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She comes up with a good line to bed a guy.

***

Parvani fit in perfectly. Everybody liked her - she didn't have a mean or cynical bone in her body. She obviously enjoyed the game, and her enthousiasm was contagious.

As a thank you after her second game, Parvani invited us all for brunch on a Sunday morning - at a Chinese restaurant.

- "It's called Dim Sum." she explained. "They're mostly bite-sized pieces, served on small plates, or in steamer baskets."

The food came around on trolleys, offering a selection of dishes. You only had to point and nod to get what you wanted - which was a good thing, because the wait staff weren't particularly fluent in English.

The food was excellent, for the most part - and dirt cheap, which made this group of poor university students quite happy.

- "We have to do this again." said Derek, with his mouth full.

It was a great time for me. My classes were enjoyable, and I was doing very well. I had a circle of friends now, and there was always something interesting to do. Gaming was fun, and getting better all the time.

There were only a few things I would have changed.

One was money - I didn't have much of it. My job didn't pay very well. But the boss basically allowed me to set my own hours, and I doubted that I could find a better one.

The second issue was a bit more of a headache. His name was Alan.

It wasn't the grass and the hash that he brought - I didn't care if everybody except Parvani and me got stoned. They could still play while high, and on those few occasions when they couldn't - well, it was no big deal.

The problem was that Alan annoyed the shit out of me.

He expected to be the center of attention. Alan wanted his character, Grog, to be the spokesman, even though Nate's wizard had the highest charisma. Alan would say rude, abrasive things to NPCs (the people we met in the game), regardless of whether they were friends or enemies. His role model seemed to be Don Rickles.

Alan insisted that any enemy we fought was his particular rival. He - and only he - had to be the one who got to face them. When I created a special feud for Derek's character, Alan stepped in and tried to hijack it.

The moment he got bored - if, for example, I was doing something special for another player - Alan's character would wander off, open a door, or set out on his own. He would demand that I describe the place he had found, who was there ... if I told him that no one was home, he would steal their possessions. If I gave him an empty room, he would vandalize it. And if I put people there, he would start a fight.

Basically, he wouldn't allow us to do anything unless he was the focus of the action. I read an article about this very problem in the Dragon magazine. The writer's advice was either to ignore that player - or to kill his character.

I couldn't do either.

Alan seemed to enjoy baiting me. When I had the group meet a possible employer in a crowded tavern, Alan went up to every single person in the place - and asked me their name.

He knew that he was getting to me, too. And then he started to make it personal.

- "What's the difference between a +3 vorpal sword and a hot chick?" he asked.

- "I don't know." said Nate.

- "As far as Ian's concerned, nothing." said Alan. "He'll never get either one!"

The weirdest part - at least I thought it was weird - was that Alan only did this sort of thing when we were gaming. In a social situation, when we were out as a group, he was completely different.

He shared my love of The Who and their music. Derek appreciated them, as role models for his beloved band, The Jam, but Alan genuinely idolized them. He knew more about the Who than I did.

The three of us had a few pints at the pub, and then went to the Pantheon for a Who double feature: Quadrophenia, followed by The Kids Are Alright. Derek was falling asleep by the second film, but Alan and I were wide awake for the whole thing.

On another occasion, at a party that Tanya invited us to, I stepped outside for some fresh air.

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