The Genie

My name is Dr. Buckminster Ourman, Ph.D., MA, BFA, MS, JD, LLC, TP, WC, MGM, WTO, IDIOT, pronounced “Ourman”. I’m the Anders Flanders-Sanders Professor of Comparative Correlation at Flotsam University. I was relaxing one Sunday morning with my coffee and a copy of the Big City Tribune Gazette Times Post News Sun Journal. Having read the Violence, Corruption, and Sports sections, I moved on to the classified ads. Let’s see.

“For sale: Slightly used coffin in good condition. All stains and odor removed professionally. Glad Uncle Dave is well, but need to recoup costs of remodeling his home into a combination strip club, casino, and wing joint. Interested parties respond to this ad. Uninterested parties come to Terry’s and get saucy!” Hmm, every part of that sounds risky. What else?

“Missed connection. You: attractive woman, 30s, blond. Me: roguish man, hirsute, fun-loving. I saw you on the subway and tried to say hi. You had headphones in, so you must not have heard me. I waved, but your book was blocking your face. I tried signalling my intentions with crude hand gestures, but you happened to turn to face the window. I tried yelling what I’d like to do to you and thought I saw you react with a flinch, but you must have just had a chill because you made no response. Reply to What’s Personal Space? c/o this newspaper.” Gross. What’s this?

“For sale: Dirty old pair of men’s underwear. Could have been owned by famous celebrity or powerful business tycoon. Found in a puddle near the airport, so anything is possible. $1200 OBO.” Intriguing! I might come back to that one. Ah, this looks interesting.

“For sale: Various genuine cursed objects. Come on down to Honest Sal’s Emporium of Darkest Mystery. Palms read, fortunes foretold, animals disemboweled and guts used for augury.” Now this sounds like a good way to spend my Sunday!

I came on down to Honest Sal’s. I got out of the car, looked down, got back in the car, went home, and put on pants. I came back on down to Honest Sal’s and went inside, confident in my attire’s perfect attendance.

The shelves and cases were filled with spooky totems, cracked idols, and mysterious papers. I was looking over some maps of uncharted lands and books written in forgotten languages when Sal came out from the back room.

“Hello, my friend!” he said. “Interested in something dark and powerful, are we? Might I interest you in the favorite eyeball of Nostradamus? Or maybe the lost raiment of King Hadz-na-Kloom is more your style? Or — and I don’t offer this to just any customer, but you look like a serious fan of the occult — maybe the mystic toenail clippings of Aleister Crowley?”

“Oh, I dunno. I’m just browsing.”

“Tell me, what sort of item are you looking for? Something to increase your luck? Or maybe you’re looking for a way to have more vigor?”

“Really? No! No, no. I guess I was just hoping there’d be something here that would really make me question reality and everything I thought I knew. Do you have anything like that?”

“Ah. A connoisseur. Take a look over here.”

He led me to a back corner and moved a pile of boxes out of the way, revealing a door with several locks on it. He unlocked them one by one and mumbled something in a strange, guttural language unspoken by humans. Then, as he gripped the knob, said, “This is one of our best sellers.”

He opened the door and I found myself staring into a psychedelic wormhole in an otherwise black void. An eye opened in the middle of it and a booming voice asked, “Who dares disturb my slumber?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

Sal closed the door and locked it. “Well, it doesn’t look like it’s my day. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.”

I thanked him for his time and left the shop. I then went into the store next door, Spooks & Things. There, next to a basket of discounted monkey’s paws with only one or two wishes left, was a rusty old oil lamp with a sign that read, “Inside! Real Live Genie! Fool Your Friends!” I paid the clerk my fifteen cents and took the lamp home.

I rubbed my hands with excitement. Nothing happened. I read the instructions again and realized my problem. I rubbed the lamp with excitement and this time it began spewing mysterious smoke mysteriously! The smoke condensed into the form of a giant man in a turban. The genie!

“You’re a real genie! Wow!”

“Well, I should hope so,” he said. “Otherwise I’d be in trouble with the FTC for false advertising. What can I do for you, my master? You have three wishes.”

“I wish for infinite wishes!”

The genie paused and put a finger to his chin. “Hmm. You know, in my thousands of years in the Genie Corps, no one has ever thought of that. Consider it done. You now have infinite wishes.”

“Fantastic! Well, let’s get the big ones out of the way. I’d like a billion dollars, a fully furnished enormous mansion, and world peace.”

“Done, done, done. Come on, give me a challenge.”

“Wait. You didn’t grant them through some trickery, did you? You didn’t bring about hyperinflation and make a billion dollars the price of a loaf of bread or something or end war by killing everyone on Earth?”

“Nope, nothing like that. Your billion is worth just as much as it would have yesterday and no one died. The mansion isn’t on a sacred burial ground or haunted or anything like that. You’re all good.”

“Wonderful! I suppose I should think long and hard about how to use my other wishes. Mr. Genie — um, do you have a name?”

“Yes, Fred.”

“Okay. Fred, take a break. Relax. Help yourself to whatever you put in the kitchen.”

Weeks passed. I wished for an end to disease, no more poverty, and for all the answers regarding morality and religion to be known and available to everybody. The world was a utopia. No more suffering. No more quarrels over beliefs. Enough food and money for everybody to be comfortable. Everything seemed perfect.

One day, I felt so pleased with my world that I decided to leave the mansion and take a stroll downtown to witness everybody’s non-stop joy firsthand.

“Oh, Fred!”

“Yes, master?”

“I’m going to take a stroll downtown to witness everybody’s non-stop joy firsthand. Do you want to come?”

“Oh, I don’t think that’s a good idea, master.”

“Why not? I think it will be delightful.”

“Oh, no. It’s such a bother. Wouldn’t you rather stay here and just watch videos of happy people on the news?”

“I’ve done enough of that. I want to experience the sights, the sounds, the smells of a happy populace! Be back later!”

I got into the car, but it wouldn’t start. I tried the other 38 cars, all three planes, and the jet pack, but none of them would work. I ran to the gate, but it wouldn’t open. I began to suspect something was amiss.

I climbed over the gate and headed downtown. When I found a busy neighborhood, the people didn’t look any different than before. I found someone waiting for a bus and asked, “Isn’t it nice to be free of poverty, war, and all those other problems?”

“I wouldn’t know, bub,” he said. “Everything’s pretty screwed up as far as I can tell.”

That didn’t sound right. I investigated further. I checked a newspaper. War, disease, theft, violence. Nothing was solved at all!

I returned to my mansion and demanded an explanation.

“Well, it’s like this, master,” Fred began. “Solving all those problems without it causing some unforeseen bigger problem is, like, really hard. But changing all the information in here to say it’s been fixed is really easy! You’re rich and happy, so mission accomplished.”

It made a lot of sense, aside from being completely wrong and bad.

“You foolish twerp of a genie! I demand that you grant my wishes as I ask them from now on! Now, what do I want for my next wish? Ah, I know! Seeing as ending violence and fighting is too much for you, I wish to be more powerful than any army.”

“Sure thing, bro.”

Fred snapped his fingers and I immediately felt…well, exactly the same, really. “Did you do the thing? Am I powerful?”

“Yeah, of course! I made you a writer!”

“What!?!? Do you not understand me? Maybe English is your second or third language.”

“It’s my eighteenth, but I understood perfectly. Haven’t you ever heard that the pen is mightier than the sword?”

I blinked a few times. “I guess so, but that’s just a saying. It’s not literally true.”

“Sure it is! Here, I’ll prove it.”

Fred snapped his fingers again and a fearsome knight stood before me. He raised his sword and cut me in half.

Fred looked up from the dictionary. “Ohhhhhh, that’s what ‘literally’ means. My bad.”

With me dead, Fred was masterless and free to do whatever he wanted. He used his powers to take over the world and reigned over centuries of peace and prosperity that formed the foundation of humanity’s expansion throughout the universe. It was the dawn of a truly utopian era with no end in sight. So he can do all that but doesn’t know what “literally” means and he can’t make me survive one fight. Some genie.

Dangeons & Dragrubbs

The skeletons were a problem, but their slow shuffling meant there were more pressing things to worry about. The goblins, however, were relentless. Several squat, hideous archers were circling the battle on dire wolves and taking shot after shot. At least any goblin who got close enough to swing a sword at our heroes was slowed down as they stepped over their fallen allies’ bodies.

K’thargg, the half-orc barbarian, cleaved a goblin in twain with his enormous axe, spun around, and caught another under the chin, almost taking its head off. Somewhere in his walnut-sized brain he made a mental note to come back for it as a trophy.

“You’re welcome,” the dwarf bard Bothurl called to K’thargg. His pride that his inspiration helped K’thargg’s second attack land was palpable as he fired another crossbow bolt, knocking a goblin off his dire wolf.

The elf cleric Lumiel raised her holy sword towards the hordes of skeletons and mumbled something unintelligible. Half of them crumbled into dust. While it was nice to be rid of them, their sudden absence made it much easier for the ogres to charge into the battle.

The monk Jadu, the sole human in the party, was a blur as he ran to the nearest ogre and channeled his chi into his fist. The punch landed and the ogre was stunned for several seconds, giving the gnome rogue Tibbit ample opportunity to grab its purse before slashing its Achilles’ heels with her dagger.

Filomel, the half-elf wizard, stepped boldly towards the oncoming ogres and raised her hands in the air as she shouted, “I cast Earthquake!”

“You can’t cast that,” Amy said. “It’s not on your spell sheet.” She indicated the list on Chris’ character sheet as the other four players rolled their eyes.

“Okay, then I’ll add it to my spell sheet,” Chris replied.

“No, it’s not on your sheet because Filomel hasn’t learned it. Plus it would be really out of character for her since it’s an Evocation spell and Filomel is in the Divination class.”

“What’s that?”

“The spell class, like what kind of magic it is. Evocation is nature stuff like earthquakes and storms and Divination is like reading omens or locating something far away or telepathy.”

“Okay, so can I use Telepathic Bond on them and make them THINK there’s an earthquake?”

“I don’t think so. It’s not–”

“Yeah! Natural 20! Oh no! There’s an earthquake, you guys! Winnnnk.”

Amy sighed. “I can’t believe Erica is letting you play her character. Okay, with your crit roll, you use Telepathy to apparently convince the 31 remaining goblins, 16 skeletons, and 3 ogres that there’s an earthquake. I guess that would distract them from taking their turns, so it is back to K’thargg. Ooh, a natural one. Not good. Let’s see….”

As K’thargg swung his comically over-sized ax at a dazed ogre, he slipped in some goblin blood and did a front flip, landing square on his back. The air was knocked out of him and the ax that slipped out of his grasp came down on his head. Luckily, it was the blunt side that hit him so he only got a mild concussion which nobody noticed for three days.

Bothurl ran towards the same ogre, shouting vicious mockeries about the ogre’s smallness and rude things about his mother. The ogre slowly parsed the grammar of the insults and felt his heart sink just as Bothurl leapt into the air and drove a dagger down into his chest, literally making his heart sink.

Lumiel charged at the remaining skeletons, shouted something in tongues, and drove her sword into the ground. After a wave of divine energy tore through the skeletons, nothing remained but their swords and rusted armor.

Jadu stoically took–

“Contact Other Plane!”

“It’s not your turn, Chris. It’s Jacob’s turn,” Amy said.

“Can I use a spell that makes me skip ahead?”

“There isn’t one and no.” Amy took a breath and gathered her thoughts.

Jadu stoically took in what monsters remained on the battlefield. As he scanned the area, he turned to find the only ogre still on its feet roaring in his face. Fortunately, he had trained his mind to resist such distractions and simply pummeled the ogre’s chest with a flurry of punches until it fell down dead.

The last living ogre writhed on the ground, immobilized and confused. Tibbit slashed its throat and dashed off to loot some nearby bodies before the others got a chance.

“Okay, Chris. It’s your turn.”

“I cast Contact Other Plane.”

“You’re out of slots for that level.”

“What? Aw, man. I knew I shouldn’t have used Animate Objects to make the chicken bones dance around.”

“Hey, Bothurl uses a free action to shout out cutting words to Filomel. Roll some dice, ya dingus!”

“Fine. Okay, let’s try this.”

Filomel’s fingers drew an arcane symbol in the air. The sky darkened and a faint buzzing grew louder until it drowned out all other sound. A cloud of flying insects blocked out the sun as it swarmed over the battlefield.

“Okay, and?”

“And what?”

“What happens? What do the bugs do?”

“I dunno. I mean, they’re really gross and creepy, right? Yuck!”

“So…they’re gross. And that’s your turn.”

“Okay. Good job, idiot. K’thargg goes full frenzy and mops up the rest of the goblins. With a… 19, plus 5, plus 2. And that’s stacked with my–”

“Yyyyup. You got it. Everything’s dead. Anyone want to do anything before we move on?”

All of the players except for Chris cried out in unison: “Loot the bodieeees!”

20-sided dice rained down on the table and Amy tallied their rolls, mentally dividing them into various ranges of Difficulty Class each attained. “Okay, Jacob, Jadu found a rusty dagger — great for giving someone tetanus — and 30 GP. Darius, K’thargg finds 60 GP, an emerald, and a small cursed idol. Carl, Bothurl found 110 GP. Hannah, Lumiel found didn’t find anything. Ashleigh, Tibbit found 345 GP, a ring with a curious symbol on it, and a scroll. Chris, Filomel finds a very strange charm on a necklace.”

“Okay, put it all in a pile and I’ll cast Detect Magic on it.”

“Well, before you have a chance to do that, you hear the rumble of deep, steady thuds. It’s getting closer.”

“14 plus 3! Do I see anything?”

“You don’t see the source of the noise, but you do notice some branches parting as if something were passing through them.”

“It’s invisible! Anyone have any Sight spells or feats?”

“Nope.”

“Nothing here.”

“Mine isn’t prepared.”

Amy raised her eyebrows at Chris. “Does Filomel have anything?”

“Uhhhhhh, nnnnno. Nada.”

“Are you sure? Check everywhere.”

“I’m checking spells…items…background…I’m not seeing anything.”

Amy punctuated every word. “Check. Erica’s. Notes. On. The right. Anything about eyes or sight?”

“I, ah…hmm….”

“See Invisibility! You have See Invisibility!”

Chris was still looking through Erica’s notes. “I do? Oh, cool!”

“Okay. So there’s a big invisible thing approaching quickly and only you can see it. What do you do?”

“Punch it!”

Amy rubbed her eyes. “Chris. I know you’re still new and Erica was very nice to let you play her wizard tonight. But I need you to try and get in the character a little. It’s role playing, not just punching.”

“Okay. Role playing. Okay. So I see the invisible thing coming and I, um, hmm. Oh! I got it! I point at him and shout, ‘Brother?'”

“What?!?!”

Filomel’s jaw dropped as she took another step towards the creature that she and she alone could see.

“Brother, it’s been so long. Can it really be you? We were separated at birth! I’ve spent so many years searching…searching for you! Oh, brother! This is the happiest day of my life!”

“The monster isn’t your–”

“No, I haven’t spoken to Father. He went off to fight in the Great Battles across the sea and never returned!”

Amy tried to interrupt. “Okay, the giant invisible monster is about 30 feet in front of the party now and you see a giant fireball appear around where you think its mouth would be.”

“Brother! There’s no need for this! It is I, Falafel–”

“Filomel!”

“Falamal, and I wish you no harm!”

“And it’s breathing fire on you.”

“Yes! Yes, let us embrace as the long-lost twins that we are! No. No, I don’t know any of these people. Ha! Yes! They do seem like a bunch of dummies!”

“This isn’t how you–”

“Sure, I’d love to see your place! Let’s go. Bye, jerks! I’m gonna go party down with my invisible twin brother. He says y’all suck. Later, goobers!”

Chris moved Filomel’s miniature die-cast figurine off the board and started doodling a picture of Filomel hanging out with her giant, invisible, fire-breathing twin.

The other players looked at each other for a moment, then Carl rolled his die.

“That’s a 17 plus 3 plus 1, 21. I get my crossbow and shoot Filomel in the head. Hannah, you’ll resurrect her next week?”

“You got it.”

“Cool.”

“Okay, so Filomel falls down dead and the invisible beast lumbers away. Does anybody need a meal or a potion or anything?”