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Lewisham Hospital role-playing wizards take on Jeremy Hunt
THEY'VE defeated pirates, dragons and hordes of the undead, but now one of London's largest roleplaying clubs is facing its biggest foe yet - evil axe-wielding Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Within the grounds of Lewisham Hospital lies the Lewis Club - a bar and function room which was the scene of much booing during Jeremy Hunt's Commons announcement on health cuts.
But each Wednesday, an intrepid band of adventurers descends upon the club armed with 20-sided dice, huge bags of crisps, drinks and sheets of statistics incomprehensible to an outsider.
This is Lewisham's roleplaying club, started three years ago with just a handful of people but now 120-strong, meeting up for a weekly blast of sorcery, space travel and other flights of fancy.
In one corner of the room people are playing a game featuring time travelling superheroes which has been going on for a staggering two years.
Club founder Garry Harper informs me: "I've totally lost the plot on exactly where that one's gone to be honest. It's like a TV show that runs and runs."
Meanwhile, across the room, a group of men and, yes, women are playing a dark game based on the works of HP Lovecraft featuring ritual sacrifices, characters going insane and a table full of snacks.
Mr Harper explains: "We have hospital staff that go there and take part, doctors, builders, teachers and an awful lot of young people as well.
"We have people from all walks of life."
But the club is facing a challenge, as plans by the government to sell off large swatches of the hospital site appear to put their venue at risk.
Mr Harper marched against the hospital closures and is keen to promote all the good work it does, saying: "The hospital is not just about saving lives.
"It's a real part of the community."
Tonight I've joined a game of Conan and have become a soldier called Don Kahan whose skills, according to an imposing character sheet I'm handed, include intimidation, jumping, riding and swordplay - exactly the things I'm rubbish at in real life.
Alongside me on a slaveship being surrounded by angry towns people are a nobleman, pirate, acrobat and desert traveller, along with an archer played by 29-year-old James Desmond who works for the RAF in his day job.
He says: "I wandered in here for the first time probably looking like a lost lamb but it's very friendly.
"People who are imaginative, they're sometimes not so good at meeting new people.
"But I think there could be a misconception.
"When I was growing up, the idea was these sort of things were done by fringe characters whereas now, I don't know if it's the press, but people have become a lot more receptive to a lot more ideas."
Each game is run by a gamesmaster, who outlines a scenario and then asks the players what they would no next, sometimes making them throw a dice to see if they're successful.
Having struggled to make it through an entire Lord of the Rings film, it's fair to say I fail to get any kind of grip on the game.
When one of my party lops the head off an enemy on a boat opposite mine, I'm asked what I would do next.
"Hide," I suggest, to much laughter.
What I really want to know is, will Mr Hunt be featuring in any upcoming roleplaying games?
"That's too political for us," says Mr Harper.
"A lot of people come here and like to forget about work and things like that."
For more on the club, visit rphaven.co.uk
Nick Wright, 31, from Victoria (Gamesmaster)
"I got into this when I was about 14 or 15.
"This is my guilty hobby.
"It's a nice relaxed atmosphere here. There's not talk about work, you can bring munchies in and they'll do us food."
Joe Leslie, 21, IT worker and carer from Brownfield Road, Catford (playing a troll called Trogdor)
"Once you get into this you realise the potential is really limitless.
"At the moment it's really the only social interaction I have between searching for a job and looking after my family.
"If I didn't have this I'd probably go stir crazy."