Mazes and Monsters

The Spoony One | Aug 9 2009 | more notation(s) | 
Mazes and Monsters

A Review by Noah Antwiler

There have been some complaints that I, your humble rant master, am not properly representing the viewing habits of your average gamer. Clearly I was in error in assuming that gamers are fans of Joss Whedon, the X-Men, Hawk the Slayer, and the Highlander flicks. This draws into question, just what exactly is a gamer movie? It's such a hard demographic to identify, of course most movies I choose will inevitably disenfranchise some small factions of gamers. Most of my movie choices are based on a combination of gamer forum chatter and whatever happens to be this month's hotly-anticipated blockbuster. After analyzing my own method, even I must agree that this method is flawed! Oh, I could choose a movie that appeals to D&D geeks, but what of the wargamers? The card gamers? The LARPers? The board gamers? Or scariest and hairiest of all, the grognards? I should choose true gamer movies; movies that scream "nerd" and interest every gamer everywhere! They do exist, I just need to work extra hard to find them. I need to earn my keep for once. To start, I decided to go back, way back in movie history all the way back to 1982 to find a gamer movie. THE gamer movie, really. A movie that nobody can argue ISN'T about gamers: Mazes & Monsters.

Tom Hanks IS Gandalf!

Avid readers of KODT and the really old-school gamers might know about this one already, but here's the setup for those who don't: in 1979 a sixteen year old kid named James Dallas Egbert III disappeared into the Michigan State University steam tunnels. His folks hired bonehead P.I. William Dear to investigate, who blabbed his theory to the press that James got lost in the tunnels while roleplaying. The press latched onto it and the paranoid theories took off. In reality, Egbert never played D&D in college and went into the tunnels to kill himself with a bottle of Quaaludes because he was alienated due to his young age and unresolved issues with his sexual orientation. He eventually turned himself in after fleeing to New Orleans (before it had become a chocolate city) and failing to kill himself again with cyanide (good save vs. poison, this kid), and blew his own head off a year later (could have used more hit points, though).

The Egbert incident sparked off other rumors, such as roleplaying groups trying to emulate the case losing members who later died of exposure and wackos who slashed themselves with knives to simulate hit point loss. I've heard them all, because even as a kid in high school who played AD&D and Magic cards, I was approached by several evangelical students who were gravely concerned that I might worship Satan and I'd better attend seminary quick before Beelzebub gets a devil set aside for me. I was even hauled before the principal and warned that I would be expelled for gambling (because of the funny-shaped dice) if I didn't stop bringing my devil books. Luckily the friendly electronics teacher (who looked like he played bass guitar for ZZ Top) was a gamer and he allowed us to setup an underground railroad for gamers in his lab. And this was 1994, for Zarquon's sake. Can you imagine facing religious persecution over this crap?

But back to the 80s. Several authors scrambled to cover the growing scourge of psychotic roleplayers, among them notorious whackjob comic author Jack Chick, whose work remains both funnier and better-drawn than Knights of the Dinner Table (Oooh, sick burn, Jolly!), and Rona Jaffe, who wrote the novel Mazes & Monsters, which was later adapted into a TV movie starring Tom Hanks. Oh yes, you heard me right-- Tom Hanks, who puts this flick beneath even Bosom Buddies on his acting resumé and has since moved on to talking to volleyballs. Every rumor and paranoid parent who forbade their kid from ever playing RPGs got their fears from this popular film that warned folks about the dangers of roleplaying when it seemed an entirely plausible idea that high school students could receive subliminal orders to commit suicide by listening to Van Halen albums and become complete schizoids by reading Tolkien.

Luckily we're beyond such crackpot theories now. Oh wait, people still think Harry Potter is turning kids into witches. Never mind. Sounds silly now, but it's accusations like that that removed the demon imagery and nudity from the D&D books. In fact, it's probably why they're not called "demons" and "devils" anymore, but "tanar'ri" and "baatezu" because if someone actually did start worshipping their copy of the Monster Manual, they'd really be up a creek if the press saw an entry for "Mephistopheles, Devil Prince of the Eighth Circle of Hell." They almost went down to Rockstar Games with torches over the Hot Coffee mod. No wonder they're covering their asses. Just take a look at the disclaimers White Wolf puts at the front of their books. They still have to.

The opening sequence is a close up of a police car's cherry light that immediately makes me start singing the theme to Police Squad until the title card appears: Rona Jaffe's Mazes & Monsters. As opposed to Quentin Tarentino's Mazes & Monsters, a much darker tale of swords & sorcery involving Michael Madsen in a hilarious toupée slaying vampires. Oh wait, that was Bloodrayne.

"This is Ed McMahon, Private Reporter. Hey-ooooo!"

There are a bunch of rescue workers running back and forth in the background and a pair of men wearing trenchcoats because that's what official-type people wear when they're on cases. Don't they? The grizzled veteran cop is clearly trying to avoid the other trenchcoated idiot who apparently arrived on the scene twenty minutes after everyone else was called because he's the only asshole on the site who doesn't know what's going on. "Look, we heard a game of Mazes & Monsters got a little out of hand at the university," he says in his gravelly I've-Seen-It-All-Homicide-Cop voice. Yeah and look at all the media coverage that swarmed onto the scene to cover this mess: one guy from the Daily Shopper was surfing the police scanner all night to get this scoop. "MAZES & MONSTERS GAME GETS SLIGHTLY OUT OF HAND. TERROR ALERT ELEVATED."

"Mazes & Monsters?" Clueless Trenchcoat asks, "Duh, whuuuh?"

"Yeah, you know how to play?"

"My kids play it!" says Clueless.

Grizzled Cop stuffs his hands in his voluminous trenchcoat pockets and shrugs helplessly. "Well..." he trails off, as if to say "You know those D&D nerds with their Mountain Dew orgies and their weirdo dice and their Hobbits...Baaaaah!"

One of the rescue workers announces that they're going in. "Be careful!" calls the cop, "and be sure to check for traps!" Hey, you can never be too careful in those caves. It's pitch black. You might get eaten by a grue.

Clueless Reporter (who looks a little like Ed McMahon trying to dress like Sam Spade and wearing Harry Carey's Coke bottle glasses hurries up to the mouth of a mine shaft giddily with a spring in his step that says "Hot damn! What a scoop!" A cameraman trails after him and he brandishes a microphone that helpfully identifies him as a reporter for "City." Well that narrows it down.

"This is Bud Hayden reporting live from Pequod Caverns where I'll be reporting live on the apparent disappearance of a Grant University student-- the victim of a seemingly innocent game: Mazes & Monsters!" My God, he's talking about the game as if it were a predatory animal. Oh no! That damned game has claimed another victim! Does nobody see the warning signs before it's too late? Why, Mazes & Monsters sneaks up on the unwary and SNAP-- you're GONE, man! Oh it looks innocent, like your Cluedo or your Candyland, but don't be fooled. This ain't your momma's bridge club. Good thing Bud Hayden is on the lookout live at the scene in case Mazes & Monsters strikes again. It's the gaming equivalent of the land-shark.

Bud continues, "Now Mazes & Monsters is a fantasy role-playing game, in which the players create an imaginary character. These characters are then plunged into a world of invented terrors! (Nice use of the word 'terror' to really spice up the news story. He must work for Fox News.) The point of the game is to amass a fortune without being killed. (Says you, man! Balzac the Barbarian is going to break 20th level and achieve godhood!) It's kind of a psychodrama, you might say, where these people deal with problems in their lives by acting them out. (Instead of bottling it up inside and eventually going postal with a sawed-off shotgun in their office building like any other rational American) But in this case, there might be a loss of distinction between reality and fantasy, and possibly, the loss of life in the process. (But even though we don't really know anything, or indeed, have any evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever, I'll continue to speculate wildly about shit I've never been exposed to out here!) I'll be back in three minutes with another live report."

Three minutes?? Do you think we can afford to wait that long for such a rapidly-developing scene? My god, that's thirty combat rounds! No, no, I need to calm down. Bud Hayden will tell me if anything happens.

A weirdly inappropriate theme song kicks into high gear that sounds like some kind of Bette Midler-esque "Wind Beneath My Wings" love song, or what would accompany a touching montage between a boy and his pet bear. The credits follow a taxi home to a high-rise in New York City, where a dorky-looking youth (I will endeavor to be more specific) wearing a comical black Germanic-type helmet with a six-inch glimmering chrome spike on the top is greeted by a long-suffering doorman. "Hey Mr. Brockway! Nice hat!" he says with a chipperness that I almost believe, implying this isn't the first time Mr. Brockway has come home dressed in the garb of a German S&M leather fetishist. The last time I saw something like this was on the way home from a Rammstein concert. A friendly subtitle tells us that this is six months ago.

So gaming leads to nerds joining the Hell's Angels?

He enters into a cramped, Baroque-era manse with loads of gaudy knick-knacks latched onto the wall like they were house parasites contracted from a public auction. There are so many candles in the dining room, if the fire chief saw it his head would explode like in The Running Man. His mother comes trotting out to greet him, and Jay Jay (that's his name) visibly girds himself for a whole bucketload of crazy to get dumped all over him. I mention it because it's rather funny to watch a guy in a spiked helmet be embarassed for someone else. Mom coos something about how it's been a while, comments witheringly on the ridiculous helmet the way all the best mothers break their children of annoying habits: erosion through shame. "You've grown!" She punctuates her subtle jab with a tap of the head-spike. Do not mock the Helm of Zongar, mother!!

Jay Jay subconsciously files her sarcasm away in his mental "Menendez Reload Count" for the day when he finally murders her, and pretends not to get it. "I'm not growing anymore. This is it."

"Ooh well," mom gushes in that perky "One day I'll break your soul" way that moms have and continues, "You have an IQ of 190, I don't suppose it matters if you're that tall." I didn't think so either until I appeared on that Archaeology show. Then she gasps, "Ah! I just remembered!" even though she never forgot, it just seemed like a polite way to derail whatever he was going to talk about and go on about herself. "I'm going to the French consulate for cocktails and after that to a new restaurant in Soho for dinner that got rave reviews. Everything there is less-fattening." That's good news; this lady looks like she's on the Lara Flynn Boyle diet.

She drags him upstairs, telling him that she's dying to show him his birthday present. "But it's a month until my birthday," Jay Jay whines. But you can't stop Mom when she's on a roll. She takes him into a room that's been tiled from floor to ceiling in white tile. The furniture, sheets, and even the desk and everything on it are white. I can easily imagine how a serial killer could be bred from childhood raised in an environment like this. "It looks like a hospital," he moans. No, actually it looks like a hospital bathroom. The very sight of the place makes me feel like I'm about to have a bowel movement. "And where's all my furniture?" (This is nerd-talk for "what did you do with all my RPG books and porn, you crazy old bat?")

Robbie Wheeling: Game Crazy!

"Most people would give their eye-teeth to have their room designed by Ms. Brockway!" she declares. I'm ready for my close-up now, Mr. DeMille! "Why, the Myers family loved my work, and so did that nice Voorhees family! I really don't see why you're so upset." Maybe because he wanted to sleep in a place that doesn't look like a prison shower!

"I hate it," Jay Jay whines in a tone he thinks is defiant, but which is really just the full, pathetic fury his testicles can muster. "And Merlin hates it too!" He uncovers his bird cage, revealing a disinterested mynah bird who replies "Birds can't talk." Merlin wisely opts to leave himself out of this particular circle of crazy. More on the bird later.

Mom gives him a courteous "Quit your bitching, runt. I wanted a daughter anyway." encoded in a motherly "Ah well. Must run!" leaving Jay Jay to fume impotently in his new cell. "Actually Mom, college was fine! Oh, I'll probably get straight-As again. I'm happy you're happy!" Ah, the private, bitter hell of parental neglect. Welcome to the world, Jay Jay. "Poor Merlin."

Merlin mimics him in a tone that can only be described as back-sass from a mynah bird. "Poor Jay Jay!" Um, is this bird possessed by a demon?

Now we meet two women meeting near an overlook of the Hudson, nattering about a divorce. "Mom," says the younger, "when dad left us (EMERGENCY BACK-STORY DUMP) did you ever regret marrying him?" What is this, a collection of Teen Scenes for After-School Specials? This scene is playing out like she's about to ask her mom how she deals with vaginal yeast infections.

Mom plays it sincere, when you know she just wants to grin and say "What, are you joking? He runs off with some tramp and I rake in phat alimony checks forever! I'm livin' the dream!"

The girl, Kate, clearly has issues with men. I get it, movie, kids only turn to Dungeons & Dragons because of negligent parents or broken homes. It's complete bullshit, but I get it. "I dunno, the guys at school are just chauvanists. I can't be myself around them!" Sure you can, Kate! You can be whoever you want to be! We don't care; we just wanna screw! Kate goes on, "I have to pretend to be dumb because intelligence scares them. Feelings scare them." Oh man, I think Kate's the kind of emotional broad that actually wants to talk and stuff and only give blowjobs after she's married (even though we all know what a lie that is; they just say that to hook you!) Warning, boys! Kate is frigid! She's looking for RELATIONSHIPS, and in college no less. Clearly she's not familiar with the "drink, boink, regret" system of fraternity dating.

"I'm never gonna get married anyway," she dismisses her own argument, "I'm gonna be a famous writer."

"How's that coming?"

"I got writer's block." What the-- IMMEDIATELY? Most people who decide to write go into it with at least one decent idea, but you started out with nothing? "I had an idea for a murder mystery in the Louvre involving a secret Vatican cover-up and a series of cleverly-hidden codes in DaVinci's paintings, but decided it was stupid."

Mom smiles, "Well...use your imagination!" Fucking brilliant! Thanks, mom! I'm glad we had this talk! If only J.D. Salinger had a muse like this.

Elsewhere, we find a young man named Daniel also dealing with his troublesome parents over dinner. They want Daniel to go to MIT and they're employing the time-tested Merciless Double-Team tactic, where whenever one of them starts to falter, the other tags in with fresh material they've thought up while the other speaks. I know this one well.

P.S. Bring your own food, White Wolf won't let us charge dues for pizza money.

"You have a special gift for computers," Dad probes. "You've always had that."

Daniel thinks he's ready for this one. "What I've always wanted to do was make up games for computers." Ought to scare them off. He's working the jab, showing them he's got plans.

Big mistake. He telegraphed that one, and Dad saw it coming a mile away. Dad drygulches him with a counterpunch that sends Daniel into the ropes. "There's nothing wrong with that. You can do it as a hobby!" The ref is stepping in to see if Daniel can still defend himself.

Mom tags in. The precision timing here is breathtaking. "We're not telling you you can't enjoy your life, we're just telling you not to waste it!"

Daniel tries to fight back, bleary-eyed from the brutal assault he's endured. "Who's gonna make the games in the world? Just give me a little more time." Oooh, slow and clumsy. I can tell Daniel didn't prepare for this fight. It's all about conditioning, folks.

"It's a very competitive world and you're gonna have to live in it! Now! Not later, but now! Later you're not going to be able to find a job! LATER they're going to want the programmer from MIT not some game player from Grant University!" He's rocked! They're working him like a punching bag, with stinging lefts and rights! "Your father and I love you very much, Daniel, and that's why we're so concerned!" Dear god, you could hear that one connect from way up in the booth! She threw the Haymaker of Love! He's down, the ref doesn't even bother to count! I'm not surprised. The kid only had a puncher's chance of winning this one anyway.

Later, we find the students arriving at Grant University. Kate climbs out of a little red car that resembles a Micro Machine, the kind of thing you used to see on the news that tailgated 18-wheelers, and when the truck stopped short, they got sucked under the back axle and were so insignificant that the trucker thought he'd just run over a muskrat. Used to see those poor bastards in driver's ed films. You could have buried what was left of those guys in a Fruit Roll-Up packet.

Jay Jay meets up with Kate, and this time Jay Jay's wearing a gigantic cowboy hat just this side of being a giant foam hat you'd buy at a NASCAR event. Yes, that's right: Jay Jay knows a girl. Kate asks him if they've found a fourth player for their game, and Jay Jay says he's just printed out a notice for the cafeteria.

"We gotta find a fourth player," mutters Kate.

"Yeah, someone who won't flunk out or freak out," Jay Jay agrees. "Not like last year." I smell prequel!

And who is that fourth player? Well as we can see from a car speeding down the road to Grant U., it's Tom Hanks getting a ride from his folks! Dad is a perpetually pissed-off old bastard who's already admonishing Tom with the requisite backstory. "Robbie, you're starting new at Grant. That means no more games! This time you're gonna concentrate on your schoolwork, do you hear? Or you won't see another check from me!"

Tom rolls his eyes. "Yeah, I know dad." Man, have I been in this car before...

Mom asks Dad to leave him alone, but Dad's rollin'. "And YOU'VE had too much to drink! Again!! I hate it when you drink!"

"I drink to get through the day," Mom snipes. "I was a talented, well-educated woman! I could have been someone! All my life it's been what YOU wanted!" Whoa whoa whoa! God DAMN this escalated quickly! Isn't this movie making the case against D&D being the cause of insanity? I mean look at the booze-addled home environments these people are growing up in. How many times do you figure Robbie's sat in a car and heard this battlefield stomped over? No wonder he grows up batshit insane.

Ah, Jack Chick. You get me. You really get me.

Jay Jay puts up the notice and stakes-out the G.U. cafeteria, which looks like the ballroom of Wayne Manor and is adorned with ancient tapestries from the Old Country. The music played over this whole scene is of a chamber orchestra merrily plucking away, presumably playing Mozart's Snooty Concerto #13 in Smug Major. Now Jay Jay is wearing a scarf and a leather World War 1 aviator's cap and goggles, picking forlornly at a bowl of Corn Flakes until Robbie passes by the bulletin board and spots the notice. Jay Jay pounces on him immediately, introducing himself. Robbie looks more than a little creeped out, and wouldn't you be if you were having breakfast and the Red Baron cornered you demanding to know what level your cleric is?

Robbie tries to back out with a courteous "Um, yeah, hi" but Jay Jay is like a fungus. "I noticed you pulling up! Nice car! The Boy Wonder bought me a red convertible until blah blah blah. Yadda yadda, blah blah hem haw blah! But I don't want to spoil your meal by talking about my blah blah blah!"

Too frigging late, Jay Jay. Robbie asks as nicely as he can what the shit the badly-dressed gnome is talking about. Jay Jay points out the Mazes & Monsters sheet. Look, you freak, he stopped to read it for like, TWO seconds. Robbie admits that he used to play it, but he doesn't anymore. He uses this to end the conversation as politely as possible, but Jay Jay couldn't take a hint if you wrote it as your thesis and nailed it to his nutsack. He chases after Robbie. "Um listen, I'm having an intimate little party tomorrow. It's a birthday party for Brigitte Bardot, so if you wanna show up around eight, it'll be on the second floor...it'll be the room with all the noise!"

Excuse me for a second.

HA HA HA HA HA HA!!

Ohhhhh man, this one was slow-pitched to me. I could prop that line in the corner and beat on it for hours. Okay, first off, if this guy invites you to an "intimate little" anything, decline. Then run screaming. Second, I don't think Brigitte Bardot is going to make it. Third, knowing what I now know about Jay Jay, I would rather not see how he's decorated his room. I'm guessing it's full of dirty posters, French porn, and hat trees. And lastly, you'll have to be more specific than "the room with all the noise" in a college dorm. Not only would I put up any given college student dormitory against a jet engine lab for sheer noise, somehow I doubt that Jay Jay sitting in his room by himself jerking off to The Girl in the Bikini on Betamax while They Might Be Giants is maxed out on his tape deck will compete with the general sound levels at 8 PM. I've wasted many Saturday nights that way.

Amazingly, Robbie agrees to show up instead of doing the rational thing: knuckle-punching him in the windpipe and running to a police station. Even more startling, we see that people showed up to Jay Jay's Bardot Bash. A LOT of people. Robbie weaves through the crowd to find Jay Jay. It isn't hard; he's the guy in the retarded hat. This time he's wearing a plastic yellow hard hat (why?). Robbie hands him a bottle of champagne as a gift. Jay Jay looks at the label and nods, "1987. Good year." This should startle Jay Jay quite deeply since this movie was made in 1982 and it would indicate that Robbie has mastered time travel.

Jay Jay leaves Robbie to his own devices because there are a whole bunch of other people at the party he hasn't annoyed yet. Kate hands Robbie a corkscrew, because he seems very frantic to crack it open (and if you were desperate enough to go to Jay Jay's party, you'd want to get smashed as quickly as possible too). Kate remarks that Robbie must be new, and he tells her that he left his old university-- or rather, was thrown out because of truancy. "I was into some extracirricular activities. I played a game called Mazes & Monsters a little too much."

Burn the gamers! Their unholy ilk darkens this land!

"You're kidding," Kate says breathlessly, like he'd just recited French love poetry. "What level?"

"Um...ninth?"

"Me too!"

"Ohhhhh." Robbie whines in that helpless "Oh no, Mrs. Robinson, oh no" tone every D&D nerd gets when confronted with even a semi-attractive woman who games.

"Isn't it great being able to make your own scenarios?" she coos. Um, what?

"Yeah, and your own fantasies," Robbie agrees. "Boy I'm sure gonna miss it!" Oh Robbie, you poor naive bastard.

Kate drags the other three players over one by one as they all plead with him to play in their game twice a week. Dude, twice a week? Sign me up and forget Robbie. Robbie whines and waffles, saying that he really should hit the books this semester when he suddenly realizes one critical fact: he's found the one of the rarest of all species-- hot gamer chicks-- and not only that, it's a woman who actually seems to enjoy his company. He actually has a fair chance of hooking up with this girl. I don't care how bad his grades might slip, guys, mathematically he has to do this. The odds of him getting this lucky again are astronomical. It's like discovering penicillin by accident. He agrees to go to the game.

Your fate lies in the hands of Allstate.

They cluster around a small map board in a dark room lit only by candles all over the place. In reality, there would be a bag of tortilla chips next to a stack of D&D miniatures and people would be tripping over makeshift shrines made of stacked Mountain Dew and Diet Dr. Pepper cans. Not to mention people spouting off Monty Python quotes at the slightest provocation.

"I am the Maze Controller," Daniel states behind his stylish turreted DM screen, "the god of this universe I've created, the absolute authority. Only I know the perilous course you are about to take. Your fate..." he intones, opening his hands to reveal a pair of 20-sided dice, "...is in my hands." CHEESEY!

Kate begins. "I am Glacia the Fighter. I have great strength and courage, strong armor and many weapons, and I have on the mighty Talking Sword of Lothia." It talks smack and kicks your ass!

Jay Jay follows up, "I am Freelic the Frenetic of Glossomir, the cleverest of all sprites! Not so strong, with enough tricks and powers to take me far and keep me safe." Wait, Jay Jay is playing a fairy? *snicker*

And finally, Robbie. "I am Pardeux, a holy man. In reaching the Ninth Level I've acquired many charms and spells, the greatest of which is the Graven Eye of Timur. But I also have a sword, which I only use should my magic fail me." Pardeux must be hardcore if he's a cleric who wields a sword. Most clerical orders forbid the shedding of blood with edged weapons. Of course, they have no problem with using a hammer to smash the brains of unbelievers into pink goo leaking out their ears, but that's beside the point. And what kind of lame DM let Pardeux get a hold of the Graven Eye of Timur? If it's anything like the Eye of Vecna, this campaign could be in trouble right off the bat!

The game clearly isn't much on roleplaying, because Daniel drops them right off at the mouth of the dungeon to start the adventure, bypassing even the vestigial "you're in the tavern when an old man approaches the table" campaign hook even bad DMs will offer up. Robbie and Kate gaze lustfully across the table at one another, and the movie enters yet another "boy and his bear" montage to the same sappy love song. We see the happy couple frolicking around on campus in the rain and killing orcs in the game. I'm also beginning to think this montage was a re-shoot, because Kate spends the scene either in close-ups or with her arms crossed with a book over her stomach and wearing a baggy sweater and appears to be about 2 or 3 months' pregnant. Either that or Robbie just works fast.

When the montage blows over, Robbie confesses his troubled past to Kate, in which his brother Hall Jr. ran away. That night, he told Robbie he was going to New York and asked him for money to help him on the trip, and Robbie gave it to him. They never heard of Hall again, even though he said he'd call or write. Little known fact: you can see what happened to Hall in Goodfellas. It's true! He becomes the guy Joe Pesci shoots in the foot, Spider. Or not.

Jay Jay (Sherlock Holmes hat) and Daniel are together painting miniatures. This movie does seem to know a lot about what nerds do in their spare time, doesn't it? Jay Jay waxes on about how he's destined to be in comedy but he doesn't have "leading man" looks like Daniel does. This is quickly becoming a gay experimentation conversation. You know, "Oh you're not that ugly," "You're just saying that," "No I'm not! I think you're very attractive," "Really? Touch my weiner."

Zoiks! The resemblance is uncanny!

Daniel says being super-sexy ain't all it's cracked up to be. Everyone expects him to be some kind of "make-out champion" (?) and it ruins his chances to find caring, sensitive girls who want to do more than shag like feral jackrabbits. He's tired of the singles game, of the wild one night stands and the guiltless anonymous sex. Man, I wish I had Daniel's problems. Although I'm not sure why he's whining about this; Daniel is one of the preppiest, least-threatening 'bad boys' I've ever seen. He looks like Fred in the Scooby Doo cartoons without the ascot.

And I'm damn skippy Fred never got much pussy.

Jay Jay goes to check with Kate when she's able to game, but when he knocks on the door finds Robbie there. Awkward! Jay Jay looks like he's been shot, revived, then shot again. Oh come on, Jay Jay, a hot chick in a D&D group and you didn't expect everyone to do their damndest to get her in the sack? You're lucky you're still alive, kid. Devastated, Jay Jay goes back to his room and consults with Merlin about how he should commit suicide. "Maybe I should just speed my motorbike into the wall," he considers, then decides it's not unique enough. There's no flair to it, no je ne sais quoi. I suggest a clock tower shooting spree!

"I know," he brightens, "The mysterious forbidden Pequod Caverns! 'Boy Genius Suicides in Caverns!' They'd talk about it forever." Sure! Only they wouldn't. This is a rather abrupt twist to Jay Jay's character, isn't it? The writer seems to sense this and desperately attempts to back-build the character by having Kate explain to Robbie in private how lonely it must be to be a 16-year old sophomore. I would have pegged his innate unlikability and unfortunate fashion sense to be the cause of his unhappiness. But that's why I'm not working a suicide hotline.

Robbie blindfolds Kate and leads her into his room, where he shows her a big surprise! "Oh," says Kate, "a double bed," much like you'd react to unwrapping a bad gift at Christmas: "Oh. Tube socks."

"Now we can live together!" Robbie grins. The look on Kate's face speaks of a miscalculation and a misreading of signals that does to a relationship what the iceberg did to the Titanic: panic, floundering, screaming, and a slow miserable process of sinking that inevitably ends with something important breaking in half. Kate tries to plug the gap with some sweet talk and "it's too soon, and we've got plenty of time," but the writing is on the wall. Kate's officially weirded out. Usually doesn't take me this long to get to this phase with women, know what I mean?

Jay Jay goes to the "mysterious, forbidden Pequod Caverns" in the dead of night dressed like Amelia Earhart, looking for a suitably high cliff to hurl himself off. But while there, something inspires him...

The next day at the Mazes & Monsters game, Daniel sets up the scenario: "You blindly stumble forth and find yourself face to face with a dozen bloodthirsty undead!" This news is met with a dorky, raucous cheer: "Whoooaaaauuuugh!" as Robbie reflexively flips through his Player's Handbook to the Turning Undead tables.

"However, between you and the evil undead is a deep pit, where at the very bottom you can see just a very faint glitter. It could be the legendary treasure of the Jenerrack, or...it could be a trap!"

"Freelic jumps into the pit to gather the treasure!" Jay Jay (pith helmet) nerdily proclaims, "How much does Freelic get?" Freelic gets a punch in the mouth for bad party tactics, you jagoff. Maybe Freelic should have helped us deal with the undead before Freelic hauled ass into the pit to gather shit. The camera switches to Daniel, whose expression is priceless. It's the look a DM gets when an otherwise sharp player does what could be the most blitheringly stupid, disasterous thing possible to his campaign and it's going to take him a minute to fully process a description of how dead Freelic is.

Check out the classic Dungeon Master "Thousand Mile Stare" of a hardened DM taken aback at how fucked a player is.

Oh dear God, his face reads, there aren't enough clerics in the world to rez this guy. "It's a trap," he says breathlessly.

"No!" gasps Kate.

"The pit is filled with sharp, gem-encrusted spikes!" Gem-encrusted spikes? Now that's just tacky dungeon design. How Monty Haul is this dungeon, anyway? What were the Jennerack thinking, that if you're going to kill a thief, you might as well skewer him with a little style? Let him die with a little color? If the rest of the party used his body as a place to stand while they pry the gems off the spikes, this would be the greatest movie ever.

"Freelic the Frenetic of Glassomir is impaled and dies!" Daniel pronounces. Wow, not even a saving throw. That's harsh!

Kate thinks fast, "Pardeux, use your magic to save him!"

"W-w-ell I can't!" Robbie stammers, "I don't have enough points to raise the dead!" I think we've all been there, haven't we? Maybe Freelic should have checked for traps. Better yet, maybe Freelic shouldn't have taken a swan dive into a PIT TRAP at the mere hint of treasure.

"Jay Jay, that was really stupid," Kate scolds him. "What were you thinking, jumping into a pit without using your sonar?" Yeah Jay Jay, what the hell?? This is ninth-level Mazes & Monsters, not your kid brother's fucking dungeon crawl! What kind of bush-league party tactics are you bringing to this table?

"Relax," Daniel says, "You can come back as a new character."

Kate's pissed off, though. 'Oh, it'll take forever for him to gather up power." Heh! Guys, relax. Gem-encrusted spikes, remember? Pry some loose to pay for a resurrection in town. He'll eat a point of Constitution and be back right as rain. But Kate considers the game to be pretty much finished without Freelic (apparently he was the team mascot and it won't be the same without him). So Jay Jay none too humbly suggests a new game over Daniel's legitimately hurt feelings. After all, they've all spontaneously decided to abandon his campaign. Jay Jay says he's evolving the game to something no one else has tried: naked Mazes & Monsters! Kidding!

He proposes that they play Mazes & Monsters in a real setting: Pequod Caverns (try the fresh pequod fillet). Essentially he's invented LARPing, a social event wherein sad, misguided losers dress up in costume and wander around public places acting like vampires and generally disturbing people. Conflicts are resolved with rock/paper/scissors instead of dice. Most LARPs are full of petty, cliquish bullshit out-of-game politics that drive people crazy and keep new players feeling at all welcome. It's like work only you don't get paid.

Uber-nerd status confirmed.

Kate's not sure about the whole cavern-thing. "We'll get expelled! And didn't a couple of kids get lost in there once? They never found them!" Baaaaah you worry too much! Ain't no killer at Crystal Lake! Jay Jay puts it up to a vote, to which Daniel and Robbie enthusiastically agree (as Mazes & Monsters is like crack to them). Kate doesn't take much convincing. After all, the game must go on!

Jay Jay goes to find the university's anatomy teacher to borrow "Basil" the friendly skeleton. He bribes him with dinner for 4 anywhere in Pequod on his credit card, but the teacher (probably the best actor in this movie other than Hanks) insists on knowing what Jay Jay needs with Basil. Jay Jay tells him that he's designing the bestest game evah, and the teacher rolls his eyes, sorry he ever asked. He also steals a bunch of costumes through the theater arts department, which allows them all to dress in-character for the coming LARP. Hanks in particular is priceless dressed in a white robe as Pardeux the Holy Man.

Jay Jay introduces them all to the Secret Mazes of the Evil Voracians. Somewhere within dwells the evil Ack-Ogah, the most fiendish monster of them all. "His awesome wickedness is matched only by the greatness of his treasure!" Most fiendish monster of them all? This sounds dangerous.

They stumble around the caves for a while with Coleman lanterns looking for Drizzt Do'Urden. "Your Maze Controller is with you, unseen to your eyes!" Jay Jay shouts through the cave. He's enjoying this a bit too much.

"We'll let Glacia lead. She'll protect us!" says Daniel.

"Thanks a lot," mutters Kate. Well you are the party tank, Kate. Don't hate the playa.

They sally forth until Basil the Skeleton rolls along with a maglite crammed in his mouth and scares the shit out of Kate. "You have two questions!" Jay Jay says.


"Is the skeleton evil?" Daniel poses. Idiot. The answer is no.

"Is it helpful?" Robbie asks. The answer is 'time will tell.' Way to waste your two questions, numbskulls.

"Perhaps there is a clue hidden in the skull," Kate wonders, and reaches for the skeleton.

"Beware the sacrilege!!" Robbie cautions, making me laugh out loud for the second time so far. The skeleton flies away, and Daniel notices something written on the wall behind it. "But who among us can read such strange writing?"

"I can," Daniel says. I guess Daniel is one of those geeks who really can read and write Tolkien Elvish. "They say 'eat of the bitter herb'." Smoke of the bitter herb is more like it. They all decide to split up to seek this mysterious herb. Robbie explores on his own, looking sweaty and paranoid until Jay Jay shouts out that there's a monster in the cave-- a "gorvil." Robbie wheels around in a panic, flattening himself against a wall where some scaly green creature with glowing red eyes emerges! It's a grue! Robbie has one of the all-time great spaz attacks as the gorvil advances on him, screaming for Glacia and finally stabbing the hallucinatory creature with his dagger. Looks like someone found the magic herb, eh?

"'Tis all right now," Robbie says in a queer British accent. "I have slain the gorvil!" But of course there's nothing there. Might I suggest someone take the knife away?

If Mazes & Monsters is supposed to be a warning to parents about the dangers of role-playing games, it's not a very good one. I mean, it's making a better counter-argument than anything. Consider all of the troubled youths in this picture: most raised by unbalanced or broken families ranging between neglectful to oppressive, patronizing to alcoholic and abusive. It's a strong indicator that the true failure here lies (if I may wax Jungian here) with the poisoned home environments and (or am I waxing Freudian?) repressed issues with their parents, be it Jay Jay's inferiority complex, Robbie's guilt over his brother, or Kate's exclusive attachment to male friends as an outlet for her Electra complex brought on by the denial of a strong male influence in her life as a result of her father running out on the family (long story short, penis envy). What I'm saying-- what the movie appears to be saying-- is that these kids were messed-up long before they heard of Mazes & Monsters. Hell, if anything, I'd suggest the game brought relatively unlikeable characters like Jay Jay and Robbie into a group where their youth and childhood traumas might have otherwise alienated them. Dare I say the fellowship of their gaming group kept them doing violent acts to themselves or others as evidenced by Jay Jay being saved frοm suicide by the notion of bringing a new dimension to the game and enjoyment to his friends. Don't get me wrong, Robbie is unquestionably Xenu-shit insane, but he's not insane because he played Mazes & Monsters. He plays Mazes & Monsters and happens to be insane.

And I'm pretty sure that since he's stabbing imaginary gorvils in a white priest's robe that he's on mescalin.

The party pats Robbie on the shoulder and decide to call it off for the night (until Robbie detoxes). Everyone gushes about how great the game was, but Robbie is inconsolable. He mourns that he's a holy man, and he only uses force of arms when reason and magic fail him to compensate for his lack of martial skills. Dude, we all know that gorvils don't take prisoners! You did what you had to do, bro! Besides, you totally kicked his ass! Solo XPs, baby! I smell a level for Pardeux!

Tom Hanks IS 007 in...Critmaker.

They drive back to the dorm, where Robbie steps out of the car, raises his hand in benediction and says "Bless you all." Methinks Robbie has gone bye-bye. That night, Robbie has a dream where God summons Pardeux for a sacred quest. Robbie gazes up at the heavens (which look remarkably like a flashlight at the end of a six-foot length of black drainage tubing) and asks who summons him. The god identifies himself as The Great Hall and tells him that Pardeux has advanced to the next level (just like Lord British!), but to stay that way, he must be ever steadfast, loyal, and celibate.

Celibate? Time to dual-class, Pardeux.

"But I want Glacia the Fighter!" he cries.

"The holy man must walk alone," The Great Hall says sternly. "Hand-release only." Then he goes on to tell him that when he's ready, he will come to the Two Towers and be one with the Great Hall. Aw c'mon! That's boring! Tell him to do that clock tower sniping stuff I mentioned, Hall! Chant it with me! Killing spree! Killing spree!

If I found a hot gamer chick willing to touch my Rod of Lordly Might and God told me to abstain sex, I'd renounce my religion faster than you could say "excommunication." Heck I'd quit if God told me to forsake Mountain Dew. I refuse to worship a deity who would deny me the tasty green goodness. I don't care if it does make me sterile! We're on an express elevator to Hell, going down!!

Robbie's busy planning his ethnic cleansing of the dwarf nations when Kate comes in and tries to pry him away frοm his work for a little afternoon delight. Robbie, of course, has taken his vow of celibacy and tells her in no uncertain terms that he can't touch her anymore. Tearful, Kate asks what she did wrong and Robbie unwisely uncorks the "It's not you, it's me" routine. A hackneyed play, even when it really is your fault. Daniel is there to pick up the pieces so fast that it shatters the sound barrier. He takes her to a college pool hall called Fat Catt (always a chick magnet) and asks "So you and Robbie are officially over, huh?" Subtle, Dan. (Daniel's Internal Monologue: Try not to smile. Try not to smile.)

"I think I scared him off," Kate whines. "Do you think I'm too tough?" Batting practice fastball to Daniel here; she's fishing for a compliment.

"I think you're guarded, but not tough." Nice. A slight concession to turn a perceived flaw into a merit. Makes you seem deep. Nice call, Dan.

"First my father leaves me, then Steve last year, and now Robbie." Bingo! Abandonment issues. One of my favorite kinds. "I guess I just don't know much about men." And she tosses the reel out for another compliment. Sad to see a girl this pretty fishing for a pity jump. With Fred of Scooby-Doo, no less. Fred calls her perceptive. Pointing out her intelligence. Home run, man. Daniel's had her scouted for months. Big time playa!

"Have you noticed anything unusual about Robbie?" she asks. You mean other than insisting that they sleep in shifts to maintain a camp watch in case duergar attack? No, why?

Daniel says "Dur, whuh?" Kate goes on to tell him that he's been blessing people all the time and giving away his worldly possessions, humming snatches of the Ballad of Bilbo Baggins in the halls, things like that. Daniel isn't bothered by it (too busy trying to get Kate in the sack), saying it's no more eccentric than shouting 'Ni' at will to old ladies.

"Eat Tic-Tacs, you damn dirty gorvil!"

We find Robbie slumped over his desk, no doubt succumbed to the model paint and super-glue fumes for his Warhammer miniatures. He's being summoned once again by the Great Hall.

"Pardeux! Pardeux! You must find the hidden city beneath the Earth!" the Great Hall commands. You will go to the Dagobah system!

"When?" Robbie asks like an idiot.

"A month frοm now! When the fuck do you think, you stupid dick-snot?" Actually he just gives some crap about being pure of spirit and bringing the princess to Tir Asleen. Hell, I don't know.

Kate's driving home late that same night when she passes an oncoming bicyclist in the darkness, whom she believes to be Daniel. Doesn't make much sense considering she was with Daniel and it's unlikely she'd meet him coming the other way. For about three minutes she trails the bicycle to Pequod Caverns (I don't know what a pequod is, but PEQUOD stands for Pacific Equatorial Ocean Dynamics, if that helps!) and pokes around the caves, allowing the director to show us just how grainy, dark, and out of focus you can make a movie shot on lousy film stock! Why, we get to watch a fuzzy beige blob creeping amongst fuzzy black blobs for a really long time. She calls out for Daniel the whole time, too, to no reply. Lady, if Daniel was here, he'd frigging answer you. She soon gets lost and after calling "Daniel" for the nine-trillionth time, he finally answers her. What the hell were you doing, Dan?

Turns out he was scouting the caves to see if he could find out where Jay Jay hid the treasure. Cheating bitch! I admire that! Somehow this turns into a tender moment between them. Let's just be charitable and call it bad writing. "For a long time I thought I was like Mr. Spock, that I had no emotions like a Vulcan," he says. Because nerds watch Star Trek. Wow, this movie speaks to me. If she was any kind of nerd she'd correct him and say that Spock is actually half-Vulcan and that Vulcans actually have very strong emotions that are simply very well-repressed through discipline. "I never thought I could fall in love!"

Now you'd think this is where Miss Moving-Too-Fast-For-Me would slam on the brakes, but that Mr. Spock line melts her heart. She tells him that she was always intimidated by his sexiness (oh I'm serious) and proceeds to jump his bones. Trust me, the ramifications of sex in Kate's shoebox-sized car will be felt for years to come. Talk about screwing in a very uncomfortable place. Plus if Robbie ever finds out, he'll probably wear Daniel's intestines as a turban and make a woman-suit out of Kate's skin.

Jay Jay is having another party. No, not a party to celebrate Mamie van Doren's birthday, a Halloween party! Jay Jay's place is packed to the gills with dancing people, making me wonder just how I'm supposed to think Jay Jay is so desperately lonely that he feels compelled to commit suicide. Seems like he's got a ton of friends willing to put up with him and his crappy taste in jazz fusion music. Daniel and Kate appear to be dressed as The Captain and Tennille. Guess who Robbie dressed as. Someone in a Frankenstein mask knocks on Jay Jay's door and they exchange the requisite "why aren't you in costume, ha ha" banter that everyone thought was witty when it was invented by the Puritans in the early 1700s. Frankenstein guy asks Jay Jay who he's dressed as, and he replies that he's Noel Coward. Oh Jay Jay, some day we really must talk about your sexual identity.

Robbie retires early (damn godless heathens and their devil music!) and receives his final vision frοm the Great Hall, telling him that he's now ready to embark on his mighty quest. He embarks in the middle of the night, leaving his friends to puzzle over the fact that he left his room unlocked and didn't take any clothes or his wallet. Daniel reckons that he want on a vacation over the weekend, but Jay Jay and Kate aren't so sure; he'd have told someone that he was going away. So Kate decides that she'll call Robbie's mom. Dang, Robbie and Kate must have been closer than I thought if she knows his mother's home phone number.

"The hell is this thing?"

Robbie's mom answers, booze in hand! Nice touch, movie! Why don't they just put booze in screw-top wide-mouth bottles like they do with Pepsi? Must we continue this charade of pouring it a glass at a time? Of course, mom doesn't have any clue where Robbie might be, and asks if he's skipped class much this year. Kate aborts the phone call in a panic, stammering out too quickly "uhofcourseI'msurehe'sallrighthe'sprobably- heresomewhereohlookthereheisgoodbye!" CLANG!

The gang tries to put the pieces together by turning Robbie's room inside-out looking for clues. They find his map of the Hidden City and the Two Towers (which is actually very well-done) and speculate wildly on what could have happened. Jay Jay pegs the Two Towers immediately as a Tolkien reference, but that's not very helpful. Jay Jay then blurts out, "Maybe he was hitchhiking and got picked up by a maniac!" Everyone looks like they desperately want to smack Jay Jay in the back of his fool head at this moment, so Jay Jay revises his deductive reasoning. "Maybe he went to the caverns to start his own game, so maybe he could be Maze Controller!" Do you think he'd dare try to usurp you, Jay Jay? Oh, the scandal!

They decide that all this independent cartography must point to him getting lost in the caverns. It's a thin line of reasoning, but it's all they've got. They speed down in the Katemobile (still smelling like sex and Daniel's sweaty balls) and poke around in the caves some more as little more than an excuse to pad the plot out with more spelunking and nothing-happening. After a fruitless search, they conclude that Robbie must have gotten lost, fallen down a crevasse and shattered his leg somewhere. They decide to go to the police, but Kate shrieks out something about them all getting expelled (for tresspassing?), so they remove all of the Mazes & Monsters crap and tip off the police.

The cops are skeptical, though. "Maybe he met a girl," suggests one. Between bouts of roaring laughter, Kate tells them that's not likely. Later, Grizzled Trenchcoat Cop is grilling Jay Jay (admittedly the weak link in this chain) about how long he knew Robbie. Jay Jay takes issue with GTC using the past-tense when discussing Robbie, to which GTC puts on a robotic "Oh golly, my mistake" act. Jay Jay says he doesn't know what Robbie's problem was or why he disappeared; Robbie was into very spiritual things.


"Like MAZES & MONSTERS?" GTC spits out, like he was talking about snuff pedophiliac films. Jay Jay guiltily denies any involvement with the game or any knowledge of who Robbie gamed with, as does everyone else in the group (the Biblical parallels are shockingly poignant). "Is Robbie a doper?" GTC asks Kate. You know those Mazes & Monsters punks, with their loud music and smoking the pot...Baaaaah! Daniel soon settles squarely in the grizzled cop's crosshairs because he's the one dating Robbie's ex-girlfriend. Robbie asks GTC what he thinks happened to Robbie.

"One of Robbie's fellow players got carried away and killed him," he states with certainty.

"That's kinda far out," breathes Daniel, looking blown away.

"Mazes & Monsters is a far out game!" snarls Grizzled Trenchcoat Cop. "Swords, poison...spells, battles, maiming, KILLING..."

Daniel cuts him off in the middle of his tirade, "Hey, it's all imagination!"

"Is it..." the cop trails off, leaving the words "you poor, deluded son of a bitch..." left unsaid. Now that's damn powerful acting here, folks. If Charleton Heston had read this scene, it would have won Oscars.

The gang is cracking under the pressure. Kate thinks that someone's going to jail, and it's not gonna be her! "We withheld evidence!" she shrills. "We could be implicated!" Jay Jay decides that they might help the cops if he turns over his personal map of the caverns anonymously. I suppose they do this, because the movie cuts back to the police scene at the beginning of the movie (which unhelpfully repeats in its entirety, as if the scene was at all compelling the first time around). They don't find Robbie, and Grizzled Trenchcoat gripes that the caves go on for miles and they have no idea where he's in there. Try bloodhounds! When his corpse bloats and starts to rot, the stench will lead you right to him! Is that thinking too negatively?

We find Robbie walking the mean streets of New York City, wearing what could be the dorkiest old-person's windbreaker ever made. He walks past a couple of ruffians who stop him in the sidewalk and demand to know what's in the pouch dangling off Robbie's belt. It's his dicebag, stupids! Real gamers wear theirs with pride! Robbie tells them "It's my spells! I guard them with my life!" and flees them. The muggers corner him in an alley, and Robbie shifts into crazy mode again, hallucinating that the muggers are gorvils. He tries to fend them off with one of his magic crystals, but the gorvil makes its saving throw so he stabs one of them with a pocket knife. I may have rather unfairly made fun of Robbie's character. You do not fuck with Pardeux, dude.

Again, I know he's crazy and all, but am I supposed to blame Mazes & Monsters for this? He was attacked and cornered by the muggers. The police are likely to commend him rather than arrest him. Robbie's reaction is only natural to gamers everywhere, and I applaud him for it! Nobody touches a man's dicebag and lives!

But Robbie momentarily gets a hold of his senses and is horrified at what he's done. He tearfully calls Kate and bawls out a confusing babble of unintelligable nonsense about not knowing where he is or what he's doing, and that he needs help. You haven't seen Tom Hanks act until you've seen him bawl like a toddler in a phone booth in Mazes & Monsters. He sounds like a retarded person trying to ask for directions. "Kaaaaate! Kaaaaate!" Where's your dignity, man?


"AUUUGH BWA HUH HUH HUH!!" Robbie whimpers over the phone, gushing snot into the receiver. Which for this particular New York phone is nothing new. It's seen worse bodily fluids.

"Calm down, Robbie!" Kate pleads. "Where are you?"

"OOHHHHH WAAAH HAAAH HAAAH!!"

"New York? The fuck you doing there?"

"AH DUNNO!! AAAAH HUNNH...HUNNHH...AAAH BLOOD! WAAAH KAAAAAATE!"

"Jay Jay's family lives in New York, Robbie. Meet us there, okay? Can you remember that?"

"WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!! I WET 'EM, KATE!! KAAAAAATE! I LOVE YOU BABY, PLEASE TAKE ME BACK! WAAAAH!"

Aaaaand so on.

The gang scrambles into the Mystery Machine (okay, it's Kate's shitty 2-cylinder Pinto) and they book it to New York. But Robbie doesn't have the common sense God gave the lemming and wanders into the subway system which he mistakes for the wondrous Hidden City beneath the Earth.

There he promptly forgets what subway trains are and he seeks them out, believing them to be dragons that need to be slain. You laugh, but Subway Dragons (or as they're better known, Silver Tunnel Wyrms) are vicious marauders of the underworld and are worth a ton of XPs. I suggest standing directly in their path and setting your spear for a charge!

For a guy like Robbie, endless stretches of dank, urine-smelling tunnels are a paradise, so he spends hours wandering around until he finds a friendly Crusty Man that can emit a Stinking Cloud spell at will. He tells the Crusty Man he has nothing to fear, for he is Pardeux the Holy Man. The Crusty Man adjusts his crunchy underwear and says he's the king of France. Pardeux kneels before him. Let's see, he's hairy, swarthy, unwashed, filthy, insane, smells like beer and rat shit...yeah, I'd peg him has French royalty too. He explains his quest to King Crusty, and he helpfully suggests that he check out the World Trade Center, so Robbie goes there. Man, it's gonna take forever for Robbie to battle his way to the top of those things.

When the Crusty Man thinks YOU'RE weird,
it's time to re-assess your life.

Kate & The Gang go to Jay Jay's place in New York but naturally don't find Robbie there. They pow-wow in his bedroom (now redecorated to resemble some faux-Casablanca studio) and finally piece together that Robbie means to attack the World Trade Center, although it'll take him a while to construct siege engines large enough. They play cat-and-mouse with Robbie for a few minutes while they head to the observation deck (luckily they chose the right building), but I'm a little disturbed by the haunting tour of the now-destroyed WTC to crack many jokes about this one. They chase him up to the roof (I guess Pardeux's figured out the secret of the express elevator in his arcane studies), where he stands on the ledge preparing to leap. He believes he's going to cast a Fly spell and soar to The Great Hall. Robbie is such an idiot! He's really lost it now. Clerics don't get the Fly spell! Duh!

Jay Jay finally gets Robbie's attention by addressing him as Pardeux and telling him that he's the Maze Controller and he'd better come the hell off the ledge or he's gonna dock him huge experience points. That settles him down some.

Fast-forward a few months. The gang goes to visit Robbie at home, only to find that he's still a complete and utter nutbar and he's referring to everybody by their character names. I only aspire to be this balls-out psychotic and loving every second of it. The worst part of his insanity is that he seems to be compelled to wear upsettingly tiny white shorts. He strongly suspects that the people who live across the lake are harboring demons. Oh, THAT'S not creepy. Most horrifying of all is that they decide to feed his psychosis by playing along with his continuing fantasy and even play more Mazes & Monsters with him. Are you guys out of your minds? Robbie's going to take you out into the woods and hollow your skulls out like jack-o-lanterns!

Parents, don't let this happen to your kids. Or, as Pardeux would say, "Beware the sacrilege!"

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