So last night’s game was significant in that it was the first death of one of the characters in the current campaign. I know some people who play Dungeons and Dragons who prefer to try and fudge things for their players when then chips are down, and I’m not averse to occasionally tweaking things if things go wrong due to dumb luck.
By the same token however, our most lasting memories over the years have come from how characters have shuffled, or been pushed, off this mortal coil. I GM’d our group all the way through the classic Temple of Elemental Evil campaign, through the Slavers series and then the whole Giants and Drow epic leading to a facedown against the Queen of the Demonweb Pits. I established very early on that characters could and would die, especially if they did foolhardy things – and sometimes, yes, this might not seem fair, but I wouldn’t be actively trying to take their characters down.
We had a hell of a time, and a stable of remarkable and memorable characters whose lives and deaths – both epic and humourous – are still talked about when we reminisce about old games and evenings past.
The current campaign had, until last night, not claimed any player characters. There were a number of factors to this. Firstly, this is the first game I’ve GM’d using third edition rules, and scaling encounters to the outsized party I’m refereeing for has been a bit of a learning curve. Secondly I’m intentionally going for a more swashbuckling and heroic theme, with the characters being truly above average in a wild and expansive world.
As a result, there have been large set piece encounters where the players have been able to throw themselves in with almost foolhardy abandon and win through to the other side. The current endgame unfolding however has turned into a very different beast. It is still epic, it is still larger than life, but the big bad that they have been chasing over the last fourteen weeks finally turned and brought the fight to them.
Suddenly they have not been in charge of the pace of encounters, and the ziggurat within which they are all fighting is full of dark corners, air shafts and tight stairwells. More importantly they haven’t had a chance to regroup and re-order their arsenals of weapons and spells to best effect, and this has allowed the villain to start taking them apart.
Unlike most of the villains they’ve encountered so far, this vampire was a spy and rogue in life, and so he favours hit and run tactics. He has significantly weakened the spell users and priests in the party, and this week succeeded in causing the death of their most potent fighter. How? You’ll need to read the write-up