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Dunks & Defense: Chapter 1 – Welcome to Meridian

It’s still the NBA offseason. The draft is done, free agency has faded, the sun has set on Summer League, and training camp is still pretty far away. We still might not have much actual Milwaukee Bucks content, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use...our imaginations!

Reminder: this series is entirely fictional and will likely fail spectacularly. We didn’t cancel it after the introduction, so let’s see how far this goes...

MCW Sports Science Center, Milwaukee, WI

After a good night’s sleep, our intrepid band of heroes plans to reconvene around the table. Mike Budenholzer, the group’s Game Master and narrator, carefully sets up his various supplies: screen, pen and paper, reference manuals, miniature figurines, and many dice.
George Hill, Coach Bud’s most trusted member of the group, is on time. Dressed in a pair of jeans and a polo shirt, George’s appearance is as steady as his on-court presence. His face is locked in a sort of wince as he cross-references the numbers on his sheet with the definitions in the Player’s Handbook. It is clear that he’s still not yet comfortable with picking this hobby back up, but he’s willing to do it for the good of the team. George rearranges the sheets of paper in front of him yet again as the door to the lounge area explodes open, revealing the twins Brook and Robin Lopez, who come bounding into the room, shouting excitedly...

BROOK LOPEZ: ...and she can just move things, with her mind! She’s so much better than your lame character!

ROBIN LOPEZ: Whatever, dingus. My character would have yours on the ground before you can cast your stupid spell, and then just slip off into the shadows. Like a ninja.

COACH BUD: Hey, brothers! Glad you came back.

GEORGE HILL: Yeah, uh, it’d be a real shame. If you didn’t come back. And the game couldn’t go on...

ROBIN: Are you kidding?! I get to make up new ways to show up Brookie? I wouldn’t miss it!

GEORGE (wistfully): ...a real shame...

BROOK: It’s a good thing you’re playing a game of make-believe, ‘cause you’re gonna need your imagination, double-dingus!

GEORGE (whispering): ...such a shame...

BUD: Did you guys see D.J. on your way in?

BROOK: He’s not here?

ROBIN: His car is parked in the garage already.

GEORGE (with closed eyes): ...I could be fishing right now...

BUD: So where is he then?

As if on cue, a side door creaks open. The room is bombarded with a blinding light, along with the scents of cut fabric, sweat, and colored dyes. A heavy beat patters on in the background, but is drowned out by the clicking and whirring of machinery. Everyone at the table squints as a figure approaches the entryway, casting a dark shadow into the previously well-lit and simply decorated lounge area.

D.J: ‘Sup, fellas.

As D.J. Wilson enters the room and the door to the makeshift tailor shop is closed, the light adjusts and D.J’s current form is fully revealed. Standing at nearly seven feet, D.J. is donned in a frilled white blouse, a tan duster, black linen pants, green knee-high boots, a blue checkered scarf, a white stovepipe hat with the top missing, and five belts around his torso.

BROOK: Dude!

BUD: that my film room?

ROBIN: Man, did you make all that?

D.J: Hell yeah. Sometimes you gotta take matters into your own hands, you know?

GEORGE: What are you wearing?

D.J. (bluntly): I’m getting into character.

The room is silent as D.J. meets George’s gaze.

D.J: It’s Wobs, homie.

BUD: Well, that’s great, D.J. That’s really great! I appreciate that you’re taking this seriously.

D.J: It’s Wobs, coach.

BUD: What?

D.J. (pointing to his chest): When I got the belts on, it’s not D.J. It’s Wobs.

The room goes silent again as D.J. takes his seat at the table. He pulls out a small pouch and carefully lays out his supplies: a laminated character sheet with a dry erase pen, a small notepad with a pencil, and a wooden box containing a single full set of dice. Once he settles in, he folds his hands in front of him and looks up to Coach Bud expectantly.

BUD: ...Alright...alright! So, we’re all here, so does anybody have any questions?

BROOK: Yeah, actually I-

ROBIN (interrupting): It says on my sheet that I have Expertise in Sleight of Hand. Can I use that to pick people’s pockets, or to plant something on them?

BUD: Well, yeah, that’s actually what th-

ROBIN (looking at Brook): Perfect!

BROOK (glaring): So like I was saying, for my leveled spells, I get the slots back after a long rest, but I can cast cantrips whenever I want, basically?

BUD: Yeah, you’ve got it right. George, any questions?

GEORGE: Uh...nah. No. I’m good.

BUD: Okay, then let’s get into it! So, like I said, you find yourselves in a tavern...

Major’s Tavern, Anchor, Meridian

Coach Bud dons the mask of the Game Master and gives the group a brief refresher on the world they’re in before diving into some of the details. He narrates the major points of the history of Anchor, the city in which the party starts their adventure, and how it influenced the development of civilization throughout the history of Meridian. He even gives a description of Anchor’s politics, culture, and economics, painting the picture of a living, breathing city. George furrows his brow as the twins Brook and Robin listen while tossing bits of paper at one another. D.J. listens intently and takes notes on the major points.
Bud then pivots from a history lesson to a rich description of the party’s current location: a tavern called Major’s. Located in an old-but-bustling part of the city known as the Forum District, Major’s sits on the corner of two of the widest streets in the city and is a favorite of locals and travelers alike. After describing the setting, he turns to George and says...

GM: So, Greg, what would you like to do?

GREG: (staring at nothing in particular)

GM: ...Greg?

GREG: ...oh. Oh! Uh, I’ll order a drink. From the bartender, I guess?

BARKEEP (in a raspy voice): Ohh, welcome travelers, to Major’s! Make yourselves at home, you may call me Goolsby! A round for your table?

GREG: ...yeah.

WOBS (in a deep, booming voice): Hail and well met, Goolsby! I am Wobs. This is Greg, Brooke, and Robyn. Tell me, friend...what word travels about Anchor this day?

GOOLSBY: Ohh, a bit of everything, ha! The Council meets in a fortnight to discuss some of the troubles in-

ROBYN: Hey, bud, is there a store around here? That sells magic stuff?

GM (surprised): Oh, yes, you can go to-

BROOKE: It’s fine, Robyn, I know a place. Just come with me.

ROBYN: I’m trying to ask the guy, Brooke.

BROOKE: Ugh, Robyn, you’re no fun.

WOBS: Troubles where, friend? Here, perhaps a gold can help you keep your focus. (to GM) I toss him a gold coin to convince him to tell me what he was going to say.

GM (rolling a d20): Alright, his face lights up at the sight of gold, and he moves in very closely and excitedly to you, Wobs.

GOOLSBY: Thank you, thank you for your generosity! So, the Council will be addressing the troubles on the Southern Coast. Some settlements there have been getting ambushed, entire villages have disappeared, and the City Watch has been suspiciously silent!

BROOKE: That’s terrible! We should go help them.

ROBYN: That’s what I was going to say.

BROOKE: Well, you should’ve said it then! Hey, weird-sounding guy, how far to the coast?

GOOLSBY (offended): more than a day’s travel.

GREG: Shouldn’t we, like, maybe wait for the Council to meet first?

Everyone in the party looks at Greg and stares.

GREG: ...I mean, they’re in charge, it sounds like they have it handled.

ROBYN: Nah, we’re gonna go now and save the day!

BROOKE (laughing): You’re so lame!

As Robyn and Brooke begin arguing (again), GM Bud rolls a few dice behind his screen as Greg and Wobs look on. Suddenly, he interjects...

GM: While you’re having this...conversation...another figure bursts into the tavern. He looks like a sailor, an exhausted one. He’s out of breath and sweaty, and-

WOBS (to GM): I rush over to him.

GM: He nearly collapses onto you, and his voice is weak but you can make out a few words...something about “a ring” and how “they’re all chasing it.”

GREG: He said what now?

WOBS: Where, friend? Where are these ring-chasers?

SAILOR (breathless): They’ the careful...

WOBS (shouting): TO THE DOCKS!

GM Bud takes the opportunity to vividly describe the party’s frantic trek to the docks of the city. This isn’t at all what he had planned, but he’s been working on being more flexible about making adjustments, so the opportunity was worthwhile. As Wobs, Brooke, Robyn, and Greg make haste, GM Bud describes the scene they arrive at...

GM: As you approach the docks, you notice that the air has a certain chill to it. A frigid mist hangs in the air, shrouding the paths and walkways. You also notice that it’s still, and quiet, much more so than you’d expect in the middle of the day. What do you do?

ROBYN: I whip out my wand and get ready to blast anything that comes for us!

BROOKE: I nock an arrow and I’ll aim to take down whoever Robyn is aiming at, before she can get to them!

ROBYN: You are such a dingus.

GREG (flustered): I, uh, I’ll get my spear and shield out and...wait?

WOBS (patiently): I’ll hold fast and see what happens.

GM: as you all stand ready, you hear some rustling from up ahead, within the fog. Then, you hear someone approaches...

And that’s where we’ll pause for this installment of this series! Let us know in the comments what you think of it; give us your feedback and help shape the story!