Ranger, Wizard, Fighter, Thief

by Chris Buchanan
Short story, 2014
The four of them embark on an epic quest to defeat a mighty evil, as anyone can tell by looking at them. They are brave and true, as you’d assume. What might surprise you is how bloody annoying they are.


There were four of them, which is not at all unusual with this sort of gang. As is the custom, they were as diverse in appearance as any four people could be. An elf, a wizard, a knight and a barbarian. Daggers, staff, sword, hammer. The corners of the world. How these little groups meet and end up as friends quite so often is a mystery, but they do and these had.

The travellers ducked into a quaint old hay barn, following the wave of the kindly farmer who had lent them shelter. They saw dry, cracked muck, scrap wood and rusted equipment. Moonlight on a butcher table, maybe. Hardly a heroes’ welcome, but they felt it was better than another night outdoors with a little more gold in their pack.

The barbarian dumped their supplies and his weapon immediately and asked for more beer the moment he was seated. He wore the uniform of his people: long, fair hair, straps and buckles, furry pauldrons and greasy skin.

The pale elf with the blades and leather all over him leaned in, slightly as he could, and muttered, “There are two kinds of hospitality on the road, my friend: those where we get drunk and make allies, and those where something else happens. I fear this is one of the latter.”

Respectfully, “Aye, Swicewise.”

Swicewise, his name. Continue reading

The F-Zero annotated roster

Lately, I’ve been playing a lot of F Zero X for Nintendo 64. It’s a grand old racing game, with a massive cast of thirty weird-looking comic-book-style characters. In most cases I don’t know their real names, and I don’t have an instruction booklet.
All I do know is – a lot of them look silly. And when I’m trying to race I find it impossible not to glance at the little portraits in the top 5 and come up with nicknames for them. Many of the names I came up with are lazy, and some of them are childish, and all of them are stupid. Nonetheless, I will now ask you to read them.

1 ) Dr Zoidberg
Dr Zoidberg, formally a local MD based in interplanetary deliveries, has fallen on hard times recently. Also something is stuck up his nose, I don’t know.

2) Those Guys From The Star Wars Cantina Scene
One of them doesn’t like you, and the other one doesn’t like you either. They’re wanted men! They have the death sentence on twelve systems! And so on.

3) Angry Father Christmas
This year nobody left him a glass of sherry on the mantelpiece. A life long alcoholic, Santa is now forced to go cold turkey, and he takes out his frustrations on his fellow F Zero racers.

4) Captain Falcon
A former crowd favourite, the Captain is doing poorly of late. His driving is fine, but every single race, without fail, one of the other racers will knock him off the side of the track, crying “Falcon punch!” and laughing as they speed away. Every single time.

5) Captain Palette-Swap
Push the button, Max!

6) Temuera Morrison
After so many years stuck in the role, New Zealand-born actor Temuera is now convinced he IS Jango Fett. With this in mind, he races around F Zero in a replica Slave 1. Nobody minds him.
7) Jodie Summer
My favourite character. I have nothing mean to say about her.

8) The Most Boring Character
I dunno. He smiles, he wears a red helmet. Be honest – you haven’t got anything either.

9) The Cruel Wizard Wrath-Amon
That’s more like it. Wrath-Amon is the leader of the Evil Serpent Men, who are from another dimension and will reveal their true form if you attack them with Star Metal.

10) Mister Hyde
Mister Hyde likes to tell people that he is the famous literary character of the same name and alter-ego to Doctor Jekyll. In fact he’s just a very ugly man with the surname Hyde.

11) Badly-Disguised Cylon
This unfortunate double agent still thinks nobody has noticed his infiltration into the F Zero ranks.

12) E Honda
Us Japanese fighters gotta stick together. CUZ WE’RE BROTHERS! HA HA HA HA!

13) Utahraptor
Most famous for his appearances in Dinosaur Comics – Utahraptor is seen here in panel 5.

14) I Have No Idea
I originally had a dirty joke here, but I decided it was too crude. Make up your own story for this fella.

15) The Cat
Lookin’ goooood!

16) Female, Black Character
That ought to mollify that demographic. Next!

17) The Noid
Avoid him. Or better yet, knock his car over the edge of the track.

18) Super Arrow
After Jodie Summer (#7), easily my favourite character. I just love the completely serious expression on his face despite the hat, and the even more serious expression on the bird. God, I wish the bird was also wearing a hat like Super Arrow’s, except maybe with a letter B on it. In the game, his suit is bright red, which makes him even funnier looking.
I love him.

19) Doctor Smugman
The good doctor is a leading light in the field of centre-partings and races just to show off.

20) Foetoid
Remember Foetoid? From the game Forsaken?
Sure you do. Foetoid, ladies and gentlemen. I call him that because he looks a bit like Foetoid. Comedy!

21) Mister Creosote
Hercule Poirot, the great Belgian detective, stretches all his little grey cells as part of his continuing investigation at the F Zero tracks. Finally after sifting all the evidence, he gathers all the other racers together in the drawing room to… oh shit, it’s Mister Creosote.

22) The Troll
The Troll lives underneath the Rainbow Road track and, when not racing, demands tolls from other racers trying to practice. He is sick of people calling him ‘Krang’ and he does not know what they are giggling about.

23) Mrs Arrow
This attractive young lady has the extraordinary misfortune of being married to Super Arrow (#18). She is never seen without her signature sunglasses, onto the backs of which she has glued a photograph of a less ridiculous-looking man.

24) Fake Cosplay Fox McCloud
FCFMcC likes to pretend he is Fox McCloud from the Starfox games. To this end he has modelled his car to look like an Arwing and dresses like his hero at all times. He has never won.

25) Lobotomised Starwolf
Can’t let you DO that, Fake Cosplay Fox McCloud!

26) The Cryptkeeper
Hello boys and ghouls! Tonight’s terrifying tale concerns F Zero racing! He he he he he! I call this nauseating number… Driven… to DEATH!!
In recent years the Cryptkeeper has lost his hair.

27) Handsome Jack AKA Not Tom Paris
This handsome young chap spends so much time preening himself in the rear-view mirror that he has yet to actually start an F Zero race. He seems happy enough.

28) Michael Chain
Michael Chain is only a part time racer. During the week he teaches Art History at Stanford University, and campaigns tirelessly against racial stereotyping. Also – Michael’s car looks like a big orange toast rack.

29) Absolutely Not Captain Picard
Nobody knows what this gentleman’s real name is because everyone is so used to calling him ‘Captain Picard’. He hates it, and even got a tattoo on his head, just to make him look less like the famous TV character. The irony is that if he didn’t get so annoyed every time, they’d stop calling him that. After hours, he likes to hang around with Handsome Jack (#27) so they can discuss how they are totally NOT Captain Picard and Tom Paris, respectively.

30) Doc Brown
F Zero tracks? Where we’re going we don’t need… F Zero tracks…

26 Deadliest Creatures – a guide for travellers

Below are the deadliest living animals on the Earth, arranged in alphabetical order for obvious reasons.


Anteaters who mistake you for an ant.

Basking sharks on a bad day.


Dolphins on a very bad day.

Earwigs, which actually do go into your ears, and then emerge from the other ear wearing parts of your brain as if they were a wig.

Fruit bats if you have eaten their fruit in front of them.

Ghost knifefish. They are actually ghosts with knives and not fish.

Herring, if associated with ghost knifefish.

Iguana. Their eyes are actually cameras, and the rest will self-destruct if tampered with.

Jackrabbits with guns.

Koala ‘bears’. Powerful friends.

Lemmings. Despite popular misconceptions, their real skill is in making it look like mass suicide.

Moth larvae if your body is made of cloth.

Naked mole rats who insist on naked fencing competitions.

Osprey. Described by their Wikipedia entry as ‘A large raptor’.

Parasite-hosting animals of any description. If they have that little respect for their own bodies, you can assume that they have none for yours.

Queen bees, which are occasionally brought out for particularly hated targets, and which only die if they sting you less than a hundred times in the eyes.

Robins. The red breasts are actually an affectation whose size reflects the amount of needless human blood spilled.

Sea lions. They are named that for a reason, and that reason is because they said so.

Tadpoles who become separated from the pack and lose their balance.

Unagi if they are allowed to live long enough to develop wings.

Vultures. Have you ever questioned how you always see vultures perched over large dead animals, and yet you never see the killer? Don’t.

Water buffalo outside of water.


Yorkshire terriers, or rather one in particular. Just hope the one you see isn’t that one.

Zookeepers, driven mad by what they know about the horrors of the animal kingdom and the deep-rooted, primal savagery and evil which forms the heart of life as a concept and as the only truth in the Universe.

Or perhaps the deadliest animal of all is really MAN?
No. Unless that man is breeding ghost knifefish.

A love poem by Steve Martin

A love poem by Steve Martin: renowned comedian, banjo player and personal friend of Johnny ‘the casher’ Cash. Transcribed from Saturday Night Live (season 14, episode 20).

Every man needs a woman and I need you
to lift me when I am sad,
to comfort me when I am down,
to clean me when I am drunk,
to walk beside me when I want to look like I’m not gay,
to walk in front of me when I need someone to act as a human windbreak,
to kiss me when I’m horny,
to massage me when I am tense and / or horny,
to make me horny when I’m not horny
and then to watch me fall asleep.

I need you, darling,
to clean between my toes when they are not clean to my satisfaction,
to pick the nits out of my hair when I have head lice,
to try milk for me when I am not sure of the expiration date,
to be there when I need you to be there
and to be out of town the rest of the time.

My darling, although it may seem sentimental
I want to take this moment to tell you I love you
because I don’t want to lose half my stuff

and even though you are far away across the ocean
I always have this to remind me.

Goodnight, my love.