, this is a long sight easier than horse-stealing. It’s admitted that we three want a tonic. On second thoughts Archie had better stand out – he hasn’t our ailment, and a healthy man doesn’t need medicine. But we three need it, and this idea is an inspiration. Of course, we take risks, but they’re sound sporting risks. After all, I’ve a reputation of a kind, and I put as much into the pool as any one.”

His hearers regarded him with stony faces, but this in no way checked his ardour.

“It’s a perfectly first-class chance. A lonely house where you can see visitors a mile off, and an unsociable dog like Archie for a host. We write the letters and receive the answers at a London address. We arrive at Crask by stealth, and stay there unbeknown to the countryside, for Archie can count on his people and my man is a sepulchre. Also we’ve got Lithgow, who played the same game with Jim Tarras. We have a job which will want every bit of our nerve and ingenuity, with a reasonable spice of danger – for, of course, if we fail we should cut queer figures. The thing is simply ordaining by Heaven for our benefit. Of course you’ll come.”

“I’ll do nothing of the kind,” said Leithen.

“No more will I,” said Palliser-Yeates.

“Then I’ll go alone,” said Lamancha cheerfully. “I’m out for a cure, if you’re not. You’ve a month to make your mind, and meanwhile a share in the syndicate remains open to you.”

Sir Archie looked as if he wished he had never mentioned the fatal name of Jim Tarras. “I say, you know, Charles,” he began hesitantly, but he was cut short.

“Are you going back on your invitation?” asked Lamancha sternly. “Very well, then, I’ve accepted it, and what’s more I’m going to draft a specimen letter that will go to your Highland grandee, and Claybody and the American.”

He rose with a bound and fetched a pencil and a sheet of notepaper from the nearest writing-table. “Here goes – Sir, I have the honour to inform you that I propose to kill a stag – or a salmon as the case may be – on your ground between midnight on – and midnight -. We can leave the dates open for the present. The animal, of course, remains your property and will be duly delivered to you. It is a condition that it must be removed wholly outside your bounds. In the event of the undersigned failing to achieve his purpose he will pay as forfeit one hundred pounds, and if successful fifty pounds to any charity you may appoint. I have the honour to be, your obedient humble servant.

“What do you say to that?” he asked. “Formal, a little official, but perfectly civil, and the writer proposes to pay his way like a gentleman. Bound to make a good impression.”

“You’ve forgotten the signature,” Leithen observed dryly.

“It must be signed with a nom de guerre.” He thought for a moment. “I’ve got it. At once business-like and mysterious.” At the bottom of the draft he scrawled the name, ‘John MacNab.’

(John Macnab by John Buchan)

Further Reading:Beyond The Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John BuchanJohn MacNab by John Buchan (on Project Gutenberg)
Keep safe, keep sane – Happy Easter!

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