Pony Express

Mike and Mike - Part One
by Mike Mitchell
March 30, 2001

I first laid eyes on Michael T. Murphy on May 25, 1990. I know this to be fact because that is the date recorded in Journies of the Seven... what we saw and who we met, which is title of my hastily scrawled notes about the Adventures of Tally O'Broic, a half-orc Cleric/Thief with a heart of gold and wandering loins. Murph was the Dungeon Master and I was one of seven players who gathered around the gaming table that Saturday afternoon more than a decade past. Like the journal, the game, and life itself, the friendship that grew from that meeting was more than I could ever have imagined it would be.

Tally O'Broic,
Half-orc cleric/thief
c. 1990

We were both living in El Paso, Texas, at that time, and Murph had answered an advertisement that had been languishing on a bulletin board at Rita's Fantasy Shop in Sunrise Center in the Northeast part of town. It was a few miles from Fort Bliss, where Murph was stationed as a Sergeant in the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment (3rd ACR). I, who had been born there and lived there -- off and on -- most of my life, had placed the ad seeking a group to play D&D with. Murph had gone there to put up an ad of his own and to scour it for a source of other players for a campaign he was about to launch. I don't recall our first conversations, but I do recall that I was as cautious as he was about joining this new game. I'd had some bad experiences with some "Monty Haul" gamers and some maladjusted high school kids (and a few wackos who literally vanished into the night) and had decided to be very picky about the next group I joined.

Murph and I talked for a few hours over the course of a month before he actually set a date for the first game. We discussed how we were tired of modules and Monty Haul, how we wanted a long-term campaign where the characters were free to roam the world and experience actual lives. During this time I worked on my character concept, drawing inspiration for Tally's past partly from the song "Bayou Boys" by Eddy Raven. Tally was a hellraiser as a youth who found religion suddenly -- Aegir, Norse god of the sea -- and was trying his dammedest to make up for a wasted youth and his light-fingered ways. Unfortunately for Tally, he was Chaotic Neutral and wouldn't always succeed. It was the tension between wanting to be good but not quite knowing how to do it that would fuel the fire of his personality. On the drive to the first game I wondered if I could go through with the thick Irish brogue I was planning and if I could bring forth the elaborate back story I had created for Tally The first game was at Ray Massey's apartment (he was also in 3rd ACR). I entered Ray's apartment and didn't realize that I was meeting my best friend for life.

I recall that Murph's daughter Robyn had just been born and would sleep on the floor of the room as we played. Their son, Shaun, was in daycare for the first few game sessions -- I didn't meet him until later. I also met his now ex-wife, Angie that day. We were very close for a long time. We all were. The game was magic -- and it was Murph's doing. He had picked the players carefully, sorting through applications and inviting some people and not others. I didn't find out until later that I was the only non-military person or dependent invited into the Elite Gaming Group that was created that day. I didn't know what the future would bring; how this would be "the beginnings of a beautiful friendship." I didn't know that what we started that day -- Saturday, May 25, 1990 -- would survive marriages, deranged girlfriends, buddies hanging off moving vehicles, road trips, unemployment, vampires, a War, state lines, and a decade of being Best Friends.

"Into The Woods -- One Midnight Gone."

To be continued.

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