Long ago, when the Silver Age of Superheroes was young, a band of youths was carried off from Our World into Otherworld and found themselves confronted by a small, peculiar-looking and enormously-powerful creature who declared that as they had been trapped in this strange, perilous place thanks to the efforts of a local evildoer (whose every action had shaken the foundations of the Realms so severely and so often that those foundations were beginning to crack and threaten to bring the border between the Twin Worlds crashing down with them) it was therefore now their job to play Hero and chase down this inhumanly-powerful malefactor, then do what came naturally to Heroes when confronted by villains.
The band of youths in question, being innocents to a man and more than half-convinced that they were imagining all this (not to mention RPG geeks of the first water), proclaimed their willingness to go with the flow and chase down, then deal with this malefactor with one voice (and only small-to-medium misgivings) - well, except for the one which dared ask why the heck any of this was any business of theirs, as well as inquire as to whether or not there was another (or ANY other) way to get out of Otherworld, not to mention demanding to know why the mysterious individual offering them this nightmarish job was SMILING while discussing the very real possibility of a pan-dimensional collapse.
After this not-quite dissenting voice was resoundingly ignored, with everyone being obliged to favour escape via Heroic Labours, the gang asked for the name of this budding Dark Lord to whom they would now be as a nemesis - their newfound guide replied that the villain had been too cunning to keep his own name and had taken to himself a title, a self-proclaimed title which would soon resound throughout Otherworld and might ring the death-knell of All Creation.
The title this budding tyrant of Otherworld had chosen to make infamous?
The Dungeon Wizard!
With this awful title ringing in their ears (well, more sinking in amidst a certain amount of bemusement), some rather inadequate new clothes on their backs and a generous minimum of survival gear in their packs thanks to the best wishes of the self-proclaimed 'DM' (who still wouldn't stop SMILING), amid rather panicked warnings of impending doom from their most doubting colleague (who might be going along with his friends for now - and forever, even if he'd never admit that - as a show of solidarity, but would be hanged if he'd risk his precious hide TOO much!) the Dungeon Warriors/Dice Champions/Dragon Runners/Cool Group Name to be determined at a later date* set off to become legends.
*It was, in the end, but only after what might be called either a long-running and cheerful debate or a running joke between.
Some little subjective while later (which seemed a lifetime, but thankfully wasn't quite that bad) they were knee-deep in trouble and perilously close to doom, mostly because they were a bunch of Americans schoolkids aged between eight to fifteen years old, trying to play Dungeons and Dragons PCs for KEEPS and enjoying exactly the results you might expect. Launching themselves at a local Dark Lord under such circumstances would have probably proven suicidal (and certainly would have had they listened to the enthusiastic advice and directions of their self-proclaimed 'DM') if it hadn't been for the intervention of Androcles, who provided more help in a matter of moments than the former had in all the time they'd known him.
Given that 'DM' was swiftly unmasked as a giggling Mr Hoppy, this should be unsurprising.
In the aftermath of this revalation a number of other Home Truths were revealed - that the Dungeon Wizard was in fact a rather tragic young man who'd been left so disappointed by the sorry sort of life he lead that he'd become obsessed to the point of making a very bad decision with the idea of turning Reality into something more like the Fantasy he so loved. That this Bad Decision in question revolved around making a deal with Mr. Hoppy should come as no surprise:- in brief, The Dungeon Wizard had dealt for the power to make Reality (or at least the portion of it within a generously defined vicinity of his person) conform to his idea of how it should be, in exchange for a party of sacrificial lambs - to whit the newly-minted PCs, the only people the Dungeon Wizard knew well enough to resent* - who would be toyed with at Mr. Hoppy's whim to a point far short of death (The Dungeon Wizard's only qualification to Mr. Hoppy's playtime).
So far, so Faustian.
*It's a long story, but boiled down The Dungeon Wizard didn't do socialisation and had therefore been relegated to the fringes of the school pecking order, then been horrified when he ran into those others who'd set up shop there - the future Fellowship - and realised that they had a hard time putting up with his rather unpleasant manner too, no matter how hard they tried.
It's bad enough being called 'anti-social weirdo' when it's only other people throwing the word around - when the word starts worming it's way into your own self-image things are well on their way to becoming soul-destroying.
It was only after The Deal that things took an unexpected
turn for the worse - the Dungeon Wizard, being naturally just a little guilt-ridden over placing the closest thing to friends he'd ever made into the clutches of an Omnipotent Evil Bunny, had decided to tail that smalltown DnD gang and see just what the Lapin Lucifer had in mind for the gang.
As it turned out the revalation that Mr. Hoppy had decided to try his hand-paw at being the ULTIMATE Untrustworthy DM, while playing with the lives of unsuspecting DnD dudes and dudettes made less of an impact on the Dungeon Wizard than the discovery that there was an entire DIMENSION to play DnD with - and while this admittedly doesn't sound very alarming, consider that what DnD players do best is loot, hack, slash and worst of all munchkin their way through anything they happen to meet.
Now imagine what REAL PEOPLE will now suffer as a result of the Dungeon Wizard's idea of a good time and try not to shudder. Another cheering thought; now imagine that the person doing this is a reality warper from Our World (where Reality can generally put up a fight) let loose in a World where Reality tends to lie back and let the powerful make of it what they will - and now consider that you can use the power of Otherworld to twist Our World if you're crazy enough.
How crazy? Let me put it this way, the Dark Undermaster and every Dark Lord in living memory (which in Otherworld recalls a long span of years, given the ample number of immortals, unliving or otherwise) has flinched from trying to do something that crazy - put bluntly, even Count Reich declines to give it a try when he gets the opportunity (mostly because Okrus ordered him not to, admittedly, but he still thought twice about it even before Evil Lord Hornhead showed up).
To cut a long infodump short, The Dungeon Wizard was not merely threatening to play wanton games with the lives of very real men, women and children, he was threatening to twist Creation to suit his own selfish whims or just shatter it BY ACCIDENT in the process; worst of all every attempt to stop him had resulted in the deaths of the Heroes (and even a few villains) who'd tried, because Otherworlders simply could not comprehend the strange rules under which this Dungeon Wizard wrought his havoc or adapt to them quickly enough to survive his attacks when he appeared.
It was at this point that Mr. Hoppy jumped in to point out that his latest playthings could do just that; Androcles retorted that these youths had, in fact, never been his in the first place, still less his to play with and would he please hop off while Androcles sought to extract them from their predicament?
No, cried the mad, bad bunny and furthermore if Androcles so much as twisked a whisker in mild reproof he'd set Red Tape to work on anyone and anything in the vicinity capable of comprehending what the words lawsuit meant, then play with the mortals to destruction while some celestial bureacrat tried to cut through the technicalities and stop him - unless, of course, the gamers were willing to risk a little wager: if they could bring the Dungeon Wizard to heel, HE would call Red Tape to heel, then let the geeks go free and clear.
Androcles, deaf to threats but able to spot a Call to Adventure when he heard one, was less than surprised (but as inspired as ever) when these young gentlepersons, strangers in a strange land and confronted by the most terrible peril imaginable, agreed to risk themselves in this noble, perilous endevour to help others.
Aware that they deserved - and desperately needed - all the help that he could give them to survive in the Other World in which they found themselves, Androcles guided the newly-minted heroes towards a very, very old friend and occasional colleague who was more than able to supply them with everything they would need for their Quest; as it turned out, in Otherworld Father Christmas comes along neither late nor early, but DOES have a useful habit of showing up precisely when he's needed (and it turns out that those jolly old elves in his employ craft tools for young heroes just as wonderful as the toys they make for good children).
Dressed appropriately, fully-equipped and well-advised for the first time in the duration of their sojourn in Otherworld, the newly-dubbed Fellowship of the Inklings set out to do several graphic novels worth of old-school Good; residents of The Other World tend to expect the unexpected, but even they probably couldn't have anticipated just how helpful these youngsters and their bizarre misidentifications would turn out to be.
Founder of H.E.R.O.I.C, Complimenter-in-Chief, Co-Arch Henchman to the Grin, Servant of the Hoff!
Rule Brittania! Praise the Hoff and the Grin!
Warning!: May cause Thread Drift.