Session 4.0 MtangaLion (with a couple edits by me)
Princess Cadence marched up a flight of stairs in a huff, then brushed right past a protesting Night Guard and barged into Luna's study. The Princess of the Night was at her desk, magically writing letters by candlelight. "Aunt Luna, we need to talk!"
Princess Luna put the quill pen down slowly and gave Cadence her full attention. "Oh? Speak your mind, niece."
Cadence hesitated, then took a deep breath, determined not to lose her nerve now. "My husband says that you've been giving him terrible nightmares. Because of a scary story he wrote, for a game of all things! Does every horror story in Equestria have to meet with *your* approval now, Aunt Luna?"
Cadence paced, flaring her wings a bit in irritation. "Are you going to be punishing the director of A Nightmare on Birch Street too, and Steven Prince for all his novels, and everypony else who's ever created some dark and scary world... or is it only my husband who deserves such treatment? I know that Fate seems to have it in for him at times, but you too, Aunt? I won't stand for it."
Luna rose from her desk with a thoughtful look, then went to a shelf and nudged a particular book. A secret passage slid open with a heavy grating of stone. "Nay, niece. We are not and do not wish to be such a tyrant again, commanding that artists produce only the works which we ourselves approve." Her shadow, cast by the candlelight, seemed to grow briefly, looming with helmeted head and a longer, sharper horn.
Luna entered the secret passage, walking slowly, and Cadence followed, curious. It was strangely lit, with torches every few feet and paintings all along the walls. "But it is our role to oversee nightmares," Luna continued. "We give comfort to our little ponies when they have a nightmare born of fear and doubt. We also amplify nightmares born of guilty conscience so they are brought to the surface." She paused, looking back to give Cadence a stern, measured look. "To make certain they learn the lessons which their own hearts are trying to teach them."
The paintings were magical, Cadence realized with a soft gasp. Little scenes moved within them as she watched.
In one painting, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon cowered, their flanks completely blank, while Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle shook their new cutie marks in the faces of the two bullies, and all their classmates joined in making fun of them.
In another painting, Gilda was a monster griffon raging through Ponyville, scaring Fluttershy and Granny Smith half to death as she nearly trampled them underpaw, and knocking houses over with her indignant roar... until Rainbow Dash flew up and hoofed her right in the beak, mouthing the words, "Not cool."
"Shiny was already having bad dreams before you did anything?" breathed Cadence. She blinked, then cantered to catch up with Luna.
Luna nodded. "To revel in suffering and death and hopelessness... to make a game of them... . Your husband has a good heart. Of course, it would be troubled. His unconscious already felt he had gone 'too far' in their game's story, not I. One should consider why one does such things... what lessons one is trying to teach." The torches along the walls flared suddenly... shadows seemed to crawl and flicker, growing tentacles and fangs. "One should consider also that there are dark powers between the worlds who do revel in suffering for its own sake, and what it written in one world... may unexpectedly become real in another."
They entered a new stretch of the stone hallway, with new painted scenes. Cadence saw Diamond Tiara watching the Cutie Mark Crusaders walk past. Diamond Tiara started to reach out a hoof, then turned her head sharply, mouthing "Blank flanks..." She saw Gilda sitting on the side of her nest, staring at an old Cloudsdale yearbook photo of Rainbow Dash, then flapping over to a desk and starting to pen a letter to her former friend.
Then Cadence stopped in her tracks, face to face with an entire wall mural. It depicted a great and sprawling city built of rose-colored crystal, and a city square with a monument carved with tens of thousands of the names of ponies who had given their lives in war. Four veteran soldiers... Shining and his friends... stood before it, grizzled old heavily-armored veterans. As one, they took off their helmets respectfully.
"You also charged that I especially singled out your husband for harsh dreams," spoke Luna. She started walking again. "That, I will answer. I did, and why should I not? It is your dream to make your beloved an Alicorn, is it not?"
Cadence blinked, and blushed... They had just walked into an entire gallery of scenes of Shiny ascending in different ways. "That... that's just wishful thinking. And I'll love him no less if he remains mortal!"
Luna smiled faintly. "Do not underestimate yourself, niece. You have determination and great resources... including Princess Twilight, who might one day surpass us all. Would you wish the immortal stallion ruling by your side to be cruel and indifferent to suffering... or noble and kind? I have tested him, and Twilight and her friends, and I will continue to do so, as I must."
Cadence slowed to a stop, glancing around the gallery in puzzlement. "Aunt Luna... we've walked a long way. Didn't we start out in your tower? How can these passages fit in there?"
Luna seemed amused. "Did you only just now realize?" She touched a hoof to Cadence's forehead and gave a gentle shove...
And Cadence gasped, finding herself in back in her own royal suite in the Crystal Empire, with Shining, in their bed. Her husband was curled up, drooling a bit on one hoof and sleeping peacefully.
Cadence smiled and nuzzled warmly up to him, soon joining him in slumber once more.
Session 4.1 Alex Warlorn
"Okay everypony," Spike said once again Dungeon Master, "After a majority vote, we're rebooting the campaign so the different teams play in different campaign worlds again."
Applejack rolled her eyes then glared at Rainbow Dash, then at Pinkie Pie eating rare cloud cupcakes from Cloudsdale, poor Fluttershy hiding in her mane, and Rarity looking over a major rush order from the Wonderbolts. "Ya mean voted, bribed, pushed along, and 'mysteriously abstained'."
"You can't prove anything!" Rainbow Dash said proudly. "All I know is no more getting the dungeons emptied out by somepony else!"
"Also, by majority vote, we'll be playing by 'keep inventory true' rules, so you'll be keeping your items when you die instead of having to go back for them."
Rainbow Dash crossed her arms and grumbled at this point, as did Twilight and Spike.
Rainbow Dash said, "That takes away the challenge! And they're calling us 'softcore' at the gaming store! Softcore!"
"You shouldn't let others opinions get to you like that Rainbow."
"Oh, like Celestia's approval doesn't effect you?"
"Not.... any.... more..." Twilight said sweating.
"Don't worry Rainbow Dash," Spike said, "I'm letting the dice fall where they may this time, no fudges from me, I promise."
"Now that's more like!" Rainbow Dash grinned. "Let's do this!"
-A bit later-
"Since when do SLIMES shoot fireballs?!" Applejack exclaimed.
"Rare spawn," Spike said. Regrouping in a cave, the ponies found:
"A beehive?! Underground!?" Fluttershy whispered confused.
"I'm just letting the dice decide," Spike said.
"The ZOMBIE set me on fire!?!" Rarity said.
"HE'S MINE!" Rarity hissed, in revenge for her newest carefully crafted in game cape and cloth armor.
*One Rare Spawn Zombie Slaying later*
"Ooooh! A chain helmet with aqua affinity."
Spike rolled the dice. "One of the mundane zombies surprise attacks you from behind, you die, and respawn in a random location since you don't have a home base yet."
"Oh fiddle sticks."
"And since Rainbow Dash insisted on all you splitting up to cover more ground, you don't know the way back to the helmet, and you hadn't put it in your inventory yet so-"
Spike stopped seeing the angry look on rarity's face.
"We'll find ya Rarity, promise," AJ said. But the other five ponies quickly had their own problems.
AJ screamed at the slime token on the board scooted willy nilly by Spike's little finger. "What's this slime?! It's like it's had ten cups of coffee!"
"I did that once," Pinkie Pie said.
"And nearly ripped a hole in time and space." Twilight rolled her eyes.
"No I didn't!" Pinkie Pie insisted.
Then as they were fighting the endlessly splitting slime monsters, Rainbow Dash was sneak attacked by another zombie, and like Rarity respawned in a random relocation.
Rainbow Dash did not look happy.
Then the ponies found themselves ambushed by skeletons who seemed to have no reason for existing other than to ambush adventurers.
"On the bright side some of the skeletons shoot each other with their own arrows in the crossfire."
"Ah'm a freakin' pin cushion." AJ grumbled.
"And more zombies, they seem angry."
"I'd be angry if I was a zombie," Pinkie Pie said.
"Most ponies would I imagine," Rarity said.
"No you'd be utterly mindless and unaware of your own existence." Twilight said, then wonder why the Tartarus she was debating the mental functions of zombies.
On the bright side, Fluttershy had taken some of the skeleton bones, and managed to feed them to a timberwolf to tame it.
"I'm naming you Mossy! You like that?"
Still trying to find their friends on the map, Applejackwas surprise attacked and poisoned by a witch, reduced to two hit points. Thankfully the witch fell down a hole trying to catch her. Applejack thanked her stars.
Cut off from the others for the moment, Applejack put together a work station to build herself some better equipment (which in retrospect they should have all done BEFORE hunting monsters).
As Applejack finished in game making a new item for the first time, some of Doctor Whooves's flameless fireworks went off in the room, ('Blaspheme,' Spike thought, 'fireworks without flames?').
Applejack sighed. "Pinkie Pie would you stop doing that?"
"It was rather lavish the first time, but it has become rather uninspiring." Rarity admitted.
"But you got an achievement!"
"What that even mean?"
"While you were busy crafting Applejack, the witch climbed out of the hole and zapped you."
"And-" Spike rolled the dice. "You end up at the top of a giant tree, you can barely see the ground."
"I said we needed to establish our home base." Twilight sighed.
"How am Ah supposed to get down without dyin' again?"
Spike just looked at her.
AJ groaned. "Alright... " Several climbing checks, and one tiny failed climb check later, Applejack fell to her death, and respawned on the top of a much shorter tree.
Rarity meanwhile solo fought through another horde of slime monsters, after a hard painful fight-
"They drop an enchanted axe, and rare chain boots."
"I hope they're matching."
"Also, your character trips and dies since you didn't heal up after that fight."
"But you already had the new stuff in your inventory!"
"Oh, alright then."
"What kind of land are we in anyway?!" Rainbow Dash exasperated.
"Swamp land." Their Apple Ranger said. "Good news? Lots of slimes to kill. Bad news? Lots of slimes."
Rainbow Dash was solo crafting and was ambushed *again* by a zombie *again*, but this time survived!
"About time! I'm out of here! ... But maybe I'll grab that coal first-" Cue surprise attack from flaming zombie.
Respawning outside the cave Rainbow Dash swore.
"Forget what I said! You can have your dang coal!"
Twilight and Pinkie Pie were sticking to each other like glue with Fluttershy bringing up the rear.
They also killed an Earth Elemental on sight.
"Maybe that earth elemental was friendly?" Fluttershy suggested but was ignored.
"At least we found the source of where all the monsters were coming from." Twilight said as night was beginning to fall in game. Looking at a very large apple tree, casting large and deep shadows on everything, allowing the monsters to spawn, including,
"Don't look at the Enderstallions, don't look at the Enderstallions." Pinkie Pie rambled to herself.
"Fluttershy, you encounter a cute looking beetle."
"Oh! Can I tell what kind it is?"
"You don't have a chance to find out as a creeper blows up right next to you. You respawn in a random location. On top of a tree."
Fluttershy squeaked. "OH! OH MY! Did anypony see where Mossy went?" Fluttershy asked dismayed. "He's all alone now!"
"There are other timber wolves nearby."
"Oh! I feed them bones, do I tame them? Can they tell me where Mossy is?"
"Sorry, these are more pickey than Mossy apparently."
"THEY!" Fluttershy looked shattered. "They don't WANT to be my friends?!"
Her friends glared at Spike.
"H-hey! Dice rolls!"
Spike didn't have the heart to tell her Mossy hadn't survived the blast.
As fate would have it, the girls finally managed to find each other (and there was much rejoicing), they encountered a black bear and deer that it was quickly decided to leave alone.
Applejack cut down a nearby witchwood tree for materials, realized what she'd done, and everypony held their breath.
"The deer didn't turn hostile at us cutting down a tree?" Rarity asked.
"Why would it?" Spike said. "It's not like deer are jerks who place the lives of trees above the lives of ponies and-"
Rainbow Dash coughed, "Horseapples!"
AJ proceeded to cut down a rainbow tree and the strange and mysterious mystical plant known as the fir tree.
Rainbow killed some slime stuck in the nearby shore line, only for them to split and attack Rainbow Dash now on land, but thankfully these weren't fireball slinging ones.
Applejack was cutting down another tree when,
"WHY WHERE THERE PIGS IN THOSE TREES?!"
AJ shouted as pigs fell from the tree branches.
"Dice rolls!" Spike defended. "Oh and you've got zombies."
"Oh, hello zombies, perish," PInkie Pie cheered.
"They're already dead darling," Rarity said.
"Shut up," Rainbow snort.
"And giant spiders," Spike added.
"Hello Spidey, bye spidey!" Pinkie Pie cheered, her bard actually managing to exterminate the bugs.
"I really don't want to fight you right now." Rainbow groaned.
"You talking to me or the skeletons? Oh and-"
"Hello creeper," Pinkie Pie said.
"How'd you guess?" Spike asked.
"Just a hunch."
"Oh, except it's behind you guys, and so is one giant slime."
The girls just ran as a group rather than deal with another fight and-
"A big beast jumps out, growling and-"
"WE KILL IT!" Twilight shouted.
"The black bear fall over dead."
"OH NO!" Fluttershy gasped.
"Self-defense! Self-defense! It shouldn't have jump scared us like that!" Rainbow defended.
The girls hadn't gotten a dozen yards before, "Super rare giant zombie at twelve o'clock, and a giant spider."
"Fighting retreat girls!" Twilight shouted.
The girls weren't doing all that bad, until another creeper due to the power of dice rolls wandered in and went off.
The girls all respawned together in one place... on top of another giant tree...
"On the bright side, the creeper took out the giant zombie too," Spike offered.
Rainbow Dash broke her pencil in two.
"Agh! In Paranoia at least we were having fun dying! At least with Twilight's brother we were doing something HEROIC while dying! Here we're just aimlessly wandering and keep getting ambushed and killed! Did we start playing Dark Spirits when I wasn't looking?!"
In game, Twilight at Pinkie's request cast 'Disperse Illusion' on the sky, which remained intact.
"Nope?" Pinkie Pie offered.
Spike looked up from the rule book. "Hey! Says here that you can actually teleport to where you last died in this version. Uh... girls, girls?" Spike didn't like the way they were looking at him. "UH!" He threw the dice and said without looking. "You encounter a nice friendly non-hostile zebra who just wants to help you! Uh, and! Shouldn't you girls establish your different spawn points and home bases by now? The zebra says she and her friends are willing and help and everything! AND! AND! SEE YOU NEXT WEEK!" Spike ran for it.
Session 4.2 Alex Warlorn
Silver Spoon had just finished writing her first dungeon adventure. She wasn't going to make a career out of it, but it felt like a fun little thing to do. At Diamond Tiara's suggestion, she made it a horror themed adventure set in that Raven-something setting. Satisfied, she went to bed.
She dreamed of herself in vampire hunter garb, with silver weapons, cross, salt bullets, and various other tools to hunt the various types of undead and creatures that prowled the night.
The gates swung open before her by an unseen force, and she slowly trotted into the graveyard.
She found a pack of werewolves waiting for her.
Silver Spoon drew her silver twin blade rapier and salt blunderbuss.
Then a dark storm started above her, and the werewolves whimpered and ran off. The storm condensed into Princess Luna.
Silver Spoon took one look at the Princess, and fell to her knees in terror.
"I'm SORRY! I didn't meant to negatively stereotype bat ponies or imply your night was evil! This wasn't a scheme to give the blank flanks nightmares I Pinkie Pie Swear! Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye!" The foal blubber at her hooves.
Princess Luna stared in shock. "My word. My little pony! We have not come to punish ye! Nor have we come to berate ye for thine creative work! We are here to help ye."
"I promise I never write anything bad about the night again--- huh?"
"Now we know what our sister goes through every time somepony spills a glass of milk in her presence."
"But... when I saw you... I heard... about..."
"UGH! Shining Armor himself already felt unconsciously that he had gone too far in his adventure's bleak, cruel setting. We merely made sure he understood what he was trying to TELL HIMSELF! We came here to help a creative foal who wanted to write a ghost story how to tweak her work... "
"Oh," Silver Spoon said, still in groveling position.
Luna sighed. "Firstly, thine werewolves, having them appear in a graveyard instead of zombies is a clever twist upon thy player, but ye best make sure your characters start out the adventure at a high enough level if thy wish to have them tackle FIRST those cursed by the mark of the wolf first in their adventure to defeat evil instead of some lesser evil. Always make sure the strength of thy heroes and those of the beasts are not of such a great gab that neither challenge nor hope of winning are gone. And thy need to have the werewolves jump scare the players."
Silver Spoon blinked, "Huh?"
"If thou art going for terror, then ye need to catch thine players off guard. Don't have them just waiting out in the open. Have them hiding behind the grave stones, let your heroes think zombies will be their opponent, prepare, then caught off guard by the clever and cunning beasts that were-ponies ARE! They are creatures with all the intelligence of a pony, but without any of the scruples that bind a sapient mind, and driven by a desire to spread their curse to whoever they can combined with a love of violence that puts owlbears to shame. As our friend Pipsqueak taught us, it must be scary but fun."
Silver Spoon was writing down notes (and a side note to add Pipsqueak to the 'butter up to get ahead' list to give to Diamond Tiara).
Session 4.3 Alex Warlorn
Meanwhile, the mane six were once again set to try another setting while Spike.... recovered, and THEY recovered.
"So where is our foray into the land of fantasy and adventure taking us this time dear Twilight?" Rarity asked elegantly.
"Remember those... adaption of our lives that we got sent early copies of?... Well, it seems that got together with the makers of WarHorse 40-Carrots, and-"
"WARHORSE?! AH YEAH! THIS IS GONNA ROCK!" Rainbow Dash flew up and pumped her fists. The others looked at her. "What? You never heard of Warhorse? It's only the coolest and more intense and most badflank series ever!"
Twilight took in a deep breath and said in a pleasant voice. "Uh, Rainbow Dash, you DO realize all that ... 'intensity and 'badflank' is intended as a PARODY of excessively grim and dark creative works and weren't actually intended to be taken serious?"
"No offense sugarcube," AJ said, "But Ah hear that game really sucks the bits right out of yer wallet with yer army bein' determined by how many little models ya buy."
"That's what they say about every hobby," Rainbow Dash waved off.
Twilight rolled her eyes. "Well, let's open her up." Twilight opened the box she had under the table and scanned through the introduction. "Oh...."
"What?" Fluttershy didn't like that look, in fact, she didn't like the idea of this game at all from what the others were saying, but she wouldn't judge until she played, maybe she'd be surprised?
"We aren't playing as ourselves in the setting, and we aren't having characters of the setting visiting Equestria... they reworked the REAL Equestria to serve as the setting of the game."
Fluttershy paled. The others fell silent.
"... Apparently... in this... Sombra and Discord attacked at the same time... C-Celestia, C-Cadence... and..... B-BBBFF?! All got turned into Sombra's personality rewritten crystaline minions with 'Crystestia' being at the bottom of the totem poll and spreading his evil crystallizing magic further in his forced absence cut off from Equestria . . . and... Discord succeeded in his plans, fed us to some Elder Evil who ripped out all our good parts of our personalities and tender memories, and turned us into chaos demons and spread his evil across Equestria at the same time, and Princess Luna fell into such despair she turned into Nightmare Moon again with Zecora as her servant and in Luna's last act of sanity, she sealed closed Equestria to keep hell from reaching the rest of the world . . .
"The changelings have sided with the remaining free ponies out of sheer need for survival. The ponies have formed an 'Imperium', just to survive, having become as ruthless and brutal as the enemy just to live to see the next day. Oh, and the now grown-up Cutie Mark Crusaders are the 'bad-flank' spear-heads of the Imperium, and technically the new Elements of Harmony with two a piece but... I don't think it's any definition of Harmony I'd want to embrace, and gave up their cutie marks to claim them. Oh, and we want to turn our little sisters into demons too (like Applejack has done to the rest of her family already), and the Cutie Mark Crusaders just want to kick our flanks because we're not their family anymore in any way that matters, except Rainbow Dash, she's the demon lord of apathy.
Oh. And Tirek was crushed as an afterthought by the chaos demons before he could do anything."
"Somehow... that doesn't make me feel better," Rarity said, looking sick to her stomach. The others had similar expressions.
Fluttershy shakenly raised her hoof. "Can we... can we PLEASE not play that game? Pretty please?"
Straight maned Pinkie Pie said, "I don't really get how that game is supposed to be fun."
"Ah gotta say, yer brother's 'overwhelming overpowered ruthless and smart alien invasion' sounded more cheerful than THAT!" AJ shook her head.
Rainbow Dash just stared. She didn't look that excited or charged up to play anymore. "I... uh... can we go back to being killed over and over by Spike again please?"
Twilight Sparkle grinned insanely, and dropped the book into a paper shredder. "Oops! Accident! You all saw it!" Hairs started to stick out. "Sooooooo, whose for a game of Crystals and Rainbows Generation 3.5?" She took out the game book with a picture of a pink Princess Rarity and a blue Spike on the cover.
Everypony looked at the most logical pony to object.
Instead Rainbow grinned and said, "I always dress in style! Hoof me my character sheet!"
Session 4.4 Ardashir (with minor edits)
Spike glanced at some of the character art for 'Chaos Ponyville'. He blinked when he saw the demonic version of Rarity. "Wow, is that a draconic version of her? She looks lovelier than ever. Maybe this game wouldn't be too bad after all -- ULP!"
He froze as Twilight flipped the book open to show him what HE became in that world.
"Take a look, Spike."
Spike did so, and his scaly eyes bugged from their sockets.
"Hey, I don't look so bad. Wait a minute! I what?! AHHH! Who WROTE this thing?"
"I'd like to know myself," Discord said as he appeared in a flash of light. "I did like some parts, I think my patented Discord makeover on you ladies was an improvement." He snapped his fingers and the Mane Six disappeared behind a screen with him suddenly in a barber's outfit. There was a dust storm that vanished to show the mares in their Chaos Demon forms. "Ta-da!"
All six shrieked as one.
"What happened to YOU! What happened to ME! AHHHH! Change us back!"
"Hmmph! If I charged bits for it everypony would want it." Discord snapped his fingers and they were back to normal. As they checked to be sure they were restored (and Twilight making sure none of their souls were missing), he looked at the game again and held it like it was covered in grim. "But uggh, this setting is too bleak even for me! Who writes this stuff, anyway?" He dropped the second book in the paper shredder as well.
Many miles away:
"Yo, Garble, when are we gonna get our royalties like you said?" Baff and the other dragons closed in menacingly on Garble. "Our dads are getting tired of waitin' for us ta repay what we borrowed from their hoards ta make that game."
"Any day now, guys!" Garble hid behind the mailbox. "Like I said, once everyone who doesn't like those namby-pamby ponies sees what we did, the bits will be pouring in!"
Session 4.5 Kendell2
The ponies (and one dragon) had no idea how they ended up in the situation they were currently in.
For starters, instead of sitting at their table back home, they were in Tartarus. Literally. Hellfire, brimstone, and darkness, everything. And the table was pink. They weren't being tormented or even that uncomfortable, it was just visiting hours. Yes, Tartarus apparently had visiting hours.
Second, Discord had invited them to play some good old table top RPGs. That wasn't the odd part.
Lord Tirek set there in his cage glaring daggers at them. No, a more accurate description would be glaring buster swords.
"Discord...why are we here?" Twilight cautiously asked.
"Oh don't worry, Twilight, Tirek here is harmless, I mean look at how weak and frail he is after you literally blasted him to Tartarus, he couldn't suck a newborn unicorn's magic!"
That just seemed to make the condemned Centaur more angry, to the point Pinkie was surprised his black fur hadn't turned red yet.
"As for why you're here, I'm trying to do Tirry the favor you did me and reform him!" Discord exclaimed, wrapping his arm around Tirek's neck and rubbing his scalp.
"STOP THAT YOU IDIOT!"
"Not until you say uncle!"
Naturally, the ponies weren't all very happy about this situation...
"...I think it's worth a try..." Fluttershy said. No one questioned why, she was Fluttershy. She had succeeded in touching the heart of Chaos himself. It might have been worth a shot.
Or, as Dash thought, Discord was probably trying to drive Tirek insane. Either were probable options for the 'Uncrowned Princess of Chaos.'
"Alright, how about this one?" Spike asked, producing the Warhorse adaptation.
"SPIKE?!" asked Twilight. "What are you thinking?!"
"That it might be too dark even for Tirek," Spike whispered back.
"Why am I not surprised that book went to Tartarus?" Rarity said.
Tirek looked over the story of the game (after Discord 'convinced' him by threatening to be his roommate for a week)...and seemed unsettlingly interested in the premise...until he got to one specific line.
"WHAT?! I AM CAPTURED BY YOUR CHAOS DEMON SELVES OFFSCREEN?!" the evil centaur bellowed so loudly the ponies had to cover their ears. "I WILL SKIN THE IDIOT THAT WROTE THIS SLANDER ALIVE IF I EVER GET OUT OF HERE!"
Garble suddenly felt a cold chill go down his spine.
"Eh, we didn't like it anyway..." Spike muttered, picking it up and throwing it into a conveniently placed lava pit. "How about this one?" he asked, holding up a box with what looked like a human dressed like a medieval version of Darth Vadar with the Alicorn Amulet on the cover. "It's about trying to stop some human with the Alicorn Amulet from taking over Equestria."
Twilight rolled her eyes. "Ugh, that one's writer must have something against Princess Celestia, he makes her an utter idiot."
Tirek looked over the bio, seeming to like it at first...then actually had his black fur turn red with rage. "I GET SHOT IN THE HEAD WITH A SHOT GUN AND KILLED BEFORE MY CONQUEST CAN EVEN START?!"
"There it is!" Pinkie said. "He even has smoke coming out his ears."
Spike muttered and threw the box and game over his shoulder. "Okay, how about this one..., oh this one was were Discord was still a bad guy."
"Eh, I don't mind, I play games were I'm a boss fight all the time, I just pretend it's me when I made those choices when you ask WHAT WERE YOU THINKING PAST ME?!" Discord replied.
Another Discord poked his head out of a portal. "Sorry, I honestly don't know."
"Not now past me! I don't want to talk about that!" present Discord replied.
"You're doing something involving the ponies from that G3 game Pinkie likes in a time loop thing and-"
Tirek cleared his throat. "What happens to me?"
"Oh...you get recaptured offscreen."
This time, Tirek actually allowed his arms to be burned by the blessed iron of the bars to throw the game into the lava pit himself. "DEFEATING THE MIGHTY LORD TIREK IS ONE THING! BUT! I! WILL! NOT! BE! TRIVIALIZED!"
"Geeze! Fine..." Spike muttered.
"I'll pick!" Pinkie Pie said, pulling out Crystals and Rainbows Generation 3.5. "You're not in this one."
Tirek blinked. "...I have the feeling I'm not going to enjoy this..."
Discord merely smiled wide as a Cheshire Cat. "Oh don't worry, this one is FUN!"
Session 4.6 Alex Warlorn
Pinkie Pie sat behind the Dungeon Master (or Rainbow Maker as the game called them) screen, and wailed in into the table. The fiery pits of Tartarus looked preferable to what she was enduring right now. The others had left (citing it was late), only Pinkie Pie remained determined.
"Did you hear me?" Tirek said. "After I finish tying Ice Scoop to the chair, I tape a bear to her in a hug pose, and since I gave her the bear, and according the rules on page 19, paragraph three, this means I gain friendship points for however long she continues to hug the bear, along with Night Shine, and Shine-A-Belle, I should level up in next in game hour."
"Yes I heard. And Bowtie finds you asks what you're doing to them all tied up."
Tirek didn't miss a beat. "I tell her she likes that sort of thing, unless she wants to judge Ice Scoop and the others for what they like, and they should feel bad for liking something she doesn't."
"UGH! SHE-! SHE! She apologizes. But she says she says you still owe her the rainbow berries for the teddy bears."
"I give her the Puppy Dog Eyes, and tell how it's okay, that it's just my friends' birthday and that she really likes teddy bears, but if she really needs the rainbow berries THAT bad, I'm sure I could work long in the cold dark fields at night to get more."
Pinkie Pie shivered. "A-alright. Bow Tie gives you the bears for free, having been moved by your story."
"Of course." Tirek said smirking.
Pinkie Pie wanted to pull her mane out.
"Alright... Tingle Belle," Pinkie Pie, or rather, Pinkamena trying to be Pinkie Pie at this point, "Your pegasus character sees a bad storm cloud moving towards Brights Brightly's house... it's sure to give her a bad dream, and-"
"I wait until she starts having nightmares, THEN get rid of the cloud, having saved her from the storm, and then consulting her on her bad dreams, it should give four times the number of friendship points if I'd just stopped the storm right away, as it says on page twenty-five, paragraph 2-"
Pinkie Pie wondered if a nice vacation to the rock farm was in order.
Session 4.7 BrutalityInc
Spike entered the chamber with a game box tugged in his arms, a fresh purchase from the Ponyville game store. But when he placed it on the table for the Mane Six (Plus Trixie) to examine, they found the game to be different from what they were expecting.
"What the hay is this? This ain't the game we were planning to play." Applejack said.
"Sorry girls, the store clerk said the O&O 'Bloodlines' campaign setting module got completely sold out yesterday, and they are not expecting another shipment until next weekend." Spike explained, one claw scratching the back of his head. "However, I noticed that this game seem to have a similar theme as O&O Bloodlines, so I thought you might want to try it."
The cover showed the picture of a square-jawed pony's head, and alongside that of a griffon's, a diamond dog's, a dragon's, a minotaur's, and a several others. They were all staring into the distance, with firm and determined gazes beneath their ornate military helmets, indicating their status as leaders. Beneath them was a sword, tip pointing onto a hemispherical globe, both against against a background of burning flames.
"It looks like a board-game for eggheads." Rainbow Dash commented. She was a mare of action, hot and fast, and never one for strategy.
"I think it is." Twilight said, "If the title is any indications, it looks like some sort of military strategy game, like Risk, maybe with diplomacy as part of the game-play." She conjectured, recognizing the time period the characters, the sword and the map on the cover art came from. "Not an RPG by any stretch of the word..."
"Well, I suppose there's still no harm in trying it, darlings. Novelty is the spice of life, after all." Rarity remarked, stepping in to defend Spike's decision before the other girls raise further objections, "Besides, it's not like we have anything else to try this week. We'll just be role-playing entire kingdoms, instead of just the heroic rulers of kingdoms as in Bloodlines."
The other ponies present regarded the game box with a moment's hesitation. Then, collectively, they shrugged and decided to give it a go.
= = =
"Allow me tah put this on record; Ah got mah friend Rarity. Ah'll trust Rarity with mah cart. Ah'll trust Rarity with mah taxes. Ah'll even trust Rarity with our family orchard, if it comes to that. But..." Applejack growled in anger, "I'll never, ever, ever, EVER trust that stuck-up tailor mare with Warmbloed, now, always and thereafter!"
At this, Rarity merely gave a derisive humph, before turning her attention back to her game, leaving the thoroughly defeated farmer mare to brood.
Rainbow Dash and Twilight were both correct in that this was a strategy game, set in a historical period of powerful colonial empires, continent-spanning alliances and grand geopolitical machinations. The objective of the game was simple; take over the world presented in the game map.
The game-play was unique compare to other tabletop strategy or RPG games in many ways. Seven players, each representing a key nation, must use their armies and navies in order to gain control of the dozens of supply centers, represented-by and representing cities and provinces, all over the map. There was no dice-play; instead there was a five-phase turn which represents an entire year, with each pony making their moves simultaneously by submitting their orders in written form to an adjudicator (Spike), then carrying them out.
A game manual specified that the game was designed with the intent of teaching diplomacy and history, thereby encouraging players to make alliances, negotiate and plan with each other in order to achieve victory. But the final note specifies the golden rule: there could only be one winner out of the seven.
The resulting session was absolutely the most intense, hair-raising, temper-flaring and downright explosive tabletop experience the Mane Six ever experienced.
They did make alliances with one another just to survive the first few rounds, but as time went on, the game became an out-of-control whirlwind of conspiracies, secret pacts, deceits and betrayals. Outrage and mistrust took hold of the table as the ponies moved against each other to gain even the slightest advantage, all grasping for the total victory, of which there could only be one.
Trying to play a fair, honest and honorable game, Applejack discovered to her dismay, was a recipe for defeat, where even a single wrong move could spell complete disaster to a seemingly unchallenged winning streak. Applejack was hard pressed as it is to hold what she had; her defining virtue, Honesty, prevented her from using tactics that would allow her to make any gains where the others could with their tricks and schemes.
Then there was the way she lost: She TRUSTED Rarity with holding the supply center/city of Warmbloed, only to have Rarity 'carelessly' lose it to an invasion, which Applejack had to compensate for with her forces. What followed within the next three turns was a convoluted series of events that culminating in her losing her ENTIRE EMPIRE to none other than Rarity.
And Rarity, the no-good varmint, gave a not-too-subtle hint that this was her entire plan ALL ALONG!
Well, at least she did better than Rainbow Dash; she was the Element of Loyalty, which might explain why she lost merely TEN MINUTES into the game. Right now she is cheering for Fluttershy, who was doing surprisingly well.
Fluttershy herself was cowering at the sound of an explosive table-pounding argument, the fifteenth this session: Twilight was a nervous wreck with frazzled hair and twitching eyes staring a thousand yards away, from having to watch her back for any back-stabs and power-plays against her empire by her formerly-trusted friends, and her disposition not help by an angry Pinkie Pie, flat-maned and face a snarl, yelling and breathing down her neck over a move that ended up costing Pinkie her capital supply center (critical for raising any new forces), and by the end of the turn reducing her to down to just ONE last stronghold with just ONE army, ready for a pitiful last stand.
Pinkie’s loss, AJ knew, would leave that show-mare Trixie and Rarity as the strongest players on the board, evenly matched, with Fluttershy being in the unfortunate position of the king-maker of the match in her weakened position. Already she could see them trying to badger Fluttershy, one turn or the next, to join them in their alliance, either buttering her up with sweet sugary words or making empty promises that she was struggling to not accept.
To be fair, she was not surprised that Trixie and Rarity took to the game like fish to water, the former particularly, what with her being a master of tricks and illusions and generally unscrupulous nature (She caught her twice trying to pull a ‘Flying Dutchmare’ on them by putting counters when no pony is looking, which surprisingly ISN’T against the rules so long as she removes them when ask).
Spike took the lull in the session to go comfort Applejack, “There, there. It’s not your fault that you lost. It’s just how the game is like; I didn’t know it would be so mean-spirited when I bought it.”
“Mean-spirited doesn’t cut it in when it actively encourages you tah be a plottin’, lyin’ cheat tah yah friends,” Applejack grumbled. “Ah’m gonna sock that son-o-weeds who made this’ ere game if ah git mah hooves on ‘em!”
“The game itself is over fifty years old, according to the box; whoever they were, they probably retired in some estate on some vacation island from all the money selling this, at the very least.” Spike remarked. “You could ask the game store lady what she was thinking when she suggested this game to me; for some weird reason, she seems… very persuasive.”
Applejack raised an eyebrow. Then she dismissed her concerns and waved Spike off. As Spike returned to his seat to continue the session, neither he or anypony else noticed the very faint green glow glinting in his silted pupils.
= = =
Far away in a distant secret stronghold, Queen Chrysalis was laughing at the scene playing out in her scry-mirror.
Her plan was one-part a long-term project of subversion, and one-part an act of petty revenge. Ever since the failed Canterlot Wedding (And many other failed schemes thereafter), she had been monitoring her enemies with her ring of infiltrators for every possible avenue to get rid of the greatest obstacles to her kind’s conquest of Equestria. When she heard about the Mane Six was getting into tabletop RPG and other board-games, she hatched a plan to exploit this opportunity just as every other, and trivial it may be.
It was a cunning yet simple plan. Have one of the few changeling infiltrators already stationed in Ponyville to knock out and replace the game store clerk for the day, hide all the O&O modules from the racks before opening time, so that when Spike came into store, the infiltrator could ‘suggest’ (With a hypnotic spell, and a scry spell implanted in his mind which could allow them to see the results from his eyes) the young dragon whelp to buy ONE particular board game to bring home for the Mane Six to play with. The store clerk’s memories of course would be altered accordingly to hide the deed; she wasn’t important enough to be replaced permanently with an agent. This memory spell worked solely because he WANTED to remember selling the game, after all, a sale was a sale.
Board-games are said to bring friends together, but according to her spies, ‘Diplomacy’ has gained notoriety as the game which destroys friendships and ruins lives, despite the publishers’ intentions. If the game DOES break the Mane Six’s friendship, unlikely as it is, then it’ll serve Queen Chrysalis well by neutralizing Rainbow Power as a threat to her, allowing her to deal with them later at her leisure. Even if it doesn’t, at least she has the satisfaction of sowing discord among the hated Mane Six and watching these pathetic little pain-in-her-backsides bicker and fight over a board-game, which is pure comedy gold.
Either way, a win-win for her.
A knock on her door distracted her from her diabolically mirthful musings. She turned her attention from the scry-mirror to see a changeling lieutenant at the door to her chambers.
“What is it? Can’t you see I’m busy?!” She snapped, already considering what agonizing torments to inflict upon him for disturbing her.
“Begging your pardon, my queen,” the changeling lieutenant began, sweating a bit “But there’s been a brawl in the barracks. Apparently, there had been uproar over a table-top game session amongst the off-duty changeling guards.”
Queen Chrysalis’ eyes widened “Again? I thought I gave an edict that table-top games are BANNED for the changelings!”
“So we told them.” The changeling lieutenant answered diplomatically. “We have already confiscated the contraband and arrested the changeling players. Shall we deal with them the usual punishments?”
Queen Chrysalis resisted the urge to roll her eyes, “Of course. Why would I have ordered it otherwise? Now get to it and leave me alone, or I’ll have you punished along with them! Also, have some of your troop do a search to make sure other disobedient ones might not have any more hidden.”
As the changeling lieutenant bowed and backed away to perform his duties, Queen Chrysalis rubbed the side of her head in frustration. Having increasing numbers of her changeling minions and subjects smuggling in Equestrian books to read, filling them with subversive ideas, is bad enough as it is, now tabletop games that distracts them from their duties! What is it they saw in them, she’ll never know.
Perhaps she should have one of her minions bring her one of the confiscated ones and see what the fuss was about. It’s not like any changeling would dare question her if she decides to flaunt her own rules…
Session 4.8 Alex Warlorn
That was when Princess Celestia kicked down the door, and blasted the game board, setting it on fire.
Spike breathed a sigh of relief that Princess Celestia had come when she did.
The seven ponies stopped dead in their arguments, as if waking up from a dream... straight maned Pinkie Pie gingerly released Twilight Sparkle from her grasp, slowly trotted over to Gummy and gave him a hug. Trixie blushed looking for her hat so she could hide her face behind it. Fluttershy couldn't have looked more relieved. Rainbow Dash for her part hugged Fluttershy more for her own comfort than hers.
"MY EMPIRE! My beautiful happily run, perfectly aligned, everything in perfect order, Empire!"
Everypony looked at Rarity who was trying to save the table (rather than the game), but she wasn't the one who had spoken.
"Twilight! It's just a game!" Applejack dragged her away from the table as she tried to save the game.
"My reign over the world would have been magical!" Twilight wailed waving her arms.
"I thought that game was negated by Equestria parliament." Celestia sighed. "I am sorry my faithful student. The dangers of this game were supposed to be standard for all of my students . . . after Sunset Shimmer became almost addicted to it."
"WAIT!" Rainbow Dash said. "If you KNEW this game was this much trouble, WHY didn't you just ban it?!"
"Well, if we banned the game, that would just make curious ponies want it more, so we put an absurdly high tax on it, spread information about the game's harmful nature, and released several cheaper non-back stabbing encouraging substitutes, and threw in royal endorsement for good measure."
"B-but WHY?" Twilight Sparkle asked, slowly coming to her senses.
"I'll admit, if this was say, the world on the other side of the mirror, such steps would be perhaps extreme, even forceful, but for Equestria-"
There was a knock on... well, the door on the floor.
Spike hopped over to the front door... to find the Windigos waiting there in the street creating a light snow fall.
"Excuse us, but we smelled some really tasty hatred and strife, mind if we come in for a dinner date?" The largest one asked.
At the same time, three ponies with fin-like wings, sharp teeth and aquatic traits, stepped through the world mirror. They were holding a device that might have been stolen from the human Twilight Sparkle's lab regarding detecting different wavelengths of magic.
"I'm telling you girls! The amount of negativity this thing is picking up, we'll be ruling the world again in no time! And-"... The sirens looked up from the device to where they were. They stared at Twilight Sparkle and the other heroes, and PRINCESS CELESTIA right in the room with them.
"Hiiiii Celestia!" The blue siren waved happily.
"Hello Sonata," Celestia replied as politely as she could to the childlike deep sea horror.
"RUN YOU IDIOTS!" Adagio screamed grabbing her two sisters and running like Tartarus back through the world mirror like the sun herself was after them.
The Windigos meanwhile looked at each other. Also realizing the sun goddess herself was in the room with all the tasty hate and strife that had pulled them back from the neither world... Considering 'risk vs gain.'
"Uh..." Twilight said quickly, "All is forgiven? Friends forever? Rainbow Power up? Blast the bad guys? Yay?"