Day eight of the 30 Day Challenge!
8. What is the Craziest Thing You’ve Seen Happen?
That’s going to be a toss up.
Bards on the Run: The first goes back many years, to when we were starting up a brand new 2nd Edition game. There were five of us playing and we all showed up to the game with our brand new characters already rolled up, only to discover that four of us were bards. We had each used a different kit from the Complete Bard’s Handbook, so there was a surprising variety in the group and the DM decided to let it stand. Thus, instead of the usual adventuring party, we formed a performing troupe traveling from town to town and earning our coin by entertaining the people.
The fifth player had an evil paladin. We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, handed him a drum and he became our percussion section. We were all neutral in alignment and reasoned that associating with an evil holy warrior was nothing once you’d dealt with an agent.
The resulting campaign was one of the most unique that I’ve ever been in. We threw ourselves into the roles so well that we frequently frustrated the DM by not finding his adventure hooks. Instead of looking for rumors we would set up gigs, throw performances, go out drinking, and then repeat this the next day. We had a great deal of fun running the shows and working the crowd, each bard using his or her kit’s special abilities and blending them together. The DM had to adjust how he’d set the game hooks, presenting them as opportunities to uncover lost legends we could later perform instead of hints of hoarded treasure. Although on one occasion he took a more direct approach when a vampire lord dragooned us into carrying out his will.
The other thing the DM had to deal with was that our characters didn’t fight like normal parties. We used our acrobatics and performed guerrilla tactics, scattering while foes pursued us, hiding in shadows and backstabbing, then running again. Sometimes we’d act as bait, looking like soft targets but leading the enemy into the paladin’s waiting blade. And we’d negotiate. If it was bigger than us or stronger in number we’d talk with it first.
Dirk the Daring: The second tale comes from more recent times, my Lamentations of the Flame Princess game. This was the first “old school” D&D game I had run in many years and I made sure to prep my players, especially regarding the character mortality rate. Most of the players had been old D&D players at some time in their careers and all of them were Call of Cthulhu veterans, so the prospect of a quick and grisly end was nothing new.
One of the original characters was a specialist named Dirk and from the beginning we saw that he was going to be trouble. On the boat ride across the lake, journeying to where all the adventures were set, Dirk slipped into the captain’s quarters. He attempted to break into the captain’s sea chest, failed to discover the poison needle trap, and came within a failed saving throw of being the first fatality of the game.
Most people would learn from such an experience and Dirk was no exception, but the lesson that he took away from this was that he lead a charmed life. He proceeded to push his luck at every turn; simultaneously antagonizing and endearing himself to comrades and prominent townspeople. He once struck off on his own and stumbled into a group of bandits, then managed to warn his companions while appearing to betray them. He build fame for himself and the group by singing outrageous tales of the party cleric’s heroism, many of which were bawdy enough to frustrate the cleric and delight the peasants. When the party had its first fatality, Dirk immortalized him in song. The player filked The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins and sang it for us at the game table the next week, leaving us all laughing.
Dirk’s most ambitious scheme happened while the party was trying to find a way to save the town from the zombie apocalypse they’d released. While the rest of the party planned to go ask a powerful witch for aid, Dirk decided to strike out on his own and slip into the goblin stronghold they’d previously discovered. While there he convinced the simple-minded shaman that he was a convert to the shaman’s petty luck god, he played the various goblin leaders against each other, caused the death of the goblin magic-user and shaman, survived a frantic chase through unexplored dungeon vaults that would have made Indiana Jones proud, assassinated the human wizard and his two apprentices, and became the new hobgoblin leader’s right hand. Along the way he earned the names “Tongue-Lasher” and “General Corpse-Char”. He accomplished all this through quick thinking, audacious choices, and honest die rolls, making him the luckiest character I’ve ever had in a game.
Dirk is still alive and still pushing his luck. I recently resumed my Lamentations game and General Corpse-Char and his goblin allies have helped the party on their quest by leading them through the zombie-infested wilderness. How much longer Dirk’s luck will hold is anyone’s guess, but I’ve learned not to bet against him.
And who knows? If he survives long enough he might encounter a group of bards and their unusually large drummer. I’m sure he’d fit right in.