In Praise of the Dumb

This post won the Rolemaster Moments montly award in January 2003. Since ICE have dropped this part of their website, and the post has otherwise vanished into the ether, I’m reposting it here.

We’ve all known dumb players. They pick fights they have no hope of winning, decide to play around with the Evil Maguffin (“Just to see how it works”) and open any sealed door marked with runes that translate as, “Whatever you do, don’t open this door.”
But there are times when someone is so dumb it reaches the levels of genius. Which brings me to a player I’ll call Claude, because it’s his name.
Claude is, quite simply, the most consistent brilliantly-dumb player I’ve ever known. Most dumb players need an opportunity to be dumb; Claude made his own opportunities. I only played in one campaign with him, back when we were at Uni around 15 years ago. I have no idea what he’s doing now — but I sincerely hope he’s still provoking feelings of awed disbelief in a roleplaying group somewhere.
There were four members in the party: my Common Man Ranger, Danny’s High Man Ranger, Abir’s Dwarf Fighter and Claude’s Walking Disaster.
It so happened that we had been hired to protect an elderly noblewoman from the gangster who wanted her property. We’d already figured out Claude’s character was pretty dumb, but at this stage didn’t realise just HOW dumb. So, in our innocence, we left his character guarding the old lady while we went about the delicate task of scouting out the enemy’s lair.
We returned to find the old lady excessively dead, on account of a large number of stab wounds. Claude’s character was standing by her bed, covered in gore, holding a bloody dagger.
US (restrained): “What in the blackest pits of the Seven Hells happened here?”
CLAUDE (happily): “I killed her.”
There was a moment of stunned silence as this sunk in.
US: “Why?”
CLAUDE: “She’s a witch.”
US: “A witch. Hoooo-kay. How do you know she’s a witch?”
CLAUDE: “That guy we thought was the bad guy told me. He popped over while you were out.”
US: “And you believed him?”
CLAUDE: “Of course I did. He’s my long-lost brother.”
US: “But you don’t have a brother. You’re an only child. You’ve never had a brother.”
CLAUDE (beaming happily): “I do now.”
And there was the business about shields. Claude’s character didn’t believe in shields. I mean, we assume he believed in the existence of shields, but he didn’t believe any right-thinking warrior should ever carry one. As a result, he relied on my character’s ever-dwindling supply of herbs to heal him after every combat.
Then came the kind of bizarre situation RoleMaster throws at you every once in a while. In the space of six combat rounds, the other three of us all had our shields shattered. Claude, his character bleeding from half a dozen wounds, smiled. “Now you see why I don’t carry a shield,” he said.
Some time later we reached the Big City. Despite Claude, we’d somehow managed to amass a respectable amount of gold, so we decided to splash out by staying in as good an inn as would accept adventurers, on the grounds that we were less likely to be robbed. We could tell it was a high-class joint: our rooms had wall-to-wall carpeting. In a paisley pattern.
Claude’s character was amazed. He paced the dimensions of the room. He muttered, “Damn strange animal this skin came from — and HUGE!” Then he dropped to his knees, pulled out his dagger, and cut out a large square of carpet from the middle of the room “to show to the folks back home”. We found another inn, one without carpets. We got robbed.
Sadly, all great performances must end (at least, I think Claude was performing, though I didn’t know him outside the game, so I’m not sure).
A few nights later, having accepted a commission to investigate and, if possible, destroy the gang of smugglers operating in the city, we were hidden around the wharves. At least, three of us were hidden. Claude’s character decided to confuse any wrong-doers by hanging around nonchalantly in plain sight as if he were some love-lorn Lothario seeking solace in solitude.
Sure enough, the smugglers appeared in the moonlight. Rather a lot of them. Too many to handle. Claude’s character yelled, “AAARGH! SMUGGLERS!” and began to run. Realising from his cry that this was not some love-lorn Lothario, the smugglers set off in pursuit.
The dice weren’t with Claude. He fumbled his MM roll and fell. By the time he recovered, they were 20 feet behind him and closing fast. He decided new tactics were in order.
“I’ll hide,” he said.
“Where?” said Tony, our GM. “You’re in plain sight and they’re less than 20 feet behind you.”
“In an alley between warehouses.”
“They’ll see you go in. Are you absolutely sure you want to do this?”
“Yes.”
So he nipped into a handy alley and stopped dead, trusting to the shadows to keep him safe. The smugglers followed and ran straight into him.
We buried his character in style. We splashed out much of our depleted gold on a decent coffin, and in it we placed a few mementos: his sword, a broken shield, the dagger he’d used to kill the old lady, and his piece of carpet. We bought a headstone and hired a stone-mason to carve his epitaph.
It read, “He died as he lived: with utter stupidity.”

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