Anecdotes From The Past #1

Author: Andrew /

So, continuing on the list, another request I had for a post was to give an anecdote about a past game I ran or played in that was my favorite and why. Honestly, to say I have one favorite is like saying I could eat my "favorite" food all the time. I don't really have one favorite, there's a variety. So, instead of one story post, I'll do multiple, making this its own little series, like "An Adventurer's Musings..." I hope you like the stories!

"Story from 'Breath of Life' campaign"

So, this has got to be one of my favorite moments. It was for probably the most epic campaign I've ever played in and it was for 3.5 edition D&D, back when I was in college. My room-mate was the president of our school's Role Player's Guild (RPG; ya like that? Eh? lol) Anyways, the big thing about the game that set it apart was that Adam (my room mate) was really ambitious and decided that we wouldn't play with book classes. Instead, we had a chart form and got to make up classes. I decided to make one called a Gaia-Kin. This class was basically a tricked out druid who used the earth as an extension of itself. The neat thing about this was that I wanted the class to be versitile. I like playing the huge, muscle-bound fighter who crushes the opposition up front, but I also like the idea of doing awesome casting, so, what do we do about this?

Well, one of the things about 3.5 is that all the classes used hit dice (where you could theoretically roll for hp every time you level up. We always played with max-hit-die, meaning if you had a d6 hit die, when you leveled up, you just got 6 hit points, you didn't roll). So, one of the class features I put on my Gaia-Kin was a d12 hit die (the highest available in the book) so he'd be able to take hits while standing up front. Then, I brainstormed with Adam (one of the benefits to living with the DM lol) on how we could make the class work and we came up with a really neat mechanic.

The essential idea was that, as the class worked, he was almost physically connected to the earth and nature. He could ask it to give of itself and it would BUT the earth needs to be nourished too, so what ended up happenning was that Kairn (my Goliath Gaia-Kin character. Also my favorite character to this day) would pour his hit points into the earth. He would put himself into the earth and, depending on how much of his life force he poured into the earth, the more power the earth would put out. Give 5 hit points, add a six-sided die worth of damage, give 2 hit points, add a cubic foot to the amount of earth to be moved, etc. We came up with tons of ways to do different things and form different options from shaping earth to attributing status effects to adding materials (like acid, being a natural thing in D&D). This made for a class who basically could cast custom spells. It was freakin' awesome. So, doing this, he had lots of HP to work with so whether he wanted to go caster or thug fighter, he could.

Amongst the other party members we had a sentient construct (kinda like a warforged); a pixie who had a rifle whose bullets would alter the emotions of it's victims depending on the ammunition chosen, a time traveler who's physical appearance was altered from a botched time travel experience so he looked like a fox-man (pretty cool, actually), and a western-style sheriff woman from a country that was technologically advanced.

There were other characters too but the thing was that just about everyone in the club wanted to join Adam's games (because he's a fantastic DM, he taught me a lot of things) but there were about 14 people that signed up for the game. Eventually we got to a point where the party was split (which worked because half was going the evil route). Adam got a second DM and we had a good and evil party running separately.

Now, one of the things Adam really liked to do was put us up against what seemed to be stupidly hard stuff. He'd never take us out but he'd push us to the limit and force our group to learn to work as a team, just out of sheer survival instinct. We became a crack-squad of a group. We'd come up on something, after a few sessions of practice, and know all our spots. We'd set up the system, minimize the dangers, single out targets (healing casters > damage casters > ranged damage > melee damage > melee defense) and crush them.

Here's where it really gets interesting (and I think it's probably my most memorable D&D moment). One Saturday, we walked down into the basement of the school, into the lounge, and all sat down. Adam looked at us and said (with a big DM grin on his face) "Today is PvP day!" (and we all looked at each other, thinking "crap... we have to fight each other?") He continued saying "As you all travel on, the old members of your group who split off and went cavorting with the sky pirates, fly overhead and come down and confront you." And with that, the evil party walked in.

Amongst them there was a ninja, a sword master, (not many very original concepts, to tell the truth) and my fave, being played by another buddy of mine, was a cannibalistic vampire kinda fella with big leathery wings and a meat cleaver. (there were others but I honestly don't remember them all).

They hit the field and for a second, our group was nervous (after all, evil guys usually have some pretty nasty tricks up their sleeves, right?) But once they hit the ground and our team realized the DMs were serious (we figured it out pretty fast), the good guys got their game faces on and we rolled initiative (to see who goes first, for all who don't know).

Our team got in formation, big guys to the front, the sniper to the trees, casters and lightweights to the back and started doing our thing. Most of the evil party, I believe, were really stuck on RP to the point where they didn't know what to do in a combat situation. Keep in mind they've been playing in the campaign as long as we had. One of them goes "I take this pose *he shows us* and I hold my action". We all look around and shrug. Another of them also having high initiative did almost the same thing. He moved and held his attack action. My cannibal character buddy used a double move to fly high up in the air.

A few more turns go, then it gets to me. I have Kairn dump about 45 hit points into a move. He takes the hit but his eyes close and he starts powering up somethin' big. All of a sudden a huge, ten foot ball of molten rock rips out of the earth and flies 50 feet at the flying demon. It spreads wide, wraps him tightly in stone, cools fast, hardens and rapidly smashes him to the ground, crushing the stone and him. Hit him so hard it took him out of the fight immediately. One-shotted.

The fight continued that way. By the end of the fight, the good party utterly trounced the bad guys. What's more, we didn't just beat them but they didn't touch any of us. Didn't hit us once. We beat them so soundly that one of our party members actually tossed them a pouch of gold at the end of the fight so they could go patch themselves up because he felt bad they got beat so soundly! It was such a backhanded thing to do that we all just about died laughing afterward. (Maybe not the nicest thing but it was pretty darn funny lol)

I think the thing I mainly learned was this. If you don't push players, they won't be the best they can be. If you give them all easy fights, they won't learn to work together, strategise, plan and be a cohesive unit. Adam put us through the ringer each game and we got leagues better each game. We got the impression that the other side was dinking around and just doing classic dungeon runs where they killed lots of little things that didn't pose a challenge (where our encounters would consist of one or two villains well above us who could slaughter us if fought one-on-one). In this case, trial-by-fire triumphed and we reaped huge rewards and got some major high-fives all around.

Challenge your players. Don't kill them, don't be merciless; perhaps even fudge a roll or two to keel things movin' along; but make sure that your players are growing and learning and always becoming a better team. The better they are, the more you can challenge them, the bigger things you can do with them and the more fun you'll have because they'll pay attention, their heads will be up and their butts will be on the edges of their seats the whole time.

As a brief aside, I want to thank my good buddy and old room-mate, Adam, for getting me into the game, taking me under his wing and pretty much apprenticing me and getting me to where I am today. Thanks a ton, bro. You rock. (Gain 5,000,000 DM exp)

Hope you guys enjoyed that, I sure did!



Magus Stragus said...

Excellent story, I must say. I do that (pushing players) more often than not, but I also like to give them free cookies (easy fights) from time to time.

Btw, talking about villains, you could make a take on them, you know. Explain the difference between a villain and an enemy.

Andrew said...

Ahh, I dig that idea. That's cool (almost typed 'cook'... that would have been funny and not made a lick of sense lol). I'll totally add that to the list.

silent stone said...

Yeah, nothing quite screams "badass" like curbstomping a full party of rival PCs like they were some garden-variety goblins. The fact that it was largely through teamwork and creativity is just icing on the cake.

As Magus said, mixing up the challenge of the challenges—making some easy, some moderate, some hard (and a few really hard)—is the way to go. That way, they can enjoy kicking the crud out of the enemies while still having to "step up" their game on a regular basis.

Andrew said...

Amen to that. It was quite a rockin' game. I think "curbstomped" is a great way to put it. I think I'm gonna integrate that into my vocabulary from now on! lol

Adam said...

We actually had to nerf Andrew's class over that, it was way OP. But even if he had been more balanced the party's cohesiveness was such that the results would have been largely the same.

Andrew said...

Yeah, was a super cool experience though, and on the whole, the concept really worked; just needed more play-testing than it could have gotten before the actual campaign started. It was a game of slightly off balance classes the whole way through, some more than others. All the same, it was a blast and was really interesting. Allowed for some really cool role-play experiences and now, go figure, we've got a class like the Warden which is basically 4th editions answer to my Gaia-Kin. I thought that was pretty darn cool. One of these days, I may just have to bring Kairn back for 4th ed.

Lincoln said...

Please no! T_T... I don't want to have to fight him, and knowing you, you'll make us -.-'.... lol.. oh, and as an introduction, I'm Andrew's younger brother Lincoln. Hello all.

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