You don’t learn to hold your own in the world by standing on guard.

It happens that I was in a troll temple the other day, killing the trolls there. Not in real life, of course. That would be silly. In real life I was leading a secret monastic sect of knights in a raid through the forgotten sewers of old London against the forces of darkness. As you do on a quiet Sunday afternoon. Anyway, I can’t remember if there was a reason for killing the trolls other than they seemed fair game at the time, what with me being an adventurer and they being monsters with hideous 80s-throwback hairstyles, enough reason for any man or mouse! So there I was killing indiscriminately when a patrol rounded the nearest corner. Now these fellows were pretty tough, and I had been carefully (read cowardly) picking my fights in order to maximise a one-on-one engagement of the non-matrimonial variety. “I’m fair rumbled”, I think to myself in some sort of bizarre Olde English that I only use when thinking to myself, but I’m determined to finish the fight before the inevitable trolling that will shortly be forthcoming. I dispatch the troll that I’m fighting and, thinking that running away like a four-year-old is the better part of valour, I head pell-mell to the nearest safe spot. I then watch in mild wonder as the patrol walks right up to the spot where I was just fighting, where the broken and mutilated corpse of what I can only assume was one of their temple co-workers is laying, have a bit of a look around, you know because they’re on the lookout for trouble here, and then turn right around and wander back the way they came.

One can only begin to envisage the scenario back at Temple HQ:

Chief Troll: “Right you two, you’re on patrol duty around the temple perimeter. Any sign of trouble and you raise the alarm, ok? Think you two knuckleheads can manage that?”

Timothy: “Sure thing, Chief”

Trevor: “Yeah Chief, no problem”

<Timothy and Trevor wander around the perimeter>

Timothy: “You’re a peon at work. Good. Good. And you’re another peon, well done. Ok”

Trevor: “You’re a guard, that’s fine. And here’s a priest, lovely. Lovely.”

Timothy: “And here we have the corpse of Tony, who appears to have been smashed to a pulp with a large blunt instrument of war. Ok, good, good.”

Trevor: “Well I think that’s everything, shall we head back to base, Tim?”

Timothy: “Sounds like a plan to me, I’m dying for a nice cuppa.”

<Back at base>

Chief Troll: “Back already? Well, report you two.”

Trevor: “Nothing untoward, chief, ten peons working, five guards on over-watch, four priests on duty and the horribly bloodied corpse of Tony from human resources.”

Chief Troll: “Tony is a corpse?!”

Timothy: “Well… yes. We thought it was ok though, there was nobody about so we thought it was probably nothing.”

Trevor: “Yeah, he probably tripped and fell on a stone tablet.”

Timothy: “Five or six times until his skull was… oh dear…”


<Trevor and Timothy make their way out again and return shortly thereafter>

Chief Troll: “Well?!”

Timothy: “It’s ok chief panic over, there’s nothing.”

Chief Troll: “Nothing to report? Well that’s a relie…”

Trevor: “No chief, there’s nothing out there. You know, they’ve all gone.”

Chief Troll: “Gone, whaddya mean gone? The peons aren’t working?”

Timothy: “Gone chief.”

Chief Troll: “The guards, where are they?”

Timothy: “The guards are gone chief.”

Trevor: “Well that’s not strictly true, Tim, Toby was there.”

Timothy: “Ah, that’s true.”

Chief Troll: “Well that’s something, get him in here so that we can find out what’s going on.”

Trevor: “Ah, well there might be a small problem, you see it was only his head.”

Chief Troll: “Only his… well where’s the rest of him?!”

Timothy: “Gone, chief.”


<Five minutes later Trevor comes back>

Chief Troll: “WHERE’S TIMOTHY?!”

Trevor: “Who? Oh! Well, he was here when I left, I just didn’t notice that he’d gone.”


<Four hours later and there’s no sign of Trevor or Timothy>

Chief Troll: “Marvellous. Just… marvellous. I suppose I should raise the alarm, and go and see what’s happened.”

Chief Troll: “Or I could just carry on standing in the same spot I always do, and wait to see if anyone turns up. After all, it’s probably nothing.”

Either there’s a severe shortage of recruits for the position of guard, or Tony in human resources drew up the most bizarre list of requirements for applicants:

‘Can’t see over fifteen feet in front of you? Total lack of spatial awareness and inability to hear anything quieter than a demi-culverin fired three inches away from your head? Unable to identify the sights and sounds of comrades being slaughtered nearby unless you’re within spitting distance? Join Her Majesty’s Royal Troll Guards today!’

Often you’ll find guards standing outside a gate, usually there’s two of them – one for each side of the gate, just in case anyone tries to sneak past! – and they’re standing about five feet from one another. Now, get yourself within fifteen feet of them and they both rush after you like rabid bees, all furious activity with the pointy hurty parts and intent on destroying their enemy. For about another fifteen feet in a straight line, then of course they get bored and go back to standing around. But if you pull one of them, and for those of you not familiar with MMOs, pulling is just an MMO term for fighting like a pussy:

“ThĂ©oden King! Helm’s Deep is breached and the hordes are through to the keep!”

“Ooooh dear. Well there’s quite a lot of them, I suggest we hide back here, and try to get the attention of one or two at a time. Perhaps throw rocks at them from a distance and make rude insinuations about their heritage.”

“My liege?”

“You know, we’ll just hide back here as a group, trick one or two into coming and we’ll slaughter them in a heroic and testosterone-laden manner. Then we’ll trick another couple into coming and do the same to them.”

“My king, there are ten thousand orcs at the gate, surely…”

“Ten thousand you say? Hoo! Well, we’d better get started, this could take forever. Pull!”

Anyway, pull one of them from a distance and as long as you’re more than fifteen feet away then many-a-time just the one guard will run off down the hill as the other one stays put. You then proceed to slaughter the guard, with up to five or six of you ganging-up and making the poor fellow literally explode in a crimson blossom of corpse petals along with all the associated death wails and blood-curdling, ear-ravaging battle cries (although the latter is usually just me on Skype, I tend to get a bit carried away when playing as a dwarf) whilst their colleague stands at the gate and doesn’t bat an eyelid. You can imagine them standing at the gate when their friend runs off down the hill, and they’re calling “Doug? Doug?! Where are you going? Fine, sod you then if you’re not going to tell me!”, and then when their colleague is screaming in agony and to all twelve gods of the Umbra to save them, the guard back on the gate is saying “No Doug, I’m not coming now. You had your chance, but you chose to run off and ignore me. I’m not interested now, whatever it is”. Of course, five seconds later the remaining guard does find out what it is. And that it hurts very much.

And when the band of adventurers approaches and gets within his mole-like eyesight range, does he raise the alarm for the rest of the camp like any sane guard would? Does he run like the wind and try to get help? No, he takes the party on single handed, and finally when he’s almost dead, with an axe buried up to the hilt in his skull with half of his body on fire and the other half frozen in ice, only then does he think:

“You know what, it probably isn’t nothing.”

5 thoughts on “You don’t learn to hold your own in the world by standing on guard.

  1. Heather

    Well. Tony was from Human Resources and somehow ended up on guard duty. There’s your answer to everything. Any organization that shabbily run must have a serious lack of IQ points.

  2. Melmoth

    I think he might have been out there checking on the latest recruits, who were probably complaining that the job advert stated “create new openings in your career, and fill in exisiting vacancies” and that building tunnel entrances and digging trenches wasn’t quite what they had in mind.

    Still, you’re right, HR out on the front line is a recipe for disaster. You’d have adventurers charging in only to be greeted by a bunch of trolls in front of a presentation stand and dressed in suits, handing out leaflets and asking the adventurers if they were happy with their current job, and had they considered a career in industrial landscaping?

  3. heather

    True, true. And well, we wouldn’t want to see what would happen if adventurers took over the industrial landscaping business, now would we? *looks around for her Bronze Pruning Shears of the Whale*

  4. Melmoth

    Careful, don’t give the developers ideas, otherwise we’ll soon have Landscape: The Prunering, an MMO where players can perform quests in order to maintain the perfect garden.

    Grind reputation with your neighbours by digging up weeds! Obtain new and more powerful gardening implements as you level, such as Heather’s Bronze Pruning Shears of the Whale and Wellington Boots of the Lich King. Improve your gardening trade skills by planting hundreds of flowers, and then digging them all up and throwing them away once you’ve skilled-up. Then plant some slightly higher level ones!

    Someone’s going to make this now, aren’t they?

    Oh dear.

  5. Heather

    Umm, do I have to shoot myself if I admit that toward the end of your description there, I actually thought it started to sound like an entertaining game?

    I must be getting old.

Comments are closed.