Updated: Jun 21, 2022
When We Last Left Our Heroes…
Trapped in the tower of a necromancer, we fought off an army of goblins, while our mage made bombs to bring down the tower and secure our escape through a secret passage. But before the bombs were ready, I had to guard the secret passage against any oncoming forces…
Oh, and yes, we did split the party. Sometimes it happens, and you just gotta make due.
I’ve talked previously about the creation of my first character, Calvin Dugray (a human swashbuckler). Roleplaying as him was a blast right off the bat, but if I’m honest, I was crap at the game. I spent months, if not years, simply confused about which dice I was meant to be rolling at any given time. I certainly didn’t design or play my characters to take full advantage of everything the rules were capable of (though I watched other players completely break the game, bending the rules of character design to make themselves all but invincible, so there was certainly no shortage of people who could offer guidance).
But what I loved was slipping into the skin of a character once a week and going on an adventure.
As I was saying, Calvin was the only man guarding the back door (our first mistake), and I noticed hobgoblins coming up the stairs – a female lieutenant, flanked by two thugs.
Now, at this point, the logical response is to draw my sword - you know, that thing that the book gives you stats for, and tells you how to roll dice to hit and do damage. But (A) I was a newbie, and (B) I had a flair for the dramatic. So, instead, I asked our DM, Daniel, if there was a torch on the wall. Daniel looked confused, but said that there was.
So, I asked our wizard to have his familiar bring me a vial of oil. Then I smashed the oil down on the lieutenant’s head, ran up the wall, grabbed the torch out of the sconce, and brought it down on her oil-soaked head, setting her ablaze.
It was incredibly satisfying, even when one of her soldiers smacked me with his sword and knocked me out. (Calvin spent a lot of time getting knocked unconscious.)
"But Mike," you might be saying to your computer screen, "you got defeated!" And yes, if you get technical, that’s very much true - there were three soldiers, and I managed to outlast only one of them, which is not a great score at the end of the day.
But I didn’t care. It was incredibly rewarding to be able to come up with an outside-the-box idea, and turn to my friends and say, "Guys, my guy is a swashbuckler. He’s going to try something." And I still remember the look on Daniel’s face when I asked about the torch; it started on a combination of confusion and sympathy for his poor friend who just couldn’t grasp the rules, then transitioned to a look of dawning comprehension and excitement as he realized what I was trying to achieve.
(Based on New Avengers #27 by Leinil Yu.)
And that’s what the game is about to me. That’s what separates a game like Dungeons and Dragons from the video games it has inspired. Make no mistake, any video game where you climb levels and punch out monsters as you play a character who gets progressively more badass (so, you know, basically all of them) owes its origins to Dungeons and Dragons. This was the first game that gave you control over a solo character, rather than an army in the fashion of wargames of the time. And as great as some video games might be, they’ll never really match the level of improvisation and unpredictability that comes with a tabletop game.
You can program an NPC in Assassin’s Creed or Mass Effect to simulate realistic reactions to the PC’s actions, but at the end of the day there will always be limits. But when every NPC, villain, and environment is narrated by your friend, and exists only in your collective imagination, then the sky truly is the limit. No matter how badly you want Mario to pick up bricks and start flinging them at Yoshi, that’s not something you’re capable of doing in most video games. But in D&D, the only restriction is your imagination… well, that and all those numbers on your character sheet. And, of course, the roll of the dice.
And The Story Marches On…
We managed to drive off the army of goblins, at least for the moment, and set to work picking over the corpses. And we found a strange image on some of their armor… a sun, with an eye in the center, which we realized could be the symbol of The Enlightened, the mysterious group the necromancer(‘s apprentice) Rebecca was afraid of. We knew they were well-financed (carrying an incredibly valuable rod of solid arcanite) and they had even tried to buy off our rogue during the battle. We also found a book, which was written in a language we couldn’t translate.
We debated what to do next, and decided to fake our deaths by blowing up the tower. We faked Rebecca’s death as well – she took a serum to change her appearance and took on a fake name, so she could live a normal life back in the town.
However, we had another problem… and it had all started with a few missing players.
When Ceos’ and Teya’s players weren’t able to make the session where we fought the goblins, there was a blue flash of light in the sky, and Ceos and Teya collapsed unconscious, unable to be awakened. We also noticed a percentage of the goblins did the same thing (roughly 2/7ths, almost as if the battles were balanced for a certain number of players…). And while they were asleep, our party members began muttering strange phrases…
“Time is out of joint”
“Quiet the voices”
“Too late, but too early”
After the battle, they awakened, but when we got back to town we realized that the situation was worsening. See, some townsfolk had suffered the same affliction when the blue light flashed… and some of them were dying.