Second Age Game 2005

    Okay, I will be the first one to admit it; I make a terrible... terrible... terrible Dragon!  No, not just because I was the Dragon that was after the good team, that has nothing to do with it.  No, I make a terrible Dragon because I am not a sprinter... wasted over short cross country, you might say, very dangerous over short distances.  Guess I'm just a Dwarf in my heart and in my blood.
    But, damn, if I didn't look good and intimidating doing it!
    So, here it was at character picks day for Second Age Game 2005.  It was the first time that game creator Jack was going to actually play the game, so we were all out to make sure it was a smashing good time.  It was nearing the end of the picks lottery when we all noticed one glaring omission; we were a Dragon short.  Scatha had been snapped up, but Smaug was still languishing on the chalkboard, unclaimed.  For a while, it looked like Scott, the game's newly-designated Sauron, was going to have an extra complication that the good team wouldn't have!  Highly unfair!  So, when my number came up, and with some encouragement from Jack and a few others, I decided to go for it.
    Thus I was drafted as a neutral character for one more game.  Really, I gotta go with one team or the other for 2006, come hell or high water!  Three times in a row is a bit much.
    My character firmly in hand, I set to my usual Tolkien research.  I've read LotR a number of times, now, but The Hobbit never really held my attention much.  I read it through like a dutiful Tolkien fan and then promptly never picked it up again.  I mean, really, Bilbo's a whiner, what with all of his wishing-not-for-the-first-time garbage!  But I had to be sure this costume was up to my standards.  Breifly, I toyed with the idea of doing a gag costume.  Trogdor was first on my list, but I'm glad I didn't do it in the end; it was such an unoriginal idea that the guy playing Scatha actually did it and it would have been embarrasing for both of us to show up as Trogdor the Burninator.  Then, I thought about borrowing a page from Slayers, binding my chest (and boy would I have to!), putting on a false muostache, and painting on stubble to go as a "drag-on," but thought better of the chest binding with all the running I was apt to be doing; passing out while alone in the woods is not a good idea.  One by one, I decided my gag ideas were terrible ones, so I decided to play it straight; that meant research, so I paged through some pertinent passages of The Hobbit.
    I zeroed in on a couple elements.  First and foremost was the jeweled stomach.  You just can't cosplay Smaug without some way of representing that.  Second, there was the color scheme of red and gold.
    Now, playing a menace-type character means a few things for the player's costume.  You do a lot of running, so you have to be light.  It's not too hard a task, since you don't have to worry about armor or weapons.  You basically just have to be sure your costume isn't too bulky.  Second, you do a lot of stalking and hiding, so you have to be compact.  Historically, winged menace-type characters have a pretty bad time of it or just resign themselves to destroying their costumes within five minutes.  Third, you have to keep track of all your tags on your character sheet, so having somewhere to keep it handy and having something to write with is essential, and you better be sure it's secure.
    So, there it was.  Jeweled stomach, red and gold, light, compact, and utilitarian.  List of elements thus boiled down, I went rummaging through my bins of fabric for materials.
    Thank God for my Lina Inverse costume from Anime Detour!  As I'm wont to do, I over-bought on fabric for it and it resulted in the majority of my costume for Smaug.  I started with a red tabard to which I appliqued an oval of white muslin.  The neckline was finished off by attaching a small circle cloak cut in a shape to give the suggestion of wings.  When that was all assembled, I broke out the acrylic paints.  The white oval was painted in a sort of stained-glass pattern, using colors mixed with silver to give it a sort of sheen.  This became the jeweled belly.  I had some blue left over, so I decided to use it up painting an extra jewel on the front of the mini-cloak.  Then, I painted some veins on the mini-cloak to give it even more of a wing-like appearance.  After all of that was finished, I set about sprucing up my head.
    Yeah, here it comes; the part where Berz toots her horn.  Feel free to tune out for a paragraph.
    I've discovered that I'm really good at making costume headwear.  For some unexplained reason, I've just never been bad at it.  From the cat-eared hat for Dijiko to the headdress for Shaak-ti with it's closely-guarded secrets, the hats have almost always been the costume elements I've been proudest of.  Thus it was again with Smaug.  I had an old, plastic headband laying about, some interfacing, some fiberfill, and that ubiquitous red fabric.  I covered the headband, sewed up some ear-pieces and a few horn-shaped do-jobs and a tail, and voila!  Smaug had three horns, dragon-ears, and a tail complete with a spade at the end!
    Okay, ego-trip over.  You can tune back in now.
    Sewing done, I went rummaging though drawers.  A black turtleneck, a rust-colored t-shirt, brown jeans, a belt, my leather gloves, two leather belt-pouches, and my customary brown vinyl spats later and I had a costume.  Feeling strange that I had not yet spent any money on this costume and being tempted by the numerous seasonal Halloween stores, I got some greasepaint makeup with which to paint my face.  I was tempted by the fake blood they were selling by the pint, but decided it would be too sticky.
    Funny thing about that makeup...
    So, game weekend rolled around.  The campout was a blast, as always.  We even got a sing-along going going in its early hours, although there weren'e enough of us there to be able to keep a tune or remember all the words to the songs.  But, dammit, we had a guitar and we were going to make use of it!  We traded old war stories and sacrificed the requisite peeps to the gods of the campfire.  And it was good.
    We all woke up the next morning in the crisp, cool, September air to find clouds on the horizon.  But, this was Seocnd Age Game!  We had automatic good weather mojo and besides, all the weather forecasts had stated that no rain would begin until well into Saturday evening.  We would all game, chow down at A&W, and make it to the post-game party with no worries.  With these happy thoughts, I roused my tent-mates, packed up my little corner of the campground, and ambled off to the Lothlorien bathrooms for a quick shower (it was quick because it was cold!  Someone in another camp beat me to the hot water!), and got changed into my costume.  The makeup took the longest by far.  I had to wait for the stuff to warm up, first of all, since it was hardened after a night in the cold, cold car.  And then I had to put it on.  It wasn't a complicated pattern, but I wanted it to look the same on both sides.  Stripes of black, patches of red, and some yellow around the eyes.
    Funny thing about that makeup...
    I got to the judging area just in time to fulfill my duties as a Second Age Game costume judge along with fellow gamer Roz who was playing a Troll (a role so recently near and dear to my heart after last Ring Game).  Roz gave my costume the once-over, gave me 12 points out of 15 (she liked my hat!  Yay!), and then we sat down to munch on breakfast and dole out costume points to the rest of the players.  Then, it was time for character intros, Jack's big debut as a player (he played the Oliphaunt and did it with gusto!), and off to the starting places.
    The judges drove Scatha and I around for a while so that the other players wouldn't get a bead on where we were starting.  Dragons are supposed to pop out of nowhere and it just wouldn't do for us to be seen being let off.  We didn't get to start until ten minutes into the game, so I squatted down in a wooded place near Khand and Bree and munched on an energy bar for a while.
    The quiet that settled on the area around me was astounding.  Before long, two chipmunks and a small quail came skittering out of the underbrush, absently picking their way along the ground for foodstuffs.  In turn, they each got only about a foot away from me and never even flinched at the fact that I was a very oddly dressed human.  It was really quite the experience and one you can really only have during the game if you're alone for any length of time.  It was really amazing and I wouldn't mind having it again, sometime.
    Soon, though, it was time for me to get up and move.  Almost reluctant to break the spell, I stood up, shook the stiffness out of my legs, and began my prowl toward where I knew the good team would have to go, eventually; their home base of Ost-in-Edhil.  The previous year, Second Age Game had been retooled into a sort of capture-the-flag strategy game and each team had to bring the opposing team's flags back to their home base.  The Dragons were there to muck things up.  Scatha got points by tagging evil team players and Smaug got points by tagging good team members, so I was gunning for good.
    Thus, there came the first big adventure of the day; picking my way through the woods to the path that ran between Isengard and Ost-in-Edhil.  I knew exactly where I was, I knew exactly where it was, and I knew where the river that ran through that patch of woods was.
    And yet, somehow, I ended up on the other side of the river without crossing it.  My hand to God!  I consulted maps later!  I know where I started and I know where I ended up coming out on to the path!  The river is between them and I crossed it when I figured I needed to, but I was somehow, then, on the wrong side of it!  So, I had to cross it again at a less pleasent place to cross to correct the warping of space.  Seriously, someone warped space; that's the only explanation!
    Even with that fiasco, I ended up getting to the path early.  There were voices at Ost-in-Edhil, where I couldn't attack, and I figured they were going to hear me coming; I was making what sounded to me like a terrible noise in the woods.  But apparently, it wasn't because I made it all the way to the edge of the path without anyone seeing me.  By then, though, they had left.  I'm not sure if it was referees or players, but I asked around and, apparently, no one noticed me!  Call me ninja-dragon!
    So, I stalked the path for a while, waiting for some good team members to come strolling along with a flag or two to come across my waiting Dragon claws.  It wasn't long before I heard voices.  It sounded to me like Liz, who was playing Gil-galad; big fish!  Into a small ditch I dove and waited to get the drop on the unsuspecting group.  Closer... closer... just a little more... three people, yes!  Just a little bit... and...
    Evil team players.  Made the tags, but no points for Smaug.  Que sera sera...
    So, I moved on and prowled the nearby paths some more.  Then, along came a sizable group of good team members bearing the captured flag of Haradwaith.  Unfortunately, they saw me at the same time as I saw them, so the race was on.
    Remember my Dwarven sprinting nature?  These guys could run and I couldn't.  No tags, but I did manage to block them from getting to their home base.  They were effectively caught between me and a persuing evil army.  Eventually, something happened that opened things up on the other end and allowed the group to escape and after that the area turned dead again.  Apparently, all the action was going on elsewhere, so I moved on toward the Misty Mountains to see what I could see.  I encountered a few evil players on my way and decided not to waste my energy for now.  Apparently, word spread because they started to pass me information on game news and good team whereabouts.  Eventually, I even ran into Sauron himself and chatted with him awhile.
    Of course, by now, there was an added complication.
    Funny thing about that makeup...
    Do you remember all those weather forecasts that had promised us that no rain would come until well into the evening?  Well, they lied.  It poured cats and dogs starting around 2:00 or so.  And that makeup, that damned yellow makeup I had put around my eyes, didn't stay in place very long after that and soon was not around my eyes, but in them instead.
    So, half-blinded, I staggered my way up to Sauron who kindly handed me a slightly moist handkerchief.  We exchanged what game news we knew as I wiped the now-hated makeup off and I learned that things were not going well for the evil team.  They had lost all of their bases except for their home base of Barad-dur and the Dwarves had made off into the woods with one of the good team flags, precluding the possibilities of a flags-tie and a ring-tokens tie-breaker.  They were getting ready to make a last-ditch effort to attack Ost-in-Edhil at 3:30.
    I admit it; their plight pulled at my Draconic heart strings.  I decided to help them out however I could.  So, when Scatha blitzkreiged out of the tall grass and made to scatter what little bit of the evil team had rallied, I decided to depart the area and go back to the Ost-in-Edhil path in hopes of intercepting flags before they got to the good team home base and maybe waylay them for enough time for Sauron to get his forces over there and snatch them up.
    Oh yeah, and somewhere in the midst of all of this, I managed to make two tags on good team members.  Yay for ten points.  I think they probably just wanted to take a break.
   So,  I hung around on the Ost-in-Edhil path for a while again.  This time, though, I didn't care who saw me.  It was by now evident to me that my legacy as a Dragon was not going to be in the tags department, but in the annoyance one.  I spotted flag-carrying good team groups on their way and they abruptly stopped when they saw me.  One by one, those groups made for Osgiliath, kiddie-corner to Ost-in-Edhil on another path nearby, and bunched up there.
    By now, it was 3:15 and pretty much the entire good team was at Osgiliath.  To the best of my knowledge, the evil team was going to have to go right past them to make their big attack, so I had failed in my self-appointed mission.  Seeing as how I was out of the game at 3:30, I figured there was nothing more for it than to give the good team one last, Dragon-related thrill and throw myself on Osgiliath for their collective Smaug-thumping.
    Here's the approach, and the tag, and... Oh!  Smaug has her ass utterly handed to her by her prey!  I told them they could stop counting up points when they hit 500 and still had half the team to count up.
    And so, my stint as Smaug the Magnificent came to a rather inauspicious end.  A grand total of five kills, only two of which got me any points.  I do believe I am the only menace-type character to ever get a kill count that can be held up on one hand.  But, I was told later by many a good team member that I made quite a nuisance of myself, so I guess the day wasn't a total loss.
    Looking to clean off the day's grime and to warm myself up a bit, I made my way back to the Lothlorien bathrooms for another shower.  I had another hour and a half of game time to kill before anyone would be making their way to A&W and besides, I wanted to see how the endgame played out.  A shower, a change of clothing, and a re-donning of my Dragon hat and I made for Barad-dur to see how the poor, bedraggled evil team was faring.  By now, the rain had slowed to an unpleasent drizzle (figures!).
    The good team ended up winning the day, but I have to say that it was not due to anything the evil team members who started at Haradwaith had done wrong!  They were definately the burning fires of the evil team that day, managing to get not one, but two good team flags to Barad-dur within the last ten minutes of the game!  One of those flag runs even included a rather harrowing detour to a good-infested Mount Doom by game newbie Craig.  The other involved a Dwarf-thumping.  Those players, I learned, had been a well-oiled team all day long, led by Jack the Oliphaunt.  That group of players has since been dubbed "Team Haradrim," and with good reason.  They were a sight to behold at the endgame.
    So, the evil team managed their flags-tie after all, but unfortunately the good team had most of the ring-tokens.  The tie-breaker points came out in their favor when 5:00 hit and thus it was that the One Ring was wrested from the grasp of Sauron the Deciever and the Third Age of Middle-earth began.  My congratulations to the good team for a game very well played.
    So, I didn't make a very good Dragon and I probably won't be repeating the experience any time in the near future, nor will I play the Menace in a Ring Game.  I'm just not the kind of player for it.  But, I did learn a bit more about what I can manage on my own.  I can navigate woods passibly when I need to, I can apparently move silently enough not to be heard a short distance away, and I can hide very well, even when wearing bright red in a green, green woods.  Next Ring Game, I'm volunteering for scout duty!
    Oh!  And what was the big lesson I learned that game?  Why, never to wear makeup around the eyes if there's rain forecasted within the next 24 hours, of course.

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