4/27/2018

Save That Which Lives

Nobody reads Risus: The Anything RPG and says "Hey S. John, was that a nod to Eitri, King of the Dwarves, who Peter Dinklage played in Avengers: Infinity War?" For a variety of reasons, they just don't. But yeah. That one goes out to King Eitri. And so does this rambling explanation:

In 1986, I got a job at a game-and-comic store in North Carolina, and those would be my first real days as a gamer. In one of my earliest conversations there, everyone got to talking about cool magic items.

They were just citing their favorites from the DMG or Judges Guild books or issues of White Dwarf and Dragon, but I didn't know that. As a gaming noob, I had no frame of reference. I thought they were extruding these things from spinnerets near their butts.

When it came my turn, it took a half-heartbeat of panic to remember I did have a favorite magic item! I DID.

So I relaxed, and droned in my best faux-fantasy-serious-guy voice that my favorite was "a blade, which will cleave through ALL ... [dramatic pause, dramatic rise of the eyebrows] ... save that which lives."

"Oooooh," said Nick, one of the gamers. "That'd be kind of frustrating but kind of fun. Lots of creative uses."

Pat added "That's why I like the Decanter of Endless Water. You can really surprise a DM with that!"

I didn't know what a Decanter of Endless Water was, but it sounded cool. I kept burbling: "Like, you couldn't really stab a guy with it but you could wreck his sword and armor ..."

"And whatever he's standing on, too!" said Nick. There was a collective nod of approval, as everyone mulled it over.

Then the conversation passed to the next person, and I had survived my turn. I had contributed a favorite without embarrassment. I felt guilty that everyone else had spinnerets near their butts, but I had, at least, survived.

I'd go on to put some version of that sword in several of my campaigns, and it sparked a lifelong interest in magic and powers with multiple, non-obvious uses. After becoming a storied blade of many campaigns, it popped up in my old homebrew Talisman cards (find them in the Secret Library) and of course, it gets a passing nod on page one of Risus. It's had different mechanics and origin-stories and in-world "rules" but it cleaves ... to its origins in an X-Men Annual from 1985.


That's Sam Guthrie (Cannonball of New Mutants) and King Eitri, after Sam and friends had an adventure in Asgard that rocked my lil' adolescent socks. There was, and is, nothing interesting about the armor. But a super magic stabby thing that can't really stab anyone ... it stuck in my memory because, before I was ever a gamer, it still sent my imagination running in a superhero-fan way: how would Sam use this new power? Does it stop at flesh or just ghost through? Would he let the other New Mutants know about it? Will he give away the armor? He's already pretty much invulnerable when he's blastin', etc ...

Anyway. That's why – beyond seeing Peter Frickin' Dinklage in an Avengers movie – the sight of Eitri gave me a bonus inward smile, recalling that he once forged me a favorite, and it's lasted.


If you're curious to read of the New Mutants' adventure in Asgard (including the X-Men Annual I mentioned) that story is currently available in both digital and physical form from Marvel as New Mutants Classic, Vol. 5.