Here begins another series (goodness - such variety!) which will pop up every now and then. Campfire stories are going to be snippits and tales from my experience with Dungeons & Dragons and that of my colleagues who play. Today's post is dedicated to the antics of low level, where you make all your mistakes and anything can kill you in one hit if the dice see fit.
Low Level Shenanigans: Chapter 1 - Memory is not a skill you can be proficient with.
Scenario: The First Level Classic - Ferule (Elven Rogue played by Levin), Feluria (Elven Paladin, also played by Levin), Blackie (Human Sorcerer played by Mack), Pip (Halfling Druid, also played by Mack), Alex (Gnomish Wizard played by KitKat) and Drahma (Human Ranger, also played by KitKat).
The party has been marshaled by the King's brother to sort out a local orc encampment that has been raiding military supply convoys. George Cuthbert is currently campaigning against the neighboring nation and has no soldiers to spare for this odd job, plus the PCs just saved his daughter from a hostage situation they got caught up in so he thought he'd give them a chance to prove their worth once again.
Not wanting to spoil their chances of getting into the good books of royalty, our noble heroes set off for a classic orc bash - the quintessential first level experience. After some scouting about, the PCs manage to find the cavern where the orcs were supposedly residing.
'Alright Ferule,' says Alex. 'Sneak that shit.'
'Excuse me?' he replies, clearly affronted.
'You're the rogue. Go find the traps. They're not just going to let us stroll in.'
'I just thought you brought me along for my good looks.'
Ferule's Charisma score is about six or seven. His personality is greasier than a pizza box the day after a LAN party.
Eventually the party manages to convince the rogue to do his job and he sneaks to the cavern entrance. It goes into the heart of the hills by about fifty odd feet then hits a sharp right. Near the entrance the walls are rougher and bulge out a little like a muffin. Ferule eyes these inconsistencies in the stonework and notices the dirt on the right side of the bulge is polished much smoother than the majority around it. Further investigation revealed a pit concealed beneath the dirt.
Ferule, feeling particularly proud of his ability to uncover the first trap of the mission swaggers on past and completely botches the subsequent check to move silently. Before he can reach the corner he hears a throaty voice hawk out at him.
Levin picks up his character sheet and madly scans it, flips it and scans it again.
'I speak Orcish.'
'Grishnak, is that you?' the voice asks.
Ferule puts on his burliest, most guttural voice. 'Ah... yeah. It's me.'
A pause. A frantic Bluff check.
'What are you doing back so soon? Your patrol doesn't finish for two hours.'
'...I forgot my axe.'
'Huh? What are you doing down there anyway?'
Ferule hears footsteps making their way towards him. Levin starts sweating profusely. He backs up a fraction and gets as low as he can that will still let him shoot his longbow sideways. Shortly after an orc rounds the corner to see a quivering elf who shrieks and releases the most spectacular sneak attack I have ever seen at first level.
Golrog at the barricade witnesses his buddy make a poor effort of catch an arrow with his face and immediately sounds the alarm. Ferule releases another shriek and bolts it back towards the rest of the party.
'So you're running back to the others?'
'As fast as I can. How far can I move?'
'About here,' I say, indicating ten feet outside of the cave entrance, 'if you move in a straight line.'
'Okay let's do that!'
If the DM ever asks you if you are sure about the action you are about to perform, generally the answer should be no.
'Yeah! I'm getting the f*** out!'
'Indeed. Make an intelligence check.'
'How appropriate. Ferule, take six damage as you fall down the pit.'
Sadly, memory is not a skill you can be proficient with.
Ferule spent the entire combat with a broken leg at the bottom of the pit on zero hitpoints.
Low Level Shenanigans: Chapter Two - The legend of Timmy, part 1.
Timmy the Ruthless was the first character of my friend Timmy. Classic projection of self (Ooh already referencing previous posts - so cheeky). So Mr Ruthless was a Halfing Rogue with the bravado of at least two wholelings.
Timmy's second mission involved a tussle with a band of gnolls. They encountered the beasts in a tight corridor and Timmy was at the front doing rogue-y things. These things came out wielding battleaxes, shields and thicker armour than anything the party has faced so far. The fighters take up the front lines and fighting ensues. Timmy's throwing darts were hitting for very low values so he made a special request. A request that only one person in the party would fulfill.
Enter Maverick, or as he is now known "Maverick Doorslayer Dangercliff." Maverick belongs to my flatmate Mitch. He is a Human Monk with the Charisma of an inbred potato.
'I want you to toss me.' Timmy asks Maverick.
Maverick's eyes light up. 'Excuse me?'
'I cannot jump the distance. You'll have to toss me.'
Aragorn rolls a Strength check and lobs him into the fray... hold on.
Timmy sails past the gnolls and fumbles the landing, ending up flat on his back at the feet of a rabid dog man. He also gives away an attack of opportunity for moving through an enemy's space on a failed check.
The gnoll takes a swing. Natural twenty. Confirmed with a nineteen.
'How many hitpoints you got Timmy?'
'Six at level two? How low is your Con?'
'D&D on hard mode mate.'
'Well not for you anymore. Take eighteen damage.'
'That put's me on negative twelve. What does that mean?'
'It means Timmy's head just got rapidly divorced from his body.'
'Does Maverick feel any regret?'
Mitch was grinning from ear to ear. 'Not regret. Remorse that there will be no more ruthless tossing of Timmy.' Maverick now wear's Timmy's polished skull as a belt buckle to remind him of his deceased friend. And so he can headbutt size category small enemies without bending over.
Low Level Shenanigans: Chapter 3 - The dice tell stories. Terrible, terrible stories.
Given all this dungeoneering was occurring during my years at university, I did not have the time to always be writing yet people were keen to play so we did a lot of random dungeon dives. Sometimes the dice have a way of creating a narrative in the most unexpected ways.
A party including Willikins, Kennedy's fun-sized Shakespeare-inspired Gnomish Bard, decide to delve into the Chaos Dens; a network of magically infuses catacombs which regularly change their contents (how convenient). Several rooms down, the team stumble into a room packed from end to end with donkeys. At least a dozen of them.
'A curious place to pen such beasts.'
Nobody had an answer, not even me.
With a bit of jostling the PCs manage to reach the door on the opposite side of the room. Willikins gives it a quick search and uncovers a spear trap in the door frame. Unfortunately he's not proficient in disabling traps.
Everyone looks at each other. Everyone looks at the room's inhabitants. Everyone looks at the door.
'Well we have to go through if we want to progress,' justifies Felicia, Elizabeth's Elven Fighter.
A minute later they've managed to coax a donkey to the doorway. It has no interest in abandoning its colleagues however. After a brief apology and a collaborative Strength check, operation Donkey-Mine-Sweeper is go.
Surely enough, pushing the donkey through the door triggers the trap. The spear bursts from the floor and impales the donkey which wails and kicks and makes one hell of a fuss.
'Oh god! It didn't kill it!' shrieks Willikins. 'Quickly! Put it out of its misery!'
Felicia strikes the donkey down while Willikins breaks the spear to prevent further triggering. Traumatized and feeling grim, the party moves on.
Several rooms later they kick in the door to...
'Twelve kobolds in leather armour carrying spears. The room contains... a platform. Atop the platform is... a pole haha. Minor features include... a whip, heh, and... manacles. Goddamn. And... books.'
'Three guesses what those are.'
I'm not proud of it but we rolled them. Elf, Dwarf and Halfling. Or Pointy Ears and Shapely Rears, Short-stack and Barefoot as they came to be known. Felicia still has the first after eleven levels.
This discovery was proceeded by the most uncomfortable fight the party had ever had.
Low Level Shenanigans: Chapter 4 - The legend of the Timmys, part 2, aka the Raroa Massacre.
It was time for Timmy's big comeback. Timmy the Relentless, Mr Ruthless' rightful heir and inheritor of his equipment. Partied up with Maverick, Jack, Kashmir, Marcellus, Michaela, Willikins and Malcanis, we decided it would be fun to teleport to a random room in the Chaos Dens and fight our way out. With a party this size, nothing could go wrong.
After making use of Cuthbert's teleportation circle the party found themselves in a large empty room with two doors. The first leads to a large chasm while the other hosts a set of stairs leading down a level to more difficult encounters.
'Well we can't cross the chasm with our current gear,' claims Jack, the Human rogue. 'I can climb well but there are no viable ledges for me to grab.'
'So down a level?' asks Willikins.
'Looks like we don't have much of a choice,' says Kashmir morbidly.
Which was the truth. Checking the map, the only way up was on the other side of the chasm. The only option was to find stairs leading up on the floor below, which was a difficulty level above our average party level, meaning nastier monsters.
The floor below is a massive expanse. More of a genuine cavern than carved stone. There are no torches or anything, just darkness. Willikins casts light on his frilled collar and the party makes the descent.
About halfway through the cavern everyone picks up on a distance rhythmic clicking getting louder and louder. Everyone prepares for combat. Out of the darkness stampede two ettin skeletons. Before we can react Michalea is reduced to red paste on the floor by one of the ettin's morningstars. The other takes out Marcellus, the party cleric, in a single hit. At this point everyone realises the degree to which we're all screwed.
Willikins uses his turn to put the lit collar onto Malcanis' pet wolf and with an apology he orders it to flee. The wolf provokes an attack of opportunity from both ettins pulverize it immediately. With the ettins' actions expended the party delta splits.
Maverick picks up Willikins and sprints back the ways we came with Jack. Kashmir and Malcanis sprint blindly through the darkness until they disturb a nest of griffins. Timmy uses the confusion to hide behind a set of stalagmites indicated on the map.
Willikins, while in the retreating embrace of Maverick, casts a ghost sound mimicking a cleric attempting to turn undead.
'Where do you center the spell Willikins?' I hand Kennedy the map. He unwittingly points directly at the square Timmy is hiding at. The ettins get to re-roll their attempts to detect Timmy. The ettins succeed in finding Timmy. The ettins succeed in turning Timmy into halfling flavoured jam. Timmy fails to forgive Kennedy.
Timmy's third incarnation, Timmy the Retired, has stayed true to his namesake and spends his days comfortably at home making no trouble and avoiding adventures of any sort.