Every once in a while, I like to send the PCs against a monster that’s just out of their league. When you’re low-level, encountering an adult dragon or a lich can still be fun. The only difference is that the goal stops being killing the other guy and taking his stuff and becomes a matter of survival. After all, sometimes the monsters want to kill some adventurers and take their stuff.
This is a story about chaos and mismanaged expectations. It involves the death of a PC whose player had only started gaming two sessions ago. Somehow, my botched GMing didn’t drive him away from the tabletop for good and in fact became a tale that many who were there recall fondly.
Originally published in Knights of the Dinner Table #146
The quest was a simple low-level affair: men in a small lumber town were disappearing into the forest. All the PCs had to do was find out what was going on and put a stop to it.
The culprit was a lonely dryad that had been luring men into the forest and charming them to keep her company. I had planned the session out as a diplomatic session, since I figured the PCs weren’t going to outright slaughter an apparently innocent dryad. This was going to be the session that taught the adventurers that not every problem needs to be solved with swordplay. A nice thought on my part, but not a plan that would endure the night.
I used to really like games that had long, in-depth character creation systems. My theory was that if you were going to spend an hour or more making your PC, you were really going to treasure that character.
Then I went and killed one of those PCs in less than half an hour.
In 1992, after months of poring over my mom’s old character sheets and marveling at her hand-drawn maps, I saved up a whopping $20 and bought my first D&D boxed set, billed as “The New, Easy to Master Dungeons & Dragons Game.” In the depths of Zanzer Tem’s dungeon, my foray into the world of RPGs began.
One of my main GMing strategies when I run a D&D or Pathfinder campaign goes something like this:
- Give the PCs the deck of many things.
- Wait for them to draw from it.
- Have fun with the results.
If I ever doubt this strategy in the future, I just need to think back to a Pathfinder game in 2017 which cemented this as a terrific strategy.
The Setup: The PCs, a group of high-level mythic characters, ventured into the Abyss to rescue an entire city that got sucked through a hole in reality. Continue reading “Gaming Stories: Hubris and the Deck of Many Things”