It was all Alpha’s Idea.
The Bravocorps had not been needed for a while now, sure. Things were boring with no comics or cartoons to keep their lives… lively. They did not even have that many public fans to keep their lore going! Bravoman was getting rusty.
What better way, Alpha had suggested, to stay loose than team building exercises?
Bravoman had suggested videogames. They let you keep your reflexes sharp and co-op gameplay can be… quite exciting. But Bravowoman didn’t play videogames. Not without insistent whining and begging. Braveman was cool with it, but Bravoman didn’t really care what Brave Man thought. In fact, he’d be fine with Brave Man not showing up at all.
Bravowoman had suggested board games. But Bravoman responded with a roll of his eyes that Brave Man would make them play monopoly, and they all knew how that would go.
Anti had been the one to suggest tabletop games, in a flourish of hastily thought up poetry about how it would show them the portraits of their twisted souls or something. Bravoman could not really remember anything after “Dungeons and Dragons”
Dungeons and dragons… well, it was no video game, but it did bring the great ideas of narrative and cooperation, as well as the more laid back atmosphere that some board games brought with them.
Bravoman, of course, had elected himself dungeon master. Only he and Anti had ever played any tabletop games anyways; at least, as far as he knew. And as great as Anti could be sometimes, he wasn’t too keen on playing “edgy: the darkest game of the year.”
Tonight, Lottery Man was fixing up his best snacks, because they were going to have a full house. Alpha, Bravowoman, Anti-Bravoman, and, yes, unfortunately even Brave Man would be here any minute for their first session. Bravoman had shifted things around so that he could drag the kitchen table into his living room, setting up chairs on either side, and one opposite the couch for himself. The more places for people to sit, the better. He would prefer to not have another experience like the trip back from Planet Alpha.
He had already envisioned the set up; Alpha and Anti could share the couch, since they would not start any trouble together. Brave could sit in the chair on Alpha’s side, where he couldn’t “breathe” on Anti or whatever else he might have up his sleeve. Bravowoman would get the other side because hey, she may hate being anywhere near him, but she could behave at least! And she probably thought Anti was just as incompetent as she thought he was, but she wouldn’t try to get under his skin at least.
Bravoman went over the table spread one more time. He had placed a big mat in the middle, meant to represent their map of whatever area the characters would be traveling. Stand in figurines from his toyline sat in the middle ready to be put into action. He had a laptop sat up at his seat, complete with all the notes on characters and events he had already compiled for their adventure. And in front of each seat was a small bowl of chips, pencils, paper, and a printout running over the background for his campaign. It was bring your own dice, but he had made sure that everything was set up and ready to go.
“Yep, this setup is totally wicked, no need for applause,” the hero said to himself with a chuckle.
The doorbell rang, and Bravoman stretched an arm over to open it before strolling over to answer it himself.
“Do you really just open your door before looking to see who it is? I find it hard to believe even you would make that goofy of a mistake.”
Bravoman tried to ignore the ice in her tone and cracked a grin. “Nope, only when I’m expecting company! Glad you made it Bravowoman. Feel free to take a seat at the table while we wait for the others.”
The warrior hero stared at him blankly with no more than an “mhm.” Her feet hovered mere inches off the ground. Even without the illusion of added height, she was already several inches taller than the stretchy hero, and the extra boost served to make her appear only more intimidating than she already was. But unlike Alpha, she was not one to show off her powers for no reason. So after a second, she lowered to the ground and passed through Bravoman’s door.
Bravoman glanced back to see if she found her seat, just in time to see Alpha making himself comfortable on the couch. Yeesh, that guy never seemed to walk. It was rare to hear him enter, making some midnight snack trips almost end with a heart attack more often than not. Still, the party was already half here, and it was not even six yet!
His excitement was cut short when he turned his head back to his lawn, just in time to see his most hated team members limo pull up. Did they really have to invite him? Could they just… do teambuilding without him maybe?
The back window rolled down, and a shaded head peered out, his straight face unreadable. Or at least, Bravoman figured he was staring at him; it was hard to tell behind those thick glasses. Still he forced himself to crack a smile. “I’m… glad… you could make it, Brave,” he managed to get out before mumbling in addition, “you coulda been less flashy you know. Next thing I know we’ll have a bunch of your screaming fans showing up at my house to watch us. Not cool dude.”
Brave man didn’t respond at first. The driver had come around and opened the door for the actor. He made a show of handing the man several bills bundled together as he stepped out of the car. Only then did he finally acknowledge Bravoman’s presence with a wide, mischievous grin. He sauntered up the driveway to Bravoman’s door, throwing his arms out wide as he reached Bravoman.
“Hey, B-man! Good to see you good to see you. I heard you just couldn’t get enough of me. Don’t worry, I made sure to bring everything necessary for a heck of a Brave Man time.” With a snap of his fingers, the driver almost mechanically raised a hand and placed a bejeweled bag in Brave’s outstretched hand.
Bravoman let out an exasperated sigh. “I’m not even going to begin to give that the dignity of a comment. You can take your seat across from Bravowoman, she’s already setting up.” He stabbed his thumb backwards over his shoulder, pointing vaguely inside.
Brave continued to smile like he’d won the lottery and moseyed on by the brightly colored hero. Bravoman glanced back inside. Alpha seemed to be deep in conversation with Bravowoman, pointing at something on the table in front of her. Her character sheet, probably. Hopefully, he was giving actual, decent, mentorly advice, and not screwing her character over. Because he would never hear the end of that.
Bravoman glanced around outside one more time, then closed the door behind him. With Brave Man’s arrival, they only awaited their final party member. Usually he would have been the first one here. The few times he’d thrown a party, Anti-Bravoman was always the first person to show up. Sometimes it seemed as if he must have just hung around nearby all day until it was time for the event! But that was crazy thinking. Still, being this late was… odd, to say the least.
Bravoman headed back to the kitchen, electing to go ahead and start bringing out refreshments. In one arm, lifted a bowl of popcorn. With the other, he gathered up a few cans of soda, and a bottled water for Bravowoman.
By the time he was back in the living room, Brave man had already taken a seat, emptied the contents of his bag, and propped up his feet on the table. Bravoman let out a grumble as he set the snacks down, but said nothing. Still no Anti-Bravoman.
But finally, the doorbell rang once again, and Bravoman put on a smile as he strolled over and opened it once again. “There you are A- WAYA HIME?!”
Instead of the purple doppleganger he had expected in his doorway, instead he was greeted by the pink haired, bubbly ninja princess, waving her fingers with a big wide grin and wide eyes, a few sheets of paper in her other hand. The person he was actually expecting stood a few paces behind, and gave a single, sheepish wave.
Bravoman quickly stepped aside as Waya leaned in, attempting to plant a kiss. Upon failing though, she just headed on inside with a skip in her step. Anti-Bravoman stalked in after her, mumbling an apology. “She said she might stab me if I didn’t… invite her to join us.” Yep, total Waya move right there.
Bravoman shook his head and tried to crack a weak smile coming off as incredibly fake. “Well… she can’t be any worse than Brave Man, right? What’s one more?”
Once Anti had stepped inside, Bravoman closed the door behind him and ran to get an extra chair. Hopefully Waya would actually play the game, and not just try to stab him all night.
The group had settled down by the time he got back.
He took a moment to carefully consider the placement of the ninja. He certainly did not want her sitting by himself. Bravowoman would probably gripe if Waya was beside her, and he did not want to squeeze her onto the couch.
Beside Brave Man it was.
The hero sat the chair next to Brave, waving the actor to scoot over. Brave Man gave him a mock pout, but complied, sitting normally to scooch over without getting up. Waya immediately hopped into the chair, placing her character sheet on the ground with a slap.
Bravoman took a second to glance the sheet over; the others had already given him a rough rundown of their characters, but only tonight would everyone else get to know their teammates to be. A… rouge with plans to be an assassin. Of course.
Well, he was not going to let Waya dampen his spirits.
Finally, Bravoman took his place at the head of the table, looking over his crew with a grin. The group of them were bizzare, to say the least. One pompous actor, a cold and callous super heroine, a stalker murder ninja, an edgy antimatter clone guy, and an alien, all gathered around his table to play Dungeons and Dragons.
How horribly could this possibly go?
The clock struck six. Bravoman clapped his hands to gather everyone’s attention.
“Alright everyone, first off, I would like to thank you all for making it on time.”
“Of course,” Bravowoman responded curtly. “Being punctual is an important part of any gathering.”
Bravoman laughed weakly, uncertain as to if it was meant to be a jab at him or not. Not that he could imagine any reason why it would be…
“As you all know, I had you all create a character ahead of time. Anti and I can give you any pointers if there’s anything you need help with, obviously, but hopefully everyone understood the creation portion well enough?”
He was met with nods of varying intensity. Satisfied, he continued. “So before we actually start our story, I’d like everyone to give their character a short introduction. You know. Name, race, class, alignment, background, and maybe a little backstory? Anti, do you mind starting?”
“Of course,” the purple hero responded with a wave of his hand before he adjusted his papers. “Ahem. He is a tiefling of dark complexion, his eyes as pitch dark as the night. He is a druid, teetering dangerously on the cusp of chaotic good and chaotic neutral, like the sanity of someone that’s been in the desert for too long. He is an outlander, having spent most of his life outcast by a cruel society. It is for that reason that he has began a journey to prove that dark is not evil. And it is for that reason that he chose his own name of virtue; Dark.”
Waya snorted. “He’s been practicing that all day,” she blurted out. “Reciting it all day in his room in the dark… with a nightlight, of course.”
“E-excuse me,” Anti stuttered, turning to the princess with his antennas laid flat. “That is false and you know it!”
Waya rolled her eyes, drumming her fingers on the table. “Suuuure it is.” Immedately, she changed demeanor, bouncing in her seat. “Anyway’s I’m next! My character’s name is Amira Holimon. She’s a super cool, chaotic neutral half-elf. She comes from a line of nobles, but the prim and proper all the time was boring. So she decided to become a super cool rogue!”
Bravoman resisted the urge to point out that Waya’s character was literally her. Instead he turned his attention to Alpha. “What about your character, Alpha. Is he ready to kick butt?”
“Indeed,” Alpha responded in his usual monotone. “Imeltal Celphao, or Imel for short, is a high elf that considers himself truly neutral. He is a cleric, having lived his life as a sage. His neutrality may have been his fall from grace however. He is a discredited academic, and spends his days looking to prove his research was correct, in hopes of having back just a little of his former life’s grandeur.”
“Oh, interesting,” Bravoman responded with a nod, mentally making a note to have a character prod mister “Imel” later in hopes of gaining more information.
“How about… Bravowoman next, what have you got for us?”
The heroine grunted, shifting in her seat before picking up the paper she had laid in front of her. “My character’s name is Viola. She’s a half-orc, the daughter of a noble. But she always felt different growing up. And her fully human extended family treated her as such. Now of age, she chose to take a journey to prove her worth, and to avoid a stupid arranged marriage to a human that never would have actually loved her.”
“Oh, a tragic character. What’s her class? Alignment?”
“Lawful good paladin.”
“Playing it straight I see. Gotcha. Lawful good paladin sound exactly like the kind of class you’d play.”
“Are you… insinuating something?” Bravowoman asked, eyes narrowing.
“No, no of course not!” Bravoman backtracked quickly. “I meant that genuinely. You seem like the kind of person to play the noble hero type, and that’s not a bad thing!”
The woman considered it for a moment, then slowly nodded. “Fair enough.”
Bravoman turned his attention to the person who cleared his throat… Oh boy.
“Glad you saved the best for last B-man, real generous of you to let me speak last, so I don’t embarrass anyone with my awesome character.”
“The only embarrassing person here is yourself,” Bravoman grumbled, voice too low to be heard.
“Okay, so get this. Gnome. Bard. Need I say more?”
Oh no. “Well tell us a little more about this gnome of yours. Brave, please.”
“Fine fine, glad to see you can’t get enough of him. So, more specifically, he’s a forest gnome. He’s always been a fan of entertaining people, even if he has… ulterior motives. He’s chaotic evil, you see. Most people know him only by the nickname of Dimp. Because his real name sends fear into the hearts of all.” The actor smirked, pausing for dramatic effect. “Dimple Folkor Clusterduck.”
There were snickers around the table. Bravowoman snorted, covering her mouth to hide a bemused grin. “Oh my gods, I don’t know if that is the best or worst character I’ve ever heard of.” After a second, she forced a straight face again. “I hope you’re planning on taking this seriously though Brave. This is a teambuilding activity after all.”
“Chill out Lady-B,” the actor responded with a dismissive handwave. “I’m totally in the serious zone here. One hundred percent bona-fide serious Brave Man.”
Bravoman rolled his eyes. Inviting Brave was a bad idea. But he… was technically part of the team.
He typed a few notes into his laptop, then looked up to the faces around the table. These were his team members. And by golly no matter how serious or not serious they took it, he was going to be sure to make a great story.
“Five heroes will set out on a journey today,” he began, clearing his throat. “Five heroes drawn together by fate. But who knows if all will survive? They’ll have to use every bit of wit and cunning they have in this crazy world of fantasy. But for now, they need to figure out how to get along long enough to finish just one little request. And that request starts here in the sleepy little town of Veridias…”