Eric and the Dread Gazebo
This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (October 2016)
"The Tale of Eric and the Dread Gazebo" is a role-playing game (RPG) inspired anecdote, made famous by Richard Aronson (designer of The Ruins of Cawdor, a graphical MUD). Aronson's account first appeared in print in the APA Alarums and Excursions in either 1985 or 1986 (accounts vary). It was reprinted in Mensa's RPG APA, The Spell Book in 1987, from there (with one jump) to The Mensa Bulletin in 1988, and then it jumped to the internet. It has remained popular and been frequently plagiarized ever since. The story, as it has always been published, was "Eric and the Gazebo" but many plagiarized accounts on the internet have added the word "Dread" to the title.
The tale features a player who is dumbfounded by the gamemaster's description of a nearby gazebo, as he has never heard of a gazebo. Unwilling to ask what it is and convinced that he has encountered some sort of monster, he queries the bewildered game master for its specifics in meticulous detail then proceeds to attempt wounding it with an arrow (and, obviously, fails). By the end of the encounter the player, lacking the means to harm a gazebo, opts to flee in desperation; the frustrated game master responds "It's too late. You've awakened the Gazebo; it catches you and eats you." According to Ed Whitchurch (the real GM of the incident) the original incident on which the anecdote is based was actually less than a minute long, ending predictably with "Don't you know what a gazebo is?"
The Dread Gazebo in popular culture
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The impact of this anecdote on the RPG community is visible to this day. Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz, an interactive fiction game from 1981, prominently features a gazebo. The first issue of the comic book Knights of the Dinner Table contains a retelling of the story (and makes a similar reference to a davenport in a Flash animated short), and a gazebo features prominently in the winter 2006 issues of Nodwick. A Gazebo monster card appears in the Munchkin card game; Aronson told Steve Jackson the story in the mid 1990s. A base called The Dread Gazebo also features in the Awesome Level 9000 expansion for the Smash Up game by AEG. In the MMORPG RuneScape, examination of a player-constructed gazebo results in the message, 'Run for it! It's a gazebo!'. The MMORPG Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO) also makes mention of the story. Known translations exist in Brazilian Portuguese, Finnish, Italian, Russian, and Japanese.