Sunday, August 23, 2009

Goddamn Heroics

So as I mentioned yesterday, I died last night.

That is to say, my cleric died in session #3 of Pat's B/X campaign

It's been a long time since I've had a character die in a D&D campaign.  I have to admit, it does irritate me a bit.

But we'll get to that in a moment. To be honest there are several reasons why it's "been a long time." For one thing, I haven't played in a whole lot of D&D games (maybe half a dozen in the last 20 years, though I might be forgetting a few "one-off" games). For another, throughout my entire "gaming career," I've more often been a DM than a player.  This is a control thing as much as anything else...I really have to fight my urges to cite rules or otherwise be a "rules lawyer" when playing a game. One of the things I had such difficulty with when playing in D20 games (as a player) was that I knew the game better than the DMs...D20 is not a game that requires much in the way of "house rules" so it's irritating (to me) when people make shit up that is already taken into account by the game's designers.

But, hey...D20 is an overly complex game with a steep learning curve anyway. And besides, we're not talking about that.

ANYway, I just haven't been on the "player side" of the DM screen all that many times in the last 25 years; not compared to the amount of time I've acted as DM.  And even when I WAS a player, I was often a higher level character...if my character died (not often, but it happened) there were generally ways to raise him back from the dead. Though losing a point of Constitution was always a bitch...wishes were used whenever possible. THAT'S out of the way...

I said I was a bit irritated with my character's death, though not perhaps for the reason one might assume. I really have no problem with my character's utter destruction. He was interesting, but his background and "personality" were all put together off the cuff and in pretty short order. Hell, it didn't even taken long to choose his equipment (I didn't start with much gold).  What this boils down to is, I was not attached to the idea of my character surviving.  This (and the next bit) is something that really puts me in the "old school" rather than "new school" category of player.

The "next bit" is: my own actions contributed directly to my character's death. And THAT is what irritates me, I can point to several specific mistakes I made that ultimately resulted in the demise of Diomedes, Adept of the Toad Lord. Basically, I'm  miffed because I screwed up...I didn't play as well as I could have.

I'm not even speaking TACTICALLY, though I did make at least two tactical errors (as well as a couple strategic ones). If I had simply role-played my character better, I wouldn't have ended up in the mess I did!

It pains me to admit this. In an earlier post, I wrote how my role-playing skills were a bit rusty. My original intention was for this character to be the typical "scurrilous rogue" of old school D&D. Not a heroic paladin, or valiant priest of light. No, I purposefully wrote up Diomedes to be a self-serving, base individual. If he used his healing spells on others it was for an ulterior motive (for example, having someone bigger to save his own skin).  He worshipped a "toad" deity, and I didn't expect many converts (charisma 8 after all). I wanted him to have plenty of motivation to horde treasure, flee mortal combat, party like a rock star...basically, live the life of an old school "adventurer;" just one who's skills/abilities had to do with his "direct access" to the Toad God.

So how did he die exactly? Covering the retreat of his fellow companions! Allowing others to live by sacrificing himself!

That's totally f'd up!

Honestly, I don't know what the hell came over me. He wasn't Lawful or "good" in any sense of the term, but in the end I acted just like the captain that's supposed to go down with the ship. Some may call it stupid (tactically), some may call it unlucky, some might say I "wasn't using my cleric right." No all that is bullshit. I wasn't playing my CHARACTER right. the hell did I fall into the role of a wannabe hero?

I'm not exactly sure. But I see now why so often the party paladin gets called on to be the "leader" of the group. Paladins are expected to deliver this kind of self-sacrifice, covering the retreat of a party. Even though I've written that I consider clerics the "paladins of B/X," that is NOT how I intended my character's destiny to unfold. Shit.

Here's what happened:

After a couple hours of gaming and scouring one dungeon, we went back to an earlier, not yet fully explored dungeon (from session 1).  I had said at the beginning of Saturday night's session that I didn't think it wise to go back without the support of Ellos (our magic-user, who had to ditch that evening). But coming up fairly empty-handed (other than getting some XP from downing a cockatrice), rather than calling it a night I led the group back to the earlier dungeon.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Not only that, I had not yet completed the sale transaction of a magic item that may have been enough to get my character to level 3 (I was only a few hundred XP shy). 

But we went, and we explored and we encountered half a dozen troglodytes. Now, I've commented elsewhere (not on this blog) that I'm a fair hand at math and's a (small) bit of my job, so I'm used to calc'ing some odds. And there was no way 6 trogs ended up as good odds against our party. First, we were outnumbered 6 to 5. Second, two of our characters wore only leather armor (the rest had plate). Third, two hit dice monsters still strike AC 2...what 25% of the time? And each gets three attack rolls per round?

Anyone ever see that movie The Descent?

So when two of our fighters (one in leather) charged the trogs, I knew things were bad. I started doing a fighting withdrawal (instead of outright running), but everyone else seemed to want to stick it out (the henchman with the plate and pole arm moved in to back-up, the thief was unloading with her crossbow). I don't know what the F got into me...I should have beat feet out, but stayed long enough to get the leather guys out of the death pit that'd been dug. I still wanted to get out but instead moved to back-up the henchman (this was a tactical error...I should have switched places with him as my plate and shield had a better AC and would have allowed him to still stab past myself and the fighter with his big unit). The henchman fell, despite my healing efforts, and I STILL hung around. AC 2 and 9 hit points alongside the AC 2 fighter that had stirred this hornet's nest with his 10 hit points and I'm telling the others to just GET THE FUCK OUT...

And I die.

Which was actually not too bad as I had to get up early the next morning and had meant to log off at 10, but ended up being on till after 11.  But it's silly 'cause I could have run from the get-go and saved my character. 

Not that I had much attachment to him. The whole "toad" thing went over better with the halfling and the magic-user (not present) than with my companions of the evening (a lot of licking and wart jokes got tossed respect for the Mighty Toad!).  But he'd had some potential and I had some ideas for him...heck, I got used to his "average score" attributes by the end of character generation.  I was even getting use to the idea of fielding a "real" cleric (my first ever!).

Anyway, Pat sent me a new batch of attributes (what do ya' know...another 13 Wisdom. Hmmm...). And I've got quite a good idea for the next guy. I promise I will try my best to be self-serving this time (the better to survive longer!) and not resort to any goddamn heroic last stands.

Crap on that!


  1. Self analysis is so very hard.

    Deep down Diomedes always wanted to be a Hero. But that 8 Charisma isolated him from others as a child. He felt apart from the world, which led to his devotion to a toad god. But deep down he yearned to be a hero, to make a difference; to receive acceptance and respect for his actions, not his personality and looks.

    And so, when he found a place with boon companions, he became the hero he always wanted to be.

    On a metagame note. I think the Skype format limits the styles of play to a degree. It's one thing to roleplay a jerk face to face, others can tell that's what your doing. but with only voice, you know on some level how little you are really able to convey to others. But I have confidence in you, and fully expect you to be a jerk next time we play. Hopefully, that will be what your trying for. ;)

    In my own defence, I was just trying to cover Krome's butt when he charged. In the opposite of my defence I had 13 HP when it was suggested I retreat. Just following orders ma'am.

  2. You may SAY you were just trying to cover Krome, but I recall a marked amount of enthusiasm in Jaxon went charging into that nest of cave dwellers.
    ; )

    I think we ALL were feeling a bit "big for our britches" after taking out the cockatrice. Here's the thing though: five (or six counting Hexus...Jesus, what a name) on one is pretty damn good odds, even against a 5 HD creature. As long as it only has one attack per round (and a weak AC), odds are the party will finish it before it has a chance to force a single save.

    The trogs were the opposite situation, and I knew it. 18 attacks per round, even at only D4 damage is going to land (on average) 4.5 hits even against AC 2 (the best AC of the party) for an average of 11.5 damage inflicted per round.

    That's ugly. That's bestial clawing and scratching; devouring lizard men raking you piece by piece out of your armor. THAT is why I didn't charge in there (Krome or no Krome) whereas in other places I was happy to take the lead with baddies (Ellos and Sancho will tell you I displayed "foolhardiness" on occasion).

    Hey, clerics ARE zealots, and I had faith in the Mighty Toad, but those buggers were too much for us to handle without a SLEEP spell (or better yet: FIREBALL) to smoke those mothers.

    Ugh...but all that aside, role-playing WISDOM and the essential nature of a NEUTRAL cleric should have precluded me from Krome's mad dash towards destiny. If I had role-played my character correctly, I would have left you blokes to your doom!

    You're right, by the way: it is totally more difficult to do this over the net, without observing your fellows and their body language, etc. People (me) are afraid of looking "too goofy" or conveying the wrong message (I'm just kidding! I'm not really a jerk!). But we ARE adults here. If we can trust some (YOU) to roll "off board" and take things on faith, we should be able to do the same with the role-playing aspects of the game. Chalk it up to my own insecurities.

    Regardless, I do blame myself for my own demise, not Krome nor Jaxson. I had several "outs" here and I was just as over-confident with my abilities (sticking in there too long) as anyone else. I wasn't TRYING to martyr myself!
    : )