I’ve been walking through my old stories and D&D memories lately. In keeping with that I thought I’d post a story about an old friend’s character.
Jeff was part of the group I ran through the Pools of Radiance. It was notable as the first large scale story I had run. When rolling our characters we used a book full of random background charts that helped you give your characters a history. The charts gave you things like raised on a farm, at sea, or in a thieves den. You could learn about forgotten fortunes, lost magic, and overthrown kingdoms. In Jeff’s case his character was the son of Clangeddin Silverbeard, the dwarven god of war. As a result of this Paden Deckhandler had a strength of 20 in a system where 18(100) was the maximum a player character could have.
Paden carried a wrecking ball sized flail, wore heavy plate armor, and tended to carry the majority of the party’s treasure because we used the old encumbrance rules. They help clear the town of New Phlan. The town had once been a thriving metropolis and was now overrun by hordes of evil. The group was one of a band of mercenaries who answered the call to clear the old sections of the town in exchange for some amount of money and any treasure they found.
The players formed a party, entered the city, and started taking jobs to clear the area in and around New Phlan. This included a graveyard north of the city. A graveyard that housed an immense ziggurat. The party entered the undead filled area and battled their way to the top of the ziggurat, destroyed the necromancer in his throne room, and gathered his treasure. One of the many things they discovered was a magic ring.
Paden took the ring and after identifying it as a ring of strength he put it on. His strength jumped by four points to a massive, world shattering 24. He was now on par with giants, dragons, smaller titans, and lesser gods. The group took their just rewards and headed through the graveyard and back to the city proper.
Unfortunately, there were two things the group had not accounted for. First, they had not cleared the graveyard and there were still a few pockets of undead roaming the area. The second, was that the ring was cursed. They discovered these two things in rapid succession.
A band of patrolling skeletons had attacked the group. The skeletons were a minor threat. The party had handled groups twice their size many times and felt that this would be no different. Paden, excited to try his new strength, prepared for battle. He drew his mace, told the rest of the group to stay back and let him handle it, swung the mace above his head to twirl it in a show of bravado, and fell over backwards. He was now pinned to the ground by his armor, weapons, and the half ton of treasure he carried in his backpack, several sacks, and a small chest strapped to the top.
The ring was one of weakness not strength. It worked like this. It boosted the wearer’s strength artificially while quietly sapping one point every thirty minutes until the wearer was reduced to a strength of 1. They had camped in the necromancer’s throne room to wait for healing and spells. Long enough for the full effect of the ring. However, in a move that was purely diabolical, the ring only reveals its true nature when the wearer is under duress. Like entering combat.
The group’s main form of damage and protection was now pinned to the ground. However, as I said, the skeletons weren’t much of a threat and the rest of the party was easily able to dispatch the beasts. Afterwards, they removed Paden from his armor and tried to figure out what had happened. It didn’t take long for the wizard in the group to determine that the ring was cursed. To remove it would require one of two possible methods. They would need to go back to New Phlan and have remove curse cast upon it. However, they’d have to leave behind most of their treasure since no one else could possibly carry it.
Then there was always the other way.
Paden burrowed a dagger from the king of thieves, (that background book had some intense swings), took a lit torch, and walked into the graveyard alone. He walked away from the path in a graveyard that was eternally shrouded with thick fog. A fog that blocked the light of his torch. He found a quiet area near a tomb. He looked for a grave marker that denoted a holy man. He took a moment to pray to his father. It was a simple thought, a quiet moment between father and son. There was no response save a warm breeze amidst a cold night. Paden then rested the hand with the ring on it atop the tombstone, used the dagger to remove his finger, and the torch to cauterize the wound to stop the bleeding.
Then he was attacked by the patch of skeletons he’d walked into the middle of.
Because of the fog it took the group a couple of rounds to find him, despite his cries for help. It also attracted the last two groups of monsters in the graveyard, which included an undead Minotaur. Wearing no armor, wielding nothing but a dagger, and reduced to a strength that included massive penalties to hit and damage, Paden held off death until the rest of the party arrived.
The other thing I remember about this night, the one thing not written in my notes, is how Jeff reacted to the events. He smiled. Jeff had been happy the entire time this happened. He was having fun.
I’ve played with a lot of people over the years. Through home groups, local clubs, and conventions. I’ve played with all manner of players. There are many who would not have taken the events of the evening as well as Jeff did.
I like playing with Jeff. It was always fun to sit at the table where Jeff played. He loved getting into character. From the solemn moment spent praying to his father to playing an actor pretending to be a paladin in cardboard armor at a convention where he stood on his chair and pantomimed trying to kill a fly with his rapier for a little girl’s frog. Jeff is always a trip.
I don’t expect everyone to play like Jeff did. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever played with anyone like Jeff. I’ve had role-players at my table, I’ve had roll-players at my table, but mostly I’ve had a happy medium. No one has ever played their character as hard as Jeff did.
I think it’s why I appreciate players who really try to play their character. It reminds me of the early days and the lunatic who fell over backward and got pinned to the ground in his own armor and was happy about it.
In recent times a conversation comes up from time to time about playing with the folks who stream games, usually Critical Role. I’ve never wanted to play with them. I know I can’t keep up with what they do. However, I’d love to watch Jeff take a crack at it. I think he’d hold his own in that group. It’s probably why I enjoy those shows so much.