The other day, I was drinking cheap beer in a smelly basement at a card table with a half dozen sexless friends of mine. Unsurprisingly, I was reminded of old AD&D playing days. For you squares, that stands for "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons."
I'm sure you're wondering how much more "advanced" you can get when you're already rolling 20-sided dice, pretending you're an elf, and saying shit like, "If I fail my saving throw, I'm going to try to escape these orcs by casting Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion – no wait, Charm Monster! CHARM MONSTER!!!" But trust me, AD&D was heads and shoulders above regular D&D.
Truth is, it was just the same as regular D&D with a different set of rules and some new math formulas to memorize; nothing more than really confusing arithmetic.
A couple of days ago, I was browsing a website with palm pilot software and I found a program that could calculate all that dice-rolling and THAC0 equations (if you don't know what THAC0 is, don't ask) on your PDA. This would have been awfully handy back in my day. Only half of the time playing AD&D consisted of actual roleplaying; the other half was made up entirely of rolling dice, scribbling utterly illegible figures down onto pieces of scrap paper, trying a quick stab at addition, subtraction, or multiplication (rarely division), giving up, and taking your best guess at the answer.
In AD&D, there is a 9th level spell (the highest attainable, thus making its spells the most powerful) simply called "Wish." It worked exactly as you would guess – you cast the spell and make a wish.
Despite its Ockham's Razor-esque simplicity, sadly enough, the spell had several drawbacks.
1) Being a very powerful spell, it took a very powerful wizard to cast it, which meant it took lots and lots and lots of time rolling dice, pretending to add numbers, and killing orcs.
2) The practical effect of the wish was determined by a terrible person called the "Dungeon Master" or "DM" for short. The DM was the person who sort of "steered" the game as the others played it. He decided when it was time to enter a dungeon, fight a bunch of orcs, drink lots of mead, etc. The DM also decided various outcomes of events and actions taken by the game's players.
Because of him, the wording of the wish would inevitably come back to bite the wizard in the ass. Let's say you wish for world peace. The resulting effect might be that every living thing in the world 'peacefully' fell into a coma and 'peacefully' died of starvation. Or maybe you wish for a million gold pieces: they might appear right in the air above your head, crushing you.
Nine times out of ten, no matter how carefully worded the wish, the DM would use it as an opportunity to screw you. Only the most carefully worded legalese would keep you from getting skewered by the DM. It was a challenge for all concerned – yours in making the wish foolproof, and the DM's in finding the loophole which might cause your penis to shrivel up and fall off, either in the game or real life.
3) It drained the wizard almost completely. After casting the spell — no matter the DM-chosen outcome — a stiff breeze could kill him, another stiff breeze could resurrect him, and then another stiff breeze could kill him again.
So, ultimately, making a wish was almost always a losing proposition, but it kept things interesting.
A while ago, I thought about the classic genie-in-a-bottle scenario. You're in your recently deceased Great Uncle Arthur Von Autumnbottom's creepy attic where he kept all of his ancient artifacts from his time as an archaeologist/bounty hunter/ladykiller, and you stumble across a brass lamp. You rub the lamp because, let's face it, if the lamp didn't want to be rubbed, it wouldn't be dancing like that in a short skirt. Out pops a genie. And what happens next, kiddies? The genie grants you three wishes, but you have to pick up his dry cleaning first.
Now, I don't know a damn thing about genies, but something tells me they're a bunch of sons of bitches. I know that's a totally unfair assessment, but I'm sort of an asshole, so there you have it. I just have a feeling genies have a bit of DM in them. I bet if you wished for something, the genie would delight in twisting your words and distorting your purpose.
I'm fuming about these genie bastards. But there's bound to be some hip, laid back genie who wouldn't pull that shit, right? So, how about you're in your recently deceased Great Uncle Franky Gertrude Wienersteiger's creepy attic where he kept all of his carnival game winnings from his time as a beat poet/eccentric dandy/schizophrenic funhouse operator. You stumble across a brass lamp shaped like a hula-dancing lady.
You rub the lamp and out pops a very peculiar genie. He's wearing a Hawaiian shirt and drinking tequila. The genie grants you three silly wishes. First, he explains to you the parameters of the so-called silly wish:
1) It must have a comedic effect.
2) It can't be useful.
3) In can't harm or hinder anyone or provide you with any great benefit.
Now this is my kind of genie. The question is: what would you wish for? Here are some of my ideas, in no particular order. If I had to narrow it down to three, I don't know which I'd pick.
1) To be able to make a person fart or belch with one smouldering stare. How hilarious would this be? How many riotous uses would this have? The mousy librarian with her nose buried in a book. The President delivering the State of the Union. Your boss leading a staff meeting. Your father-in-law saying grace at Thanksgiving dinner. You assault them with one burning glance and, suddenly, their ass is on fire.
I would develop incontinence fairly quickly with this one, pissing myself during fits of hideous, uncontrollable laughter. The best part would be the stare — they would know somehow, it was you who made them cut the cheese. But they would never, ever be able to prove it.
2) To have the song of my choice play out of nowhere when I enter a room. I'm mad. I enter the room. Darth Vader's theme from Star Wars rings out spontaneously — no one messes with me. I'm in a great mood. I bounce into the room to the sound of James Browns' "Sex Machine". My young son just got busted shoplifting a rifle from Walmart and I have to have a stern yet loving talk with him. I walk into his bedroom and one of those corny instrumental tunes from Full House begins to waft through the air. The applications are seemingly endless.
3) To be able to insert myself into the background of any photograph or movie. This one requires some qualification. It could only be in the background of the photo or movie (as an extra) and my appearance would suit the occasion or theme of the photo/movie.
Some instances: a photo of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at the Oscars, and I'm in the background, in a tux, sipping a martini. An old photo of someone's family renunion from 1974 – there I am, sitting in a lawn chair, talking to your cousin, and drinking a beer. You're watching the immortal Vietnam classic Platoon, and there I am, one of the soldier extras getting mown down by the Viet Cong, right before Chuck Sheen steps into the frame. This would be hilarious simply because nearly every instance would be so totally inexplicable.
4) To turn any moment into a Bollywood song and dance. If you're a fan of Indian cinema, you know what I'm talking about. The name Bollywood is a marriage of Bombay (now Mumbai), the film center of India, and Nashville, the home of country music. Sorry, that's Bashville. Hollywood, that's what I meant.
Bollywood movies are characterized by numerous song and dance routines (called "filmi," from Hindi, meaning "of films") by the actors and actresses themselves, which move the plot along. In this way, Bollywood movies aren't entirely unlike musicals, besides being diabolically twisted and strange. They're so strange, in fact, I have a hard time actually believing most Bollywood movies were actually filmed in my own dimension of reality. I could stand to participate in, say, a dozen or so of these a day.
5) To have my own laugh track. You know the look Mr. Furley gave to the camera every time that crazy Jack Tripper give him a swift comedic kick in the nuts? (See figure 1.1)
Figure 1.1: Don Knizzots, bizotch
6) To have a coterie of dark-suited men wearing dark glasses and earpieces enter a room, whisper in my ear, and escort me away at any moment. This clearly violates the 'useful' rule, as it could be used in dozens of situations like staff meetings, blind dates, long stretches of yardwork, the first thirty seconds of a Jerry Bruckheimer film, etc. However, it would still be, how would you say it, awesome.
In closing: yes, this is how my mind works. Yes, I know I have issues. Now tell me what your silly wishes would be.